Using Scratch

Following on our use of Pawns, where we had to understand a problem, and experiment with finding solutions, we will learn to work with Scratch.
Scratch is a visual programming language developed by MIT.

Watch this video: Scratch in 30 Seconds

"Scratch is designed to help young people (ages 8 and up) develop 21st century learning skills. As they create Scratch projects, young people learn important mathematical and computational ideas, while also gaining a deeper understanding of the process of design."
Scratch is free of charge, go to this page. It is available for Mac OSX and Windows ( system requirements)
This animation describes the basics of Scratch:

There are other videos on the Internet about using Scratch.
This one is from a physics teacher in the US:

This video, on TeacherTube, describes how to program a game of Pong.

This video, on TeacherTube, was made by a Middle School student, and describes how to teach a Scratch sprite to walk.

This one is from Harvard University's extension school. Disregard the instructions and web address at the beginning of the video - they are out of date. About a quarter of the way through a description of the work area and ways of using Scratch begins - do watch these.

(This video can also be downloaded at Computer Science E-1: Understanding Computers and the InternetHarvard Extension School
Lecture 11 Programming)

If you download Scratch to use at home, you may also want to download this set of LEGO figures, donated by LEGO for use in Scratch projects.

After you make a Scratch project you want to share with other users, you can upload it to the MIT Scratch web site. As of today (21 Dec 07) there are
56,711 projects with a total of 1,014,169 scripts and 352,621 sprites created by 11,500 contributors of our 57,019 registered members.

Here is one of my favorites from the project gallery:

Scratch Project

Learn more about this project

Click on this link to visit the Scratch web page and see our work in the CdN PYP Gallery.



"How to make a presentation and not to bore your audience to death" by Alexi Kaptarev is intended for business people, but kids in schools (and teachers!) should pay attention, too.


Playing "Pawns"

One of the new software applications in our iBooks is "Pawns". It looks like Chess, but the pieces have minds of their owns!

"The object of the game is get pawns (whether black or white) to their wooden box. This is done by placing arrows on the board to tell them where to go. Along the way you must avoid obstacles and enemy chess pieces. Sometimes the enemy chess pieces can simply be avoided, but you may need to encourage them to capture each other instead!" Pawns won 2nd place in the OMG (Original Mac Games) 2005 contest. It is a free download for both Mac and Windows platforms.

Pawns is deceptively simple. The goal is to guide the chess pieces across the board, around the hazards (which may move) and collect keys. The player is given a limited number of arrows with which to build the path for the pawns. In order to do that, the rhythm and pattern of the pawns' movement must be understood, and accommodated.

We are playing Pawns because it is a precursor to computer programming, and a great exercise in problem solving and logical thinking. There is also a great deal of cooperative learning and planning going on when classes are at work on their puzzles.


Using other people's pictures in your work

If you want to use an image in your work, it is very important that you have the right to use it. When you want to use a picture that you did not draw, or a photo that you did not take, you need to choose an image that is copyrighted in such a way that you have permission to add it to your finished product.

One of the easiest (and most interesting) ways is to use a website called FlickrStorm. Click on the "advanced" link, and choose the "non commercial" license. Then enter your key word, and watch the pictures appear! Download the search page of photos you have chosen, which will include the photo credit information.

Here are 3 videos (made for teachers) by David Jakes about how best to use the site.
Introduction to searching with FlickrStorm:

Part 2 - more about searching

Part 3 shows how to make sure you have all the photo credit you need from your downloads.

This slide from Konrad Glogowski's presentation at the K12 Online Technology Conference shows an interesting way to credit a photo. Notice at the very bottom of the picture, the photo credit is imposed over the image (it's the grey writing, but so faintly that it does not detract from the picture. This is a far more authentic attribution of authorship than a long list of links at the end of a presentation.


