Most of you have probably heard about Scratch, the acclaimed, free, true programming application in use around the world. Thanks to Twitterer David Ligon, I’m talking today about Sploder, which is similar to Scratch in some ways but different in many others.
spolder
spolder
sploder2
sploder2



Sploder is a drag-and drop, visual, programming environment for creating platform (side-scrolling) as well as shooter (space ship) style games. Here’s a look at the platform builder UI:

Registration is free and required to save and share games but the DEMO mode is certainly enough to learn the basics and assess whether or not it’s worth using with your students. The community forum has step-by-step instructions (including this gem – WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN U MAKE GAMES). With the end of the school year fast approaching, this could be a great way to find out which of your students has programming/game design aptitude, and, possibly, give you some ideas for lessons next year!


Atmosphir comes in (thank you, Fred Delventhal, for the link!) Atmosphir is a free video game development tool for Mac -and- PC that allows students to design complete, immersive environments with complex challenges, objectives and interrelationships.
It is fascinating to watch games move from the periphery closer to mainstream curriculum, and I wonder when teachers will be free (and able) to use applications like Atmosphir to teach math, science, language, social studies and more. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting closer every day. After school programs that feature these kinds of tools are fairly common; how long until they make the jump into regular education? I doubt my children will see it happen, but I wonder if my current students (in K-4) have a shot. Some will be in high school in just a few years. To be sure, the technology will evolve faster than the educational system can adapt, but there’s always hope!


The Scratch programming environment (http://scratch.mit.edu) is world renowned as a terrific vehicle to learn about simple systems and computer programming. We’re putting it to use in the computer lab with a fun, simple lesson in which the students will be charged with moving the “sprite” (the cat) around the perimeter of the screen. Once they master that (most will easily, it’s fairly simple) we will allow the kids to explore the environment on their own, adding additional movements, visual and audio effects, thought bubbles and more. We’ll even be deconstructing existing Scratch programs created by other students (like the Trampoline example below, (click here to try it live on the web).
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