For the last few weeks in EDTECH534 we have been working on our final apps. I chose to create an app for use in my Video Game Design course as a tournament activity. For each game there is a different way to control the player so I envision this app also being used for students to analyze player controls.
The app itself is composed of 3 apps created with tutorials over the duration of the semester. Each of these three apps (Space Bouncer, Tap-a-Mole, and Cheasy Chase) have been heavily customized from the original tutorials. The final game, Cookie Crunch, I created from scratch and is the most robust. I really enjoyed creating Cookie Crunch, especially the images. I found there were limitations in AppInventor that a bit clunky to work around, like the inability to spawn sprites. Because of this, all sprites have to be manually put into the program and manually coded. I’m sure I could have gotten more creative with coding to make it more dynamic but I just couldn’t see/find it. Overall, I am quite proud of this app. A lot of time and effort went into it. I hope you enjoy!
Check out my final documentation web site to see the code and/or download the game!
This week in EDTECH 564 we created a mole-mash game. Since I created the original Mole Mash in EDTECH 534, I created a second different version this week. This version takes a different approach to displaying the holes and mole. I found it easier to determine what exactly was touched from the screen allowing me to more easily use the data for not only keeping track of successful whacks but unsuccessful ones as well. This is something I couldn’t figure out in the first version. I changed it up a bit from the tutorial by adding more holes, adding a missed count, updating the UI and adding a background. I definitly like the UI better in this version as well, but I attribute that to working a few more weeks with App Inventor.
This week in EDTECH 534 we created a quiz app with AppInventor. I feel like this is an easy match for educational apps being a quiz n’all. I built the app as the tutorial designed and ended up struggling with ways to make this app better. I mean, aside from UI stuff. This week, I wish there were more people in my course so I had more takes on what could be done with it.. but I don’t so.. I ended up choosing to do an HTML Quiz app as I am currently teaching the subject at my job. There are about a dozen questions that cycle through as the user answers. For my customizations, I added the functionality to disable the next button until the user guesses the correct answer. I also tweaked the UI a bit. I don’t care for the app being static and would like the ability to add questions, maybe push questions out to a group of students. There is a tutorial a few chapters past where we stop in the book that looks like it addresses this. I hope I have a chance to build it.
This week in EDTECH564 we completed the Space Invader tutorial. The app was easy to build but I found it overall quite boring. I decided I would try to improve on the game by converting it to a BrickBreaker type game. I recreated the images and created a fancy color flashing ball. Changing the behaviors so that the ball bounces off of things instead of disappearing was fairly straight forward, especially when referring to the BallBouncer app I created earlier this semester for EDTECH534. My biggest challenge was trying to create the angle bounce off the platform based on where the ball landed. After a while of not figuring it out, I opted to have the bounce angle be random and changed the platform to have odd angles off of it. The game starts off really easy with the ball moving quite slow but as the user progresses, the speed of the ball increases and the game gets quite challenging.
This week in EDTECH534 we created a “find your car” app. We played with location, storing data (I ❤ tinyDB), and the WebViewer. The premise as well as the tutorial is pretty straight forward. The user opens the app (with GPS on) and can save their current location allowing an easy return to that location with the click of a button. My only problem with the app was how the screen was laid out. With all the data on the screen, when the map opens in the WebViewer, you couldn’t really see anything. I added a button on the bottom to allow the user to open the map in the Maps app. I also rearranged the data to take up as little screen space as possible.
I can see this app being useful for finding your car in big parking lots like it was intended for. I also see this app being super useful on a field trip. Although, in version 2.0 I’d love to add some kind of breadcrumb functionality as well as the ability to have pre-programmed points, like we did in the Salem tour app.. maybe a combo of the two?
This week for EDTECH564 we completed a Magic 8-Ball tutorial. This was a fun easy tutorial to complete. I enjoyed using lists as I haven’t yet been able to play with them. It bothered me that the answers showed up in a label below the imagery of the toy so I spent the bulk of my time figuring out how to get the text to display approximately where it should. What I ended up doing was putting the image as a background to a 300×300 horizontal container and center/middle aligned a button whose text I replaced with the answer. I also added a simple radial gradient background to add some flair.
As far as functionality, I removed the tap for an answer because my new setup didn’t allow for the whole ball to be clicked. Plus it seemed more true to the toy to shake it anyway. The noises for this tutorial annoyed me a bit so instead I opted to have the app read the predictions out loud after the user shakes for an answer.
This week in EDTECH534 I completed the Map Tour tutorial using my favorite day trip location, Salem, Massachusetts. The tutorial was pretty simple this week so I took it as an opportunity to explore using multiple screens in my app. In the last few weeks I thought about adding a game-over screen a couple of times but haven’t been brave enough to really try it (plus I was thinking a tutorial would present this to me eventually). The very first part of the tutorial, using the Activity Starter, did not work for me at all. I suspected it was due to the properties entered. Since I’ve worked on Java apps before, the paths LOOKED ok to me but in this context, I had no idea. This forced me to use the Web Viewer and pray it worked. Thankfully, it did. In the process, since I still had to use Activity Starter, I found that all I really needed was the Action and URI properties.
