Virtual Pet Event

I realize that my last two blog posts have not been about Code Club but Scratch projects that happen during school.  Code Club has been going pretty well, so let me catch up on that front.

We tried a Pong game project the second week, which I have written about before. I recall them being a bit needy during the project but I just might be remembering the whiners. I’ve seen some successful projects in the subsequent weeks from those very same needy seeming students.

There is some free time at the beginning of Code Club while we wait for the bus to bring over the coders from the other elementary school.  This gives some of them a few minutes to bring up old projects they’ve started, remember what they were doing, tweak them or show them to a friend.  Once everyone is there, we have snack and discuss the current project of the day.

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 8.38.56 PMThe week after Pong we tried “Create a Virtual Pet” project that is under the Tips tab of Scratch 2 Offline Editor.  I was looking for a non-game project similar to Code Club World’s Chatbot project, which some of these students did last Fall, as I have written about, twice.  One of my goals is to expose these coders to a variety of project types. I think these types of projects appeal to the non-gamer types, (dare I say girls?) and shows other ways to use Scratch coding.

“Create a Virtual Pet” is also a great way to introduce the power of broadcast and receive. I feel like I didn’t cover broadcast and receive well in the Fall.  This project concentrates on the Events code blocks:  “when this sprite is clicked”, “broadcast”, and “when I receive”.

We also got to use and get to know the “glide” block.  All very useful.

I showed the students the Tips tab that they could use as a resource but I also printed out some screenshots from “Create a Virtual Pet” for them to use. I did try looking for a pdf of this project.  I found a video tutorial, a Scratch project tutorial and a 41 page pdf from We Can Code It which looks fabulous, but more than I needed.

I took some time to introduce this and showed my take on the project at the beginning.

 

I prefer to let them discover their way but I’ve a feeling this group could benefit from more introduction.  I think the number of lines of code it used, although mostly glide blocks, put them off a little.

Most of the students were not able to get all the way through the project and some seemed disappointed by this when Code Club was over so soon.  I was pleased with what they got done and told them so and that this would make a nice project for the Showcase if they chose.

The designs for those independent projects are due real soon.

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Record Project Video

Last month the art teacher came to me with an idea for the super hero project she was doing with 3rd graders.  She was thinking of adding a technology piece like a digital cartoon or animation.  I told her the stunned look on my face was not “oh my gosh, that sounds like a lot of work,” but a “this could be really fun” and “there are so many ways to do this, which one do I suggest!” face.  I decided to suggest the students make a Scratch project and use code to animate their superheroes.

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Vampire hero

I made some room in my schedule to accommodate the three art classes and used some of the 3rd grade computer lab class time to work on the projects.  They worked on sketches and project ideas and a poster in art.  In the computer lab they started by making a background in MSPaint.  It’s a good place to warm up your mouse drawing abilities.  Then they drew their superheroes in a new file – with a white background.  Those who finished up early were able work on a sidekick or villain.

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City background for the Stage

Next we imported the background on to the stage in Scratch 2 offline editor.  (If the Paint file didn’t fill the Stage, they could grab a background color with the Scratch color picker tool and fill in the whitespace.

Finally we imported the superhero as a Sprite.  The picture file usually contained a white background but Scratch allows you to set the fill bucket to “invisible”  (ie alpha-channel) using the “red slash” color.  This is a really useful tip that I wish I had known about it last fall! Just pick it, use the fill bucket, fill the white background with “invisible” and voila, a Sprite on an empty background.

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Use the red slash to control the alpha channel and make an invisible background

Now to code for the animation.  I standardized the code to have the superhero say its name and then bounce around the screen.  Students had to start with this and customize it by setting the direction, the number of steps and even adding changes to color, size or visibility.  A few students added a second costume to show wings flapping – I’d like to do more of that next time.  A few had a second Sprite – sidekick or villain.  One had sound.

