Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Cool Scratch Projects in Easy Steps - Review



Disclosure: We received a copy of 'Cool Scratch Projects' by Sean McManus for the purposes of this review. As always our opinions are our own.



Cool Scratch Projects in Easy Steps is an awesome book. The projects are really impressive. This is a fairly advanced Scratch book. A lot of children now learn Scratch at school and some are ready for something a bit more advanced at home where they have more time available and a bit of support.

I tried out the book with my 9-year-old who has quite a bit of Scratch experience but is more of a tinkerer than an instruction follower! However, he was drawn to the book because it's packed with neat techniques that he'll be able to apply if he takes the time to learn them.

The Projects

The projects, especially the later ones, are very meaty. There's lots of code to work through and kids need to really pay attention to instructions. The level of difficulty was about right for my son though he found the volume of code quite daunting at first.

Detailed Instructions

The majority of the book gives detailed instructions on exactly what code to enter. This means that kids can create quite impressive projects. 

Some children won't understand everything they are entering, but that's okay, they'll pick up more over time.

My 9-year-old found some of the Scratch blocks quite hard to focus on in the print edition (they're not all the same size.) I helped him keep track of where he was by reading out instructions and he was fine.

It is a lot of information to take in. That's not a bad thing, following detailed instructions carefully is a great skill to have.

Creating Graphics

My favourite thing about the book is that it spends lots of time on creating graphics using the paint tool in Scratch. This is something I always try to encourage.

In my experience young kids are very happy to experiment with the paint tool and create their own sprites and backgrounds. Then somewhere around age 9 they start to think that the graphics they can create are rubbish and just want to use images they can find online. It's important to teach kids digital arts skills so that they do have the skill to create graphics that they think are good enough.

Cool Scratch Projects spends lots of time on these skills which is fantastic.

3D Glasses

The printed edition of the book comes with a pair of 3D glasses because some of the projects involve creating 3D effects. This is a great idea and instantly appealed to my son.

Scratch Versions

Although the book is recently published it refers to Scratch 1.4 on the Raspberry Pi. Scratch 2 is now available on the Pi so you don't have to use Scratch 1.4. Some projects say that they can't be completed on the Pi but they can (except on older models.) Technology does keep moving on!

At the moment there's no support for programmatically taking photos on the Pi in Scratch 2 (I hope it gets added) and one of the projects does use that feature so you'll still need Scratch 1.4 on the Pi for that one.

The book also includes a taster of Scratch Jr, I guess this is so younger siblings can join in.

Verdict

Cool Scratch Projects in Easy Steps by Sean McManus is a fantastic book for more experienced scratchers. The steps are fairly easy, but there are a lot of them! Kids will need to invest quite a bit of time to work through all the projects which makes the book good value. 

I often say that there's no hurry to move children on to text-based programming languages. Cool Scratch Projects is a great way to keep kids on the Scratch platform for longer. 

You know those really amazing Scratch projects that kids are always in awe of? This book is a great step towards learning the skills that are needed to be able to develop projects like that. 




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