Code4Kids – Building a Simple Scratch Game

I had the pleasure this week to be a guest on Code4Kids, a webinar series with Kelly Moore. Kelly is a teacher and tech coach in Melbourne, and she asked if I’d come on the show and talk about the use of Scratch to help teach computational thinking and coding. Well, you might know I’m a bit of a Scratch fanboy so I didn’t take too much convincing!

Rather than just talk about theory stuff, we actually created a classic but simple guessing game in Scratch during the live show.  I thought this was a good example because it uses quite a few fundamental programming constructs such as sequencing, looping and branching, etc. It also makes good use of Boolean comparisons, if-then decisions, and reassignment of variables. Throw in some simple maths like random number generation, greater than and less than operators, and it’s the start of some simple yet sophisticated Scratch coding.

It was nice to get some comments from the livestream viewers that they learned something from watching.

If you’d like to check out Kelly’s channel and her other videos, head on over to her Code4Kids playlist

And if you’d like to check your own Scratch skills, you can take the 15 question Scratch Quiz I mention at the end of the video… just head to bit.ly/scratchquiz and take the quiz… your results will be emailed to you immediately thanks to Google Forms and Flubaroo!

Coding for Kids

While not every student might want to write their own software, understanding the big ideas of coding is a skill that all students would benefit from, even the very young ones. Understanding the key ideas of computational thinking – identifying patterns, thinking algorithmically, manipulating data, solving real problems, etc – is an important step in helping our students build mastery over their world.

This presentation aims to take you on a guided tour through some of the resources available to your students to help them learn the principles of creating code.  It starts by looking at a range of desktop and mobile apps suitable for teaching very young students to program, right through to tools and websites that can help your older students learn to hack code, and much more.

If you do actually try any of this stuff out, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

PS: This is my fourth contribution to the K12 Online Conference, and I think it’s a great format for an online event. I like how it drip feeds out a bunch of presentations over a 2 week period online, but continues to make them available as a permanent archive. There is quite a collection of presentations in there now. Check them out!

Scratch 2.0 Beta: What’s new?

As a keen Scratch user (OK, Scratch fanboy) I was rather excited to find that Scratch 2.0 is now in public beta for anyone to try out. I really like it and think it has some major improvements over the older Scratch 1.4. To help explain the changes, I made this video that takes you through some of the new features and explains some of the new UI design.

You can only log into 2.0 using a Scratch account created prior to January 26, although you can still use it without an account. (You just won’t be able to share your projects on the Scratch website yet) A huge cheer to Mitch Resnick and the team at MIT for their work on this… Scratch is a fantastic resource for education and it leads the way as a tool for teaching computational thinking to younger students.

A Little More Scratch

Towards the end of the 20 minute video I made for K12 Online, Teaching Kids To Think Using Scratch, I very briefly mentioned two other things that I would have liked to say more about but simply didn’t have enough time in the time allowed.

The first thing was the use of Scratch on the iPad and the iPhone.  I mentioned that there was a Scratch iOS app, but didn’t have time to elaborate.  Since then, a few people contacted me about this app and wanted to know more, telling me that the couldn’t find it in the Apple App Store.  The reason you can’t find it is unfortunately quite simple… it’s been removed from the App Store and is no longer available so unless you got a copy of it prior to it being removed, you’re out of luck I’m afraid.

So if you missed out, sorry… but if it’s any consolation, the Scratch app only allowed you to browse the Scratch website and then execute existing Scratch projects.  You couldn’t actually manipulate code or use it as a tool for creating programs, so all those schools implementing iPad programs and getting all excited about the possibility of doing Scratch on the iPads… sorry, it was never a possibility anyway.

But the main thing I wanted to follow up on was the PicoBoards.  I was put onto the PicoBoards by my buddy Martin Levins, and they are proving to be a fabulous extension to what you can do with Scratch. Essentially they are a circuit board  with a bunch of sensors on them that you connect to your computer via USB so that Scratch can directly address the sensors on the board.  With a rheostat (voltage slider), microphone, light sensor, button, and four resistance circuits, the Picoboards open up all sorts of possibilities for creating software based programs that interact directly with the real world.

Anyway, blah, blah, blah… there’s lots more I could say about them, but just watch the video. And then go buy a few.  Your kids will really like them.  Trust me.