Scratching the Surface
I’ve just started a project with some 5th and 6th class pupils using Scratch. For the uninitiated, Scratch is a visual programming language that is similar to building virtual Lego. I’ll try and explain a little better.
When you open Scratch, you are faced with a cartoon cat and the user’s job is to get him to do things. For example, you can move him left or right, make him glide to a part of the screen, make him talk or think, get him to speak and lots more. You get him to do these things by dragging and dropping various commands (which are shaped like bricks) and stick them together to form a sequence of events. Cleverly, you can create loops and conditions but adding more bricks to the sequence and quite quickly, you can find yourself with a rather complex computer programme.
One isn’t restricted to a cat or even one character at all. I’ve asked the children in my class to create a cartoon in Scratch and once they had figured out how to move the cat, they wanted to turn him into a different animal, a Star Wars character or Justin Bieber. After that, it was a matter of changing the background and getting the character to do various dances, jumps or in one case, walking into objects and wailing in pain!
The amazing thing, for me, is that the children got all this in less than 20 minutes and are now exploring the other functions, playing around with them and seeing what they can do. I’m finding myself being a true facilitator, guiding them in what they want to do next, learning new tricks with them and being completely immersed in their learning.
This week was just the start of something I believe is going to get very interesting indeed.