When the user clicks on the “Choose Your Destination” ListPicker on the first screen (Screen1), they are presented with a pre-defined list of landmarks. The user then selects the landmark they want to explore. The app then opens a new screen (Screen2) with 2 Web Viewers on it, one for the landmark web site and one for the landmark Google map. Now, I have a Samsung Galaxy s6edge+ so my screen real-estate is ample and I still felt a little cramped at this point so I added “pop-out” buttons that open each option in their respective apps. I found in my testing that the device back button kicked me out of the app altogether so I also added an in-app back button (come to find out, it kicked me out because I was using the Companion app, the device back works just fine in the finished app).
This week in EDTECH534, we continued learning about AppInventor’s abilities by building the “Ladybug Chase” tutorial. In the process of extending my app, my name and theme changed to Cheesy Chase. I ended up doing all the extensions the tutorial suggested including: adding better graphics &/or theme, stopping all movement when gameplay ends (although I left the little wiggle from the cheese and cat because I though it was cute), increasing the energy bar visibility (I had done this before I realized it was an extension, it just seemed necessary) , increased difficulty by increasing the cat speed over time, added a timer label letting the user know how long they made it, and removing the mouse if he’s eaten by the cat. I also added a game over indicator since it didn’t seem immediately obvious that the game was over.
As usual, I enjoyed creating this app and am looking forward to what we create next. I must say I am getting nervous to not have tutorials to rely on soon as the final project gets closer. While I know I’m creative, I don’t always have big ideas without inspiration.
This week in EDTECH564 we started to build mobile apps using AppInventor. Since I am taking EDTECH534 at the same time and have been using the tool for a few weeks now, I completed this alternate assignment “Ball Bounce” instead of repeating Hello Purr. The original tutorial has a ball on screen that you fling with your finger to bounce off the walls. I extended the app with a colorful background, purposefully overly colorful to try and add some difficulty to the game. I also added a good guy and a bad guy. If you fling the ball into a good guy, you add to the score and the bad guy takes from your score. Additionally, in order to increase difficulty with game play, I increase the speed of the ball with every bounce off a wall. There are also buttons to stop the ball while keeping game play alive and reset the game. The “Score” and ” Speed” labels allow you to keep track of your game play on the fly.
This week in EDTECH534 we created an app that auto-responds text messages while the app is open. I got off to a quick start on the app after feeling so successful last week. I worked the tutorial as it was written. The tutorials are getting a little more difficult as it expects you to build on skills from previous weeks. After I figured out the new format, I was able to get all the parts to work. I was surprised at the functionality available to me via AppInventor. With the app open, and a text comes in, the app reads the senders phone number and the text. Then it sends a response text back letting the sender know whatever the user has programmed. Finally, the app also appends the users location to the auto-response. For my extension, I added some pre-canned responses as well as the ability for the user to turn off the location functionality. I also played around with some more layout do-dads.
This week in EDTECH 564 we took a look at mobile games and their place in the classroom. I ended up evaluating Brain It On! and I Love Hue as educational games. Both of these games provided challenging puzzles that were quickly addictive. For games on the non-educational variety, I evaluated Bejewled Blitz! and Dots. Like the educational games, these games were addictive and are the puzzle variety. One of my peers had mentioned our class discussion my tendency to see puzzle games more educational. While I obviously would agree based on this weeks assignment but upon reflection, I would say this is true mostly for mobile games. I feel like the digital divide is still wide enough to not be able to effectively and reliably use mobile apps in the classroom. Now, I understand there are places where schools have devices, or have great wifi, or perhaps have students who all have current devices, but at my school, we’re not there yet. Therefore, using any mobile app, educational or not, is very difficult. That said, if I lived in an area where using mobile apps in the classroom was realistic, I’m not sure I would use them for anything more than time filler for several reasons. Most importantly, unless the app is trackable, how would I assess how students do with the app? Assuming that wasn’t an issues, wouldn’t it be neat to be able to analyze these games as a class. I would love Brain It On! in my Video Game Design course when discussing physics in video games. I feel like the physics in the game were spot on and it really challenges the user to use physics to their advantage.
This week we created a whack-a-mole type game. The Mole Mash tutorial we completed introduced us to the ImageSprite, Canvas, Clock , and Sound components. We created Procedures to implement repeated behavior, such as moving the mole & bee and practiced using Math blocks. I really enjoyed working through this tutorial and am feeling more and more comfortable in the AppInventor environment. I’ve found myself wanting to explore just a bit farther each week and sometimes have to hold myself back. Not a bad problem to have 😉
For my customizations, I enhanced the imagery and tried to use good layout design practice by organizing data and function logically. I added a slider to control the speed of the mole and a label to let the user know what speed they were playing at. I also had to work the speed into the reset button.