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Connected Learning: Staying Connected...Summer and Beyond (Part 1)

Connected Learning: Staying Connected...Summer and Beyond (Part 1)

This blog is meant to provide for fellow educators some detailed insight into our program that was generously supported by the Digital Media and Learning Competition 5 grant.


Eyebeam’s Digital Day Camp was in its last week, and Kiana, 16, feared presenting her final projects to the audience of friends, family, and mentors at Friday’s Final Showcase & Reception (also a Mozilla Maker Party 2013).  She was the most shy with technology of the eleven New York City teens—or digital day campers—that arrived on July 8 at Eyebeam for the four-week intensive program.  Like so many teens, she only experienced it through YouTube videos, Internet browsing, and her iPod Touch.  She loved art though, and decorated the camp’s learning space with her unique bubbly flowers and characters.


Digital Day Camp 2013 (DDC13) was a program where Kiana and her peers—who commuted to Chelsea, Manhattan from all over NYC each morning—collaborated on projects in hardware and software in fun and innovative ways in two series: Game Craft and Beats, Rhymes, and Hacking, each offered for a full day twice a week.  Both series gave teens the opportunity to become contributors and producers of web content, as well as developers, rather than consumers, of music, games, and electronics--areas of great interest for teens.


In Game Craft, teens explored game design and theory and then, in groups of two or three, developed their own gaming experiences involving digital and wearable gaming technologies.  Game Craft was fun from start to finish.  On the first day, teaching artists Kaho Abe and Ramsey Nasser got the students energized with a game of Turtle Wushu.  They encouraged the teens to play board games, physical games, and digital games throughout the program to gain a better understanding of how games work.



In line with Eyebeam’s mission of openness—open source, open content, and open distribution—Ramsey and Kaho also encouraged students to utilize open-source hardware and software and taught them to safely engage with those online maker communities and websites/tutorials.  Ramsey taught the teens to code their games in Unity3D, software that is available to download for free online.  Having programming skills in Unity can lead youth to a large variety of career opportunities, as this tool is used in many other industries aside from gaming, including architecture and entertainment.  Under Kaho’s guidance, the participants learned how to create their own wearable game controller by using the Arduino development platform, the Adafruit Flora mini-controller, and an understanding of softswitches.  At the conclusion of the program, each student took home a Flora so that they could continue to create interactive wearable projects.  



Incorporating the popularity of YouTube amongst teens, Kaho and Ramsey created The Fishbowl, a YouTube video generator that helped establish a game constraint, which is a tenet in game design.  Each camper would add a random video into the program that was then randomly assigned to a team when they visited the website.  That team would use that video as inspiration for the development of their game and its components.  For example, campers Ammy and Mueez ended up on the video “How to Fake French,” which suggested for viewers to show an enthusiasm for wine.  This led these campers to develop a game around wine and drunkenness (disclaimer: they only had an idea of what that was based on popular culture).  After this exercise, Kaho and Ramsey provided brainstorming worksheets for paper prototyping of their games and corresponding controllers.  


Though only 8 sessions totalling 32 hours, the teens created amazingly creative and fun gaming experiences in the Game Craft series.  Kiana even turned her own original artwork into digital textures for the game she created with her game partner Gilbert.  The success of Game Craft inspired the expansion of Eyebeam’s Playable Fashion after-school program, a program exploring the intersections amongst fashion, technology, and gaming.  Not only did Game Craft serve as a sort of pilot program for an improved Playable Fashion program, but Eyebeam and its organizational partner Global Kids will train some digital day campers to be youth mentors for the new program’s participants.   


Staying connected with the students is also providing new opportunities for them to continue learning.  Kaho, Ramsey, and I have kept the students informed of game jams and other events.  Arielle and Jacob became good friends and collaborators during Digital Day Camp and then participated in the Ludum Dare game making challenge in NYC in late August.  Check it out on the Eyebeam Learning Tumblr page:


Also, here’s some positive feedback about Game Craft: “[My favorite part of Digital Day Camp was] learning the art of game design, because it allowed me to embrace science and technology in a fun and awesome way.” – Isaac

oh, and, Kiana, remember her?  When time came to present on August 2nd, she brightened up and proudly presented her great work.  She was one happy camper.

More to come about Beats, Rhymes & Hacking and digital citizenship in Part 2!



Love everything about Eyebeam, and excited to see that you guys were a fellow Project:Connect grantee! Would like to see more about the wearable game controllers... we've been doing e-textiles workshops with the Lilypad at library branches in Philly.


There is so much to document, so I will have to keep posting.  And I love your program as well!  I would love to connect with you offline.