FIFA Thursday

It is nearly the end of term and the assessments for the year are finished. The restructured S3/4 course has been designed so that the pupils are engaged in creating their own multimedia applications – hence there have been few calls for a rest day as they have been making and playing each other’s games for the last few weeks. More on that in another blog post I think as their work this year has been pretty inspirational…

I set up an old laptop (resurrected by my Advanced Higher pupils a year ago and still working well!) as a machinima station in my class, permanently hooked into the data projector feed to record walkthroughs from the ps3. The plan is to allow pupils to explore Fifa 2010/11, collaborate in multiple player games and coach new players (including me!) in how to play well. I also wanted them to try recording matches or training to build up video guides or to edit game highlights.

The two PS3 consoles were set up at either end of the classroom allowing space for the class to move around freely. It also allowed those not playing to watch or use the iPods or their own PCs. Too late I realised a selection of games (including FIFA) could have been preloaded on to the iPods. A large number of the audience chose to play The Sims 3 while waiting and I observed the same kind of peer coaching between small groups as occurred with FIFA. They organised a fair length of game (3min each half) and an inclusive practice to ensure as many of their classmates got the chance to play a game within the single periods.

Two pupils brought their own controllers and supplied the FIFA game disks which allowed at least two players on each PS3. Compared to the single player Heavy Rain which I used (selectively) with my Higher class earlier in the year and Little Big Planet (which allows multiple players but is viewed by a number of pupils as too childish unless they are building their own levels) I felt that the pupils were sharing more expertise, were more deeply involved in the experience and that the audience got more out of passive participation. For example, a number of the songs in FIFA 11 interested pupils enough to complete a complex web search to find the track and look for further songs by the same artist.

Discussions about local teams were also well informed. One pupil was attempting to show me how to round the goalkeeper by using L2 and the right analogue stick – a skill I have yet to master – and he softened my failure a little by pointing out that Aberdeen players in Fifa are probably too slow to manage tricks successfully!

If there was an obvious difference between the two main games played in my class today it was that the girls in the class preferred The Sims 3 and were more vocal in their coaching. The majority of the boys played Fifa silently, even when they were on the same team! They all responded well to the challenges set by the game and I can safely tell you that even after a free period of practice I was only hitting the net 20% of the time. Pupils will be running virtual rings around me for a while yet!

Retro Day!

So today I’ve been clearing out my cupboards a little and finally making time to try and get the multitude of 1980s computing kit I’ve collected over the years set up and working.

I had limited success. The ZX Spectrum 48k with rubber keys had a broken keyboard membrane so although it powered up no amount of keyboard bashing would make it do anything other than display the phrase which really did burn permanently into my old black and white portable:

Next was the ZX Spectrum 48k plastic key model. I had this one as a child and it set me off on the path to crave a career as programmer and then teacher. This time it worked fine but I couldn’t get the tv to tune precisely so every command was a crazily, distorted blur. It does work but perhaps needs an older tv. I boxed this one up for Martin.
The third spectrum was a grey +2 model. Easily the ugliest of the bunch but unsurprisingly also the most robust. It worked first time and the attached tape deck also had no issues. I was pretty stunned at the build quality to be honest! Amstrad weren’t all bad then.
I tried a few games and soon remembered the length of time it took to load anything. Never mind make a cup of tea, I was able to teach an introduction to a class before returning my attentions to the old dear!
The three Spectravideo joysticks didn’t work so these are to be donated to the art department as still life resources. There was also an extra power adapter which will be winging it’s way to BobToms100 in the next few days. I find it amazing and heartening that so many people still have and use their old computers. Plenty of people around my age no doubt!
The only machine I didn’t have time to try out was the C64. It has all the original bits n bobs but no games. Another friend is going to receive this for their classroom / nostalgic memories.
If this whets your appetite for retro fun, here are a few emulator sites that nearly replicate the entire experience: however, to fully immerse yourself in retro heaven, you’ll need to make yourself a cup of tea before playing.
Can you imagine teaching classes using these machines now? Do you? If so, get in touch as I’d love to hear about it!