Monthly Archives: September 2017

Diving into Scratch Jnr!

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Earlier this year, I excitedly mentioned to my colleague @erinlucie that there was an iPad app as a prelude to the coding application Scratch. I whipped my iPad out and opened the app, only to find that I had NO idea how to use it and couldn’t seem to make anything happen/move on it. Fast forward a few months and I have since used the Scratch Jnr app twice. By myself, for about 10 minutes each time. However, it’s loaded onto all of the iPads in Prep-6 at our school, so yesterday at lunch two of my Prep students opened it up and asked me how to use it.

Following my basic instructions, this is what was produced by a very excited 5 year old.

Let’s talk about how basic my instructions were. They went something like this:

Me: Hey, do you think we could make the cat by giving it some instructions?
Her: Ok.
Me: The green flag is the button that makes the cat do what we tell it. So we need to click on the yellow button, to find the green flag button. That tells the cat to start moving.
Her: I found it and I pressed it but it didn’t do anything.
Me: We need to drag it next to the grey cat outline. Now that we have the start button, let’s choose a direction for him to move. Click on the blue arrow and drag an arrow down to connect to the green flag button, just like a jigsaw puzzle.

Aaaaaaand, that was about it. Seriously. The most technical terms I used were ‘instructions’, ‘button’ and ‘drag’. I didn’t even mention the words ‘coding’, ‘blocks’ or ‘algorithm’, that will be the next lesson. After telling the cat when to stop moving (by finishing the instructions with a red ‘stop’ button), she pressed the green flag at the top to start the movements – she was stoked!!

After this, we inserted a background: “Click on the picture of the sky and grass”. Then we added a second character and discovered that by clicking on the paintbrush next to it, you can edit the character’s colours! The final part that we added was some talking – a simple speech bubble – I did the typing, she did the talking!

Today in the Prep/1 class, we all opened up Scratch Jnr and had a go. We followed some instructions step by step (the same ones as yesterday) and then they had some free time to explore the app. Within 2 minutes, a student had discovered how to record her own voice to add it to her instructions. Here’s what we ended up with – the last one is the one I made after talking about the miracle of Jesus calming the storm – I’m pretty proud of the 10 minutes I spent on it and the kids even got to add the sound effects!!

Please don’t be afraid to give it a go! I’m bursting with ideas as to how I can use this in my Term 4 Integrated Studies program – creating narratives and fairytales!

Slow-motion videos with 6 year olds

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Last week I had the brainy idea of teaching my Prep/1 class how to make a slow motion video in our digital technology time. Why? It seemed like something that could be fun, looks at logical thinking and step-by-step processing, as well as integrating some teamwork!

To start, I modelled it. I chose 2 plastic animals from the toy tub, sat the kids in a circle around it and showed them what the iMotion app looked like on their iPad. I showed them how to press ‘New Movie’ and press the ‘finger’ button (for manual image capture, rather than on a timer) and then I asked each of them one at a time to move the little frog a tiny bit closer to the dinosaur. As each child moved the frog, I took a photo. After 15 photos, the frog was at the dinosaur! I talked about stopping – pressing the stop button TWO times, and then how to watch the video. The kids were so amazed that I could speed it up, or slow it down.

I let them go off in pairs, armed with an iPad to share and a range of toys to create scenes to capture. It had varying degrees of success, ranging from tantrums due to partner arguments to not being able to keep the camera still, stealing toys from other groups, or taking photos of our partner’s body as they moved the toys.

Yesterday, I came armed with 3 different mazes drawn on A4 paper. This time, they had to place an object at the ‘end’ of the maze and move another object from the ‘start’ to the ‘end’. Here’s what we got: (the last one is probably the most successful, but bear with me!)

Lessons learnt:

  • Think about some sort of tripod – some kids can’t comprehend the concept of keeping the camera still…fair enough, they’re only little!
  • When exporting the final product, make sure it’s at a speed that is easily viewable
  • Talk about not rushing the photos so that nobody’s arm/face/back/nostril is in the way
  • Explain how to turn the iPad up the right way, so the video isn’t upside down!

Not bad for our second attempt! Hopefully we’ll be able to use this knowledge to demonstrate how plants grow….or some sort of sustainability focus!