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3D Computer Games with Young Learners: Spore

In a recent digital skills survey I carried out using Urtak I discovered that more than 50% of digitally skilled teachers don't feel able to utilise 2D and 3D computer games to achieve pedagogical goals (See survey), so I've been looking around and exploring some possibilities. The first of these is the Spore Creature Creator. Spore is a game which allows you to create creatures and evolve them along with their environment, all the way through to a space traveling society.

The free trial creature creator that we will be looking at allows you to create creatures, take snap shots of them and make videos of them to see how they move. Here's an example of a video I created to get students interested. I added the captions and text using i-Movie though you could just as easily use a free online video editor such as Video Toolbox or Windows Moviemaker if you are using a PC.

The creatures are very easy to create, you just drag and drop different features onto a body and the add colour and test them out to see how they move. These are some of the other creatures I created.

Once you have created your creatures you can either make videos of them, take snapshots, which you can either save or email to someone, or create an animated gif of your creature (I wasn't too impressed with the quality of the animated gifs)

Here' a tutorial showing you how it's done.

You can download a .mov version of the tutorial here or this pdf document has the main screen shots and instructions if you'd prefer to follow on paper.

You can download the Creature Creator from the Cnet website here. It's a big download (205MB), but once you have it, you don't need to have web access to do any of the tasks or create the movies and snapshots.

How do we use this with students?
  • Create images of different creatures and get the students to create a story about them.
  • Get the students to create descriptions of different creatures - This could include appearance, but also likes and dislikes, habits etc.
  • Get students to match pictures to descriptions.
  • Get students to create a creature based around your description.
  • Create a creature and use a picture of it as a picture dictation with one student describing the picture while the other one recreates the creature using the software.
  • Get students to create a short video of their creature and add a description and narrative below it as a video project.
  • Ask students to create a creature suitable for a particular environment, or types of tasks, then get students to discuss which they think would be best adapted for the environment.
  • Get the students to write instructions for how to create a creature.
  • Use the creatures to demonstrate present continuous tenses ( sitting, running etc.)
What I like about it.
  • It looks great on a data projector and if you work in a single computer classroom, you can get students up and dragging things around and creating in front of the class.
  • The creatures are very colourful and in the environment mode they really start to take on character.
  • You can use the tool to create versatile and stimulating materials.
  • It's free and pretty easy to use once you get it installed.
  • I like the integration with YouTube as it makes it very easy to get your videos online quite quickly.
  • I like that they can produce a range of gestures and expressions.

What I'm not so sure about.
  • It's a big download and will need to be installed on any computer it is used on, so if you want to use it in your school computer room, you'll need the help of a supportive IT manager to get it downloaded and installed on all the computers.
  • The Gifs it creates aren't that good, but you don't really need to use them.
  • You need a fairly good computer with a good graphics card for it to work well.
I hope you enjoy trying some of these ideas with your students.

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