Poetry Generator

While planning Wednesday’s Code Club during a snow day on Tuesday I came across the Code Club World project Ada’s Poetry Generator.  This is a new project for me and I liked the way it introduced and used lists.   Arrays and lists are extremely important data structures in programming – right up there with loops and variables. I’ve never introduced lists in Scratch before.  I also liked how this project wasn’t a game but had the potential for a lot of creativity and fun.

I mocked up a project with Scratch Cat instead of Ada Lovelace.  (I did talk briefly about Ada when introducing the project.)

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I added some “talking” animation to Scratch Cat by duplicating costumes and morphing the mouth into different shapes.  Then coding the costumes to change when the poem is “spoken”

Some students whined a bit about poetry and not a game but I ignored that because I knew they’d like it once they figured it out.  I’m hoping someone chooses to make a MadLib or something similar for the final project.  If not, I may see if we can use this in some language arts project.

Here are some nice examples:

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Computer generating poetry with lists

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This coder really liked gluteus maximus, and unhelpful list naming conventions.

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Awesome animated mouth

This coder is my animator to be.  He drew and animated the PacMan and Ghost being eaten costumes… then he coded the poem in the last few minutes.

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Future animator

These two below took the morphing a bit to the extreme but the coding (and poetry) is well done:

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I enjoyed reading all the funny randomly generated poems that the students created.  I was glad I choose this project for my Code Club.

Catch ’em

Week 2 for Code Club happened.

We did an old project game called Felix and Herbert which I’ve done before.  It’s not on the list of current Scratch project at Code Club World, but its simple concept with different movements- follow mouse movements- makes it a good second week project. It is a cat and mouse game and introduces some good game elements such as broadcasting and keeping score.

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I allowed the students to pick any two Sprites – one to chase and one to be chased.  This let to some creative pairings.

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It also became important in debugging to know which Sprite was which. When introducing the project I did point out where it says “Test your project.”  I let them know that this was a big part of programming.  I think I’ll need to emphasize that each time. I notice a lot of creative testing – playing with sounds, looks, speed, scoring, but not much debugging or referring to the project pages when things don’t work.

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At the beginning of Code Club, I decided, we would add a bit of reflection to our meeting. On Wednesday I asked how the first code club went?  What were the successes and failures.  Many noted that they ran out of time or weren’t able to get the sensing of the edge of the maze to work.  I told them that it was a difficult task and if they were able to set up the Sprite to use the arrow keys, that was a success.

With Thursday’s group, I asked them to share one thing they found that they liked about Scratch.  This time I asked for positive responses mostly because they’d only played with Scratch and hadn’t really tackled a whole project yet.

I enjoyed this reflection time.  These are big groups and I don’t always get to connect with each student during our hour of coding.  Afterward Code Club I do take the time to look at the projects they save, highlighting a few here and noting any trending issues. And, of course doing my own reflecting on this blog.

I must say that my volunteers are awesome!  They work very hard fielding questions, debugging code, working with students. Even so, I think the students are asking for help too quickly.  They need to look at the project more closely and begin to do a bit more problem solving themselves.

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Scratch @ MIT 2016

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I was at my first Scratch Conference at MIT Media Lab last week (#ScratchMIT2016). It was fantastic!  I met so many awesome Scratchers, educators, researchers, developers and enthusiasts.  It was wonderful, inspiring…  “I came for the workshops and stayed for the community.”

I met the awesome Scratcher Bubble103 and her mom the very first evening and didn’t even know I was meeting a Scratch rockstar.  I met people from all around the globe and had great conversations in between keynotes and workshops and during breakfast and lunch breaks. I have made so many connections, it is quite awesome.  The Scratch team is brilliant, kind and adorable.

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Dinner was quite fun, too.

Here are some take-aways from the conference that I hope to implement during the (fast approaching) school year.

