Monday 12 November 2012

MIT Creative Tools workshop

Last weekend, I had the chance to participate in a great workshop at the LEAD Center in Hong Kong. It was run by Michael Smith-Welch, who was on the team that originally developed Scratch at MIT. The workshop was called MIT Creative Tools and we mostly played around with MaKey MaKey kits and Scratch Boards. We sometimes forget how much fun it is to play around with this stuff. We get caught up in teaching it and don't get to share in the joy of discovery along with our students. So it was a nice opportunity to just sit back with some colleagues, make a few new friends and play.

My friend Alan and I made a Play-doh piano using the MaKey MaKey.

Another group also focused on making music.  These little pie plates were turned into a drum machine.

At first, I wasn't convinced about the MaKey MaKey.  I saw the banana piano videos and thought is was a bit too gimmicky, but after spending an hour playing around with one, I am sold.  It really changes our thinking about the design process and focuses our attention on the user experience rather than just the technical problems of getting this or that to work.  We saw a video that showed a group of students recreating Dance Mat Revolution where the players are jumping into buckets of water!  Fantastic!

The Scratch boards that we used are very similar in that they allow you to add some more interesting inputs to your Scratch projects, such as a light sensor or a slider or even using some aligator clips to measure the electrical resistance in a circuit (unlike the MaKey MaKey which just gives a digital signal that can only be on or off, the Scratch boards have analog sensors that can return a range of values.  So, for example, you could have your project play from a whole range of notes or display from a whole range of colours, depending on the amount of light shining on the sensor or how close the aligator clips are together along a wire.)  I had two of them in my classroom that I barely touched.  But with a new grade 7 Scratch unit starting this week, I broke them out and started goofing around with them.

It turned out to be a weekend of Scratch.  Just the day before, I had discovered a project called Enchanting that allows you to program LEGO Mindstorms kits using Scratch-like blocks instead of the program that comes with them.  It is still in beta, but pretty stable and you can already do a lot with them.  Here's a video that can get you started.  (Btw, I got in contact with the developer and he is looking for people to help him with testing and translation if anyone is interested.  His email address is on his site.)

Then, I woke up Sunday morning to an invite to participate in the closed beta for Scratch 2.0!  I am still playing around with it, but expect an update in the near future.

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