Archive for May, 2013


I undertook an independent digital technologies project with Alice. Alice is a 3D programming environment that allows you to create an animation for storytelling, developing games and sharing them to the web. Initially I downloaded Alice version 3 which is the latest version of the programming tool. I was also required to download a specific version of Java (JDK) in order for the Alice program to work. I found this version of the program challenging and probably more suitable to those with more coding and programming experience then I possess. Therefore I felt this would not be the best option for younger primary school students just learning to code. I then downloaded version 2.2 of Alice which is more ‘object-based’ and suitable for inexperienced programmers.

Once again the process for downloading was similar to that of Scratch and the online tutorials and extensive teaching handbooks and resources provided valuable information and ideas. I then designed an ice world animation adding numerous 3D animations.

Alice provides a wide range of themes and animations to choose from but you can also upload your own. By simply dragging and dropping or right clicking on the animation you can manipulate the characters to move.

In comparison to Scratch, which features the colour coding for sound, movement, etc  and  is user friendly and makes looking for the correct code simple, Alice does not have this feature. However I believe the overall idea of the drag and drop to add animations is similar to that of Scratch where you manipulate the sprite.

I believe both programs could be valuable in the primary classroom with Alice being more suited to middle primary years. Both programs could be used to address the following links to the Australian Curriculum Technologies Draft (2013).

2.4 Identify, explore, and use digital systems (hardware and software components) for personal and classroom needs

4.4 Use a range of digital systems and peripherals for diverse purposes, and transmit different types of data

4.6 Design and implement simple visual programs with user input and branching

6.7 Design and implement digital solutions using visual programs with user input, branching and iteration

8.9 Develop and modify programs with user interfaces involving branching, repetition or iteration and subprograms in a general-purpose programming language

8.10 Manage the sequence of tasks, the types of processes and the resources needed to develop software that meets user requirements

10.9 Collaboratively develop modular digital solutions, applying appropriate algorithms and data structures using visual, object-oriented and/or scripting tools and environments

10.10 Use agile development techniques to iteratively and collaboratively develop (design, implement and test) software that meets user requirements.

In conclusion my learning through these digital technologies activities has allowed me to search and critique various options for teaching future students the skills of coding, all of which could be applied in the classroom with adequate scaffolding and resources, to cater for the needs of  students with differentiated learning abilities.

The following screenshot shows a simple creation using Alice.

Image

During the third phase of my digital technologies learning journey I was asked to explore some alternatives to Scratch. The first program that I chose to explore is called Stencyl. This program is dedicated to the development of games. Games are created through a simple drag and drop method that is similar to that used by Scratch. Stencyl has hundreds of ready to use blocks that assist their users to quickly and easily make games. They also allow users to create and share their blocks and import existing code libraries. While simple games can be created without writing code, users can always access their game codes should they wish to make changes. Users also have the option of writing their own codes during all stages of game development. This would enable them to create complex behaviours and achieve extra functionality. Stencyl has extensive platform support and the current free version, 2.1.0, allows players to access games on Flash, iOS, Windows and Mac. Players are able to use web, iphone and ipad platforms to produce their games and can even have them published and uploaded to the app store for others to purchase and play.

Stencyl can be found at http://www.stencyl.com/

The second program that I chose to explore is called Alice. Alice is a 3D programming environment that can be used to create story animations, interactive games, and videos.  Alice users create programs through a popular and simple drag and drop method. This method is effective and allows the users to easily see their animations in action and to understand the relationship between the programming language and an object’s behaviour. In Alice, 3-D objects (e.g. people, animals, and vehicles) populate a virtual world and students create a program to animate the objects. When creating my virtual world I dragged and dropped graphic tiles to create a program, the instructions correspond to standard statements in a production oriented programming language, such as Java, C++, and C#. Alice allowed me to immediately see how my animation program ran, enabling me to easily understand the relationship between the programming statements and the behaviour of objects in my animation. By manipulating the objects in the virtual world, students would gain experience with all the programming constructs typically taught in an introductory programming course. This program would be very suitable for use in the primary school classroom as the teacher has access to a resource textbook and materials and tutorials which they can guide their class through.

The above screenshot is an example from the Alice tutorial page. Alice is available at http://www.alice.org/index.php

Alice would be a valuable digital technology tool in the classroom, which it fits into the Draft Australian Curriculum: Technologies for Years 3-4, Design and implement simple visual programs with user input and branching and Years 5-6, Design and implement digital solutions using visual programs with user input and branching.The applicable content descriptions are numbered 2.5, 4.5, 4.6, 6.6, 6.7 and 8.9.