  • read Seymour Papert’s Mindstorms
  • work on parent involvement plan – the keynote about Pathways to Participation helped me understand that I need to support students beyond the school environment.
  • more collaboration with the art teacher.  This is the year when art and math and code will collide!  I’m going to introduce Beetle Blocks and the watercolorbot.  From Art Alive there was the interacting with art using Scratch and MakeyMakey piece that we might delve into. I hope we’ll do more Scratch animation, too.  STEAM on.
  • introduce the development of cheat codes to help debug Scratch at Code Club.  Rik Cross’ workshop Practical Debugging in Scratch  was super informative. Students will enjoy the idea as well.

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    Photo from a @Raspberry_Pi tweet

  • Scratch Jr and the Writer’s Workshop in 1st grade. Scratch Jr has come along way from the first time I saw it and I’m excited about it again. I already have a homeroom assignment with 1st grade teacher who’s tech savvy so this will not need a big sell.
  • Mathematical Simulations in Scratch.  I know my students are NOT high school math level students but I liked the way Patrick Honner was able to embrace the tools the students knew (Scratch) to work on real math problems.  I’d like to try some math modeling in Scratch -like the Monte Carlo method.  I’m going to have to see what comes up in 4th grade math class and the Math Forum Problems of the Week and see if anything looks like a good candidate to model using Scratch.
  • Continue to develop this community. Now that I’ve met all of these people I want to keep in touch whether on the internets (Twitter, Facebook) or at a ScratchEd meet-up.  I am definitely thinking about visiting Mags in Ireland.  Who knows, maybe there’ll be a Scratch conference in the UK or Europe next year.

 

 

This all looks doable and like hard fun.

(Note: there are things I will have to get, too- embroidery machine for TurtleStitch, 3-d printer for Beetle Blocks, more Makey Makey‘s.)

Scratch On!

 

Cloud Project

With the success of the 3rd grade Superhero Scratch project in March, I decided to see if 2nd graders could make a similar project and be successful.  They study cloud types as part of their science curriculum so that’s the direction I went.

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This project was very similar to the 3rd grade project but the drawing was easier – simple background and a white cloud – although even that turned out tricky.  I trimmed down the code required to 5 lines.  Still it took a while to complete.  I have 2 of the 3 class videos completed.  The other class just needs to Record Project Video and I’ll have all of their clips ready to put together.

Step 1:  Introduction to the project:  I showed the class what the project was going to look like and laid out the steps we were going to take.  Many were excited that they were going to be on YouTube.

Step 2:  Draw the Background: In the computer lab we used Paint to draw the background.  I modeled drawing a horizon line, then using the fill bucket to fill in the sky and the ground. This could be done in Scratch as well.  Save the Paint project and research clouds while everyone finishes up.

Step 3: Draw the Cloud: We used Paint to draw the cloud.  I modeled filling in the background with gray or light blue and then using different Paint brush types in white to draw the cloud they had chosen: cumulus, stratus or cirrus were the 3 types that we ended up using.

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Here’s where Paint and the different brush types helped add texture to the clouds.  Save again.  (I basically did one step per lab time, just so I didn’t lose anyone)

Step 4:  Import the Assets into Scratch 2.0 (offline editor) – this was their first time in Scratch so we had to look around and notice the Stage and Sprites, code blocks… etc.  Then we “cut” the Scratch Cat away and imported our background to the Stage (our Paint file didn’t quite fill the Stage, but that turned out not to be important when the video was cropped to  wide-screen in production)   Next we added our cloud Sprite.  The Sprite included the gray or blue background but we removed that with the fill bucket by filling in “nothing” or “invisible” over the background.  I’m not sure what is the best term to give to setting the alpha channel. This was a bit of a tricky part.  Also resizing the cloud. Save the Scratch project – I had them save it in their picture folder where the background and cloud files were.

