What we teach

Because we offer a “continuum of services”, and the kids range from 7-18, we have a lot of time to cover a lot of material, and need variety of project types for the students as the years go by. The “two year plan” is to scan the kids with Kinect cameras, put them in 3D Unity video game projects, and animate them so they can be the heroes of their own video game.

But today I’m trying to get them to switch from a Google doc to Scratch 2.0 without going bezerk :)  (see also my post about the complexities of  “Switching Between Windows” ).  The current challenge is doing a  “mixed-tool curriculum”; meaning we find a photo on the internet (browser skills) and download it (Windows skill), edit in Gimp (graphic design), and import into Scratch (computer programming). The hardest thing to teach right now is the “flipping” between windows, and dealing with usernames and passwords. Our students like to hunker down and work on ONE tool, and even transitions between software programs are challenging.  

Here is our current list:tools

Scratch – Since the students have been working with Scratch for a few years, I thought we would move onto something else, but they really love it and there’s a huge amount still to be taught. So this remains the staple of the curriculum.

Inkscape – A wonderful, free alternative. It’s not quite Illustrator, but it’s a great drawing tool. However, with Scratch “vector mode” for painting, we don’t need it as much.

GIMP – Oy. We were going to discontinue GIMP as it’s fairly miserable to use, and buy Photoshop, but now with the subscription model, we’re going to have to stick with Gimp :(

Windows – We all use PC’s. In this context, it means file management, re-sizing windows, printing and other Windows 7 basics.

Weebly – Each student has a Weebly site. They’re free and we can send the link home so their parents can see their project. We embed Scratch projects into their weebly site, so it can shows their weekly project without having to re-embed every week.

Sketchup – 3D modeling software is not an easy program for our students for 2 reasons: one, their fine motor skills can be poor, and two, Sketchup can me “just sort of tricky”. And tricky is bad when you’re trying to give very specific instructions. That said, it can be a gateway into Unity 3D. Students will create objects in Sketchup with we will then destroy in Unity.

Unity3D  – although I’m in the early stages of building Unity curriculum, I’m convinced it is the ultimate tool for teaching high school (and a little younger) students how to code in Javascript. See post about teaching Unity for details.

(note all of the above are free, or have free versions)

On the 2014 list:
Mindstorm robots and The Finch Robots
Gamestar Mechanic
Shootmania (Level Editor)


Lighter fare:

ABCya animate