The Scratch language is a very popular graphical programming language where you can move blocks into a set order, then configure some of the blocks to create interactive stories, games, and animations. A bit like computing with Lego & ideal for learning computational thinking. The Scratch language can be hooked up to fairly cheap sensor boards that allow Scratch projects to sense and respond to events in the real world. With the sensor board children have an opportunity to understand some aspects of these how game controllers work and create their own interactions.
The most fun we've had with Scratch is when it was used used in conjunction with the Makey Makey. The MaKey MaKey a gamepad style circuit board that allows you to connect anything that has the potential to conduct electricity, and to use as part of your control mechanism for any home computer. Its works wonderfully well with the Scratch programming language and has proved very inspirational here in our school.
When the Makey Makey arrived direct from the Kickstarter campaign I immediately felt we had an opportunity to bring coding to life, off the screen an into the 'real world'. The Magic Toy Maker IPC unit proved to be the perfect fit making the learning both playful and purposeful. The video above shows our learning journey in P.2 from Beebots to coding with Scratch.
Below is a presentation made for P.5's Playdoh piano
The Makey Makey bridges a gap between arts and crafts and computing in a way that wasn't possible for busy elementary teachers before. Early research into new education practices that fuse computing with music-making has shown they create enquiry-rich conditions that empower children to take risks, and allow teachers to build innovative cross-subject collaborations.
The PicoBoard is a really fun piece of hardware that allows kids to create interactions with various sensors. Using the Scratch programming language, its easy create simple interactive programs based on the input from sensors. The PicoBoard incorporates a light sensor, sound sensor, a button and a slider, as well as 4 additional inputs that can sense electrical resistance via cables. The PicoBoard is a good way to get into the very basics of programming and reading sensors.
I've found children love to mix music and code, the projects above were easy to make and have proved very popular on the Scratch website with many positive comments and has been remixed over 70 times by children from around the world. I am a passionate believer in STEAM-(SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY ENGINEERING ARTS & MATHS)
This Y3 DJ project for the MaKey MaKey was a real hit and has become our most popular Scratch project by far. It was designed to complement the Y2 IPC topic on the Senses. Click here for an overview of how to build it.
"Harder Better Faster Stronger" a quick fun and easy music board made with the .mp3 files we had from the HTML music machine project. This mini project led to an interesting discussion on cross platform games and applications
The process also threw up some interesting questions, students are challenged to think about a whole different set of questions ....
Is this the most efficient way to solve the problem?
Is this the fastest way?
Does it require the least amount of resources?
Does it solve the problem and give the right answer?
Can it be used to solve other problems?
The Fly Splat Game (coded by 2 girls aged just 8)
An excellent example of a simple project that is fun & teaches computational thinking. The children had some previous experience tinkering & exploring Scratch and had made some simple fun animations, so were familiar with the interface, but this was the first time they had been challenged to create a full working game. Children were challenged to consider and explain why they made each choice, a lesson in perspective is learned in a fun, engaging, hands-on way. The great thing about any kind of project based learning, whether it involves game design or not, is that when students have to make active and intentional choices, they need to choose components in order to make a game, think about the user and how to make the gaming experience a good one.