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Step 5: Coding the Animation: It’s only 5 lines of code.  When the green flag is clicked, the clouds says it’s name and then floats to the left or right forever (bouncing off the edges). When I modeled this, we noticed that 10 steps at a time is too fast for a cloud.  1 step is more cloud-like. I made half-sheet printouts of the 5 lines of code.  I wrote the cloud names on the board so they could spell correctly.  Saving really seemed to be our biggest issue.  I did spend some time troubleshooting clouds not to flip upside-down or go off screen.

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Step 6: Record Project Video:  The last step.  I wrote up a detailed step-by-step for my sub, hoping it would happen. The other two classed did a great job but occasionally would forget to click the green flag, so we got 20 seconds of a un-animated cloud.  Having the 2nd graders do this step is a big time saver for video production.

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The next step was for me to convert the project files from .flv to .mov or .mp4, (I used Free MP4 Converter  software) put them together in movie making software (I use a iMovie at home, but WinMovieMaker at work), find some cloud music –Ferde Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite seemed to fit the bill. And finally, upload to YouTube.  I showed one class their video today and they were pleased, although some couldn’t pick their cloud out of the group.  -hmmm, maybe a bit more customization of the background…

 

Here are the links to the YouTube videos:  MacNeil’s Class Video & Horne’s Class Video

I will see next year when these students are 3rd graders if making the Superhero project is easier or if we can do more with it.  I wasn’t able to do this project with all the 2nd grade classes, but it is a start.

Point of View

I am quite pleased with the variety of projects that my Code Club students are creating for our showcase in May. Everything from a maze, pong, virtual pet, dress-up to adventure and sports games.  There’s even a game of games project idea that will be interesting to see develop.

One duo was wanting to make a game where the hero stays mostly in the center and the background scrolls before he gets to the edge.  Something like Power Pete (or Mighty Mike) from Pangea Software  (those were good times, hours wasted)

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At first I recalled the scrolling demo project from Colleen Berekey. There are over 50 remixes of this project.  I showed the pair this project but it wasn’t quite what they had in mind.

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So I went home and thought about it and consulted my consultant – my spouse who’s a software engineer.  Like with other tricks to animation, coding this was a matter of changing perspective and looking at the problem from a different point of view.

If your Sprite stays in the middle, the background and chaser Sprites will have to move with the arrow keys. Or more specifically, against the arrow keys.

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Scratch Cat stays in the center and only points in the direction of the arrow key.  The stars move in the opposite direction briefly and then move back to center.  This took some fiddling with to get it to look half way decent.  In addition the octopus has to move in the opposite direction while still moving forward towards Scratch Cat.

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Octopus moves in the opposite direction of the arrow key pressed while still forever chasing Scratch Cat

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For added fun I included additional bad guy clones.

Space Junk

The last lesson project my Code Club worked through before starting to design their own Scratch game was Space Junk from Code Club World.  This one is similar to the Space Odyssey project in Super Scratch where Scratch Cat has to avoid the obstacles and “survive” for 30 seconds.  I could have gone with either one.  In the end it was just easier to be able to print the pdf from Code Club World.

I spent some time presenting the project to the students.  I also made available a project template with the assets and some of the code provided, but without any of the movements of the objects. The coding for the timer was set and the hero’s arrow key responses. Starting with this stubbed out version of the project was optional. Some students opted to use it and others wanted to start with a blank project (ie from scratch, har har).

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Starter project with Sprite & Stage assets and some initial code

In creating a template of the Space Junk project I did use one Super Scratch Space Odyssey Sprite – because, well, it’s the Scratch Cat wearing a spacesuit. The template was helpful to many.  It allowed them to work and test out the movements of the obstacles that the hero was to avoid.  Of course, customization is what it is all about in 4th grade Code Club.

 

 

The template also helped them be successful in a shorter amount of time, which was important this time as I made them stop early so I could go over the Game Design Document and how to develop their own game. I chose to introduce the independent projects at the end of Code Club so the students would leave thinking about the project they were going to design.  They only had one week to come up with a plan before their design review.

Interestingly, some of the independent projects are survivor or obstacle avoidance type games and resemble Space Junk, so I think it was a hit.