Free Realms

For any teacher or parent interested in gaming for learning, Free Realms is a free gaming site designed for families.

The Free Realms for Parents page explains more about the site:

What is Free Realms?
Welcome to! Free Realmsis a fun, whimsical virtual world filled with dynamic gameplay and compelling content for everyone, especially families.

Do what you want to do, when you want to do it, in a 3D world of lush landscapes and fun wildlife. Teach your pet new tricks, explore a lush new world, earn great items through quests or play fun mini-games. If adventuring is more your style, become a wizard and search for lost treasure or fight monsters in a mix of real-world experiences and fantasy adventure. With regular content updates and special events scheduled, it’s time to discover the delights of Free Realms!

Developed by Sony, you can be assured that the site is a good one. With parent controls, restricted chat and forums, schools and families are well catered for.

An attractive and engaging site that enables families to play together.

Media Learning Week – August 24 – 28

A number of free professional learning sessions are being offered by SYN and the State Library of Victoria during Media Learning Week, August 24-28, 2009.

Some of the sessions include:

  • gaming and learning
  • video workshop
  • media careers and planning pathways

Please be aware that even though the events are free, bookings are essential. The attached program outlines more details.

Gaming @ State Library of Victoria

Xperience XBOX
FRI 17 JULY, 6.30 – 9PM
Come in and experience some of the best XBOX 360 games with an evening of modern, multiplayer, and online XBOX 360 games, such as Guitar Hero: World Tour, Halo 3, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Street Fighter IV, and Sacred 2. There’ll also be giveaways and opportunities to win major prizes*, including an XBOX 360 & games pack. All funds raised on the night will be going to benefit the Royal Children’s Hospital. So engage with XBOX 360 gaming and help others at the same time! Presented in association with OzBoxLive.
State Library of Victoria
FREE [Bookings required] *$5 payable per ticket for the prize raffle
Phone: 03 8664 7099
Online (via Eventbrite):


Futurelab: is a not-for-profit group from the United Kingdom. Their goal is innovation in education and their website states:

Who are we and what we do

Futurelab is passionate about transforming the way people learn. Tapping into the huge potential offered by digital and other technologies, we develop innovative resources and practices that support new approaches to learning for the 21st century. A not-for-profit organisation, we work in partnership with others to:

Futurelab homepage
Futurelab homepage

Futurelab has a range of resources for educators. There are pages on:

  • projects (includes research data)
  • resources
  • events

Some of the projects include Games and learning, Design challenge and Innovate to educate.

Games and learning
Games and learning

Futurelab is a portal to all things innovative in education. Well worth a visit and reflection on how these ideas could be used in our classrooms. Not all projects are current, but the ones that have been completed are usually accompanied by research data and reports on the efficacy of the project.

Stormwatchers : a cyclone awareness game for children

The Bureau of Meteorology has copies (CD format) of the “Stormwatchers : a cyclone awareness game for children” available to give away. The game and further details can be found at: . If any school library would like a copy of the CD, please get in contact with Trevor Wakely by emailing  and he’ll send you a free copy.


Rob Mercer, the ICT Outreach – Project Officer for the Faculty of Information & Communication Technologies at Swinburne University of Technology has sent out the following information which may be of interest.

 I would like to announce that the SwinGame 09  games design competition is open again this year.  The competition ran for the first time last year and our senior academic staff from the Computer Science and Software Engineering academic area were impressed with the quality of the entries.  The winning games from last year can be seen at 

This year’s competition now includes two different categories (Arcade and Open) to encourage all secondary school students to enter and participate (visit the website for category details).

Once again, the website will have the following supporting programs and materials to help students:
–  The creation of Game Development Kits available in VB.NET, Delphi, Pascal, VB6 and C# to give students a range of tools and examples to assist in the creation of their game;
–  Sample games which include tutorials with videos on how to create games;
–  A forum where participants can ask questions, get help and post ideas about their games;
–  A teacher only forum for teachers to discuss ideas and ask questions.

Swingames poster

Swingames poster

Similar to last year, the 2009 competition is:
– Free to enter
– Open to individual students and teams of up to three
– Open to all secondary school students in Australia

Prizes for the Arcade Category (team or individual):
1st Prize – $2,500
2nd Prize – $1,000
3rd Prize  – $500

Prizes for Open Category (team or individual):
1st prize – $1,000

The competition is currently open and entries must be submitted by 7 August 2009 (see website).  All entries will be judged by a panel of experts and winners will be announced on 16 August at Swinburne’s Open Day.  This is a good way to get students from your school excited about software and games development, which will hopefully encourage younger students to choose IT as a subject.

