As part of a fourth year course in my Bachelor of Education program I have been engaging with a program called Scratch. Scratch is a free programming tool that allows users to learn basic coding through the animation of sprites, once completed the project can then be published to the web or saved for future reference.
The activities for week one introduced the basic functions of the software allowing for exploration of the motion, look, sound, pen and control functions of the program. After downloading the program, which was a quick and simple process, the first activity asked me to program the sprite (a character on the stage area of the screen), which in this case was a cat but could be interchanged to a number of different characters.
Using the block palette, I selected coding that would allow my sprite to move in a set sequence and dragged this coding into the script area in the middle of the screen, this in turn produced a moving sprite in the third section of the screen, which is refered to as the stage area.
Extensions to the initial activity including changing the colour of the sprite, adding sound to the movements of the sprite and using the control function to return the sprite to the beginning of the sequence again.
The next activities required coding to program the sprite to draw polygons and the need for a basic understanding of geometry was evident to ensure the correct shapes were drawn. This activity was lots of fun but also a challenge as I planned out the direction and angles the sprite needed to take to ensure the completion of a polygon and not some indescribable shape on the stage (which I might add occurred more than once as I improved my skills).
The final activity was to program an Etch-a-sketch which required the application of most of the skills learnt in this session but also required higher order thinking to enable duplication of the coding to enable the sequence to duplicate the actions of a etch-a-sketch when the arrow keys on the keyboard are used.
Application in the classroom
I believe Scratch aligns very well with the direction of the new Draft Australian Curriculum: Technologies as this type of resource is part of the modern literacy our students will be expected to engage with and utilize. Learning experiences that would benefit from the inclusion of Scratch could include; development of geometry skills, angles and shapes in the maths key learning area, the creation of digital stories could be an addition to many key learning areas and the incorporation of the sound function allows students to create their own music.
The ability to publish and share the students completed work is another positive about the Scratch program. As discussed in the Draft Australian Curriculum: Technologies students need to be involved in planning, developing, designing, creating and evaluating solutions and the Scratch program allows learning experiences that tick all of these boxes.
My learning experience
While I did feel very excited with the simple creations I had accomplished, I also realised just how much I don’t understand about computers and hence why I have always been apprehensive about anything that required my use of something new. This realisation really brought home for me the gap in my understanding and the need to ensure this is not the case for future generations.
As I mentioned in my last post my daughter easily completed these tasks with minimal explanation so I do believe that due to this generations emersion in the technology era they are already open to this type of thinking and would embrace learning that allowed them to further there understanding of how technology works.