Celebrating Ten Years of Game Design with a NJ High School
West Morris Central High School in New Jersey first deployed our Video Game Design course back in 2013. Two teachers later, they are still a powerhouse in game design. We recently caught up with John Takacs, who teaches the Web and Mobile Game Design course at West Morris Central. West Morris Central is the home of a high-performing STEM and CTE program including Coding and Computer Science, Robotics, Music Production, 3D Modeling, and Computer Programming and Game Design.
We at CTeLearning are constantly updating all of our curricula. We made updates to the Web and Mobile Game Design curriculum in the summer of 2022, which included a whole new set of games. This made it so the games students produced would not only be easier to create on Chromebooks, Macs and PCs, but also more universal to play on mobile devices including iPads, Android tablets and all mobile phones.
In our chats with students, we discovered that many were curious about how to become a game tester. Fortunately, we have friends in the industry and we worked to create a whole section on what it means to be a game tester, how to become a game tester and created a “test a long” where the students test a buggy game version alongside the professional. game tester.
The biggest change this year was the new partnership allowing teachers to have their students “Learn and Earn” an industry-based certification through Web Professionals Global. Students get to put in sweat equity to earn the certification as they work through the curriculum. At the end of the course, the teacher goes through a simple checklist and then the students can submit a code to download their international industry-based certification directly from Web Professionals Global.
John is in his second year teaching the Web and Mobile Game Design course. Read on to hear what John and his students have been up to and how they are enjoying these updates to the curriculum.
What do you like about the Web and Mobile Game Design curriculum?
The embedded industry-recognized certifications are a bonus and a no-brainer. This was a big factor when I went to my BOE for purchase approval. Every CTE educator is focused on the real world and doing the best for our students. Whether my students go on to a four-year college, tech school or straight into industry, I know that industry-recognized certifications matter on a resume or college application. I tell my students to look for ways to distinguish themselves and stand out in the crowd, and the embedded international industry-recognized certifications can be a game-changer for students.
Is it getting easier or harder to be a teacher?
It is getting harder to be a teacher because I am tired of constantly re-inventing and re-authoring my courses of study. The CTeLearning courses and their pre-written curriculum is a massive time saver.
It can be difficult getting funding for new curriculum. What did you see about the CTeLearning curriculum that stuck out to you as valuable?
The personalized tech support is worth its weight in gold. I don’t need to worry about FAQs and audio menus and robotic chats.
What does it mean to you to have a curriculum that requires less prep? Does this give you more time to focus on students and enjoy teaching more?
I enjoy not having to plan my course content. Teachers know what I mean by this. The reward of this curriculum was I get to be the teacher and do what I love, which is working with my students, helping them concentrate on their projects, focusing on the design process, and seeing my students produce their games. In teacher-speak, that means having fun.
What do you like about the updates CTeLearning made to the curriculum for the 22-23 school year?
The updates are terrific. My students love the new games and are completely engaged in the curriculum. They are also really loving the new section on game testing. They think it is so cool that they are learning from professionals who are in the industry.
What do you think about CTeLearning’s “legendary educator support” claim?
Their support is very accessible. Emails are responded to in hours (sometimes minutes) instead of days. In many instances, I was able to call and talk to someone on the development team immediately and resolve my issues. When I was worried about being ready for a class on Monday, they met me via Zoom on a Sunday. It is rare to find that kind of support these days.
What do you think is different about working with CTeLearning?
With CTeLearning you get access to their software designers and authors because they really have no salespeople. As a teacher it is rare that you ever get to talk directly to the people who create the curriculum, let alone give them suggestions and then see your suggestions in place just a few hours or few days later. It gives me confidence in what I am teaching, and I know that my experience as a teacher matters to them. With 30 years of teaching experience in many different software environments in the private and public sectors, I give CTeLearning five stars.
What type of curriculum were you looking for?
Every teacher knows that students are learning differently following the changes that occurred in education due to COVID-19. Put simply, they are having a more challenging time re-engaging in learning. I was looking to find a curriculum with that extra spark to get my students hooked, and I found it in this Web Game Design curriculum. We also needed something that fit our existing computer programming and game design class. CTeLearning’s new Web Game Design course fits our course requirements like a glove.
Was there anything new you did for your students this year?
CTeLearning partnered with the Web Professionals Organization and created a set of certifications/micro-credentials for remote working. I put all my students through the curriculum and they earned their Remote Working Professional certifications—the international professional organization for all things web. They learned what it means to be professional, work remotely, and be successful in that environment. Actually, I took the certification too. The course also went over interviewing skills and the fundamentals of being a freelancer—or what the students learned is a ‘solopreneur.’ I could see the light bulbs going off as my students went through the course. I wish we had done it before the pandemic, but now my students are ready for whatever comes their way at school or in the workplace—whether in-person or remote.
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