I know that this will shock many people but until about 24 hours ago, I’d never used Scratch. Never. I have seen Miles Berry present on it twice and have also worked with many others (Pete Stuart, Simon Hunt etc) who have talked about it, but I have never sat down and actually had a play. Until this morning. The reason? We were due to appear on Brazilian TV.

I got an email a few weeks back asking if I knew of any schools near London that were coding and teaching game design with primary children. I didn’t, but after a while it was decided that we were near enough London and the camera crew were coming in. On the last Tuesday afternoon of term. Hhhmmm. They were due to have a short interview with me about programming – the normal sorts of questions including:

  • Why do we teach programming?
  • Why is it important?
  • Will the Raspberry Pi change anything?
And so on. We do have a progression of skills throughout our school starting with simple Roamer/on-screen Roamer style tools to teach instructions and sequences and this then feeds into 2Do It Yourself which is an excellent tool for the basics of game design (along with Simon Widdowsden’s excellent 2DIY Archive for more advanced use including elements of coding) and then the plan is to include Scratch and Kodu for older children too. That’s the plan, but we’ve never got round to doing that bit until today.
I thought about using 2DIY with the children this afternoon but as the video was going to be shown in Brazil, and I wasn’t sure of 2Simple’s influence in South America, I thought I’d stick with a freebie program that could be available anywhere. Also, it would be great to see what my children could come up with in an hour on a tool they had never used before. Turns out that they were amazing.
We started with the video of the fish tank from Miles Berry and then we set out to replicate that. My thinking was that if we could all manage to create a fish tank with two fish in it that moved of their own accord, as well as a predator that would eat them, then we would know the basics. Then they could move on and explore further on their own. We made the fish tank in about 45minutes and then the children started adding text boxes, speech and other sorts of characters to make it more interesting and varied.

So why have I written this post? I just wanted to say that it isn’t wrong if you haven’t tried every piece of software in the world (I’ve only just started using Storybird and have never used Voicethread…in fact my first use of Sketch-up was only last year). This is normal. But these tools aren’t scary, they are simple to pick up and as I said in my interview, don’t worry if the children know more than you do. It’s great not being the expert in the classroom. Today was my first experience of that for ages and I loved having two Year 5 pupils on hand for some Scratch tips, they’d been shown it once at their secondary school transfer day last week and have since downloaded it and played with it constantly. So give it a go, watch the video below and let me know how you get on. The final piece for TV will be available in a few weeks and I will post it when I have a copy.

Miles Berry’s video is here: http://www.undertenminutes.com/?p=256 and Simon Hunt’s (@smnhunt) website about Scratch is here: learnscratch.co.uk