This year, my teaching load involves secondary students from years 7-12. One of the year 9/10 electives that I run this semester is called “Gaming”.
In my other ICT classes we often connect to other global classrooms or teachers using skype. These contacts have been found on twitter, Skype in the Classroom website or through other professional learning networks. It is not easy finding expert speakers for my senior classes, as many are directed at the younger age groups. Upon searching the Skype in the Classroom site, I came across Bharathwaj Nandakumar, a video game developer working with Activision in Santa Monica, CA. He is one of the core members of the Call of Duty team for the last 8 years.
Knowing that Call of Duty is a favourite video game being played by the students, I was thrilled to know that, despite being in California, he was available at the very time that I have my students. A quick request to connect, came up with confirmation that he was available. My prime concern was that they are a shy group and reluctant to engage in conversations readily on a public scale.
The students were excited when they found out who they were to connect with, and listened with interest as Bharathwaj spoke and shared his screen with us over skype, showing mystery screen grabs of the games that he has found influential in designing games he is involved in. Students had to tell him the names of the games. Some they knew, some they did not. This broke the ice with them and helped them overcome their shyness and reticence to talk to him.
He continued on and talked about the work he is involved in, what a typical day’s work looked like, how he and fellow workers are encouraged to play games and how important maths is if any of the students wished to pursue a similar career.
His presentation was well set out, with lots of images. Bharathwaj was at home with Call of Duty posters visible everywhere behind him. (Students liked this feature). They were intrigued with the fact that 200 people worked on developing Call of Duty and that it took 2-3 years to develop each game. He encouraged them to create their own games with programs like GameMaker using video tutorials to help them. After the session he shared links with us and offered to stay in touch and continue to answer any questions for them. The following were resources suggested by him:
How amazing that students in our rural remote school in south eastern Australia, could link up with a games developer in California and learn in real time with him about one of their favourite video games. Technology certainly breaks down the barriers of cost, distance and borders!
I am off to explore the site again for further speakers. Have you used any experts to come in virtually to your classroom?