In addition to supporting outcomes in the Technology key learning area, programs such as Alice and Stencyl expose students to programming concepts in an engaging and meaningful way, and they promote the development of logical thinking skills. Creativity and problem solving skills are also enhanced through the use of these kinds of software.

 

During weeks 4 and 5 of this semester I extended my Scratch programming experience by developing my own project. After looking at the Scratched site for some inspiration. I developed a game similar to Robyn Hauptran. The game focuses on skills used in the physical education key learning area. The development of three sprites, using drawing tools to draw a ball and adding a background were needed for this game. The object of the game is for the central sprite (which does not move) to pass the ball to the 2nd sprite without the 3rd sprite intercepting the ball. The sprites are moved by the mouse and the ball is thrown when the selected letter key on the keyboard is pressed.

  This program could be used as a teaching tool in most curriculum areas, integrating the general capability of ICT.  This general capability allows students to engage with technology to gain the skills, knowledge and confidence to engage competently with ICT at home, work and school (ACARA, n.d.).

In relation to classroom connection, this extension activity could be undertaken
by students in most year levels.  It connects to the Australian Curriculum (n.d.) Technologies and Physical Education Key Learning Areas.  Scratch programming when used within the Primary classroom can be linked to the following sections of the Australian Technology Curriculum:

 Design and Technologies

 Design and Technologies processes and production skills:

•Generating, developing and evaluating design ideas for designed solutions.

•Planning, producing (making) and evaluating designed solutions.

 

 Digital Technologies

 Digital Technologies processes and production skills:

•Defining problems and specifying and implementing their solutions.

 

 Digital Technologies knowledge and Understanding:

•How data is represented and structured symbolically.

•The components of digital systems: software, hardware and networks.

 (ACARA Draft Australian Technology Curriculum, February, 2013)

 
Digital technologies Foundation to year 10 scope and sequence:

•Follow, describe, represent and play with a sequence of steps and decisions needed to solve simple problems.

•Identify and explore digital systems.

•Use align development techniques to iteratively and collaboratively develop (design, implement and test) software that meets user requirements.

 (Draft Australian Curriculum: Technologies, February 2013).

 I believe Scratch programming allows the teacher to use a constructivist approach within the classroom allowing students to use a hands on approach to learning where they can make their own inferences, discoveries and conclusions, while being a creative and critical thinker using problem solving skills.

See on Scoop.itOnline resources relevant to Design and Technologies Education – Designing for the future

See on www.childrensengineering.com

See on Scoop.itOnline resources relevant to Design and Technologies Education – Designing for the future

See on jcflowers1.iweb.bsu.edu

See on Scoop.itOnline resources relevant to Design and Technologies Education – Designing for the future

If sustainability in all design is the goal, then the client-designer relationship will be crucial to delivering this. Here are three ways to make sustainability a default in design:

 

• Design briefs

Getting the briefing process right is an obvious first step. We’ve seen sustainability written into briefs in such unspecific ways that it will be of little use. This risks it being sidelined or dropped off the priority list. The more specific clients are in briefing, the better the results will be.

 

Many advocate lifecycle assessment (LCA) or other product footprinting as an essential or mandatory part of design, which companies such as Levis, Danone or Kraft reportedly do. While in principle this may be effective, a broader set of sustainable design tools may be needed.

 

• In design processes

Individual products or projects are usually part of a strategic portfolio, which is carefully managed and can be another point of influence. Companies such as DSM, which aims for 80% of pipeline from sustainable product by 2015, and IKEA, with its goal of 90% eco-improved products by 2015, are building sustainability systematically into design. If targets are set to move the portfolio towards sustainability, the projects and products will follow.

 

• Through design persuasion or stealth

Designers cannot control briefs or what clients do, but they can influence. That kind of creative disruption is often why clients turn to designers – because they think differently, stretching the client and the brief beyond what they see today. Why not do this on sustainability, either through persuasion or stealth?

Given that the dynamics of power resting with clients, industry programmes and design standards can help, such as WRAP’s excellent Product Sustainability Forum, looking to unify the way we design products across different industries.

 

Next generation design

All this may sound like good housekeeping, rather than the imaginative, creative, inspirational processes normally associated with design. But even if its not glamorous, it can certainly be effective. In future, doing design without sustainability being, at the very least, a consideration in the brief or process, will be as inexcusable as designing dangerous or unsafe products is today.

Avoiding sustainable design considerations now could also mean building-in future environmental or social risks for the very clients that designers are serving, or even for the next generation of users. That really would be ‘off-brief’ and the exact opposite of the added value service that clients have come to expect from good design.

See on www.guardian.co.uk

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