Category Archives: Resources

Teaching & learning resources, including those created by me, and those created by others.

Simple Scratch Game

In this post you’ll learn how to build a simple game using Scratch, the block-based programming language designed for learning to code. The instructions are not 100% complete, so you’ll need to solve problems yourself, as they arise.

Getting Started

You can use Scratch without an account, but it makes it harder to save your work. So, let’s get started by heading to https://scratch.mit.edu and signing up:

Once your account is set up, click on the Create link in the main menu:

Scratch Basics

You should now find yourself in the Scratch editor, which has the following key features:

Give your project a name (top left), and then note the different features highlighted in the image above. We’ll build our game by dragging instructions into the script editor.

Let’s get started by creating controls to move our sprite around the stage, beginning with the right arrow. Find the instructions shown below, and drag them out into the script editor, snapping them together to make a stack:

Now press the right arrow key on your keyboard and check that your sprite moves to the right.

Try and find the next costume instruction and snap it to the end of your block. What changes when you press the right key?

Now build the rest of your arrow key instructions (you can right click on the top of a stack and duplicate it to save time):

Try your keys and see what happens. You’ll notice that as you move, your character flips upside down. You can add in a rotation control block to each arrow stack to improve this:

Moving On

Right, we’ve got the basic controls, so now we can add some game elements. Firstly, use the Shrink function to reduce the size of your sprite:

Next, add a new sprite, into which you can draw a black maze with a green circle at the end:

Now we need to code our outcomes (losing and winning) into our first sprite:

Can you read the code instruction by instruction to work out what it does?

Let’s add a scoreboard, so we can keep track of our progress. To do this, make a new variable called Score, under Data:

And then add two instructions to our win/lose logic:

And there we have it, a simple maze game that keeps score. From here there are countless ways to make it harder (e.g. include different mazes, make the sprite bigger on each level, make the maze move, add enemies, etc).

Hopefully you’ve succeeded, but if not, or if you want to dig around inside for answers, try my version, which is embedded below:

The video screencast below does a great job of showing this process, with a few minor tweaks:

Happy coding!

Baking Bread

In last year’s End of Year Assessment (which I did not write about, but you can get a sense of it from the prior year’s) students asked for more curriculum surprises. One them related with obvious relish the tale of the (very random) occasion on which I placed my lunch of raw sugar snap peas on a table and said “help yourself”.¬† Working on these two pieces of feedback, food seemed like an obvious way to go.

More recently, during a start of lesson chat, I mentioned to my students that I hate most things about most schools (a common theme if you spend any time with me), but that I recently found a school that I love, and which ignited a real love of science and yeast:

This led to a discussion around brewing beer, making bread, the joys of yeast and getting your hands dirty…at the end of which the kids asked me to bake some bread for them. How could I say no?

So, this morning I got up at 4:30 to mix, knead and prove some dough, which I then baked into a large loaf. It was still warm when I met my students at 08:30…and it was all gone by 08:40. The kids seemed so happy with the simple pleasures of fresh, dense white bread and generously applied butter. Some even liked the Vegemite I stole from my wife. This led to an interesting insight that you don’t need lots of money to be happy: the simple things, made with love and shared with others can bring a lot of joy.

Here are a few photos of the process and the result.

As a starter recipe I’ve been using Jamie Oliver’s Basic Bread, which I’ve been tweaking to suit local conditions and tips from others. It is a joy to be learning something new each and every time I bake bread.

Apple MagSafe vs MagSafe2 vs USB-C Chargers

At my school, we loan students Apple laptop chargers fairly regularly. Usually, the loan process takes longer than it needs to, because we need to find out what kind of chargers students have. Turns out, few of them know the chargers by their official Apple nomenclature: MagSafe, MagSafe2 and USB-C. The poster below aims to help educate and remind students what they have:

Printable Version (PDF)

 

Poetic Truth

As part of our Year 8 Human Technologies curriculum, we are asking students to consider not only the nature of truth, but also different types of truth (e.g. scientific, poetic, individual, etc). As one activity on poetic truth, we played students four songs, and asked them to sketch out a response to each song based on what they felt. Some students opted to write, and some to draw. One particularly interesting response came from Bethan, who really provides insight into how she responded to the songs. I wonder if the composers and musicians would recognise Bethan’s interpretation of their own poetic truth.

The songs are listed below, after which you can see Bethan’s work (click for a larger image).

Exemplar Me vs Me

In consider the topic of digital citizenship, and refecting on their own identity and participation in online platforms, I ask my students to create a piece of design work called Me vs. Me. Most students follow my lead and use raster editing software (such as Acorn) to combine photos and digital avatars of themselves. Recently, however, we have had a Year 13 student leading an Digital Art activity (with accompanying Free Learning unit), and so we now have a growing number of students who are learning to use digital drawing tablets.

