Sunday, January 23, 2011

Siya's foray into Scratch

I was a bit apprehensive when it was mentioned that we would be using Scratch to make interactive projects for this class. I didn't know much about the programme anThe Scratch Image via Wikipediad I was scared that the learning curve would be too high for me to get a grasp of this programme in time to create some worthwhile projects with. Boy was I wrong.

Like a duck to water I took to Scratch instinctively and with glee...almost like the enthusiastic children who narrate the training videos. I was surprised to find that the learning curve was not high at all and I found myself making short interactive pieces in the space of one afternoon - though not as impressive as the examples found on the main web site of course.

I see the potential this programme has for allowing children to create their own media whether it be games, stories, music videos or what have you. A true constructivist tool. And one that I hope to take back home to South Africa.

When it came to my first Scratch project I believed that a narrative driven piece would be something that could showcase my talents so to say. I've tried learning Flash and Actionscript 3.0 in the past couple of months, to some so-so results, and Scratch gave me an affordance the Flash platform just couldn't. I also have some experience in photography, I worked as a freelance photojournalist for 2 years, so I wanted to incorporate this talent as well into my project. So I settled on telling a short story/interaction between two friends chilling by a graffiti tag in Bloomington.

Initially I found it easy to add text to the characters as well as thought bubbles. Positioning the sprites was also intuitive when it came to just dragging and dropping them and then adding action blocks and loops to them.

The difficulty came when I wanted the costumes and actions to synch which I found hard to do when the sprites were looped to repeated forever until told not to. I think with a bit more playing around I could find a way to get around this especially when one becomes more familiar with the action blocks.

In the midterm I want to play around with the mouse sense actions to create some truly interactive projects for games ex cetera. I am interested in how games can be utilized in education and I think this will be a great starting point.

The one thing I would like to see added to Scratch would be a time line for the Sprites and the stage. This programme acts like Flash Lite and it would be cool if we could have more control over the actions of the sprites on the stage.
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  1. Hi Siya! Just wanted to chime in with a couple of responses to some of your questions -- love the portrait that you painted of yourself in the intro here. The commands that you want to tie the costumes and actions together might include "switch to costume" and "next costume". Also, you might want to explore broadcast commands under control. This will allow you to send a message from one sprite to another or to another stack of blocks within the same sprite. Choose "new" in the drop down menu on the blocks and call the new broadcast anything you like. Put the broadcast block in where you want the message to send and then use the "When I receive [choose the name of the message you want to receive]" block for where you want the message to go. This is a great pair of blocks to use in storytelling or animation projects.

    The question that you have about the time line for Sprites is an interesting one. Hopefully, Mitch can join the class next week and talk to these ends.

    I might also suggest looking for for a sample project that has some interactivity with the x and y coordinates with the mouse and start to mod it as a point of exploration. If you have trouble finding one, let me know. Keep us posted! Looking forward to Week 4!

  2. Thanks for the comment Dr Pepper. I'll try out those new commands. I was wondering what the "broadcast" blocks were about so I'll check out some projects that used those blocks. I guess when it comes to narration and animation projects what I am striving to do is get the user to be involved in the process of storytelling and give them a choice as to where they would like the story to progress, sort of like a sandbox game where you take your character/avatar anywhere you want (given the constraints by the system).

    If Mitch is going to join us for a session that would be great. I am interested in hearing his thoughts on adding timelines in the animation process. Though I wonder given the nature of the programme (to place sprites and attributes in a linear fashion) would that make it more or less difficult...

  3. Definitely! I think that's a great idea and a good topic of conversation with Mitch as well.