Lou Paff from Oregon Episcopal School is presenting now on using these two tools in the classroom. These are basic programming tools for elementary age students. Students train icons to move throughout an environment. They use problem solving skills, patterning, geometry, and many other skills to figure out how to make it work.
Lou is using Scratch with 2nd graders. Scratch is a free download. Kids create a product and debug it as they go. What a great problem solving skill! All finished products can be uploaded to the website: http://scratch.mit.edu to be shared with the world. You can also collaborate with others once it is uploaded. Imagine designing your program to create geometric shapes as a way to learn about angles, shapes, coordinates, etc...
Lou is showing us an example in which students used paint tools to create an icon, called a sprite, and wrote a script to make the sprite walk, turn, change appearance, speak, and interact with another sprite. It is an animation.
I know there are people out there thinking, "What does animation have to do with educating kids?" The logical processing involved in creating these animations is very complex. We need to develop this kind of thinking in our students. So much of what our jobs require include logical thinking, creative thinking, problem solving, collaboration, presenting a clear message. All of these skills are being developed through Scratch.
To find out more, go to http://scratch.mit.edu
MicroWorlds EX is another option. It is not open source so it costs money. It is a bit more robust so it allows the animations to be interactive. You can put buttons on it to allow kids to create basic games. Imagine kids developing their own games to review or practice concepts. Motivating?
For more information, check out: http://www.microworlds.com
Click on Library to see some examples of projects.