Because of my writing, and Pluralsight course research, I regularly find myself wondering if I’m using the right word, phrase, etc. I’ll pull up a couple of dozen grammar-related searches when I’m in the thick of researching something… today I found a really cool resource while trying to figure out if I should use thereof or therein.
Last night I went to the LaunchUp event (website admittedly stinks, but sign up on the top-right to get invites to the monthly events, starting again in January) and saw Josh Coates speak… he was pretty awesome. He got cut off for time, but if I ever hear of a chance to hear him speak again, I’m going.
Anyway, after all of the presentations, I learned about some new companies as I milled around. One guy (I can’t remember who) showed me what his company was doing with Google Cardboard. Haven’t heard of it? I hadn’t either.
He pulled a cardboard box out of his backpack and put his phone in it… and you now had your own virtual reality machine. It was super cool. I can’t remember what I was looking at – something with space, or a planet or something like that, but to use your smart phone as a screen, and a homemade cardboard contraption as the viewer… it really was geeky cool.
Here’s a short video on kind of how it works… on the Cardboard page you can learn how to make your own … (and develop apps for it):
A couple of years ago I blogged about a “brilliant About Us page“… I recently found another one that is just awesome. This is from Canvas, which provides software (learning management system, or LMS) for schools. Josh Coates is the guy who sold his startup to EMC for $76M, and he’s running canvas now. Check out the Canvas (aka, instructure) Our Team page.
It looks fun and playful, right?
If you mouse over each person’s image, it changes from the playful image (Steve’s playfulness is his clothes, which you’ll have to go to the page to see) to a serious corporate image. But it defaults to the playful one. Isn’t that cool?
NOTE: There is limited space. Please register now to get your spot(s).
I have been a homeschool dad for the past 16 years. For the most part this has meant that I support my wife as well as I can as she homeschools the kids. Two things have caused me to get more involved: (1) my kids have gotten older (so I get to do more, especially as a math mentor), and (2) we’ve been involved in commonwealths and other organized groups where they have had a need for volunteers. My personal journey has led me to the point where I’m ready to offer a really cool class on video game design with an emphasis on making money (aka, entrepreneur).
What is this class about?
This class is about math, science and money. Oh wait, only one of those three is going to get the attention of most kids (kids will be the bulk of students). This class has two purposes:
To introduce video game design, and learn how to create our own games that can be put on the market. This is not a conceptual, learn a piece of the puzzle, class. The goal is to get games done and put them on the market. We will use the GameSalad development platform. GameSalad provides a robust and functional development environment. You are not going to do hard-core programming with GameSalad but you will definitely learn programming concepts and logic. It’s amazing to see what people have create with GameSalad (more on that below).
To help you make money with your video games. I can’t promise any results, but I want students to get their games to market and have people buy them. I talked to someone earlier this year who said he has about 100 games published (aka, on the market), and he makes $2k – $3k per month in royalties. This is a non-programmer who has a day job. The games are just his hobby! I LOVE THIS because I want to empower people to make money! I want everyone to think about ways to earn financial freedom, or a few bucks in monthly recurring revenue. For some people, the goal is to make thousands of dollars each month. For some kids, earning $20 a month in recurring revenue is beyond their dreams. I want to show that this can happen. Can you imagine pushing out a bunch of games that pay for college? A car? Insurance? Gas? That’s pretty cool!
There should be byproducts of participating in this class. Students will see math and science at work. Let’s go from conceptual “when am I ever going to need to know this stuff!?” to appreciating, wanting to learn more, and maybe even loving math and science!
Did you know Angry Birds is a game of physics? Consider shooting a birdie from a slingshot… it has direction, speed and gravitational pull considerations. How far does the bird go (and what variables could change the length, speed, direction)? When does it start to go towards the ground? How money blocks, bricks, and sticks blown away, and in what direction do they go, and with what force? This can be overwhelmingly confusing in a high school physics class (for me it was), but it is is awesome stuff! If YOU are creating the game, you have to think about this stuff. We’re going to sneak math and science into our brains the way you can sneak black beans into brownies. See what we’re doing here?