A Google Account

In all the Year 6 classes, students will be opening a Google Account, specifically to be used as a tool in the classroom, in connection with their school work. Many (most) students already have at least one email address. Besides using email for "traditional" email purposes (sending messages), we are interested in the digital toolbox which a Google account provides. This is a free learning resource, available to everyone, and we will be working with our Year 6 students, learning how to take advantage particularly of email, the online Notebook, Blogger, Google Docs (word processing, spreadsheet and presentation tools), iGoogle homepage, Reader, and Calendar.

This is also the opportunity for "good practice" in internet use - personal safety, netiquette, and digital citizenship. We will continually emphasize acceptable use guidelines. These accounts are to be treated as virtual classroom spaces - essential agreements for the classroom apply also when using these tools.

We will be using information and activities at these web sites:






Using Google Earth

Using the free software application Google Earth can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. There are many websites with ideas, help, downloads, lessons, etc. Start with this introduction page , and this page about how to use Google Earth.

Google Earth Links
This page of the Google Earth Blog is devoted to providing links to important web resources about Google Earth, KML/KMZ, sightseeing GE's satellite/aerial photos, software tools, games, and more. For an even longer list of links, check out OgleEarth's links page.

Google Sightseeing
On the Sights by Locality page, you can find posts about particular sights around the world. Check out the Switzerland page.

Swiss Alps "Fighter" Tour in Google Earth
Of special interest for us is the tour of the Swiss Alps in a Swiss fighter plane, filmed for real, and then reproduced on Google Earth. You can read about how it was made, and see both versions here (embedded from YouTube).


Zoho online tools

Zoho.com offers a set of 14 production and creation apps on the web which keeps getting better and better. (You work on the web, not on your computer - you don't have to buy software to do the job).

You can try out the apps without registering,

Zoho Writer (online word processor), Zoho Sheet (online spreadsheets), Zoho Show (online presentation tool). Zoho Notebook (online notebook), Zoho Planner (online organizer), Zoho Creator (online data base), Zoho Wiki (online wiki writer)

If you think they would be useful to you for your school work, sign up for an account.

Tutorial videos on the Zoho site are on this page. They are also on YouTube:
Zoho Creator for creating databases
Zoho Viewer to view and share documents as web pages.
Zoho Notebook

Mind Mapping "The Swiss Army Knife for the Brain"

Three Web-Based Mind Mapping Tools Reviewed posted at the Web Worker Daily blog reviews 3 online mind mapping tools: bubbl.us, Mindomo, and MindMeister.

The writer concludes by saying "MindMeister, with its smooth keyboard access, information-dense display, and export-to-outline capability, is my favorite of the three... MindMeister provides all the basic features you might look for in a web-based tool of this sort. I found the keyboard access mostly intuitive. The tab key adds a child, the enter key adds a sibling, and arrows navigate around the diagram smoothly. Saving happens automatically with no action required of the user. Nodes can be repositioned using drag and drop. You can share with write or view-only access."

All the Mac Minis and iBooks at school have Kidspiration installed. This software is a tool for combining pictures, text and spoken words to represent ideas and show relationships. (At home, ou can download a 30 day free trial of the software if you would like to try on your own computer)

In the video below, watch Tony Buzan, a leading authority on mind maps, talk about the brain, and why mind maps are a valuable thinking tool.

You can also see this video at Buzan's web site,iMindMap, but it still a YouTube video, and probably can't be seen in school.

This video, by Stephen Pierce (an internet business consultant), presents a slightly different look at mind mapping, (He speaks very fast!) as he talks about how to mind map a book (or text) as you read it.

Knowing your iBook

A multilingual guide to the iBook model we use in class can be downloaded here as an Adobe pdf file from the Apple support site.

You can also open it in your web browser's window. From this web page, click on iBook G3 (14-inch) Multilingual User's Guide (Manual).


