Tech Salad

With Crunchy Bits and Bytes

Tag: Scratch (page 1 of 3)

Scratch, Automator, and Trial-and-error Learning

What do you do when you have about 600 files to print for mailing and you only want the very first page of each file?

You find a student volunteer to click, click, click, click for hours.

What happens when the files are confidential tests results you can’t let anyone else see?

You pull up Automator and create a workflow.

I think Automator is incredibly cool and useful, but I don’t get too many chances to use it. I know the basics, but for the most part, I have to try several times before I get the result I want.

For example, the first time I ran the workflow, I accidentally dumped all 563 files onto my desktop. I cleaned up, made changes, and tried again. After a few tries, I finally sent everything to the right printer. Now I have this powerful tool for the next round of testing.

Creating in Automator is not that different from creating in Scratch, another tool I absolutely love. Learning Scratch trains the brain to go through iterative learning using trial-and-error in a simple, safe environment. The process is time consuming, but it teaches lessons that can’t be replaced by any other pedagogy. It is not about the tool, learning the syntax, or recreating existing successful projects. It is about going through the process and training yourself to stick with it until it works.

Would you like to learn about Automator? Email or stop by my office and I’ll get you started.

Scratch Habits

This morning I received an email from a teacher asking for help with a Scratch project. A student needed help getting a sprite to appear at a random corner of the screen whenever the game was started. There was a Scratch project attached to the email, but as I read, I realized I did not have to look at the existing code. I could see, in my head, the blocks I would use and how I would assemble them.

It felt really good to be able to solve a problem on the fly, and I realized it would have taken much longer if I had not been spending so much time in Scratch over the past couple of days (conference session at VSTE, workshop at Dinwiddie Middle School, and my own child’s project at home).

When John Hendron and I attended the Scratch Conference at MIT this summer, we heard many speakers discuss the benefits of using Scratch. This habit of thinking logically through problems seemed to be at the top of everyone’s list. I understand that this spontaneous visualization of Scratch blocks in my head is a result of immersion over the past few days. Still, it makes me even more eager to get teachers using Scratch in their classrooms. I don’t mean getting teachers to do a single Scratch project during the school year, but using Scratch consistently over time to reinforce and apply valuable concepts. That’s how it will have an impact on kids’ lives.

Scratch En Español

The students in Mrs. Barnes’s Spanish 2 class are using Scratch to create games to help the students in Spanish 1 learn how to conjugate regular verbs. I stopped by for a visit earlier today and got to watch what they were doing and chat with them for a little while, in Spanish, of course.

What do they like the most about Scratch? In the students’ own words, “We can make up our own way of creating a game and there is no wrong answer.”

Seeing the Bigger Picture

If you teach, attend school, or have kids in school in Virginia, you most definitely have heard about last spring’s Math Standards of Learning all-new test. It threw quite a few people for a loop, and I do hope the results won’t be used to punish anyone in any way. I do hope, however, that these new test items will change the way some of us approach teaching these days.

While change is scary, it is not necessarily bad, and what this new test format is trying to do is get the kids to think through a problem to find an answer rather than spending a year memorizing answers. While a multiple choice test is not my favorite way of finding out if kids can solve problems, it is a practical way to do so, and for now, we have to live with SOL testing.

But don’t throw in the towel yet. You can help your kids train their brains to look for solutions. Have I ever stopped by your classroom to talk about Scratch? Stop rolling your eyes. I can see you.



Yes. Scratch. You might not know how to make the cat dance on your screen, but hundreds of thousands of kids around the world use Scratch, and their teachers agree: when kids make things in Scratch and work out all the kinks, they learn very important skills: perseverance, creativity, logical thinking, computational thinking. All those add up to, yes, you know it, problem-solving skills.

So, yes, again. I would love to work with you and your students and we will have a really fun time using Scratch. Make the time for it. You won’t regret it.




Green Screen Fun

iMovie is an incredible tool that with tons of features that are woefully underutilized by most users. Here is a tutorial for green screen, a favorite of mine.

It’s Scratch Time…Almost


Last night I found out the Scratch team at MIT has the new Scratch up and ready for testing. I did not have much time to play around, but saw enough to know I really like it. Everything seems to work as well as it did before. The paint editor looks like it will be much nicer once it is active. paint editor

I’m excited to have Scratch available for students without the need for downloads and updates. Here in Goochland we are pretty nimble when it comes to deploying new software, but in some surrounding counties, getting the application on student computers has been a barrier to kids accessing this amazing tool.

I can’t wait to have many more teachers and students scratching soon.

Logo Draw

How do you know you have a good app? I like an app that does something a traditional worksheet didn’t, and it let’s kids be creative while mastering a concept. One of my favorites is Logo Draw.

With a very limited choice of commands, students move the turtle and its pen to create intricate designs and gain a thorough understanding of geometric concepts.

Here is a neat design created using Logo Draw.


This, of course, is not new. Just look up Logo and children’s programming in your favorite search engine. What is new is the facility with which students can create and share these designs on an iPad.

Update: John Hendron asked on Twitter why I thought Logo Draw might be fun. I think it is fun applying what you learn, not just learning for the test. If I can apply what I’m learning about angles, degrees, rotation, symmetry, distances, etc, to make something pretty, why not? It certainly beats answering the odd problems on page 156 for homework. The result is beautiful and memorable.

This app would lend itself beautifully for a cross-curricular lesson bringing Math concepts into the Art classroom. We have done this once before in Goochland, using the DesignBlocks website with students in Ms. Tolson’s class.

What Is Scratch?

I have been talking about Scratch since John Hendron introduced me to it in 2007 when it was brand new. I have blogged about it, tweeted about it, presented at conferences, co-taught workshops, participated in conferences, and pretty much tried to sell it to everyone for everything. Scratch is an amazingly fun learning tool for all ages.

If you have never heard of Scratch, or used it, you are really missing out. Take a look at the new video the Scratch team at MIT has released.

Intro to Scratch from ScratchEd on Vimeo.

Alice Movie

This week we’ve been in Hopewell working with Scratch and Alice. Today we finished our Alice animation, and here is my version.

You may download the zipped world and see how we put it together.

Scratching Our Way Into a Job?

Yes, I am blogging about Scratch, AGAIN. I love Scratch. I love to create in Scratch, and I love to watch students create in Scratch. I wish I could have Mitch Resnick and his team in Virginia.

Scratch is drag-and-drop computer programming for everyone. Using Scratch is as easy or as difficult as the user decides to make it. The complexity of the creation is entirely up to the user. What is constant is the learning. Nobody can create a Scratch project without applying a minimum of critical thinking or creativity.

I wish I could overcome arguments from teachers who say they need to teach math, or science, or language arts, or history instead of computer programming. I think they can do both, and I think it is important, too. So do employers.

Tech geeks are in high demand. According to a report on NPR’s Morning Edition today, unemployment in the tech sector is 30% lower than the national average for the economy at large. Teaching Scratch won’t send kids out of school qualified as app developers, but it will equip them with a fundamental knowledge of how things work. The ability to think logically and persevere in creating something complex are priceless qualities.

Screen shot 2011-03-04 at 11.27.39 AM

« Older posts

© 2019 Tech Salad

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