8 Replies Latest reply on Aug 29, 2010 11:53 AM by jkesl@wi.rr.com

    Computer Science

    Bonnie Feather

      I have just completed 4 days at MIT, attending a conference on Scratch.  Scratch is a very kid-friendly (but still very powerful) open source program.  It uses blocks to program an area of the screen which can have characters (sprites) animated, talking, thinking, and so on.  It can program music, other sounds, and your own recordings.  It can be used to create art projects.


      I've been using Scratch for several years (it's only 3 or 4 years old) and trying to interest teachers in it.  It's usually easier for me to find students interested in using it than teachers, and other trainers at this conference are having the same experience.


      I was often "in over my head" in the past 4 days, but I learned SO MUCH!  I met and spoke with students (6th & 8th grade) who have been programming with Scratch for several years.  One has programmed "fractal music" using fractals he defines in Scratch!  Another is more of an artist and uses Scratch to draw and gets programming help from other students.


      I will continue to try to interest teachers and students in this program, but I wanted to share some resources with my Intel Buddies and ask a couple of questions:

      1. Do you teach/use principles of computer science (programming) in your curriculum?

      2. How would you react to a student using something like this to complete assignments in your class or do extensions?

      3. Do you have lessons/ projects to share?

      4. Can you add your experiences with other programming applications, such as Alice, Lego NXT, etc.?

      5. Have you had projects developed in your Intel trainings which utilize computer science?  (Scratch, Alice, Lego NXT, etc...)

      6. What does it all mean?


      I am planning to reply to this post and share some of the resources I learned about at the conference.  I look forward to seeing what others share!

        • Computer Science
          Bonnie Feather

          As promised, here are some of the resources I have found:


          1. When surfing the Scratch website, you will find many projects which are not very useful.  Here's a link to some games in a gallery which are useful for learning some new coding tricks if you (or your students) want to create their own video games:


          2. http://resources.scratchr.org/index   The site where other Scratchers share what they have learned/created.  If a student needs something for their project, this might be a good place to find other sprites, sounds, backgrounds, scripts, etc.

          3. An experimental Viewer was launched during the conference.  If you would like to actually see and play with the code of a project before you download it, you can get this viewer here:  http://scratch.mit.edu/experimental   If you get it, you will have a link to open the viewer on your scratch page.  Kinda cool! 

          4. http://www.smm.org/ltc/?q=index.php&q=scratch  Lots of resources here at a site showing how Learning Technologies Center is working with students and Scratch.

          5. Hey, now this is really cool!  http://designblocks.net was developed by a computer scientis at MIT who is transferring to design school.  She's an artist.  will have poke around a bit, but you can register, then you will see quite a few projects developed by others.  The blocks are not colorful like in Scratch, because the design folks found the colors distracted from the colors in their projects (artists can be geeky in their own way...) Click Create at the lower right and create your own designs.  She shared a secret with us: to see projects developed by all the others, go to http://designblocks.net/users   Do be sure to look at the handouts link!  She also shared http://www.colourlovers.com/ where you can get some cool color palettes!

          6. One of the areas I found most intriguing (other than "affective technology" and lots of other fields you've never heard of printed on doors...) was the "high-low tech" lab.  The building was all glass, so we could see into many intriguing spaces, but this area was full of sewing machines, knitting machines, fabric, colorful thread, textiles of all varieties, irons, ironing boards, and more.  It was messy, unlike all the other areas into which we could see.  Now, this looks like my own project room, I thought!  In the hallway outside there was a "living wall" made with conductive paint, magnet light fixtures, sounds which played when you ran your hand over the wall and closed circuits, and more!   I went to their website and found some very cool things!  Anyone for knitting a mouse?  HowToGetWhatYouWant.at   More cool electronics ideas and supplies.



          I've about exhausted my notes here.  This ought to get some of us started with some very cool Unit Plans!


          I'm very interested to see what others can contribute here and how this all fits in to the Intel Education programs we all love!

            • Re: Computer Science

              I attended a Scratch session and here are a couple of resources:


              wiki.classroom20.com/Scratch - Scratch page at Classroom 2.0 Wiki


              http://wiki.classroom20.com/Scratch+lesson+plans - a collection of Scratch lesson plans contributed by educators using Scratch


              Scratch is very cool and I hope to see some great posts about classroom experiences.

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              • Re: Computer Science

                Bonnie, As I mentioned to Susan below I'm a Scratch Fan, but I did not know about DesignBlocks! Very . The MIT Media lab keeps coming out more and more wonderful things. Do you know if DesignBlocks came out of the LifeLong Kindergarten Project?


                Now I spent a half hour or so at DesignBlocks and ColorLover. I enjoyed DesignBlock below. I wish I could say I programed the design below. Click on the picture to see the whole image.  I'm looking forward to spending more time there.


                bonnie1.tiffAnd I created color schemes and patterns at ColorLovers. I'm a big stripes fan so I thought I'd upload my pattern.


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                  • Re: Computer Science
                    Bonnie Feather

                    One of the people at Lifelong Kindergarten did develop the code for Design Blocks.  She is leaving MIT now and heading into a Design program at one of the Universities nearby (I didn't catch which one.)


                    Your links seem broken on my Chrome browser- anyone else able to view Tom's work?

                  • Re: Computer Science

                    Bonnie you've definitely inspired me to explore Scratch this year.  I've never opened the program nor researched the possibilities, but I'm so pumped to give it a go this year.  I'm teaching a new course entitled "Internet and You" where the students are supposed to learn how to write html coding, which is completely outdated.  I basically told the principal that we would be looking at a major update to the curriculum and that I would like to incorporate Scratch into the class.  He was excited.  Can't wait to sit down and really explore more.

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                      • Re: Computer Science
                        Bonnie Feather

                        Dyane and everyone else,


                        Scratch can be fun, but it's also very powerful!  It can be used in any curricular area.  If you run into difficulties, please don't hesitate to message me or email me from the community so I can support your efforts.


                        It's easy for the students, so it's one of those things we can show them and "get out of the way," up to a point.  There are reference manuals on the Scratch site (linked earlier) you and students can use.


                        There are Scratch cards available for you to print, glue, and laminate.  These can be handed to students so they can independently learn a few skills while you wander and troubleshoot, giving out compliments!


                        Also, there are some great materials, including Scratch projects (easy, but growing more complex) you can print and assign to your students while you are all learning.  Look here for some I've been using for a few years.    This site shows many fun things you may enjoy- lots more than Scratch.  The creator is a music and technology teacher.


                        I find it interesting how many people with musical talent are also into technology!

                    • Re: Computer Science

                      Hi Bonnie,

                      I tried to get my students to use Scratch about three years ago. After exploring it a bit, and deciding the kids could explore better and faster I was met with resistance from our designated tech person who was in charge of installing software on our laptops. I have tried to get our district to understand and approve software like this but it keeps getting lost in the shuffle. (Who is she and why would she ask this?). So eventually I just got the admin code and downloaded and installed it myself. I am still fighting battles like this with various tools. It gets frustrating to say the least.

                      I was using it as part of my science classes, mostly to just get the students to learn about tools like this and to create some program that would demonstrate their understanding of a science concept just learned.