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Basic animation code

Meanwhile I was looking for ways to capture the animation in video form – some kind of Screencast movie so I could compile all 63 superhero animations into a movie to share.  I tried Screencastify but the free version would require a lot of editing and leaves a brand name tag on the video. Quicktime did an okay job on my iMac at home, but not useful for the Windows based computer lab. Then late last week I was working in Scratch 2 offline editor when it asked to update to the latest version 443. So I did. When I went to save the project I noticed a new option: Record Project Video.Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 8.36.14 PM

This was exactly what I was looking for!  Unbelievable and just it time, too. The students would be able to do this part themselves if I could get the updated version in the lab.  In the end that did not happen and I ended up recording all the project videos myself. When you record the project video they are saved as FLV files.  I did have to convert them to MP4 files to make the movies.  The movies are awesome! (video 1, video 2 and video 3) and a great way to showcase all of the student work.

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Lava Girl

 

Do you know what this means?  Every 3rd grade student created a Scratch project this year! Incredible.

I enjoyed this STEAM collaboration with our fabulous elementary school art teacher immensely.  I learned a lot and look forward to improving it the next time around.

Quick Rock Band Project

It seems like every time a 3rd grade teacher asks me for an idea for a project, I suggest a Scratch project. I have gone a little Scratch happy, I guess.

Last month the students were learning about light and sound. Scratch is great with sounds, so I suggested they make a clickable drums and build a “band” in Scratch.  I’ve looked through the Code Club’s Rock Band Project and am familiar with the song building ability in Scratch but I’ve never introduced these projects to a group of students.

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The project I suggested uses the ideas from Code Club’s project but I didn’t handout any project pages. I set it up like this:

  1.  pick a stage appropriate for a band
  2.  add a drum Sprite and make it play a drum beat when clicked.
  3.  add 2 more drum Sprites and make them clickable with different drum sounds
  4.  add another instrument, or microphone and singer (make the clickable)
  5.  add any final personalized touches to your Rock Band

I was able to walk the group through the first two steps during their first session.  The class had other assignments in the computer lab during the next week or so but were able to get back to their Rock Band if they had time at the end. After the occasional chances to work on the project, it was time to have them finish up and “hand it in” virtually.

Here is the rubric I used.

Stage

(max 2 points)

There is no Stage (0) There is a Stage background (1) There is an appropriate Stage background (2)
Sprites

(max 4 points)

There are no Sprites (0) There is at least one drum Sprite (1) There are 3 or more drum or band Sprites

(2-3)

There are at least 3 drum Sprites, a mic and singer or additional band instruments (4)
Scripts

(max 4 points)

There are no clickable Sprites or no sounds (0) At least one drum Sprite is clickable and makes a drum sound when clicked (2) Most Sprites are clickable and make a sound when clicked (3) Each Sprite is clickable and makes a different sound when clicked (4)

Most of the students, if they lost points, only lost points on the Scripting.  I included a picture of their rock band with the graded rubric.

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This served its purpose in that it was fun, gave the students a reason to play with Scratch and fit in with their science curriculum.  I think I would change the assignment some next time. There are many ways to use sound blocks and built-in sounds from the Scratch sound library.  I also would like to see the students record their own sounds, their voice or an instrument.

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The students used Scratch 1.4 for this project only because it is the Scratch icon on their desktop and they’d have to go and “look for” Scratch 2 in All programs.  Scratch 2 would also work fine for this project.

Friends, Fun & Scratch

Yesterday was the first meeting of my 5th after school Code Club session.  My 5th in 2 years and I was in a really great mood afterward, so I must still really like doing this.

I think the students had a good time and enjoyed themselves.  A number of them were happy just to be sitting next to a friend and doing Scratch.

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We have a mixture of 4th graders from two schools so we started out by stating our names and sharing our favorite computer or video game.  I expected to hear more Minecraft than anything else, but there were a wide variety of games shared, some that I hadn’t heard before.  I may have to check them out.

The maze project turned out to be pretty challenging to the new-to-Scratch students.  In the end, if they were able to add the arrow key controls to their Sprite, I considered that a success.

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Maze game by a first time Scratcher.

 

The students who had previous experience with this project were game to try it again, which makes me enthusiastic about this bunch of coders.

The Maze of Death!!!!! project is really impressive.  The lightning is animated.  The student added a score variable.  He’s even set up his initial conditions. All in one hour.  I’m so proud.

I’m looking for a new high school volunteer.  I miss having that extra person to field code issues and check in on students.

I think we’ll try the Pong game next week.