Web Literacy

The 21st Century Connections web site posted a page about "Nine Needs for Web Literacy".
By Janice Friesen

"On the Web, much of what students read is not always fact - or at least not verified as completely accurate, and articles and blogs are often laced with opinion. So it is extremely important that students know how to evaluate information that they read. It is also important that teachers know how to help them."
  • Reading URLs for information
  • Looking for information about the Author
  • The "About" section of a Web site
  • Careful Reading of Websites
"Many websites are made to look like other sites on purpose in order to spoof the reader. One in particular is the spoof "World Trade Organization" site that was created as a criticism of the World Trade Organization. Compare it to the real World Trade Organization site. Read carefully and it is clear that the former is not the WTO site. But many adults and children are NOT carefully reading; instead they skim, find what they think are looking for, and move on."
  • Careful Reading of Email
  • Recognizing Advertisements
"Ads have really gotten clever recently. The animated cartoons draw your eye and often it seems like the right place to click."
  • Looking for Dates
  • Triangulation
"Students should know how to triangulate, which is a fancy way for saying finding three sources that agree on a fact. It is still possible to be wrong if you find three unreliable sources, but less likely. But be careful;; the three sources should not come from links. Often a Web page will have links to other sites that agree with it. Using these links is not triangulation. It is best when there are three completely different sources which all agree."
  • Being Skeptical
Read the whole article at this link. Can you find the date of publication for the page? Can you spot the adds? How can you tell where the links are on the page, and what they link to (without clicking on them)? What can you learn about 21st Century Connections?


The machine is us/ing us

This video was created by Dr. Michael Wesch, cultural anthropologist and media ecologist exploring the impacts of new media on human interaction Kansas State University (USA)

Just the text used in the animation is available here

An interview with Dr. Wesch is on a Slovenian business blog, Vibacom. Asked why he made the video, he said that he was "just trying to raise the awareness really. I just wanted to show how the web 2.0 looks like. Wanted to get people to innovate on the Net. To make people to see possible challenges. To make people start thinking about the social impacts of the Net, specially Net 2.0".



Start page Schoolr (the R stands for research)is a start page with a set of search inputs to popular student resources around the web—like Google, Wikipedia, Reference.com, Spark Notes, text translation and unit conversion. Schoolr is a useful browser homepage for internet researchers. No ads, no registration, just use it. Make it your home page.
http://www.schoolr.com/fr/schoolrfrench.gif There is also a version in French. The author writes that he does not speak or read French, and is open to suggestions for the page. Maybe you have some ideas?


Google Guide Quick Reference: Google Advanced Operators (Cheat Sheet)

Keep the Google Guide Quick Reference: Google Advanced Operators (Cheat Sheet) web page open under (or beside) your search window to help you find what you're looking for on the web more effeciently.


What's a Blog?

Rachael Boyd, a teacher in New Zealand, has prepared these two presentations about blogging in her classroom. The first outlines the pedagogy behind the use of blogs, and in the second the children speak for themselves.

Presentation on the benefits and reasons why we should let our students blog. Check out my edublog at: http://rachelboyd.blogspot.com for info and links to my class blogs. Hope you find it useful. Music is "English Channel" from freeplaymusic.com"

Let the 6 & 7 year olds from Room 9 at Nelson Central School (New Zealand) educate you about what they think a blog is and why they love using them! This is the introduction to my presentation for a New Zealand Online Conference. This part is the student's voice. Primarily it's an AUDIO file, we didn't want to detract away from the children's voices. I've just chosen to upload it here as a movie for flexibility. Check out out class blog here at: http://room9nelsoncentral.blogspot.com/ Or our teacher's edublog at: http://rachelboyd.blogspot.com/ "


A Fair(y) Use Tale


Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University created this humorous, yet informative, review of copyright principles delivered through the words of the very folks we can thank for nearly endless copyright terms.

You can download (mp4) the whole film or watch it at youtube.com

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.



We have installed a new software in our iBooks, Scratch, from MIT. This information is from the Scratch web page:

"Scratch is a new programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art -- and share your creations on the web.

Scratch is designed to help young people (ages 8 and up) develop 21st century learning skills. As they create Scratch projects, young people learn important mathematical and computational ideas, while also gaining a deeper understanding of the process of design."