Who is this class for?
This class if for anyone who is interested in (a) video game design or (b) being an entrepreneur. It is also for anyone who is looking for independent math, science, entrepreneur, or elective classes at the high school or college level. Registrants include:
Public school kids
Parents / adults
As I mention below, I’m not putting a must-be-at-least age limit for registrants. I’m designing this class so the younger students learn enough tools to create their own games. Whether they finish a game is up to them and the environment at home (do they have enough time to work on it, are they driven and focused on the project, etc.). Why would adults take this class? Maybe they want to learn a new skill. Maybe they want to brush up on technical skills. Maybe they want to be the coolest adult on their block. Or maybe they *just* want to create another revenue stream (you know, for holidays, vacations, etc.).
Will this fit my schedule?
Yes! The live webinar will be Monday morning at 9am MST, for about one hour. It will be recorded, and each student will have access to archived recording throughout the semester. Classes start on Monday, September 8, and end on Monday, December 8. This allows you to take this class as a self-directed student. Note: if I have problems on a live webinar, or have scheduling issues, I will record the class and put it in the library as soon as possible.
What about location?
Every class will be virtual, so location really doesn’t matter. Within a week of opening registration we have students from Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, and Utah. I hope to have students from every state in the U.S., and outside of the U.S. Even my kids will listen to the classes remotely (one floor above me).
I am looking at doing at least one hackathon each semester. This will be in the Salt Lake area, and is 100% optional.
What about video games and addiction?
Good question. First, this class is about creating, not consumption. We’re not learning how to play video games. I’m really using video game design as a vehicle to teach other stuff (math, science, logic, project management, creative design, computer skills, marketing, etc.). Recently I was asked to reconcile the idea of teaching people to create video games with not supporting addiction to video games. This is like asking anyone who loves photography, or teaches photography, to reconcile their photography skills with those other addiction problems.
I don’t really care for video games. If I have free time, I’m likely not going to be found playing games. Ironic, isn’t it? But I am passionate about self-empowerment, and learning. Interestingly, I’m noodling on the idea of an extra optional assignment to research what makes certain popular games so addicting. As I studied this out in some articles (search for “Candy Crush addiction,” for example), I found some great stuff. I’m not interested in training people to think “how can I get people addicted, and then pay me more money?,” but I am interested in personal empowerment. Video game design, for me, is just a vehicle to get there.
What is the cost?
Currently the price is $50/semester. Yes, this is ridiculously low. You can’t get piano for $50 for a semester, nor much of anything. There is a local big-name university that has a week-long boot camp for about $300. The risk of pricing this at $50 is that it makes it look cheap, and “you get what you pay for,” right? As a dad who has paid for stuff for my kids, I wanted to make this affordable for families. It’s hard for homeschool families to pay for so much out-of-pocket. I would rather have a lot of students, and siblings from the same family, sign up, and have it be really affordable, than to have just a handful do it for $100+. So, sorry it’s priced so low… I don’t mean to give you the feeling that this is a cheap class. Hopefully this pricing will help a lot of families (or the students themselves) be able to afford it.
Family pricing, per semester, is $50 each for the first two people, then $25 for each person after that. For example, from one family, price per person:
add $25 (fifth person, etc.) pay for five, six, seven, eight… (for more, you can change the link to the right amount, just add $25 for each new person)
I hope there aren’t refunds, but life happens… you can get a refund through the second class (before the third class starts).
If you have other questions, ask in the comments below.
This class will be two semesters: Sept 8 – Dec 8, and Jan – May.
