Having fun Scratching

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Posted by Shane | Posted in Animations, Computer Programming, Scratch | Posted on November 5, 2012

Hello again, so in this session we started to look at the concept of computer programming and how it can be made accessible to children of a primary school age. Most people would arguably state ‘how can you teach computer programming to children? Its far too complicated!’ This view will stem from ideas that computer programming involves developing complex video game consoles or pieces of computer software that have vast amounts of capability. This however is not the case as computer programming involves entering any command into software in order to produce an outcome, meaning that computer programming can in fact be used to produce more simple animations and games.

 

In terms of making programming accessible for children there are different pieces of software that can be used including Scratch and also Kodu. Within primary schools however, Scratch is a more suitable piece of software for children to use as it is simple to use, although guidance and support will be needed to start with, but can also be used to produce to very fun animations and games.

 

Scratch is a very nice piece of software to use, hopefully most of you agree, as it features; buttons that clearly demonstrate their purpose with appropriate labels, sprites (moveable characters) that children will find interesting, cool sound effects and also an interesting command bar.

As of yet this sprite (the cat) has not been animated and therefore we need to add buttons that program the cat to move. To do this the buttons/commands are simply dragged from the list onto the left into the middle box which will create the chain of the command that will animate the cat

As is, hopefully, rather self-explanatory these buttons mean that when the green flag is pressed the cat will move 10 steps to the right (as it is positive 10). The last command is a rather interesting one, ‘if on edge, bounce’ refers to the edge of the white screen, which without the command, the cat will disappear off and as such this command will mean the cat will turn around at the edge of the screen.

Now I know what you are all thinking, ‘thats all great but that white background is awfully boring’. Luckily we can change that very quickly by pressing the ‘stage’ button (as shown by the white box in the above pictures) located next to the ‘sprite box’ (bottom right). When choosing to change the background children will be given three choices; to import one from a file already on the computer, to take a picture with a camera or to paint a picture (which children should be familiar with as it is similar to other painting software)

So that is a basic guide for how to animate a ‘sprite’ using scratch, a piece of software that can be downloaded for free on pc and mac, and allows for children to make simple but effective animations but also start to build games, which I will cover in a future post as well as where this could fit into the school timetable. Thats all folks (for now).

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