Thanks to my unquenchable Kickstarter addiction, we have a new addition to our classroom called, “Bloxels.” Bloxels will look familiar to those of you who have used the free Pixel Press “Floors” app on your iPads. For that app, you can design video games using paper and the library of symbols provided, scan your design, and play it on the iPad. The Bloxels kit (made by the same company who brought us Floors) makes this physical modeling even easier by providing a tray and colored cubes to insert to design your games. With the free Bloxels app, you can take a picture of your finished product and play your game.
Two second grade girls who come to our Makerspace each Friday got to be the first to try out my Bloxels kit. They absolutely loved dropping the colored blocks in and spent all of their time making their design, so they didn’t have time to actually play their game! The following Friday, they got to test out their masterpiece, and realized very quickly that they had made the game far too difficult to play. They turned to the included booklet of suggested designs, and picked the first one. That one, though, was way too easy, according to them. So they “remixed” it to their complete satisfaction. As the bell rang for school to start, they both cried out in disappointment, and informed me that they couldn’t wait to make new designs.
To get some more information for this post, I went to the Bloxels website, and was completely surprised to find a lot of support for using Bloxels in schools. They’ve already created some curriculum integration ideas, and it seems promising that there will be more to come as the site has a link for potential contributors. There are lesson plans based on the Design Thinking process, as well as recommended activities and a downloadable guide book. I also love the 13-Bit Builders section that features a diverse group of young game designers.
What I love about this kit is the potential it has for students in any grade level and with a variety of interests to immediately engage. Although my upper grade levels enjoy the “Floors” game, some of them got frustrated when their drawings weren’t recognized by the app because of imprecision, but that doesn’t seem to happen with Bloxels.
The Bloxels app is free, and available on most mobile devices. You can actually design your games in the app (without the kit), but I think the kit really enhances the experience. One set is about $50, and there are classroom packs available as well. Purchase orders are accepted, and you can find more information here.