Monday, 30 March 2015

Bamzooki - Creators Not Consumers

I spent some time over the weekend playing around with one of my favourite pieces of software - Bamzooki. Originally created for the CBBC TV programme of the same name, the Bamzooki software allows a user to create 'Zooks'. These are digital 3D creatures that are built using a variety of blocks which can be modelled to your specification and then tested for speed, strength and agile in a variety of simulations. In my opinion an excellent tool for supporting the area of the ICT curriculum focussed on modelling and simulation. So many opportunities for a teacher to ask the "What if...?" questions, changing of variables in the model, and challenging pupils to solve problems. For instance, several years ago when I ran the "Bamzooki Challenge" across the local authority, the challenge for the pupils involved was to create a 'Zook' with certain constraints  - mustn't be heavier than this, have more parts than this, etc. The pupils then created their model which was then placed in a 'battle' against another to see which one was the best. A sort of virtual 'Robot Wars'.

I've started looking at Bamzooki again as I'm interested in seeing how primary schools could be addressing the area of modelling and simulation in the classroom. We know from Estyn (school inspectorate), that many primary schools are not covering the area of 'Finding and Analysing' adequately, with teachers having difficulty in confidently teaching data bases, data handling, and modelling and simulation. With the current focus in Wales on what it means for a pupils to be "digitally competent" or "digitally literate", it is important that the weakness in these area is addressed. Exciting, engaging and challenging tools such as Bamzooki could be one way to help to address this.

In about 2011 I stopped doing much with it as the software didn't seem to work on the version of the Windows operating system that the majority of our schools were using. Over the weekend however I downloaded the software and have successfully installed it on Windows 7. I've even tried it out on Windows 8 and it seems to be working without a problem. Interestingly the software has seemed to have had an update to its interface since the last time I've used too.

Bamzooki very much fits into the current drive for pupils to be creators, not consumers. The user has to design, build and test their 'Zook', which is challenging, but very engaging. As I said in a previous post, I class this product as "struggleware", nothing is really given on a plate to the user. They have to work out what they should do and solve the problems and challenges that may arise. Bamzooki is not all shiny and glossy; it does not work on your iPad. Yes it's been around for nearly ten years, but if you really want to challenge your pupils, get them thinking and problem solving in a 3D modelling environment, in my opinion you still can't go far wrong with trying this out with your pupils.