When we think about teaching computer programming to school-age learners, the tendency is to focus on games programming. I spent this morning, however, working with Key Stage 3 students at Penn Fields School using Scratch MIT to create stories instead. The students used Scratch to create their own version of the first meeting between Michael and Kensuke in Michael Morpurgo's book 'Kensuke's Kingdom'.
We used photographs of two of the students in a variety of poses - they played the roles of Michael and Kensuke - the backgrounds had been deleted from these images in photo-editing software (Fireworks). I had also done some additional preparatory work by scripting some short routines (called by the 'broadcast' command in Scratch) to make the characters move: walk, sit, stand and so on. The students had to sequence these instructions, add speech and thought commands, and then create their own 'broadcast' commands to bring the whole narrative into a single, linear sequence; you can see this in the image above. They then recorded their voices speaking the lines, and added sound effects to add atmosphere to their stories.
I was really impressed by the focus shown by many of the children, their ability to thoughtfully sequence their programs, and by the way they were able to troubleshoot timing problems to make their narratives as slick and realistic as possible. Well done, folks!
The Learning Technologies Team will be working on a number of computer science related projects with schools over the coming months, as we seek to support schools in preparing for the changes to the National Curriculum that will come into force for 2014.