Archive for November, 2019

Want to teach Unity but do not have the time to build a curriculum?

November 21, 2019

I stumbled on this the other day.   It is a complete package on teaching Unity by Unity.  Teacher setup, resources, lesson plans and detailed videos are all there.  I think a non-Unity experienced teacher could actually run with this. It might take a little extra work on the teacher’s part to fill in some gaps but it would be doable.  I already teach a Unity course this semester but I think next semester I will use part of this curriculum. It is more detailed than the YouTube videos I typically use and the sequence is just slightly more organized than my random wanderings.  It also goes a bit slower than my present sequence. Probably a good thing considering half my students get behind because they refuse to listen closely to the YouTube videos. These course videos are very slow which drives me buggy but they are probably the right speed for the kids.  They are also much more detailed than the YouTube videos I have been using.

My present assemblage of YouTube videos and text tutorials leads to a lot of code cutting and pasting or blind typing of code that is not understood, not really a good way to learn C#, coding or develop an understanding of anything.  I need to watch more of this course to see what type of detail they go into when they hit the coding section. I am just now getting there. I wanted to be sure to watch through all the previous beginning videos to see if it makes sense for a beginner.  There are some holes but nothing that cannot be fixed with a little show and tell. The lesson plans that come with the course are outlines of the videos and are no way as detailed. Using the lesson plans it is possible to zip through the course and yet not have a clue how the code in the various scripts work.  I really wish these lesson plans were available on an editable format. I have enough experience with Unity that I would really like to be able to fill in the places I know the students will have questions.

The Unity course I teach has become one of the more difficult courses I teach for several reasons.  One is my rather limited experience with Unity. I have reached the point where I can troubleshoot most problems the kids encounter but it can be time consuming, there are glitches that just happen as any programming/software teacher is well aware of.  Another issue is a limitation of hardware. Unity takes a halfway decent computer, something many of the kids do not have. I have loaner laptops that do the trick but the kids are reluctant to haul the things home, they are old and pretty good sized. My old laptops also have battery issues, that is how I got them, recycled Montana State laptops with many miles on them.  One kid lost about an hours work when someone pulled his cord. (He is now intimately familiar with what it means to save regularly.) I have some kids working on some good towers in my office so they are limited to those computers. (A Unity project is not something you quickly stick on a thumb drive. The things are BIG.) The course is also very time intensive for the kids.  It takes time to watch the YouTube videos and build the scenes and characters. Since the kids are pretty much limited to in-class time this means an hour and a half every other day. Working on a computer that long at a stretch is simply not realistic for most kids. I have trouble sitting in front of a screen that long and I enjoy programming! I expect them to take sanity breaks.  For most of the students taking Unity home is not a feasible option. There is also the issue of skill and interest. I have a couple of kids that are good at this stuff. They are detail oriented, can read instructions and watch videos and get everything out of them. They actually remember what they did. They also enjoy the building of scenes.  They whip though an assignment in a very short time. Others in the class can not read the IKEA instructions to build a three shelf bookshelf.  In a class that requires following directions closely they suffer greatly. This canned Unity curriculum goes slow enough and has enough redundancy that those without the ability to follow directions closely might do better.

I am not one to typically use canned curriculum but sometimes limits in knowledge and time require their incorporation into an overall scheme.  This curriculum seems to be worth the time to modify and use for an intro Unity course.  I will give this a try Spring semester.

Programming Class Field Trip

November 3, 2019

This Monday I am taking my Intro to Programming and App Building students on a field trip.  This is not your normal CS field trip to a tech company or something like that. We are going to the Big Hole Battlefield near Wisdom MT, about 140 miles from Missoula.  The Battle of the Big Hole was a battle between the US Army and the Nez Perce on August 7, 1877. Nobody won. Years ago I used to give military groups tours of this battlefield.  I want the kids to think about building a battlefield tour app some what similar to this  We just completed a text based app on the Montana Indian reservations and I wanted to try something a bit more interactive.  The battlefield tour app is still a bit fuzzy concept-wise but I figure an actual tour around the battlefield might stimulate the kids and my thinking juices.  The tour apps are nice but they are a bit to text base to my liking. Boring is another way of saying it. I am not sure we can come up with anything better but my goal is the road getting there, not the destination.  Something a bit more interesting is this Gettysburg AR tour.  I think this app is a bit poorly done but it is a great concept.  It is a bridge too far for my kids for now but something to think about.

When I originally started these projects I was just trying to find something interesting for the kids to build with Thunkable X.  The reservation apps the kids built turned out pretty good but the big prize was their expanded knowledge of Indian reservations in Montana.  That is when my goal shifted. I am now thinking the apps are a good idea but the better idea is how Indian Education For All can become the biggest goal of these projects.  It is not always easy to get cross curricular material into CS/programming but I think this is a home run.  

Montana has several large Indian reservations and they contribute a lot to Montana culture and economy.  We have several Native American students in the high school and I think it is important for my students to realize this is not just a label, but a whole state of being.  I want my students to see this culture more than they typically would. We offer a Native American Studies course this year but it is a senior course. (Personally I think it should be a sixth grade course because of its importance to understanding Montana.)

I hope this field trip will bring the kids more depth to their understanding of the connections and issues with whites and the Native Americans of early Montana.  I also hope we can come up with some interesting ideas for a tour app.

One minor drawback with this field trip.  It is supposed to be like 39 degrees in Wisdom Monday.  We are going to have to walk a lot to keep warm. I wish I had this idea in September.