May 31st – Myst

Well this has turned into a walk down memory lane.  Yesterday I spoke of Monkey Island, a LucasArts game developed in 1990 that taught me problem-solving and critical-thinking skills (also added to my sense of humor), today I bring you another classic computer game that brought similar skills without a lot of interaction – Myst.

May 31st – Myst

Myst was developed in 1993 and was as mysterious as the name.  You start on an island with clues to work together to figure something out, but what that is – you don’t know.  There are a few major objects, books, that lead to some clues but you are alone and trying to figure this out on your own.  Similar to Monkey Island, you can’t really die in the game (or at least it’s very difficult to), you just work through problems and come up with creative solutions to solve the mystery of the 2 young men and their father.

Similar to Monkey Island, this game is available for purchase through Cyan’s website (the games manufacturer) or on the App Store.  Happy Hunting!


May 30th – Monkey Island

Recently I was in a University class in which we were looking at all the different educational games available to today’s youth.  Some brought back fond memories and others I had no clue about, but yet others (perhaps younger) exclaimed in delight.  It brought me back to thinking about the games I played as a child and whether or not they were educational.

May 30th – Monkey Island

The Monkey Island series was developed by LucasArts as a simple interface game which followed Guybrush Threepwood as he sought out the skills to be a pirate.  The environment is completely open and you can interact with a lot of things, not everything but certainly more than at first look.  As you move through the game  you learn to combine items to make new ones, the art of sword fighting (which isn’t sword fighting at all) and uncover the plot of the ghost pirate LeChuck.

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While this game isn’t made for education – it taught me a lot more than I ever knew.  I learned problem-solving and critical-thinking skills in solving puzzles and problems of where to go next.  I learned about perserverance as the game didn’t direct me to any goal, and I could spend hours without going anywhere, but trying possible solutions, which also resulted in a case of grit.  

Today’s games, the popular ones, seem to be stuck on the one path to a goal style, and even the games where you can interact with your environment (Grand Theft Auto) you end up punching people and running them over.

The only place you can still find games like Monkey Island is on the Indie Game scene, they are educational without purposefully being so and that is a good thing.

There are lessons all around us, and even if we didn’t know it at the time, valuable lessons come to light down the road.  So I encourage you to look up Monkey Island and for $10 you can download, play and expand your thinking, from a game developed in 1990.

May 29th – Force “Make a Copy”

In the previous two post, I’ve talked about an assessment I gave to the students and they had to “Make a Copy” to share with me as they turned it in.  This usually leads to headaches as students can’t find the “Make a Copy” button or someone (if you’ve given editing rights) modifies the original copy.  Well you can only give people the ability to copy the document with a little trick – this will save a ton of time.

May 29th – Forced Copy

On any Google Doc (Slides, Draw, Sheets, etc…) you have a bunch of different “Sharing” options.  You can share with individuals, share with anyone in the organization, share with anyone with the link, make it completely public and share with anyone with the link (outside of the organization).  Typically we share by individual names/email addresses or with anyone in the organization.  But a little trick of changing the URL – just barely – will preserve the original and others can make a copy.

The steps:
1.) Create you document (I’d suggest putting directions on the original document)
2.) Share > Anyone with the Link (might have to select the dropdown, needs to be anyone outside of your organization)
3.) Copy the URL Google Drive gives you
4.) Change the last word “edit” to “copy”
5.) Reload the page and you’ll get the “Make a Copy” screen

Google Make a Copy

Like handing out assignments, students will just need to share with you and you have the original intact!

May 28th – A Week With Google Draw

The final day of Google Draw is more of a hint than anything else.  Think outside the box.

May 28th – A Week With Google Draw

Yesterday I introduced a Scratch Assessment that I created and focused on the things I could do with the images.  But I also did something very tricky – I kept all the images off the printable area so that I could easily save the images and check them with only the Scratch blocks they used.

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 6.30.38 PM

I saw this trick done with a Halloween activity and thought it would be brilliant for this Scratch activity as well.  You’ve got plenty of room of the canvas so go crazy!  I had the students make a copy, then share with me the answers.  They had some struggles like I mentioned, but I think it went pretty well.

May 27th – A Week With Google Draw

As we are starting to get the hang of the shapes, text and layers – we should look at some common problems, that might be something you want to have happen.  Today I’ll show you how to resize, mirror and rotate your images.

May 27th – A Week With Google Draw

Recently I’ve been doing an “assessment” with my 3rd Graders to figure out what they’ve learned this year in Scratch in the 6 lessons they’ve had with me.  A challenge point to this process is how to “assess” them without having the technology being a barrier to their knowledge.  Since they are in 3rd Grade, they can’t signup for Scratch accounts, and Scratch has yet to create a “school account” so students don’t need an email and the teacher can signup for them (been promised it’s coming for a few years now).  So I took it into my own hands and screenshot each block in Scratch, used the Magic Wand tool (post coming soon!) to create a transparent image and dropped the blocks into a Google Draw document.

In my head the students would just drop and drag the cutout images onto the colored block – but it wasn’t that simple, they played and stretched and distorted the block images, and I quickly saw I needed to teach into a few more skills, so I did and now I’m writing about it!


Every image has the tiny squares around the side, simply click and drag to resize.  The corners will keep the ratio (portrait or landscape) and the sides will change width and height.

Google Draw Resize


By dragging one of the sides or top squares in the center of the figure (not the corners), you’ll be able to mirror the image horizontally or vertically.  This didn’t help in the assessment listed above, but could be used purposefully.

Google Draw Mirror


You can rotate by 90 or 180 degrees by using the “Arrange” menu option, or grab the little outcropping on the square and click and drag to move around.  This option gives you complete control of the angle.

Google Draw Rotate

May 26th – A Week With Google Draw

When creating multiple shapes, it’s difficult to move them all at the same time.  Google Draw (and other programs) have a nifty little tool that allows us to group objects together and that makes life a lot easier when making minor adjustments.

May 26th – A Week With Google Draw

If we were drawing a stick figure in Google Draw, we would use a circle, then a bunch of line tools to create the body, arms and legs.  The “body” could attach to the head if we connect the body directly to the head, but the arms and legs are independent.  What happens when we need the stick figure three inches to the left?  Do we need to move every single piece?  No, we just group them.  Put all the pieces down, then click and drag to select all the pieces, right click (two finger click on a Chromebook or MacBook Pro) and “Group” the objects.  Then you can easily drag the stick figure (hopefully you have more artistic talent than me) around to different parts of your screen.

Google Draw Grouping

May 25th – A Week With Google Draw

So far in Google Draw we’ve looked at the Basics of Shapes, creating and drawing lines, and text boxes and layering. Today we’ll look at the instant arrangement features to put that text box in the exact middle of the page (if you want it there).

May 25th – A Week With Google Draw

Once you’ve placed a bunch of shapes and text boxes on the canvas, you might want to play around with them a bit.  Yesterday we used the “Order” feature to shift between the layers, but what if you want a text box in the exact middle, then shapes around it (or in line).  Google Draw has a easy feature for that.

Google Draw has the same gridlines feature that Google Slides has, where when you drag the object around the page, a blue line tells you if it matches other objects or is in the middle of the page.  Using the arrange feature helps keep the clicking and dragging to a minimum.

Google Draw Arrange

First select the object (otherwise the computer doesn’t know what to move) and then select from the menu options under “Arrange”.  Pretty simple but also very powerful for precision graphic design!