Sunday, 10 April 2016

Programming with Scratch

I introduced the concept of programming to my second year Digital Media through Scratch. Having researched the different possible mediums that I could have used to introduce programming, Scratch is the preferred software for most at present. I felt that Scratch has a very easy to use interface, is very easy to access in school and at home with the online version, work can be easily stored on the scratch servers, it introduces a little graphic design and it give a nice visual introduction to logic when programming.

See project

To introduce Scratch to the class group I developed some simple class exercises which we work through. The first of those exercises was a simple joking telling game in which two sprites would have a conversation. This exercise gave a good introduction to the concept of logic and timing in programming.

The second exercise was a game called "Stop the Butterflys" (see example over) which introduced some of the different possible movement methods of sprites where a space shuttle had to be controlled with keyboard keys and the butterflys moved randomly down the screen. The aim of the game was to shoot the butterflys before they hit the space ship. This exercise took up a lot more time than I could have anticipated as there were numerous issues. The largest issues was the incorrect programming of the game. Therefore I had to revaluate my approach to the learning. The design and developments of games requires one other major element - testing and debugging. The analysis of the code and being able to identify what the function of element is requires much deeper learning. Therefore a large quantity of time had to be invested into this.

At the end of this exercise students were tasked with the development of their own game "To design an interactive game which shall have a minimum of moving 3 sprites, a background of choice and a score for the game." Each student designed, developed and tested their game before submitting through google classroom. Below are some example of games submitted.

Student in general enjoyed and participated very well when using Scratch. Some student displayed a great interest and aptitude at programming and worked to a much higher level than asked. This was encouraged and direction given to those who wished to do this. All student submitted a scratch game within the allocated time which was very encouraging. Most student had difficultly debugging their games and this caused the largest frustration for the class as a whole.

Overall I found the lessons a real learning experience for me because there were times I was being taught by some students. The real value I feel from using scratch is not the games themselves but the logic around them. The testing and debugging, being able to analyse the code and locate issues. This was at times, the most frustrating too.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

XMind in the classroom

Having discovered how user friendly the mind mapping tool XMind is, I examined the possible using of it in my classroom teaching and learning. Mindmapping would be teaching and learning strategy I use regularly in my class for projectwork analysis and design development but never successfully found a piece of software the fulfilled all of my requirements. The discovery of XMind allows first time users to install easily and use it.This allowed students to complete assignments easily with minimal software issues for the students.

As this was a new piece of software for students in my class, I decided to introduce a new teaching and learning strategy for its use. I introduced XMind to my second year Materials Technology Wood class with a class demonstration. The students were then tasked to download and install the software on their home computers. Students were then tasked in groups of 3 to develop a mindmap on the topics completed thus far this year in the Materials Technology wood class. The groups got to discuss each topic in class and examine what content should be included in their mindmap. Student then proceed to complete their revision topic individually at home or in school. Student present their complete revision topic mindmaps and shared them with the rest of the class group.

Below are some samples of the student work on the revision topics for Materials Technology Wood.

Seasoning of Wood revision mindmap:

Conversion of Wood revision mindmap:

Challenges encountered:
I expected there to be some challenges along the way with this teaching and learning strategy and method but I was pleasant surprised at the student application to the strategy. Student in my school would generally have strong ICT skills therefore I had high hopes that XMind would not pose an issue. The use of XMind did not cause most student any problems. Some students exploited the software to greater and lesser degrees when presenting their mindmap but all presented their revision topic. The most common issue encountered by students in this exercise was the installation of the software on their home computers. I would have assumed that all student would have a computer and Internet access but this was not the case. These students completed their work in school in these cases.

Student Feedback:
Student feedback on this strategy was generally very positive. I took feedback using two methods: general classroom verbal feedback and student completed a simple survey. Student enjoyed the exercise because it was something different to our usual classroom activity. They felt that the initial groupwork really helped them analyse and dissect a topic. Which helped tem to form the content for their XMind mindmap. As a mindmapping tool the student enjoyed using its user friendly interface and found that their mindmaps could be easily shared with each other. This was the largest piece of learning for me. The realisation that they could develop, create and share work which in the long term would benefit everyone in the class was a real light bulb moment for the group.

The simple survey reviled the following information:

All student found the software ok to use once they has access to it. This was very pleasing for first time users.

90% of student recognised that this could be a potential method of revision for them in the preparation for their examinations. The visual learner derives greater benefits from this method of revision / learning.

In conclusion I found that XMind mindmapping software is a very useful and powerful piece of software that can be used in many ways in the classroom everyday. XMind allows users to very quickly create a mindmap as part of a class activity or exercise. The barriers of learning how to use a piece of software is minimal and mindmaps can be easily shared. It will definitely be a strategy that I will continue to use in my classroom into the future but now XMind offers a much easier option.