Monday, July 30, 2012

Letter from the Guy Who Made Monsters Inc

Pete Docter was a pretty good artist in middle and high school, and then became an animator. He has been at Pixar for 20 years. He also became a director for the films Up and Monsters Inc.

Here are two amazing letters he wrote to middle school classes:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Making Games and Making Change

The interview excerpted below is with a student in 7th grade who takes a game design class at his middle school in East Austin. The class, called Globaloria, is required of all students, and this is his second year. He is describing the game he worked on for the class.  The link to his game is within the interview and here. Play the game

My game is about Teen Drug abuse – teens getting addicted to drugs. Throughout my life I have had experiences..... so I decided to do that.

I researched one of the most popular drugs that teens use, and what different drugs do to the body, to make obstacles for characters to get away from drugs- (levels- facts, different levels- it tells what it does to their body)- kind of like a maze Play the game here

Do you like to play any games?
I kind of don’t play games anymore. Like last year I used to play games- I used to play all kinds of war games, like Xbox 360 and Playstation, or what the other company is.
I’m too old, I feel like, I’m too old to play games.

Do you think that is related to knowing how to make them, or is it just a coincidence?
I think that …, making games, is..... I like it,  because making games is hard and difficult. But playing games is kinda easy. I feel like that’s for little kids,  kids [who] like games. And Globaloria is for me. Because I like creating games, and all the code, which would be difficult for a kid to do. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Austin Chronicle Review of Games

James Renovitch from the Austin Chronicle reviewed some of the games from the Globaloria game makers in East Austin. He's a great game reviewer, and I think he had some excellent insights about the games.   The Austin Chronicle Screens blog is here.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


This is a pretty cool looking book - well-written and interesting graphics. It turns out it was written by a teen author. At the above link, you can preview 15 pages of the book. Book buyers can get a version for iPod or iPhone, or a hard or soft cover printed version.

You can read some advice from this author about how she did research, in this article called Research Advice for Teens Writing Fiction. I think some of her advice for putting research to use in fiction could help game-makers.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

We the Web Kids

This essay is translated from Polish. The author states that people born into an Internet world feel that they 'do not use the Internet, we live on the Internet and along it.'

What do you think- do you agree?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Rep. Mark Strama Attends Digital Learning Day at EA Prep

At a celebration of the First Annual Digital Learning Day, students from East Austin College Prep invited community members to learn more about their game design and programming skills. The students take a class called Globaloria, where they use social media to invent, build and share games. All students at this school have Globaloria class every day.

State Representative Mark Strama attended the event. Rep. Strama is pictured, to the right, playing and learning more about games made by Michael, an eighth grade Globaloria student.

After Rep. Strama had a chance to learn about the students' work, he made the following remarks. A video of the remarks is available here.

Representative Strama's Remarks at Digital Learning Day:

I got really interested in technology, professionally, in the late 1990s, which was a long time ago in technology time.

At the time, I worked for MTV, and I was running a national voter registration campaign for MTV called Rock the Vote. And what we did was register people to vote at rock concerts and stuff like that. It was very labor intensive- everywhere we wanted to register voters go, we had to send volunteers and table, and pens and it was cumbersome. It was logistically difficult.

Around that time, the Internet became a big deal. And I figured out that you could eliminate all that extra work just by putting a voter registration website on the Internet. So we created the first place on the Internet where you could fill out a voter registration form electronically on your computer, without having to ship out all of those papers and all those volunteers and all that extra effort and labor.

In 2000, 700,000 Americans used that technology to register themselves to vote, to be able to participate in elections. The old-fashioned way of registering voters, it would have been impossible to register 700, 000 people to vote. It would have been impossible. It would have just taken too much paper, too many people, and too much work. All we did was write some code – Michael just like you showed me – we wrote a little bit of code, we put it up on a server, we published it to the Internet, and 700,000 people used it. We didn't have to lift another finger. That is incredibly powerful technology.

Technology like that has changed everything about society in the 15 years since I first started working with it. Almost everything we do is different, except in the education system. For the most part, we still do things the way we have for over 100 years. In the education system, we are still using paper, we are still very labor-intensive, we are still very old fashioned about it.

Which is why I am very excited to see the way you guys are learning here. Not just because you are using technology, but because technology is enabling you to work in groups, to develop problem-solving skills, and to do the things that in the 21st century work force you really actually need to know how to do. Things that don’t get measured on the TAKS test, or the STAR test, or whatever test. Things that are really difficult to measure, but that matter a lot. The skills you’re using here matter a lot. So in the Legislature, one area where we’ve made some progress: we let schools use the money they used to only be allowed to use on text books, on any instructional materials. Computers, software, iPads, whatever is useful to give you the information and the tools you need to learn.

I think it’s super-cool that you guys are not just using computers to learn how to surf the Internet, you’re learning how to CREATE the Internet. That’s really cool. And I really believe that in ten years, if you keep with it and you finish your education, you will have enormous opportunities. Because all of these grown-ups around you don’t know the first thing about how to do what you’re doing. Michael explained it to me ten or fifteen times; I still don’t understand. It’s alien to us; it’s foreign to us.

When you guys are twenty-five years old, you’re going to be putting us out to pasture. Because you’re going to know so much about the essential things people have to know in the workforce. So stick with it. You guys have real talent. You’re better at this than we are. It’s cool when young people know more than the old people in the room.

I guarantee to you, the opportunities that will be available to you from working with this kind of technology are limitless. So thank you for your hard work on this and thank you again for inviting me.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I'm human

This video was made by a group of middle and high school students in Alabama. Surprising and beautiful.

I am human video

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Teen Scientists

Three teenage winners of the Google Science Fair discuss their work

Click here for video

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Good news about teens online

According to new research, most teens report that their peers are mostly kind to each other online. Do you agree?
Read more here:
Dallas News/Pew Internet Study

Friday, January 6, 2012

Blogging helps teens develop self esteem

“Social support is known to be a major factor in helping people cope with emotional difficulties,” said study co-author Azy Barak, a professor of psychology at the University of Haifa in Israel. “The blogging participants received lots of encouraging messages, ideas, and advice – and very important messages showing that there are people who care for them. These types of messages have very positive support to people in distress, in addition to the very expressive writing experience they went through.”

Read more about this study here.