March 26, ImagineIT update
Overall, I am sticking to the milestones indicated in my ImagineIT timeline, and I am continuing to make the encouragement of creativity an explicit part of my assessment strategy. The big news at this point is the extent to which the Scratch Arcade Day, which I listed on the timeline for the week of 5/10 looks like it may become a bigger event than I had originally envisioned. Last year, I had only one section of computer science, and the arcade day consisted of the Science Olympiad class coming to our room, playing the games are students made, and voting for the ones they liked the best in particular categories. This was a successful way to share the games students had made. But this time around, the exhibition day looks like it will be much bigger and may include some or all of the rest of the school as participants, and even outsiders from the larger community may be invited too.
These developments are coming from the success over the last few weeks with the Makey – Makey in the after school computer science club. I got the Makey Makeys on a Donor’s Choose grant for maker supplies – the first I have ever tried – it was a $1200 reward, which got me 15 Makey Makeys and other maker supplies. In our first attempt with the Makey Makeys three weeks ago, we were able to play an on-screen piano written in Scratch using multi-colored balls of playdough as controllers. The second week we made a Makey-Makey Dance Dance revolution game from a project description we found on the web. Students cut out cardboard arrows for foot controls and wrapped these with aluminum foil to make them conductive and wired these to the controller on the Makey Makey and the apparatus worked! The actual on-screen game itself, however, was very rudimentary. Version 2.0 was rolled out this past Wednesday and this version of the game is much more complex with multiple song choices and the ability to record game patterns that the player tries to emulate – for points – to the music. We are going to work with the engineering teacher to create a more permanent platform for the foot controllers so these do not slide around, but this version of the game is actually fun to play. A group of maybe 10 students played the game for over an hour and a half the other day, including many students who had no hand in creating it. They just enjoyed playing!
One of the after-school club teachers saw some of this and thought that if a number of games like this could be made that we could do a fun raising event – a Scratch carnival of sorts where participants would pay a small amount of money to pay the games we had made. We have already started working on an Operation Game next week, in which a man on screen will groan and points will be taken away when mistakes are made. We have also looked at other cool ideas like making playdough or fruit controllers for student made games, a water piano, and a relay race and / or physical fighting game where students would try to hit one another with aluminum covered swords and the computer would register points. We also have 10 Raspberry Pi computers which are also able to run Scratch and are about the size of a credit card, so it appears that it would be possible to move these activities to any space we want — the gym or the hallway, for example. The idea is, of course, to give the student makers an authentic audience, and this could be expanded beyond just the after school club members. The rest of the class could exhibit the games they had made on the same day.