I was really excited to see a couple of girls in one of my classes taking the initiative with their Me vs Me, and apply their newly learned skills to express themselves through digital drawing. What I was not expecting was work of such high artistic value, nor work that was quite so insightful as that submitted by Della (click for full size):

In reflecting on her work, Della said “The online side is more about when you are online you are kind of care free and can express you self and what you like and also you could post or say things that make people think of you in a different way then you actually are. The home me is more about the reality of life and how its stressful and how you have things to do but then just end up¬†procrastinating and then getting more stressed”.

Such deep thinking is not commonly expressed through student work (although I don’t doubt it goes on regularly) and sits perfectly with the art work. In following up, I commented: “Della, well done on an excellent piece of work here. You have taken the elements discussed in class, and seen in the exemplar work, and presented them in a style of your own, showing creativity and technical skill. Digital drawing is tough, and you seem to be making some real progress. In terms of the ideas of identity and participation that we have discussed in class, I love the honest look into the real you, and how it compares to the much more polished online you. Why are people unwilling to sometimes show the real “them” online? I do also like the privacy-protecting use of your name as “Dekka” in the online you. clever! I am going to take the “losing my mind” bit with a pinch of salt. However, if you do feel you are struggling with something, then it is best to talk to a trusted adult, as seeking guidance makes almost all problems better. This is definitely the best work I have ever seen from you. Well done : )”.

On further reflection, and given Della’s input on procrastination and stress, I will recommend her to look at a Free Learning unit called Digital Organisation, and a second one (when it is published) on Focus.

As a teacher it is not every lesson that students really open up to us, but carefully designed work, which engages student interest, can definitely help. What is really pleasing here, from an ICT teacher point of view, is that whilst teenagers are often portrayed as helpless, hapless victims of circumstance, Della has shown that she has a strong grasp on some of the existential difficulties of being an adolescent in 2017. This is a great point from which to make good decisions and change one’s situation.

Epic Wallpapers 3

This is a third collection of wonderful Epic Wallpapers produced by my year 7 students. The pieces were chosen for the strength of their designs, attention to detail, Creative Commons licensing and overall appeal. Well done to the students for creating such lovely work. Feel free to download the designs, which are all at a variety of resolutions (depending on student screen size), but should fill most screens.

Classroom Graffiti Art

StencilA few years ago I started to think of ways to make my classroom more aesthetically pleasing. A large space, with dark blue walls but plenty of natural light, I felt it could be made more welcoming and interesting. Having recently seen a film on Shackleton’s Antartic escapades, I recalled his use of Browning’s wonderful line “For sudden the worst turns the best to the brave”, and wondered if I could emblazon it upon a wall.

Feeling I lacked the skill to do it justice, I asked some art students to do it for me, advising them to stencil rather than paint freehand. The result was impactful, and got me started thinking about cutting and spraying myself.

The result, generated over a period of 3 years, is a total of 13 pieces of art work, each created with stencil and spray paint. Generally I create the stencils digitally, and then blow them up with Image Splitter, before printing, sticking, cutting, mounting and finally painting. Over time I have learned a few tricks and become more ambitious, with the result that the newer pieces generally look better than the older ones. The gallery of finished works below is presented in chronological order.

Producers & Consumers

Producers & ConsumersFor a long time I have struggled to convey my passion for free and open culture (via open source software and Creative Commons) to my students. They live in a context which often promotes (or at least accepts) piracy, and most of their cultural landmarks are commercial in nature. This makes the most convincing arguments for approaches like open source software and Creative Commons culture much less compelling. For example “free Creative Commons music” does not mean much to the average teenager, irrespective of the quality of the tunes, if Taylor Swift is not included in the catalog (and being a commercial artist, she is of course not). Similarly “open source software” (like Firefox) does not appeal when free, commercial software (like Chrome) is available, whether or not they promote a healthy, open, standards-based Internet.

Yet, these ideas, values, practices and communities are important, if we are to have a culture that is not more concerned with profits than with values, freedom and art. After struggling with this problem for over 5 years, I have decided to build a game to introduce these ideas to students via a live action, interactive simulation.

The result, called Producers & Consumers, is a cultural simulation game in which players (young or old) experience the interplay between culture, creativity, commerce, copyright and piracy, hands on. The aim is to help players experience the limitations of a corporate model of cultural production and consumption, and help them start considering alternatives, such as Creative Commons, based on openness, sharing and reputation.

Version 1 of the game is now complete, with one set of cards created and ready to play. The first game, with our Year 5s, is scheduled for Monday.

Naturally, the game is licensed under Creative Commons, and so is free for anyone to download, remix and share onward. All feedback is welcome. To access the game, click here and start by reading the Overview document.

Media Credits