Monthly Archives: May 2014

Review: Scratch 2.0 Beginner’s Guide (Second Edition)

The Scratch 2.0 Beginner’s guide covers a variety of useful skills and applies them to practical applications created with Scratch. Somewhat unlike most tutorials for Scratch, the book focuses on an adult audience of parents and teachers, rather than just focusing on students in its audience; it is not too complex for students to grasp but it does also focus on giving educators and parents ways to explain the projects and Scratch itself to an audience.

Perhaps the most appropriate way to describe this comes out of the author’s own foreword, in which he points out that “I did not set out to write a computer science textbook. It’s… a tutorial… to learn how to use Scratch to create stories, animations, games, or art.” This is not to say that it does not give a good background, but the focus of each project is notably oriented on practical use of Scratch to achieve goals.

The Scratch 2.0 Beginner’s Guide is great as a starting point because it covers all the concerns that a novice to Scratch would have, whether they are tech savvy or not-its automatic saving, block structure, and more are all clearly explained in the early chapters.

The nature of the tutorials are well-balanced. There’s a conscious attempt made to move from novice difficulty to more advanced projects, so the early projects involve simple Scratch activities to demonstrate basic features, replete with in-depth explanations of Scratch’s drawing tools and file management system, while the later projects then move on to more scripting heavy projects. It’s a good flow throughout, and works well to help acclimate a novice to Scratch in ways that are easy to follow and satisfying to complete.

My favorite part of the setup for this book is the way in which it examines Scratch’s available tools. It is immediately apparent that the author is fluent with Scratch and knows how to utilize every possible method at his disposal when working in Scratch, and it comes through in the quality of the explanations throughout the book. While some of the tutorials may not be the most glamorous, focusing on seemingly mundane things like animating a birthday card or building a fortune teller, they manage to do a great job of exploiting a variety of the approaches to Scratch programming and providing a basis for understanding the process of programming rather than just using the methods and functions contained in the examples.

In short, the Scratch 2.0 Beginner’s Guide is set up as a very basic tutorial, but if you’re unfamiliar with either programming in general or Scratch in particular and want to teach a student or yourself to use Scratch, it’s a great starting point and will help you learn not only the basics of using Scratch but also put you onto the path for more advanced projects with Scratch.

If you’re interested in picking up a copy of Scratch 2.0 Beginner’s Guide, you can get it on Amazon or directly from Packt.

Disclaimer: I got a digital reviewer copy of this book from Packt. I was not and will not be financially compensated for writing this review, nor was I pressured to write a positive review.

Review: Packt’s Scratch 2.0 Game Development Hotshot

Scratch is a great way to introduce children to computer programming, and the Scratch 2.0 Game Development Hotshot is a great starting point for doing so. It is a nice and lengthy text with exhaustive examples of everything that a learner would need to figure out how to do almost anything they need to do when working with Scratch.

This book is written well in a process that goes from simple to complex; anyone using it still needs a basic amount of familiarity with computers and at times the book suggests using external programs in addition to Scratch. Fortunately, the book lists free, easy-to-use programs in addition to the commercial software it suggests, so it remains accessible to educators and parents on a tight budget who don’t already have access to programs like Photoshop.

There is a small conflict in this guidebook between the complexity of programming and the need to be clearly communicative, and I feel that it did a very good job of being clear. I am not particularly proficient with Scratch, though I have worked with other alternatives extensively, but it seemed to use a very wide range of tools within the Scratch platform to accomplish its objectives, which should help learners utilize emergent strategies on their own.

The inclusion of many well-chosen code excerpts and diagrams within the book is done perfectly, and there is little left to be desired by the helpful images. For more advanced users, some of these will be redundant, but given Scratch’s nature as an incredibly accessible tool this could help computer novices or young children and they do not become particularly burdensome for a reader.

The projects contained in the book represent a variety of game genres, and are presented in an order of increasing complexity. Most of the lessons are intended to teach specific lessons, and the included code samples make it easy to jump between the concepts being learned, allowing students who already have a background in Scratch to study only the things that they need to learn.

I don’t have simple praise for the book, however. There are some pressing issues, such as cases where functionality isn’t really closely acknowledged or is only examined once; students need a certain degree of repetition and, like most guide books, only one way is examined to do most of the things in the example projects. While this isn’t necessarily something that is horrible, it does mean that you will need to make sure that someone trained using the book has it available for at least a while after finishing all the courses, so that they can go back and get a refresher on the things they may have missed throughout.

As a future educator, and a self-taught programmer, I feel that this book is a great starting point to the world of programming and game design, and I would recommend it without any reservations.

If you’re interested in checking it out, you can find Packt’s Scratch 2.0 Game Development Hotshot on Amazon here, or on Packt’s website.

Disclaimer: I got a digital reviewer copy of this book from Packt. I was not and will not be financially compensated for writing this review, nor was I pressured to write a positive review.

Project Update: What I’ve Been Up To

I haven’t been particularly productive recently, in part because I’ve been traveling, which has both the added busy factor of spending a lot of time in transit and away from my computer but also the fact that I am now in California, where more stuff that I am allergic to grows. Fortunately, I am surviving, but I’ve been somewhat unproductive.

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Project Update: I’m Back!

I sort of dropped off the radar for a while because I didn’t have much to show in the way of progress on XMICAE, mostly due to school-related things. Fortunately, as of Wednesday I’ll be back on track to be making (almost) full time progress on XMICAE. I’ve mostly been coding in downtime right now, since I’ve been so busy, but I have managed to make a few improvements.

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