A class presentation is available for your students on the SwinGame 09 competition which can help them get started.  If you would like a Swinburne staff member to visit your class to present SwinGame, please contact me on the number/email below.

All information on the competition is available here:

If you have any questions feel free to contact Rob.


Bright Ideas recently came across this gaming program for students in years 9 -11 developed by Swinburne University of Technology. From their website comes the following information:

VBugs homepage
VBugs homepage

VBugs – Games Programming using VB.Net and SwinGame

Click here to access the online form.

     What is VBugs?

VBugs is a resource for creating a game using the SwinGame Software Development Kit (SDK) and VB.NET.  Its aim is to teach students the steps involved in programming in a fun but non-superficial manner.

What is in the resource?

The downloaded resource has a teacher and a student folder. The student resource consists of self paced tutorials with exercise sheets for the student to fill in by hand as they progress. The exercise sheets have been designed as a way of assessing student knowledge and understanding of the topic as they progress.  The teacher folder contains solutions to both the worksheets and the project chapter by chapter as well as lesson plans for using VBugs in class.

Who is it suitable for?

The resource is suitable for students from Year 9 – 11. The resource takes students through the very basics of games programming through to the development of a fully interactive game with levels, scores, music, sound effects, keyboard and mouse input and animated sprites. Students who are keen and progress well, can go on to develop another SwinGame and can enter in the SwinGame 09 competition. This competition is to open to all secondary school students in Australia. Visit the SwinGame 09 website for more details.

How much does it cost?

No charge. As part of Swinburne’s effort to support secondary schools and enhance the profile of ICT, this resource has been developed for all secondary schools to use for free. Simply register (see below) and we will send you the password and the link to download the resource in full. Along with this link we can send out a hard copy of the book for the teacher’s reference.

How long does it take to complete?

This will depend on your class to some extent. VBugs has 9 chapters. Some chapters would take approximately 1 period to complete and others about 3. The final chapter is open ended so if some students finish faster than others they can keep working on improving their game for as long as you like. We recommend allowing about 16 classes. A run down of the chapters can be found below:

  • Chapter 1 – Hello World               
  • Chapter 2 – Images, Fonts and Colours 
  • Chapter 3 – Movement 
  • Chapter 4 – Sound and Keyboard  
  • Chapter 5 – Mouse input and Animation
  • Chapter 6 – Methods in VB.NET
  • Chapter 7 – Objects and Classes
  • Chapter 8 – Level and Score
  • Chapter 9 – Extensions and Additions    

How to request the VBug resources?

Click here to access the online form.

After filling out the form, you will be emailed a username and password to access VBugs.

Press play

After pondering the future of libraries, including school libraries for a while now and thinking about 21st Century Learning after hearing Professor Stephen Heppell speak at the State Library of Victoria in November 2008, it’s probably time to address the concept of gaming in schools, libraries and school libraries.

Are you still reading? You haven’t fainted? Great! Library staff of all makes and models have always been exellent at managing change and the takeup of Web 2.0 over the past year or so has proven that to be true.

Gaming in schools does seem to inspire strong reactions in some people, however the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s Knowledge Bank: Next Generation team are currently leading action research with selected teachers in Victoria to identify potential technologies that may support learning and teaching. This project is supported by The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, The Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development (Multimedia Victoria) and The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.

In term 2, 2009, these technologies include gaming consoles such as Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360. Being a DEECD project, there are strict guidelines and record keeping so all research can be validated. This is a major step for the DEECD in acknowledging the educational potential of gaming and backing up ideas with action research. Bright ideas will keep you up to date with developments and outcomes of the project.

Some of you may have heard Derek Robertson speak when he was in Australia in November 2008. Derek heads up the Consolarium, which is a part of Learning and Teaching Scotland. The Consolarium highlights the positive outcomes of using gaming in schools and gives excellent examples of particular games and how they have been used by teachers. The Consolarium blog has been in action since September 2007, which seems like a long time in the world of technology. Derek has lots of examples on the Consolarium blog of excellent uses of games in schools.

In late 2008, an Australian study focussing on interactive entertainment was published. Some remarkable statistics were uncovered such as:

  • 88% of households own a device for playing games
  • The average game player is 30 years old
  • Female gamers made up 46% of the gaming population.

If these facts have raised your interest about the possibilities of using games in an educational context, the good people of the State Library of Victoria are offering a chance to find out what gaming is all about at an evening of interactive play and mini-tournaments. Discover a range of video games and consoles, and meet game experts from Dissecta. It will be held on Tuesday 7 April (school holidays so no worries about going out on a school night) from 6-7.30pm at the State Library, in Experimedia. The session is free, but bookings are required. Please click this link to book in.

Hope to see you there!