I am taking the role of a “mentor,” not a “teacher.” Yes, I will definitely teach, but my main purpose will be to help the student move forward at the pace that is appropriate for them (there will likely be a wide variety of ages participating, from 9 or 10 to adult). For some, they will barely keep up with the weekly classes. Others might produce (and put on the market) multiple games during either semester.
We will use GameSalad as the development platform. I use a PC and am not familiar with the Mac version, but what I teach/mentor can be done on either PC or Mac. You should be able to use Youtube as your tutor on GameSalad features on the Mac.
The purpose of the course is (1) to introduce programming concepts, and reinforce math, science, logic, reading, etc. skills, and (2) to give students a way to get their games to the market so they can make some money (my hope is that some of these kids can make recurring revenue from $50 to a few hundred dollars per month.
The format will be a weekly webinar, which will be recorded, so if you can’t join live, you can easily access the recording. I’m doing this to accomodate your schedule, and open it up to people who are not physically close to me.
The course will be appropriate for youth from about 11 and up (9 and 10 year olds can do it if they are disciplined – for example, if they can read okay, and have taken music lessons for a while, they are likely going to do fine). I don’t want to dissuade anyone based on age, and I’m not saying 11 is going to be successful…
I will produce guidelines/challenges of what the student can do during the semester. If you are really good and catch on, you might make a bunch of games and get ahead of my weekly instruction. That is GREAT! I’m not going to hold you back. If you are slower, or have less time to put in, you might only make one game (or a part of a game) during the first semester. As long as you are making progress, learning, and trying, I don’t really care . I want you to get started, and to be able to love math/science because you are seeing the practical application, getting results, and hopefully push a game to the market (where at least your grandma will feel obligated to buy it – chaching! You just made ninety nine cents! See? Math does pay!). The guidelines will allow you to move as fast or slow as your situation allows.
These guidelines can be used by the parent to assign a pass/fail OR a grade for a transcript. If you are homeschooled, or doing this for school credit, you know what you need to do (document projects, develop a portfolio, etc.). If you are looking for reimbursement from HarmonyEd, MyTechHigh, etc., you will want to keep track of whatever they want you to keep track of (like hours spent on the course). Consult with your contact at that school, and if you have special needs or requests, let me know. I want this to be valuable to you and your student in as many ways as possible. (for example, the Game Design merit badge should be really easy to pass off, having gone through this course)
I can not do any tech support or one-on-one tutoring/mentoring, to help you load the software, fix your mouse, tell you why your computer isn’t starting, etc. There are plenty of Youtube videos for that. My expectation is that you can get GameSalad loaded and use a computer. There are too many variables, such as a bad mouse, anti-virus software, etc. that could be a culprit to your problem, and for the price of the course, I simply can’t help troubleshoot. I do want to know what your GameSalad or course questions or challenges are, so I can address them as appropriate during the weekly classes.
I’m guessing there will be students who would be interested in tutoring others, one-on-one. Their hourly rate will be less than mine (I charge $250/hour :p), and it would be a great opportunity for them to grow. (tip: they can easily use www.join.me and a phone to tutor/mentor long distance)
I would like to do at least one hackathon (what is that??) per semester. This is where we get together in one location and program for many, many hours (probably 12). It is exhausting, but exhilarating and fun, and should be productive and inspiring. This would be in the Salt Lake City area… and might incur a fee (for venue and food) which would depend on where we have it and how many people come. I hope to get a donated space and food, but we’ll see.
The fee for this first year is discounted from $100 to $50 per semester, per student. Contact me for discounts of 3 or more PER FAMILY. Payment for semester the first, for one person, can be made here. Please include the name and an email for each student (you can add more students just by changing the 50 in the URL… so if you have two students, change it to $100, etc.).
You can access live webinars via GoToMeeting. They will be once a week (probably Monday morning). I’ll record those and put them in a special password-protected video library where you can rewatch them, or catch up on them if you have a scheduling conflict (work, school, sickness, etc.). You will access the recordings through your own JibberJobber account.
