Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Animonths: Revisiting Scratch!

I apologize to email and Google Reader subscribers that earlier today I sent out a blank post.  Something happened when I tried to edit this post on iPad, and then published it.  You can't, as far as I know, get a post back when you send it out! Good thing I don't often type swear words in my posts for fun and accidentally publish them. Anyway, swear words could possibly be heard when I published the blank post.  So, a re-written (and briefer) post on Scratch:

Scratch is a free application designed at MIT to get kids interested in computer programming.  It was previously featured on this blog in the context of engaging tough-to-motivate kids, and I wanted to revisit it for Animonths! I thought of Scratch again recently because of a student I have, a private school kiddo who does not receive services at school, and is not always too happy to have to come see me. Services provided out of the school environment can be tough because of all the extra travel time and transition, etc.  There were reports from school of difficulty in processing directions and getting started with assignments, and I didn't want to do the old "Following Written Directions" kind of worksheets- they wouldn't have flown at all. Instead, Scratch allowed us to create small animated projects while working with written directions and using strategies (re-reading, etc) to produce the animations.  This is possible because Scratch has their own web-published sets of directions for basic animations, which they call "Scratch Cards" (fun double-meaning there too, at least if you are in the gambling-obsessed Northeast).

The "Scratch Cards" outline a number of steps to produce basic animations.
You will want to print these out in color, as the different "codes" you drag in are color-coded.

These lessons turned out to be a lot of fun, as my client felt excited to have produced a product at the end of the following directions activity. Once you complete the task on the card, you can also problem-solve with the student how to modify the code and make different things happen. If your student has a particular interest in technology, you can also have the satisfaction of interesting him or her to a tool which is ultimately vocational; Scratch is based on the concepts of real object-oriented programming.

Again, Scratch is a free download for your Mac or PC (not iPad, though see tomorrow for an analogue).  Check it out and hope you enjoy.  For further information, you can explore the ScratchEd site.

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