Game design week 2 planning

It seems I’m spending all my time writing class material these days! Today I put the finishing touches on the lesson for week 2 of my Creative Thinking & Problem Solving course, which is using game design as an example. Week 2 is all about brainstorming – coming up with as many ideas as possible, and trying to make them diverse and original. I came up with some exercises to go through to prompt the kids to think creatively, and tried them out on my wife, and she was very impressed. So I’m pretty happy with that!

Taking Scully out for a walk today, we noticed that the bare dirt on the hill in the park across the street had been changed again since yesterday:

Landscaping work 2

They’ve recovered it in fresh turf! So they killed the grass with herbicide, then decided they didn’t want to landscape that area, then they scraped all the dead grass away, and now they’ve laid brand new grass. To be honest, I’m not actually unhappy about this, because the old grass was riddled with bindii (i.e. Soliva sessilis), and it’s just coming up to bindii season, in which patches of grass infested with this weed develop needle-sharp spines that make them painful to walk on. Scully feels these in her feet and tries to avoid walking on grass with any bindii in it. And this slope is one of her favourite areas to run around and lie on. So having fresh new grass there will be good.

New content today:

Planning for how to do planning

Today I had a Zoom meeting with the lecturer of the Data Engineering course that I’m helping to redesign for next year, as well as one of the university staff working in the area of assisting lecturers to plan and design their courses. She had a lot of good input on various teaching methods and ways we could approach delivering the material. I took a lot of notes, and we also went through a bunch of online tools that we can sue to coordinate the course redesign.

I need to get stuck into that soon, but first I had to finish off the lesson plan for this week’s online ethics classes in time for teaching three of those this evening. I don’t think I had quite enough written yesterday, so I added a few extra questions.

I’m a bit concerned about the landscaping work that council workers are doing in the park across the street. You may remember a couple of weeks ago I reported on them killing the grass on the slope facing the street. And that when I phoned the project manager to find out if herbicide had been used, she said that they had originally planned to remove the grass, but now had decided not to change it – so they killed the grass for no reason.

Well, today it looked like this:

Landscaping work

They’ve removed the dead grass, leaving bare soil. Obviously in preparation for doing something with it, but I’m not sure what yet. They have done some landscaping with bark chips and new plants in the small area at the bottom of the photo, but that was done and completed before the dead grass was removed – so I don’t think they’re going to extend that treatment to the whole area.

The problem is that they’ve left bare soil today… and the next three days in Sydney are forecast to be extremely wet, with possible thunderstorms each day. I expect the rain will wash a lot of that soil off that quite steep slope. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens and what sort of muddy mess is left at the end of the week.

New content today:

Thinking of creative thinking part 2

Most of today I spent planning out the second lesson of my creative thinking course. It was real knuckle down and get stuff done time. I took a break to take Scully to the dog park. It looks like it might be the only good chance this week, with heavy rain and possible thunderstorms forecast for Wednesday to Friday.

New content today:

Image processing projects

I spent much of today on ethics stuff – teaching the final class of the superheroes subject this morning, then writing a lesson plan for the new week’s topic starting on Wednesday, which is on hunting animals.

This evening was the next lecture in the image processing course that I’m tutoring. The subject material is done and this was the presentation of the assignments and kicking off the students working on their assessment tasks. The students are divided into teams of 5-6 students, and each team needs to decide on an image processing project to work on over the next few weeks. They have three tasks:

  1. Write a specification for their project, describing the image processing task they want to perform, the dataset they are going to use, what image processing methods they plan to use, and how they are going to assess the success of their task.
  2. Write and document software to perform the specified task, then analyse the performance.
  3. Present a video report showing what they did and describing the performance.

After explaining the tasks, the lecturer sent everyone to Microsoft Teams to work on the ideas for their projects. I bounced around several of the teams, answering questions and providing advice on the various ideas they had for something to work on. They’ve settled on an interesting range of projects, including car number plate detection and reading, detection of COVID face masks, detection and differentiation of lung lesions in x-rays caused by either cancer or COVID, recognising and decoding sign language from video of hands, tracking cars in traffic videos, and classifying objects and landforms on the ground from aerial photos. It’s going to be an interesting few weeks helping the students do these things, and then seeing the results they get!