Can we register our child for the class if we are long distance or is it mandatory to attend the SLC hackathon?
This is especially designed for long distance… and the hackathon will be FUN, but not mandatory. If you want to come to it, and you are from out of town, let’s figure out the logistics. Homeschool families love to put up other homeschool families (I hope).
Could you post more info on game salad. Does it run on Linux or Mac? How new does my computer need to be to run it?
On this page you can download… but note the default is for Windows! Scroll down and you’ll see their system requirements. At the very bottom are links to download the Mac version, and the Windows version.
Some of my siblings have only a very basic grasp of math. What background should students have as far as subjects like math go?
This is a great question. I think basic is going to be fine… in GameSalad we are applying math, but I think it will make sense. For example, in a scoring system, every time you hit a target you get 10 points, and when you get to 300 you win. In the system we’ll figure out where to put “every time it hits, add 10,” and show it on a scoreboard, and when you get to x (x=300 in this case), then do something (end the game). Very simple and doable. We’re probably not going to go into trig, calculus, or geometry proofs (okay, I guarantee I’m not going there! LOL).
Will we go over things like animation and basic sound? Or if not, do you have resources that they can look into for those things?
Another great question. GameSalad by it’s very nature is all about animation (moving something from one place to another, or in an explosion, making it look like something goes through various stages, from thing to starting the explosion to the peak of the explosion to just a pile of ashes… that’s animation, right?). Regarding adding sound, we’ll do that (sound effects when something happens). If you are interested in creating icons, custom sounds, etc., there are tons of resources for that type of skill, but I’m not going to go into it. I do have two youth mentors I would tap into who might do a special class/recording. If you are interested in developing sound and graphics, you can actually sell them to other GameSalad people – check out the marketplace.
What is the caliber of these games? Are you thinking choose your own adventure, ping pong and farmville, snes style rpgs our something else entirely? Or will you leave it up to students?
I was blown away to see what people create with GameSalad. You can see games in their arcade. Here are some games that GameSalad things are awesome (they are “game of the month” games). Games can be designed for iOS, Android, desktop…. which is pretty cool. I will show how to use the tools, and the environment, and concepts, but I fully expect to be blow away by the creativity that each person brings. In other words, I’ll show you tools, and you build your own game.
What medium will we be using to distribute games?
The GameSalad development platform allows you to push your games to various markets (apple store, amazon store, google play, etc.). This is a paid level, though, and I’m trying to get information from them to either get a discount or figure out some really cool way to get a game to market without everyone buying the upgraded platform.
Are there any other optional fees we might want to pay (either to yourself or third parties,) such as web hosting, cds, premade art, competitions, etc.?
I guess it depends on how far you go. If you want to create your own website to market your games, you can do it for free (wordpress.com), or pay a very nominal fee for annual hosting and a domain name, graphics, etc. I’d love to talk about this during one of the business/entrerpreneur/marketing lessons, but I’m not going to focus on you spending much (or any) money. If you are ready to go to the next level, let’s talk. If you are good at graphics, layout, blog theme design, etc., I’ll put you in a directory and you can do business with students who want to do that.
You see a ton of games online that seem like outright copyright infringement. Will you cover pertinent laws that students will need to know about when distributing?
I like the three words moral, legal and ethical. They don’t always mean the same thing, but I like all of them. I don’t have a problem if you want to recreate a game, just for educational purposes, and not push it to the market. If you want to get a game on the market, I would hope it’s original and does not violate anyone else’s intellectual property. I am not a lawyer, and can’t guarantee that I will cover everything a student needs to know… but we’ll be as careful as we can.
Where will the games be sold?
First, they don’t have to be sold. But they can be… and you choose where you want to put them. I’ve heard, for example, that the Amazon marketplace is high-trust because they ensure there aren’t viruses or bad-guy things going on, whereas Google Play (I hear) is a free-for-all… so be careful. If you want to post just for Amazon, or iOS, or Android, you can choose your marketplace.
