Learning from Scratch

I meant to mention this earlier in the week but have been so busy that it escaped me. The Future Learn MOOC, Begin Programming: Build your first mobile game has shown signs of stirring. This much, I believe that I did get as far as noting here.  It starts on the 4th of November and we have been greeted and our immediate future on the MOOC outlined. It involves developing a simple game in Java for the Android operating system. Regular readers will recall that Mr L already had a requirement for me to get to grips with Java and Android, so I could not miss adding this to my list of MOOCs. I am hoping that it will get me off to a quick start. I have programmed in the past but not for  far too many years, and never before with the intent of putting the results out for public consumption. I need all the confidence bolstering that I can get. A little Future Learn hand-holding will be much appreciated.

Several attempts at downloading the SDK and installing Eclipse had left me chastened. It just would not play nicely for me, insisting that the Java Runtime Environment was not present. I knew that it was. Mr L knew that it was. Windoze did not accept our assertion.

It was time to make another attempt. I summoned Mr L to my side, the show him what happens when I try to install Eclipse. That well-known “Technician Effect” kicked in and the installation went perfectly, first time.

I hate it when that happens.

The course team has not  disclosed the actual development software to be used but Mr L is of the belief that it can only be the standard package, which I now have working. He’s been a long time out of his brief Higher Education  experience. I however have a frightening number of years involved in HE and I fully appreciate the tendency of Education establishments to do their own thing.  We shall see. I may have the correct IDE for this purpose or not  but at least I have one that is working and the one that Mr L requires me to use.

I digress. I must get to my point. The point is that having got that hurdle cleared, I had a few moments to consider the remainder of that welcoming email:

 “If you’re keen to get a head start you might like to have a look at http://scratch.mit.edu/, which provides a really simple introduction into how programs are put together.”

I clicked.

Scratch is fabulous! Aimed at teaching young people the basics of programming, it works in a very visual way to build simple games and other similar programmes. I was particularly overjoyed by the way that control loops are shown. There is no typing involved, other than to set a few variables where desired – programme elements are dragged and dropped, fitting together like jigsaw pieces.

It would be very easy to get lost and to waste a day exploring the 4 million projects currently on Scratch, or to spend hours dragging and dropping and simply mucking about. Well worth a look if you have no clue as to how computer programmes operate, or even if you do –  and a wonderful resource to point out to any interested children that you may have knocking about the place. It could keep them quiet over Half Term.

Scratch may be old hat to you, as it has been around for years. Mr L knew all about it – how had I managed to miss it? It’s brilliant, give it a go.

Oh, I have a stalker. That’s quaint, I have not had one of those in many years. I’d best be careful, my last stalker found out where I lived and then turned up on my doorstep with his fire engine. He stole my heart and then proceeded to break it by degrees. Dangerous place, the old Interweb – it has much in common with the Real Life 🙂

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