Are your students interested in the "Maker Movement," a growing community of DIY tech enthusiasts who are applying creative skills to create everything from robots to printers using free software and Web-based tools?
MIT’s Scratch lets junior programmers and aspiring "makers" ages eight and up create video animations, games, interactive stories, digital instruments and more. Instead of requiring technical coding, the free Scratch tool uses color-coded bars that are placed in an interlocking command sequence. Currently, Scratch is available for Mac, Windows and Linux via the Scratch Web site.
Scratch is great for all student levels, both beginner and advanced. Keep in mind, however, that the tool is best used by educators who have at least a basic programming background. This is especially true when fielding student questions or helping those who are struggling with project execution.
The five fun classroom activities below are perfect for any tech-savvy teacher who’d like to encourage students to apply programming skills.
Determine the story’s ending.
Most younger students adore choose-your-own-adventure books. This activity brings that concept to the computer screen. Have students outline, write, design and animate their own adventures with multiple outcomes. They can even craft a game in which outcomes depend on positive character and good decision-making.
Example: “Choose Your Own Adventure” remixed by PokemonGardevoir
Create a video game.
Do your students want to make their own version of Super Mario Brothers®? How about the next side-scrolling video game? Let kids use a classic video game or their own imaginations to design new games. For an added challenge, have them incorporate educational components, such as solving critical-thinking riddles to defeat enemies or answering math problems to accelerate a car during a race.
Produce an animated film.
Do you have a class full of storytellers or artists? If so, let students create an animated film. Draw inspiration from classic fables and fairy tales, or write an original story to illustrate a moral lesson. Animate the film with a theme in mind and remind kids to consider the type of story they’re telling.
Example: “Simpsons 3D” by ProgrammingLover
Make an instrument.
Let students make their own interactive digital instruments. Scratch lets users work multiple controls and shortcuts into the instrument’s functionality and design. Have kids try to recreate an existing instrument. Even better, encourage them to invent their own (first, they should think about the types of sounds they want to produce and how they want the instrument to be played).
Example: “Piano” by Natalie
With almost 5 million projects on Scratch, it’s easy for students to find one to play around with. Pick one to remix with your class and have fun!
Example: “Invisible Remix” remixed by FastBridge