This week I was excited to delve into more uncharted territory, from a blog/news search engine organized by categories called Technorati to Scratch, a program that allows anyone to create interesting animations, games, and interactive video clips. While I have done lots of exploring this week, I would like to focus on my experimentation with Scratch. When I learned that it enabled teachers, or anyone for that matter, to use fairly basic code to create video games, I became determined to figure it out and play around with it. I watched the tutorial video, downloaded the program, and simply started clicking buttons to see what happened, without any particular aim or clear idea of what the final product might look like. As I saw certain images or sounds, I began to toy with different directions and ways that this could be used in the classroom.
While I think designing a game would be perfect for today’s Xbox/Playstation generation, I knew that designing a game was not only above my head at the moment but, I also lack a vision for what a high quality game should look like, since I do not actually play them much at all. At the very least, however, there are many games to choose from on Scratch that other users have made that can be modified to suit one’s needs. All of the talk and searching into games reminded me of an article I read last fall in Phi Delta Kappan that spoke to the engagement of video games and also how video games can be used as a source of immediate data for teachers. Unfortunately, we are not able to access the most recent editions of the magazine through UMW’s database but below is an abstract for the article. I highly recommend this particular article and others in the PDK publication. They do an exceptional job at explaining current education issues and providing thorough, thought provoking pieces.
Abstract for “More than child’s play: Games have potential learning and assessment tools” by V. Phillips and Z. Popovic
“There is increasing evidence that games provide good learning environments, particularly in their ability to drive tenacity and intrinsic motivation, two key characteristics needed for student success. Advancing technology now enables games to also serve as assessments with real-time data that gives teachers the ability to have immediate information about students’ knowledge so they can provide differentiated instruction. In this article, Vicki Phillips, director of education, College Ready, in the United States Program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Zoran Popovic, director of the Center for Game Science at the University of Washington, outline the advantages of gaming technologies and the current barriers to broader adoption in schools.”
Anyhow, returning to my exploration of Scratch, I ultimately decided that I wanted to make a project introduction with it, which made me think that doing so would essentially allow me to not be present. In other words, I could introduce the project using Scratch for homework on a class website, use it as a part of a substitute lesson plan, or even use it in the classroom while I take attendance. Scratch also allows me to make project directions more interesting and perhaps, motivates students more than usual by using catchy visuals and tunes. What I did with the program is quite basic but I am certain that you could make it even more engaging by incorporating current pop music or entertaining movements/dances.
Shown below is a screenshot of my Scratch creation, complete with “sprites,” aka sections or block of Scratch codes/commands/actions.
More exciting is the actual Scratch video/program I designed. In this clip, I take a couple of minutes to simply introduce a class assignment that involves creating a cartoon of World War I. Feel free to check it out.
After making the video, I also realized that another way to use scratch. As a teacher you could make a video introducing a project involving Scratch. For instance, students could have the option of using Scratch or poster board for the World War I cartoon assignment. My only qualm with technology like this is that, like all things, there is a sizable learning curve when first using a program like Scratch. Therefore, if I encouraged students to use it, I might give them extra time and/or incorporate into more than one assignment to make learning it worth it. Also, students could learn to use it beyond the foundational, basic function and ultimately, in the most creative way if they used it for multiple projects.