Last week we read three chapters from Papert’s Mindstorms book (Papert 1980) and I was fascinated about his words and work with the LOGO language and the Turtle.
I also admired his vision and opinion about the power of computers as “carriers of powerful ideas… [that] help people form new relationships with knowledge” (4). As one can better learn a language when living in the country where it is spoken, to be able to “talk mathematics” and to learn how to code and communicate with the computer, we need to learn it in “Mathland” (Papert, 1980, 6). What a better way to learn how to program in Scratch than by immersing oneself in it and creating a personal project. My choice was to create a program in Scratch where our dog Sydney was the main character. Sydney is going to be 11 years old on April 1 and has been a loyal and caring companion of my wife during hard and good times. Two years ago, I ran into Scratch in an online course and we were asked to create a personal project. Since I was working full time I could not complete the course but I had taken multiple pictures of Sydney in different positions and carefully cut her body in the images so I could create multiple digital stories. I was fortunate to find those pictures to use them in this project (figure 1).
After deciding on the design of the background or stage (figure 2), I decided to add a girl to the story so I had two characters or ‘sprites’. I wanted to have Sydney’s barking on the project so I recorded her barking and also used the music library for a background song. Scratch is a great tool to code and to receive real-time feedback as one experiments and snap pieces together (figure 3). I built this story little but little in many many iterations. The color scheme and the puzzle-like shapes of the coding elements is brilliant. I was able to use many of the commands by fitting them together without worrying about missing semicolons or syntax like in a regular programming environments. See the complete project below.
What a great programming language and platform that also allows to share your projects with anybody. The project's page is here: "Learning Español with Sydney"
Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas. Basic Books. (Introduction, Chapter 1, Chapter 3, Chapter 8)
Mitch's TED Talk