Superhero Remix

The art teacher and I collaborated again this year with our superhero animation project.  3rd-grade students sketched their ideas for a superhero in art class then we used computer lab time to draw their superhero and background in MS Paint.  The next step was importing the files into Scratch and adding the code to animate them.

The students were engaged and worked hard. They could see where the project was going because they had seen last year’s example videos.  Some of them were familiar enough with Scratch to add a bit of flair (or music) to their animations. I saw more color effect changes and even helped implement other effects like this use of the whirl effect to animate Red Jelly Man:

One improvement that I tried to implement this year was the use of additional costumes to create the illusion of animation along with the moving of the Sprite across the screen. This was most easily accomplished by duplicating and then modifying.  Modifications generally included a slight rotation of the whole Sprite or to just an arm or other body parts.  Little changes really enhance the overall effect of the animation.


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Boring man has 2 costumes to look like he is walking



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Only Snakewoman’s rattle changes in the costume changes.



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Mr. Moo deploys his mini-moo with costumes varying the distance between hero and sidekick.


Another student’s Animal Man had 8 different animal costumes, all drawn by the student for his shape-shifting superhero.

Another technique we added this year was some simple backdrop animations.


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Thundergirl moves in front of lightning that comes and goes via code on the Stage


I’m very pleased with the second round of the Superhero project.  You can find all the movies here on my YouTube playlist.

Note: The students were able to add the project video of the animation to their digital portfolio without having to convert from the .flv format.  The actual Scratch projects are not shared online but completed using Scratch 2.0 offline editor.

Guided Exploration vs Teaching

I worry that my students aren’t learning some of the basic concepts of computer science in Code Club.  It seems, sometimes, that they have big gaps in their knowledge of coding or have odd assumptions of the way the code works.

On other days, I’m amazed at their ability to explore in Scratch and their fearlessness of testing algorithms and trying new things. They want to learn how to code the most complex tasks.  They adjust their expectations of what their Sprite can do to whatever it does.

I’m finding it difficult to know what they know.  I’m looking for evidence of learning in their code and in my interactions with them, but I think I’m looking for the wrong things.

This morning I was reading Chapter 6 from Seymour Papert’s book Mindstorms. Papert talks about the difference between the way children learn and the way they are taught.  He likened learning a whole new domain of knowledge (like computer science, say) to getting to know a “new community of people. Sometimes one is overwhelmed by a bewildering array of undifferentiated faces.  Only gradually do the individual faces begin to stand out.”  (pg 137).  This requires exploration and perhaps a guide who can provide introductions.  The ability or acquisition of sensitivity to distinguish faces (or concepts) comes with time and “cannot be done by a third party. Everyone must acquire skill at getting to know and a personal style for doing it.” (pg. 137)

Perhaps this is what I’m seeing.  My Code Club students are getting to know Scratch through exploration with me as their guide. What I see as “gaps” in their skills just show they haven’t acquired the sensitivity to those concepts yet.   Meanwhile I haven’t

Well, I have to go back and finish that chapter now.