Scratch is a block-based programming tool from the MIT Media Lab that gets pigeon-holed as a tool for introducing students to coding & programming. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great tool for that, but it’s oooohhhh sooo much more! In my mind–and in the minds of many students who have used it–Scratch is a place with infinite possibilities for creation.
That creation can be, well… just about anything. And that anything could relate to games or music or jokes or…. science, math, social studies, language arts, world languages…. you get the picture. ANYTHING. It could be a great classroom tool. Especially when put in the hands of students.
So, let me give you a little intro to Scratch. Let’s SCRATCH the Surface.
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When my friend Dave Ternent and I started teaching a middle school STEM course back in 2012, one of the first tools that we selected for the course was SketchUp.
SketchUp is a free 3D modeling computer program made by Trimble and, for a while, owned by Google. It was the perfect introduction to 3D-modeling, architecture and engineering for middle schoolers: powerful, but relatively easy to learn.
After seeing the awesomeMatt England present at a local tech conference about his use of SketchUp with middle schoolers we even had information from someone who had used it about how to best introduce it. Matt was kind enough to share his resources during the session.
Based on Matt’s information, we had our students make shapes with certain dimensions as they learned to use it (see image). After that, they moved up to creating a 3-hole putt-putt (mini-golf) course that fit within a certain area (see image). They got very creative with those courses, which is great, but you could also extend this to tons of curriculum standards! Surface area, Roman architecture, volume, locations from literature, measurement, earthquake-resistant houses, perimeter, developing cities . . . I could go on and on. But I stopped using SketchUp. Why? It didn’t work on Chromebooks.
Until recently! SketchUp is now available on the web, which means that you can use it on Chromebooks! Check out the animated GIF below showing me using SketchUp. Imagine the possibilities for students!
Scratch is a great tool for students to tell stories, prove comprehension, practice language skills and . . . well, be creative. Here’s an important skill to master:
Figuring out how to make things move is pretty easy. Often, though, they look like they’re sliding or gliding. How do you make them seem animated? Most sprites in Scratch have costumes. By using the “next costume” block with a “repeat” block, you can make them appear to be running, jumping, walking, heck, even dabbing.
Important Tip:if you don’t put a “wait” block in there, the costume will change repeatedly without you (or your viewer) seeing it. To Scratch, it’s changing over and over instantly – to us, it’s just the same costume the whole time.
Another Tip: if your sprite doesn’t have a second costume that makes it appear to move . . . make one! Duplicate the 1st costume and edit it to make a 2nd one!
Scratch, developed by a group at MIT, has a tremendous reputation as a computer science learning & creation tool. But, I believe it is under-appreciated as a tool for the content areas.
It is a great way for students to show their mastery of content standards, while honing their computer science skills and practicing the 4 C’s. It’s also a great way for educators to create content for their students to interact with.
This summer, I hope to make some examples of how Scratch can be used in content areas. For now, here’s a little taste:
In a training webinar for the PEAR (Partnerships in Education and Resilience) Institute’s DoS (Dimensions of Success) Observation Tool, the facilitators discussed how the 3rd of their 4 domains – STEM Knowledge and Practices – was based on the STEM Practices outlined by the NGSS‘ (Next Generation Science Standards) “A Science Framework for K-12 Science Education.” I think that these 8 practices are fantastic and that schools should place a focus on integrating into the curriculum maps for all content areas, not just science. Here they are: Continue reading STEM Practices