Sunday, 24 August 2014

Scratch it up a level or two (Mind Lab: Session 4)

I am currently completing the Post Graduate Certificate in Applied Practice (Collaborative Digital Learning) through the Mind Lab and Unitec. For the first sixteen weeks I spend four hours at the Mind Lab with about 30 other amazing educators from early childhood through to tertiary education (there's approx 100 of us altogether).

This blog post is a snippet about our fourth session at The Mind Lab, where we looked at coding using Scratch.  For anyone unfamilar with the concept of coding, coding is essentially creating a set of instructions that makes something do something.  Scratch makes code easy to use by presenting code in 'jigsaw' like pieces color coded into different areas of actions.

Scratch (http://scratch.mit.edu/) is a free website for children to learn how to code. There is also an iPad app available and now a Scratch Junior as well.

You can create new Scratch projects without signing up, however signing up allows you to save and share your code projects.

In this session we were encouraged to 'discover' how to use Scratch through experimentation.  We ended up choosing what are called 'Sprites' (characters) and playing with the different types of code which were colour coded by motion, looks, sound etc.

For example in the photo below we had selected the 'cat sprite' and then in the 'jigsaw' type code, you can see we chose an event (orange) that said when a key is pressed, then in purple is the sound code which will make a certain sound play, then the blue code is to do with a motion that the 'sprite' will do.

We ended up making the Octopus change colours, the cat dance around the screen and the lady circle around and make a clone of herself.

We added further code which meant that when a 1, 2, 3 or 4  was pressed, the type of instrument changed and the costume (which was colours of the sprite).

We had a lot of fun experimenting and could see how easy it would be for children to create code using the 'jigsaw' type pieces.

Scratch can be used to create games and by going online to the Scratch website you can find games that have been created in Scratch and then look at the code so see how it was done, so you can deconstruct the code and learn from it.




Then we were introduced to a 'makeymakey' card which is essentially a computer chip with a bunch of wires to create a circuit.  We had to choose from a range of conductive materials to connect the wires to and we chose playdough (as shown below)


You could plug a wire on the makeymakey board into the slot which was the equivalent of the  'a' of a keyboard and then plug the other end of the wire into the playdough.  We repeated this for each letter of the keyboard located on the makeymakey board.  We had to make sure we had an 'earthing' wire which was plugged into the yellow playdough on the right hand side of the photo.



So in effect, what we were then able to do was tap on the playdough, (whilst touching the earthing playdough) to activate our code in Scratch which made our Sprites do the actions we'd coded them to do and the sounds play too.  Here is a short video clip to show you the end result.

video

Makeymakey kits can be bought through www.mindkits.co.nz for about $75 plus postage.  This is a local company in West Auckland.

I'm really looking forward to trying this out with children at school!





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