Scratch: Original Computation Creations
“Using Scratch is a more challenging way to do game design. It is more like how real game designers work,” Chyna B. commented when discussing the advantages of beginning to work with this new program.
Students in Upper Elementary and Junior High are engaging in computational creation, a fancy term for creating interactive projects using a graphical programming language called Scratch. Students have spent the last few weeks building up their basic skills in Scratch by collaborating with each other to complete a series of challenges. “I liked the videos that we learned from, and I liked that they didn’t just give away how to do everything. We still had to figure out the scripts ourselves,” said Alex M. The students are now designing their own creative projects in the form of stories, games, and activities to be completed by the end of the month.
Alex’s game will feature a baker attempting to fill his storefront with cupcakes. Neha P.’s game will be about a fashion designer. Vincent D. is combining the concepts from Pong and Bricks into his game, while Chyna is going to be programming a little monster who will chase fur balls. Each student’s game will be their own creation, but what will be the same is that they’ll all be original and unique.
Working in Scratch allows them to create computer programs that mix together graphics, animation, music and sound to create a unique end result. Using their tablets, students can draw their own characters and import original music compositions. Chyna further adds, “Scratch gives us more freedom to explore our own gaming worlds and ideas. With Gamestar, games are very similar, but with Scratch, games are more unique. What you make is original.” It was clear that Chyna is very proud of the idea of creating a game that is truly her own intellectual property.
[Screenshot of Vincent's game.]
Director of Educational Technology, Sherri Dodd, indicates that advancing the students' opportunities and abilities with Scratch is very beneficial. Not only does it provide an additional platform for game design, but Scratch also, “Builds nicely on the programming concepts students learned with Gamestar Mechanic by introducing programming syntax and computational concepts like variables and data types. It segues to traditional text-based languages like C+ + and Java."
Students interviewed were in agreement that using Scratch is more challenging and more fun because the program really requires them to think and plan ahead, problem solve, write the scripts and truly engineer the game. “It’s harder but it’s more fun. You have to really tell it [the game] what to do, you have to program it,” said Vincent.
For further reading about how using Scratch and developing computational creation and thinking skills will benefit our students, please download the below article:
Institute for the Future for Apollo Research Institute's Future Work Skills 2020
Their report cites computational thinking as one of the ten skills that will be necessary to the future workforce, and they further cite Scratch as a platform that, "Teaches young people the fundamentals of computational methodology in a fun, low risk environment."