Beyond Proof of Concept

Sometimes, when you’re in my business, you practice a sort of “proof of concept” approach to digital technologies. That is, you know enough to introduce a wide variety of tools to others but really only have a superficial understanding of many of them. For me, Scratch was definitely one of those proof of concept tools: I know enough to get a class through a basic introduction but not much more. I found two Scratch books (yes, books!) on the shelf and decided to do a more in depth study.

Jerry Lee Ford Jr.’s Scratch Programming for Teens is a traditional approach to programming, beginning with a a pretty extensive overview and then teaching coding through the use of specific projects. It is essentially a textbook, focusing on comprehensive knowledge of the program before writing code.

I am already fairly familiar with the Scratch “integrated development environment” or IDE, as Ford calls it, so I opted for the more project-centered book by The Lead Project: Super Scratch Programming Adventure. It’s a comic book that features computer science student Mitch and Scratchy. The former looks a lot like Mitchel Resnick and the latter is the cartoon version of the Scratch cat. There are a few other good and bad guys and the each chapter includes a programming objective and a game objective. I’m starting Chapter Four where I’ll be learning some new coding skills in the context of helping Scratchy attach flying viruses.

Each chapter ends with a challenge, ideas for how to expand on the work of that chapter. It’s important to spend time exploring these as they help you really understand the various pieces of code. And they can lead to new ideas much different than the original activity. For instance, I tackled the first chapter challenge and ended up with this rainbox slinky:

That activity got me wondering how I could get Scratchy to realistically move through a tunnel. Exploring that question led to this program that features my original artwork 😉 It may not be the best cave drawing but I am pretty happy with the way it seems like the cat disappears into the cave and the flicker on the candle. I may expand it into a tour of cave features.

I am using the notes area to record design ideas. Here are the notes I made for this project:

I started out with just the idea of how to make Scratch cat disappear into something like a cave and then reappear. I was going to do it all on the same backdrop but then decided to explore changing backdrops and broadcasting messages for things like the candle to appear.

It is fun to move beyond proof of concept with Scratch. The most recent activity was to create a quiz and a game in one. Players answer quiz questions and then get to play a game. If the player loses the game, she has to go all the way back through the quiz to be able to play again. I’m experimenting with how you might be able to return the player to the game and skip the quiz.

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