This semester for the first time, I’m having the opportunity to both teach and learn about Scratch software with my own undergraduate students enrolled in “Computers in the Classroom” at the University of North Texas. Today was our second day to learn about Scratch, and everyone brought their first project to class to share what they’d learned. Wow was I impressed! (Scratch is free software from the Lifelong Kindergarten group at MIT.)
My first student to share in class uploaded two different projects to her account on the Scratch website, and also blogged about her experiences. Her first project, shown in the image below, was a basic story that used different backgrounds which she changed for us by pressing different keys. She wasn’t sure how to make the backgrounds change automatically, so that was something we discussed and explored together in class today.
Another student was inspired by the recently uploaded Scratch project, “The Monster Mash AMV,” which includes a complicated set of scripts and sprites to create a clever music video animation.
In addition to blogging about this project and what she learned, she also shared her own simple Scratch project (“Hide and Seek“) for which she used several blocks she learned about from “The Monster Mash AMV.”
It was so exciting to learn about Scratch together with my students today, and see how clever many of them had already been “peeking” at the code / scripts of other Scratch projects to learn how people created different effects! The student who made “Hide and Seek” created her short project using the basic Scratch blocks we went over in class using the “Scratch Getting Started Guide” (PDF) along with the show and hide blocks and the “go to” block. This last one is REALLY important, since it permits creators to move sprites to specific x and y coordinates on the Scratch “stage.”
Chris Betcher discusses the importance of this block and the connections which can be made to coordinate geometry in his K-12 Online Conference 2010 presentation, “Teaching Kids To Think Using Scratch.”
The big surprise we had today in class was learning that once someone in our computer lab logs into their Scratch account, ANYONE in the lab visiting the Scratch website is automatically logged in as their userid. This appears to be a security flaw in the way the Scratch website authenticates, and the way our lab computers are setup. I’m not sure if this is happening because our lab computers share the same global IP address, or for another reason. It reminds me of Firesheep, although that particular FireFox extension is NOT in use / to blame for this security problem.
Not all my students are thrilled and excited with Scratch YET, and a common comment now is, “This is hard!” It is hard, but it’s also cognitively challenging and fun. I’m looking forward to more learning together about Scratch on Wednesday!
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