Fun and Games Meets Education

Digital media in the classroom at Dwight School in New York.

GUEST COLUMN | by Daniil Frants

CREDIT Daniil FrantsI have always loved working with technology and cyber art, and was drawn to Dwight’s ninth-grade digital media class because it offered me a great artistic outlet based on what I already know and what I enjoy doing in my free time. The class has a flexible curriculum and Mr. Doyle, a great teacher, varied it to meet each student’s personal interests. He inspired us to make class time productive. With no tests or strict assessments, we felt that the class was about creating something great, not just about trying to get a good grade. We were asked to be reflective about our work throughout the year, which covered three main subject areas: architecture, game design, and animation.

Not only did Mr. Doyle teach us how to work with existing design technologies, he also showed us technologies and tools that were not yet available on the market. We had the chance to beta-test real products in class, which was an especially great experience. We met several technology developers, who visited as guest speakers; we had the opportunity to try interesting new design platforms; and more importantly, we learned about the process of beta-testing; how to conduct a beta-test, how to collect and organize data to provide user feedback, etc.

Dwight’s digital media class sparked interests that I pursued outside the classroom; I began to design more games and work with animation in my free time.

Designing our own games was one of the most interesting and creative projects that continued throughout most of the year. Before we began, Mr. Doyle showed us several different game-design platforms, which we were able to explore and experience on our own before deciding which one we wanted to use. This way, we were able to create the type of games that we like to play. I selected Beta the game because of its simple programming, allowing me to skip the process of writing code from scratch. The object of the game I designed is to get through a series of spikes at a high speed to end up at the winning point. The main character loops back to the beginning instantly, creating the feeling of constant repetition.

After designing our games, we invited fellow Dwight students to test them in “game jams.” Fifth graders played our games and provided written user feedback to help us improve the games in their next iteration.

Dwight’s digital media class sparked interests that I pursued outside the classroom; I began to design more games and work with animation in my free time. This was in addition to other tech projects that I had started previously on my own. Most recently, I presented at an event called Cyberfest (a large art festival in Eastern Europe, expanding worldwide this year) in Germany, outlining the uses of new technology in cyber art and demonstrating them.

I have also tested Google Glass as a part of the beta program, and have inquired about further uses of the technology across a number of fields. At the same time, I decided to start my own tech design company, which aspires to create technological systems to assist people who are hearing disabled. The ideas that Mr. Doyle introduced in class have provided me with insights into potential methods that I can use to test my new product and a great way to approach all of my personal projects outside the classroom.

I have known for a while now that I want to pursue a career related to computer sciences after graduating from high school and college. Even before taking this great Dwight class, I knew that I wanted to design a product and Mr. Doyle showed me several ways for doing that. The digital media skills I learned will help me no matter where I go and what I choose to do, and that is the true educational value of this class.

Daniil Frants (pictured above) is a student at Dwight School in New York City, a leading IB World School. He studies digital media and technology (in addition to other subjects) and will be entering the tenth grade in the fall.

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