Do you walk them through the steps of submitting their games for sale?
We will go through this, yes.
Will this class be inspiring to kids who might not think they like programming? My 13 year old loves math. My 11 year old doesn’t love math, but enjoys working on the computer (graphic design.) Both are very entrepreneurial and motivated by the idea of earning money. Do these sound like the kind of kids that you would inspire? Or would it be better for them to wait until later?
They sound perfect to me. I would not say that a love for math or graphic design or earning money is going to be the ticket, or a hindrance. Some will latch onto the more logical stuff, some will make simple yet visually appealing stuff…. some will be driven by money, others won’t care (well, until they realize there is money to be made). I honestly don’t know who will be inspired, and what will inspire them. In the Shakespeare class we started with 13 kids who were not inspired by Shakespeare, or reading impossible things, or writing papers… but that’s what we did. They grew, and loved it, and stuck with it, and the transformation was what educators hope for (and much more, I’m guessing). I want kids to grow and stretch and accomplish and achieve and conquer and get all of the feelings of self-respect and independence, etc. that you get when you do hard things.
What if they don’t know a whole lot about the computer?
I’m not sure what “a whole lot” means… You’ll need to figure out how to load GameSalad, and at least get it ready so you can start a game. Other than that, using the mouse, keyboard, typing things, etc. should be second nature. You won’t be asked to build a computer or do hard-core computer programming… I think you’ll find GameSalad, my instruction and direction, and Youtube videos helpful.
How much time per week do you anticipate this taking?
Schedule one hour a week for my instruction (live or recorded), and then I invite you to let your student spend as much time as they can creating, considering family rules, etc. They’ll probably want to spend at least one to three hours working on games and ideas each week. For those in scholar stages, I imagine they can spend hours each day. Programming can be hard and exhilarating… hard as you muscle your way through a problem, and jump-for-joy exhilarating when you finally get it. The cool thing is that the time they spend on creating games is time CREATING, not CONSUMING. I would much rather have my kids CREATE than CONSUME, especially when it comes to video games.
How much math do they need?
I’m designing this for younger kids, with little math skills (10+10=20). I expect, though, that as we learn over the course of the year, they’ll be introduced to math concepts in a practical environment, and they’ll learn as they go. For example, there is a part in GameSalad where you say what direction something (like a missle) is launched… and the value you put in is based on 360 degrees. They’ll learn that 90 degrees will shoot the missile in one direction, 180 will be straight, 270 will be another direction…. or they’ll see that 5 or 10 degrees difference makes the missile go a lot further away than they thought. Cool concepts, and like I mentioned, we’ll kind of sneak these concepts in.
How much is gamesalad?
Download the free version to do all the development and practice that you want… and I’ll figure out how we get the games published (which is the <$300 package…. I’m trying to figure out options there).
Family discounts? Does each sibling need to pay the $50 or do they share just watching the webinar? – btw, I do think $50 is a great deal!
As a dad with a bunch of kids, I love discounts. I’m going to do $50/semester for now, discounted from $100/semester, for the first two people in an immediate family (not just kids). If you have 3 or more, contact me.
How many students would you need in your class from AZ to convince you to come do one here :)?
Depends on the time of the year. There is a triple-charge for coming out in the summer. Just kidding… ! I really haven’t thought about it. I can see two options – first, get me out there, second, you guys have a hackathon on your own! All you need is a place to meet, adults, and FOOD. It would be cool to have mentors (adult or youth) that could help you through problems (technical, how to, etc.), and inspire creativity, be cheerleaders, etc. I would LOVE to do that, but you don’t have to have ME. It would be so fun to have more than one hackathon happening on the same day, and do some video conferencing or something, to share ideas, momentum, inspiration, etc. Let me know what kind of interest you get and we’ll figure something out. Otherwise, jump in a couple of vans and come up here!