New content today:

First class for game design

This evening I had the first class in my new 6-week course on Creative Thinking & Problem Solving, with practical exercises on designing a board game. I have two students, who’ve both come from my ethics classes. I was a little worried that I might not have enough material to fill the hour, but in the end I had to rush a little bit towards the end to squeeze it all in. I didn’t need to leave anything out, so that’s good!

One of the kids said his favourite game was Dungeons & Dragons, so that was cool. And he said he’d tried to make a board game before, but it didn’t turn out very well. So hopefully he’ll learn a lot of cool things about problem solving and designing games that will help him in the future.

The weather today has turned cold again. We’re in the spring phase of having nice and quite warm days, interspersed with some chilly days as the weather systems move across the continent.

And… I’m a bit worn out. That new class plus two ethics classes tonight, after a day of housecleaning and also working on some comics stuff.

New content today:

Wreck Bay Track

This morning I did another exploratory bushwalk with my wife and Scully. Scouting within the 5 km radius of home to find somewhere new, I found the Wreck Bay walking track.

Wreck Bay bushwalk

This is a bush track that skirts around the edge of Northbridge Golf Club, between the lower stretches of the golf course and the waters of Middle Harbour below.

Wreck Bay bushwalk

It’s a lush forest environment, with plenty of ferns and moss. We passed a few tiny creeks and small waterfalls.

Wreck Bay bushwalk

You emerge at various points to views of Middle Harbour.

Nesting rainbow lorikeet

I found a pair of rainbow lorikeets nesting in this tree hollow. There were eggs or babies inside, but I couldn’t get high enough to see or photograph them. But the parents were hanging around to protect them and not flying away, as I got within a metre or so to take this photo.

Wreck Bay bushwalk

This (above) is the small inlet known as Wreck Bay, named for the large shipwreck you can see in the water just above the centre of the image. The dark shadows to the left are the front of the hull, and parts of the rear of the hull can be seen projecting above the water to the right.

Wreck Bay bushwalk

Scully enjoyed the walk too.

Wreck Bay bushwalk

The bushwalk part was at low elevation, close to the water, but towards the end we had to climb uphill. We emerged onto streets and did a loop up the hill, around Northbridge Golf Club, and the downhill on the other side of the golf course back to the car.

Wreck Bay bushwalk

Here’s a view from the top of the golf course. You can see how high up we are now compared to the steep valley. The golf course is on a steep slope, and there’s a lot of downhill and uphill walking when playing it.

Wreck Bay bushwalk

Finally a view over Flat Rock Creek Gully as we walked back down the hill. The walk we did last week was along the course of Flat Rock Creek ending in the park down below (before we walked back home).

After getting home and having some lunch, I spent all afternoon working on slides for the first lesson of my Creative Thinking course, which begins tomorrow. I have them nearly done – just need to think of some good homework tasks for the kids to do before the second lesson.

New content today:

Course planning x2

This morning I went out to pick up the weekly groceries, which I’d ordered online. Strawberries are still super cheap, so I picked up another couple of punnets while I was there. I suppose I should try remember to just order them as part of the online ordering.

One quirk of the supermarket online shopping system is that if you search for something like “strawberries” it displays a page of results full of strawberry yoghurt, strawberry ice cream, strawberry jam, and some other things, and actual strawberries don’t even appear until the second page of search results. It’s similar with most search terms – I tried to find basil or something and ended up with a page full of basil-oil-infused shampoos and similar stuff, again with actual basil on the second page of results. I wonder if this is deliberate, forcing you to scroll past unrelated products in the same way that they force you to walk past aisles of stuff in order to get the milk at the back of the store.

Back home I worked on making new Darths & Droids comics. I wanted to get that done before lunch, so I could work on course material for both the Data Engineering course that I’m revising for the university, and also the Creative Thinking course that I’ll be starting on Outschool on Sunday. I have two kids enrolled now, so I’ll be going ahead with it this week, after last week’s delay because I only had the one enrolment. So I have to make some more slides for that, and possibly even start thinking about the second week’s lesson.

I had a really interesting lesson with the ethics of superheroes this evening too. I had a class with two kids. I asked the question:

There was an online comic a few years ago that pointed out that Superman could do more good in the world not by fighting crime, but by turning a generator to make electricity. This could power the world, stop CO2 emissions, and save the environment and millions of people. Should Superman stop fighting crime and do this instead?

The first kid, a boy, said no, Superman’s whole point is to fight crime, so that’s what he should do. The second, a girl, started, “Well, If I was Superman and they asked me to do that…”

I expected her to say: “I’d say no, I want to fight crime, not turn a generator all day.”

