Scratch Your Projects With Dr Scratch!!!

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I know there a lot of schools out there who have started or are about to start their coding journey using the visual programming platform Scratch. This post may be of some assistance. Dr Scratch is a great complimentary site to Scratch that allows teachers and students to analyse their Scratch projects and dig deeper into their programming ability through a report/rating on a number of categories such as flow control, data representation, abstraction, user interactivity, synchronization, parallelism and logic.

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The Dr Scratch analysis tool also suggest ways for users to improve the back end of their Scratch program and get a better rating. It identifies when a sprite or costume hasn't been given a unique name or way of identifying the game asset other than “sprite 1” or “costume 2” this is a common mistake made by students and it is also a sign of a lazy programmer.

To use the Dr Scratch website simply copy your Scratch project URL and paste it into the anaylse by URL feature on the Dr Scratch homepage. When I tried to login and create an account the website crashed a number of times so I wouldn’t bother getting your kids sign up, you don’t really need it.

The Dr Scratch website isn’t the answer to all your Scratch problems, it doesn’t debug the programming and identify the exact errors you might want. But it is still a great resource to add classroom discussion/reflection and improve student and teacher understanding of what does  “best practice” coding/programming look like. Check it out you have nothing to lose!!

http://www.drscratch.org/

Sphero Olympics

Sphero balls have become a staple part of many schools Makerspaces and mine is no different. They really do offer amazing creativity and deep learning through visual programming with strong links to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Maths) problem solving skills and computational thinking. 

CompNow ran a competition this year to promote the use of Sphero's in education and in particular how they can be included in all areas of the curriculum. It was timely that the Olympics were recently held in Rio and provided an interesting cross curricula topic.

The brief was to create a video (Max 2 min) sharing your schools participation in the Sphero Olympics. Events where suggested however new events could be added if you wanted.  

  • Swimming  
  • 100m sprint  
  • Soccer
  • Long jump
  • Chariot Race  

The Sphero olympics was a lot of fun and our students really enjoyed designing and creating the props such as the stadium, soccer field, hurdle jumps and olympians. My students competed in the following events; Swimming, hurdles, 100m sprint, soccer, opening ceremony and a 3D printed chariot race. 

This challenge also showed teachers that the Spehro can be more than just a programmable robot. They can be blended into any curriculum content and really challenge students thinking and creativity. The inclusion of craft materials was something our teachers hadn't made the connection with before. Now the ideas and creative thinking are coming in thick and fast. 

We used the IOS app Tickle on our iPads to do all our programming. I find the students enjoy the user friendly interface Tickle provides and it is also a good app to use when introducing Sphero's. 

Below is the video I entered for the challenge and it won first place. Many thanks to CompNow for sponsoring the event. Point Cook P-9 College is the proud recipient of a $5K tech bundle. We can't wait to add more cool tech to our Makerspace.


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These are the 3D printed Sphero carts we used for the chariot race. 

Here is an example of a DIY Sphero cart using Kinex building rods. 


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Students using the app Tickle to program their offensive and defensive plays. 

Using 3D pens to create the olympic rings.


Students planned and collaborated on their designs using the whiteboard tables.  

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Students and teachers were amazed the Sphero can also be used in water. Students tried a combination of elastic band patterns on the Sphero to assist propulsion through the water. 


Students used a variety of media to create the olympic stadium, including PVC pipe, cardboard, gaffatape, hot glue guns etc.

Apple Prepares To Release Swift Playgrounds

Apple are about to release Swift Playgrounds for iPad to coinside with the launch of IOS 10. A release date hasn't been set but you can assume it will be before September 2016. Swift Playgrounds is a powerful and intuitive programming language that is going to spark a whole new generation of programmers on the iPad. Swift Playgrounds will allow the development of apps for Apple Watch, TV, Mac and IOS. Extremely popular apps such as Twitter and Strava have been built using Swift language.

Swift playgrounds will be totally open source and compatible with Xcode providing the hard core developers greater range and possibilities. It is not common practice for Apple to make anything open source so the release of Swift Playgrounds can be considered a "big deal" and possibly a trial strategy for future Apple products. It seems as though Apple have finally realised the upside of making their products open source. Apple have previously made everything so proprietary and locked down that external developers haven't been able to tinker with the source code on any of their products.   When a software company makes their products open source there is potential for rapid development and greater creativity by developers to "push the envelope" and create amazing things. The power of open source can be seen in the Raspberry Pi. Everything about the Raspberry Pi from hardware to software is completely open source making it a very appealing developer board for schools and industry.

I am genuinely excited about the release of Swift Playgrounds, I can see this being a great way for teachers to include coding and app creation into the digital technologies curriculum. Swift Playgrounds can be used to teach beginner level coders all the way through to advanced level coders. The Swift programming language it set to become one of the most popular programming languages due to app like Swift Playgrounds and its accessibility on an iPad. Kids and big kids alike are going to love it.

Watch the keynote presentation and announcement of Swift Playgrounds at Apple's Word Wide Developer Conference 2016 below.