More about Jason Alba
From when I was in Businessweek
I have mentored in various assignments over the last few years. I’ve been involved in the Knights of Freedom Summit for x years (I don’t know how many), and am taking on a bigger role this year (Guardian Mentor – it’s a new assignment). I’ve been a mentor for Simulations Week twice and am preparing for my third time (in June!!). Yes, I did indeed shave half of my head and half of my beard, and I squirted BBQ sauce on as many kids as I could. Of course, it all had a good learning purpose!) This last year I finished mentoring Shakespeare for our Commonwealth and was honored and amazed to watch those kids grow and mature. I am passionate about entrepreneurship (my third book is called “51 Alternatives to a Real Job“), and very passionate about helping people of all ages become empowered in many things, especially financially.
I have a degree in Computer Information Systems and an MBA from Idaho State University. During my junior year I was a web development intern at Simplot (in Idaho) and fell in love with the power of web apps. After a few years in “industry,” I was laid off and eventually started my own business: JibberJobber. JibberJobber is a relationship management tool specializing in helping job seekers manage and organize the complexities of a job search. Anyone who is trying to manage and nurture relationships, from Grandma managing birthday cards to a mom organizing community (or school) events, where there are multiple people communicating and things to follow-up on, can get value out of JibberJobber.
We started developing JibberJobber in March of 2006.
That wasn’t too long ago, but a LOT has changed in the world of the internet since then. Our first design (UI/UX) was fine, although we had a list a mile long of improvements and enhancements. We focused a lot more on processes and features than on making it look pretty.
Later, I got a message from someone that said the design was outdated (read: not keeping up with popular websites), and although he liked the functionality, he couldn’t “trust” us with his credit card for an upgrade because the design didn’t instill trust.
Isn’t that interesting?
So, we began to look much more seriously at the UI with the idea that we wanted people to TRUST us. They needed to feel confident that we were still around, and still making improvements. Changes (and keeping up) with UI would, I guess, help that.
In 2012 we did a big new redesign (I blogged about it here). Within days someone completely new to JibberJobber wrote and complained that the design looked too old, perhaps something from the 1990s.
You seriously can’t please everyone.
I’ve had graphics artists and layout people sign up, while in job search, and within 20 minutes delete their account saying they didn’t like the design. I hated that. I wished they would have said “man! Change this! Change the color! Change something!” instead of just “don’t like UI.” I know, I know, it’s not their responsibility to say what to do, but if one of them emailed and said:
“I love the tool, but the design could use a lot of work. I have a lot of suggestions… here are five of them. Feel free to incorporate those, and if you are interested in a consultation, let me know. I do this professionally and would love to help JibberJobber’s look match it’s awesome functionality.”
See what I did there? First, the person didn’t whine and stomp off like a little kid who didn’t get what they wanted, second, they offered specific solutions, and third, let me know that they were bought in and wanted to be a part of the team (even if just a contractor).
I would have absolutely had that conversation, and would have most likely hired them for the next step, to see if they could really walk the talk.
But I got never got that email. Not once.
Design is hard. I feel like we’ve been focusing on it a lot this year, and it’s frustrating to watch other sites with design crews go crazy and essentially define what great design is supposed to look like. But this article by Greg Story really helped ease that frustration: And They All Look Just the Same. At the very end he says ” It does nobody any good to have a web that all looks the same. Be mindful of the user’s needs and business requirements, but for the sake of success, go a different route. ” Read the whole article, it is excellent.
I’m not saying we don’t want to have a better visual experience. We do, and are working on it, and will continue to work on it. But I don’t think I’m going to fret about not keeping up with Twitter’s, LinkedIn’s and Facebook’s UI, when really what my best users and customers need and want is better UX – the experience, the functionality, the tools, the reports, etc. Yes, UI will be a part of that, and we’re aware of doing better there, but no longer can I waste time worrying about “keeping up.”