Students around the district have been highlighting their artistic skills when learning to code a story in the iPad coding app, Scratch Jr. They are also gaining competency in computational thinking skills and discovering more about the importance of procedural language.
The Scratch Jr. app has ready-made background templates and characters that the students can choose from to include in their story. Once students choose their characters and setting, they use coding blocks to build their interactive story. Characters can move forward and backwards, turn, jump, grow in size, shrink, disappear, and reappear. Students can also include voice recordings and dialogue using specific coding blocks.
In addition, Scratch Junior includes a paint editor to enable students to edit their characters to better personalize their stories. For example, a blue fish can be turned into a yellow fish. Students can also use the camera tool to personalize a character, such as including their own face on a character.
Where the creativity really comes into play is when students use the drawing tool to create their own settings and characters. These drawn characters can also be coded to perform actions similar to the characters that are provided by Scratch Junior.
Here are some examples of students using the editing tools and coding blocks to stretch their stories into highly artistic representations of integrating the arts into coding.
One student used the editing tools to enhance the farm template and dragon character. She then used the coding blocks to create action in her story.
The photos here show how the same student used the editing tools to create her own background to use in her story. She also personalized her characters as well.
The student below created a story involving two dogs and a cat. As a French Immersion student, his story also included dialogue and text in French. He coded the story so that when you touch the screen the story begins. The artistic element of the story is that the student coded the one character to shrink in size creating a scene that included perspective.
During World War II, First Nations soldiers from Canada who spoke Cree were recruited as top secret “code talkers”. Because soldiers from other countries did not know of the Cree language, they were unable to recognize and decipher the “coded” messages written or spoken in Cree. The code talkers were able to create “unbreakable” coded messages.
Creating code is also important in technology and the field of computer science. It is the language we use to “speak” to computers. Students who learn coding skills develop stronger computational thinking skills, a competency that is included in BC’s new curriculum. Students also develop skills in problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and communication as well.
Last year, approximately 85% of our students in the district participated in Hour of Code activities from December to February. Let’s try to do the same, or better, this year. Students can participate in one hour activities that are either online or “unplugged”. There are many “unplugged” ideas available on the Hour of Code, such as making binary code bracelets. As well as the one hour “coding” tutorials, teachers can also access support tutorials and find extension lessons for students if they would like to go beyond the hour.
There are also some excellent coding programs available for students to use outside of the Hour of Code activities. Scratch is a web-based program that can be accessed on the computer and is an excellent tool to support both Math and Art competencies. There are also many apps available on the iPad such as Scratch Jr., Sphero Edu, and Swift Playgrounds. There are also great lesson ideas available in iBooks such as Everyone Can Code, Learn to Code 1 & 2, and Get Started with Code 1.
By engaging in activities such as coding, let’s help develop students into the next generation of code talkers AND code breakers.