Scratch is developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab, in collaboration with the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, with financial support from the National Science Foundation, Intel Foundation, and MIT Media Lab research consortia.

It is available as a free download from this page, for both Mac and Windows

Learn about it by using the link below to the Scratch web page

Click video above or full screen


What is a Blog?

The Wikipedia article for "blog" begins:

A blog (a portmanteau of web log) is a website where entries are written in chronological order to maintain or add content to a blog. and commonly displayed in reverse chronological order...

Blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject such as food, politics, or local news; some function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs. Most blogs are primarily textual, although some focus on art (artlog), photographs (photoblog), sketchblog, videos (vlog), music (MP3 blog), audio (podcasting) or sexual in nature (Adult blog), and are part of a wider network of social media.

In May 2007, blog search engine Technorati was tracking more than 71 million blogs.[1]"

Blogs can be free, public or private, open or closed to comments. They are an ideal way to create web pages without owning web-editing software, or knowing a lot about creating web pages. All you need is an Internet connection.

How to use a Mac computer

At the Apple website you can learn the basics of getting around in a Mac interface. Click here to get started with Apple's 5 lessons.

This page describes the Mac keyboard we use with the classroom Mac Mini computers.


Video: RSS in Plain English

From the producers: "We made this video for our friends (and yours) that haven't yet felt the power of our friend the RSS reader. We want to convert people and if you know someone who would love RSS and hasn't yet tried it, point them here for 3.5 minutes."

(This video may be blocked in school - see it at home!)

On this page of Orthogate (a blog for Orthopedic surgeons!)Dr Christian Veillette gives a simple explanation of RSS, and a good step by step guide of how to subscribe to a feed in Google Reader.

Video: Social Networking in Plain English

"This video is for people who wonder why social networking web sites are so popular. One reason is because they solve a real-world problem: they make the invisible visible. We'll let the video explain how it works."

(This video may be blocked in school - see it at home!)

Video: Wikis in Plain English

"We made this video because wiki web sites are easy to use, but hard to describe."

(This video may be blocked in school - see it at home!)


Google tools

We are asking every Year 6 student to sign up for a Google account, in order to have access to Gmail, Google Documents, Picasa web albums, Google Notebook, Blogger, Google Groups, and Google Reader, for use in school work.

Watch the above Gmail video (outside of school) to learn more about Gmail, (and to get some good ideas for easy animation!)

Read what 9 year old Adora Svitak has to say about iGoogle in her post on the "Infnite Thinking Machine" blog:
"Although I consider myself fairly well-versed in technology, discovering iGoogle made me ecstatic. It's an absolute must-have if you want to keep floating on the all too murky surface of tech popularity..."

On-line survey tool

You can register for a free basic account at SurveyMonkey
to create free online surveys for up to 100 respondents, and up to 10 questions.


We have Type to Learn 3 and 2T4Mac installed in our iBooks. Online typing programs can be found at

  • typingpal.com
    speed test,
    some free demo exercises, and paid registered typing course online.

  • Bubbles Game
    "Your target is to burst the rising bubbles by pressing the character shown in them. The more bubbles you burst, the better score your score."
  • TypingTest.com offers a speed test. "After the short text typing sample, you will see your typing speed, accuracy and net speed."
"Asking students to use a keyboard to write without training them to use it properly limits what they can accomplish in the computer lab. It requires students to spend valuable class time locating keys instead of thinking about what they are trying to say... Students can be taught to type as soon as they begin using school computers, just as they’re shown how to hold pencils when they start writing. Correct finger placement and simple keystrokes, such as using the thumb for the space bar and the little finger for the shift key, can be taught even to very young students. They may still hunt and peck, but as they gain competence, they should begin to learn touch typing...When you expect students to produce well-written documents in a limited amount of time, it’s only fair to show them early and often how it’s done. And the simple truth is that students need to be able to type faster than they can write with a pencil. Otherwise, it’s not worth the class time to put them in front of a computer." - Doug Noon, Teacher Magazine: Reverting to Type, Teacher Magazine 1 May 07