But she said: “I’d definitely do it! I wouldn’t have to go out and catch criminals, and I could just set up a TV and watch shows all day while I turn the handle.”

So that was fun! And tonight is online board games night with the guys. We’ve tried a new game for me: Incan Gold, which is a quick press-your-luck game themed on raiding ancient temples for gems. Not gold, interestingly.

New content today:

Zucchini day

It was the day to order groceries online, for picking up tomorrow morning. Which meant it was also time to use up the remaining vegetables. I had 1.5 zucchinis, and some baby spinach. Normally with this I’d think of making a pasta dish, but we had pasta last night, so I wasn’t keen on doing that again. I canvassed my friends and one suggested this recipe for a baked zucchini slice. He said he’d made it before, and was now inspired to also make it for himself tonight. So we had duelling zucchini slices.

I subbed the spinach for the extra zucchini, and I didn’t have sun-dried tomatoes, but otherwise I followed the recipe pretty closely.

After getting mine in the oven, I concluded that the 5 minutes preparation time mentioned in the recipe was highly optimistic. Maybe you could assemble the dish in 5 minutes, if you’d already spent 15 minutes grating and chopping all of the ingredients. My friend, who cooked earlier, mentioned that the cooking time was also too short – he let it bake for over 30 minutes and it was still a bit mushy in the middle. I ended up baking mine for a bit over 35 minutes, and honestly it could have done with another few.

My wife declared it a hit and told me I could cook it again. So we’ll add this to our repertoire. It looks easy to vary with different ingredients and flavours too.

New content today:

Comics and superheroes

It was a very comic book day today. I worked on constructing Irregular Webcomic! strips from the batch I photographed yesterday. And then this evening I ran my ethics of superheroes topic with three classes of kids in a row. It’s turned out to be a really fun topic, even if some of the kids were a little unenthusiastic to start – a couple said they didn’t really like superhero stories/movies. But they got into it when we discussed the various problems and dilemmas that occur in a world where people have (or might have) superpowers.

Over the past two nights I watched the movie Tenet, which I hadn’t seen before. (No spoilers in the following discussion.) I’d heard that the dialogue is difficult to make out from the sound mix, and wow, people were not kidding about that. I had to really strain to hear it, and rewind a few times and still missed a big chunk of the dialogue. I managed to get most of the important plot stuff, so I followed the story okay. It was only after someone reminded me that Netflix has closed captioning that I turned it on for the second half of the movie and followed it a lot more easily.

I enjoyed the film, and the clever, intricate plot. But it feels like there’s a lot to unpack that would require two or three viewings to fully appreciate. I also got the vague feeling that like one of Christopher Nolan’s other movies, Memento, if you examine the plot too closely from a logical point of view that it would start to fall apart and feel less satisfying. But anyway, yeah, I’d recommend it. With subtitles on.

New content today:

A new science start

Today I worked on my lesson for the next week of online ethics classes. It’s about the ethics of superheroes. It covers the obvious questions of vigilantism (Batman) and whether normal humans should fear supers (X-Men), and some things such as whether heroes have a duty to protect people (Spider-Man), and who should pay for the damage a super-battle causes. It should be a fun class!

First thing in the morning though I photographed a new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips. That took the whole morning, up until lunch, so I worked on the superheroes thing in the afternoon.

This evening I had my first one-on-one science lesson with the girl from one of my ethics classes. Her first question was how plastics are made – which she wanted to know about because she wanted to understand why plastics are so bad for the environment. I wanted to lay some good foundations, so I started by introducing atoms, which she’d heard of but didn’t know a lot about. That led to compounds and polymers and the chemical process of polymerisation. She asked a few questions and we explored the properties of various different polymers and the reason why they don’t break down in the environment.

That took about 2/3 of the time, and then we shifted gears as she asked how stars formed! Fortunately I know a lot about that, and it was also a good chance to reinforce the importance of atoms to understanding pretty much anything at the fundamental level. Throughout the class I drew diagrams on my iPad, in the shared window on Zoom so she could see it in real time, using Sidecar (that I discovered the other day). That worked really well. And after the class I bundled all the drawings I did into a PDF and uploaded it to Outschool for her to download.

It was a really good class, I thought, and she seemed to really enjoy it. So I’m hopeful to continue this course for some time.

New content today: