Bloxels had one of the biggest overhauls of any edtech platform recently. While the same basic elements of playful creation from Bloxels Builder remain, the entire structure of the Bloxels EDU system has shifted. They are no longer meant for small individual activities, but they are now able to support a whole classroom structure. I’m getting ahead of myself though. Let’s look at the basics of Bloxels first.
Bloxels is essentially a construction and design toy paired with a digital game creation tool. That means it is both hands-on project-based learning and computer science combined in a platform easy enough for kindergarten students to explore. Students use various colored blocks to design characters, elements, and the setting in a digital game they are creating. Each color represents a different item in the game. They can then scan the items into the game using the free Bloxels Builder app on Google Play, the iOS App Store, or on the Amazon App Store. Once it’s imported they can continue to customize their game, playtest it, or share it with others.
Students can also build their games exclusively inside the app, but owning the kit unlocks added features. The important part though is that students have full control over their creation and can build any world they can imagine. Students can begin building a full-fledged program without even mastering basic block-based coding. The barriers for students to design digitally then vanish.
There is also a separate Star Wars set for Bloxels to help users create Star Wars themed video games.
In The Classroom
While teachers have always been able to purchase kits to use with students for creative projects, it is only recently that the folks at Pixel Press created the Bloxels Edu Hub which allows teachers to create and manage all of their students’ designs. Bloxels EDU app on Google Play, the iOS App Store, or on the Amazon App Store
Upon entering the educator hub, teachers will find a number of tools at their disposal.
- Classes: You can quickly set up classes and add and edit student accounts. This is also where you can view your students’ libraries to see what they’re creating and even award them badges.
- Resources: This includes webinars and tutorials on how to use the system as well as links to a variety of other materials like information on their after school program.
- Lessons: The Classroom Activities section includes lessons currently for students in 3rd through 8th grade. They include topics related to math, science, civics, and literature. The lessons are all connected to the ISTE Standards for Students.
- Educator Handbook: This provides a comprehensive overview of the entire platform.
- Card Decks: The Builder Challenge and Story Builder card decks provide student challenges but require an additional purchase.
- Help: There is a link to chat with the Bloxels team.
- Ambassadors: Soon this area will help you link to a community of Bloxels Ambassadors as well as provide the opportunity to apply yourself.
Bloxels Edu App
The Bloxels Edu app is incredibly easy to use and the teacher and student views are nearly identical. Here is an overview of how to get started.
- LOGIN: Students type in the class 6 digit class code, select their name, and are then prompted to input a 4 picture password (no literacy required).
- BEGIN CREATING: Students can choose to create a game, character, art, or background. They can do that digitally or use the camera to capture a design they created on the Bloxels board. Simply select the element (game, character, art, or background) and press the + to enter the creation screen.
- CREATE: Use the palette of 8 adjustable colors to begin designing your element. This includes basics like copy, paste, undo, and arrows to flip your design. Don’t worry about your work. It saves automatically.
- ANIMATE: By clicking the + on the bottom of the screen by the image you can create animations that make your design appear to move. You can create animations for idle standing, walking, and jumping.
- SHARE/EDIT/DELETE: You can return to the main screen simply by tapping one of the 4 design area at the top. By pressing and holding on a design you will be given the icons to share, delete, or edit your creation. Sharing will send it to the class library where other students can download it.
- CLASS LIBRARY: Select the library button in the top right and you can search for class designs that are available to be downloaded and used in your project. This provides a great way to promote collaboration.
- USER OPTIONS: By pressing your user icon in the top left you will find the badges you’ve earned, messages you’ve received, and an icon to exit to the login screen. By pressing on their avatar from that screen, they can change it to anything in their character library. Creating an avatar is a good idea for lesson 1.
As I said, there was a complete overhaul so there are many new features to know about.
- Educator Hub: The entire management system and everything involved with it is new. Look at the section above for the details.
- Bloxels EDU App: This is an all-new app but the functionality is very similar to Bloxels Builder. Significant changes are listed below.
- Student Passwords: Student passwords are now number based instead of pictographs for easier login.
- Story Narratives: You can use the White Story Blocks to create a storyline for your game. They’ve had a major update with an easier-to-use configuration menu so students can create more detailed stories.
- Puzzle Games: You can use Orange Action Blocks to construct in the game or solve puzzles.
- Power-Ups: There new power-ups in addition to the classic jet pack and bombs. You can use the Character Swap Power-Up to allow characters to change outfits or transform into someone else entirely. They’ve also tweaked the jetpack to compensate for new flying enemies now available in games.
- Music: There are now many more music choices available.
- Class Library: Students can collaborate and share their creations with the whole class and they continue to make that process easier.
Soon the in-app messaging feature will be up and running which will allow you to send lesson ideas and motivation to students. In addition, Pixel Press plans on adding in-app step-by-step tutorials and asset packs that could provide much-needed elements for a particular type of historical or scientific area of study.
There are a number of places you can go for added help (behind this amazingly informative blog post, he said humbly). These include the Guidebook, a series of tutorial videos, and the Bloxels Block Party. That last one is where you can find fun videos that explore the nature of design. You can also join the upcoming webinar on September 26.