Scratching for a Purpose

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Posted by Shane | Posted in Animations, Computer Programming, Scratch | Posted on November 6, 2012

So scratching for a purpose.. Funnily enough I don’t mean when we have no clue what is going on so sit scratching our heads. In fact, what I actually mean is using the Scratch software (discussed in my previous blog) to create something that can have a purposeful use within a classroom and also to describe where it could potentially fit into the curriculum.

 

So, I guess the first thing to say is that whilst animations are fun to create, games created using scratch, in my opinion, can be a lot more purposeful in the classroom as they use the same techniques as building an animation, but with a little extra sizzle (a few more buttons) they can be used to further support learning in many areas of the curriculum.

 

As a result me, and Claire Atkinson (Yep, I can’t take all the credit… Most of it should also probably go to her) created a game featuring several underwater creatures, that when clicked on disappear, along with a sound to associate with it, and a score is made to see how many can be clicked. To make this we started with the key foundations as those mentioned in my previous blog changing the background and animating a sprite. However as can clearly be seen we needed to add more sprites (Clicking one sprite wouldn’t be much of a game) so this is done by pressing one of the star buttons above where sprite 1 is displayed, these give you three options;

1. Painting a new Sprite

2. Choose a new Sprite from file (pre-made sprites)

3. Get a surprise Sprite (Chooses a random pre-made sprite)

Scratch Game In The Making

However in making a game there are also several more key commands that will also need to be included such as; making sprites appear and disappear at random and also making them disappear when clicked, and accompanying this with a sound effect. This can be seen in the game (pictured left) where the command buttons are split into three distinct sections; the first controls the left-right movement of sprites, the middle section controls how sprites appear and disappear at random with the final section controlling how the sprites disappear when clicked, playing a sound at the same time. Below is the final completed scratch project made up of several sprites that follow the same commands… Feel free to have a play around with it.

 

 

Learn more about this project

This game can be used in two main ways within the curriculum both in the Foundation Stage/Year 1 and also in upper Key Stage 2. Within the foundation stage the main focus of this game would be to reinforce the learning of counting from 1 upwards, the number being determined by the score the child gets. As well as counting upwards to the score that the playing child achieves, children can also practice counting down along with the timer displayed in the top left of the screen.

In Key Stage 2 the use of this game would be a lot more related to computer programming with children using this as a template to create their own game. There are however several ways in which this can be delivered to the children to develop it in stages; children could be given the original game and asked to change the background (an important starting point for creating a game) before investigating the commands used to create the movement of the sprites and seeing if they can replicate it for a new sprite. Another interesting way of developing children’s knowledge of scratch could be to let them explore for themselves for a little while to see if they can create anything. After this children could be guided through the software step by step, however this would take time to build up to a finished product (perhaps 8-9 sessions).

However this game could have been further improved/adapted to make it more suitable for use in certain areas of the curriculum; for example changing the game to require children to click on the sprites that would live in a certain habitat, an idea that another group made a game for (Can’t remember who to give them the credit however).

 

So there we go, a quick look at how to use a game to support the curriculum and, perhaps more importantly, have some fun whilst doing it. If anyone has any questions feel free to comment (starting to sound like Facebook) but I guess thats all from me, for now, and as Arnie would say.. ‘I’ll be back’

 

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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