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Enabling Creativity: Software that encourages creation and exploration


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I was asked to present at Savannah's Telfair Museum's Family Day. My son and I came up with this presentation showing off some of the software we use to enable our own creativity and fun.

(The movie we made can be seen here:

Published in: Education, Technology
  • Super set of tools that will let your younger ones engage with computers & see if they have a hidden geek in them!
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Enabling Creativity: Software that encourages creation and exploration

  1. 1. Enabling Creativity Software that encourages creation and exploration
  2. 2. Introductions
  3. 3. Hi, I’m Kevin
  4. 4. Kevin’s Pertinent Info • Age: 34 • Time as a geek: 24 years • Professional nerd: 15 years • Job: Chief Architect for
  5. 5. Hi, I’m Max
  6. 6. Max’s Pertinent Info • Age: 10 • Time as a geek: 7 years • Job: 4th grader
  7. 7. The future is full of technology...
  8. 8. There is no escape.
  9. 9. Every job will have some aspect of computer science in it.
  10. 10. Why not get started early, and have some fun along the way?
  11. 11. Why Geek Out? • You learn problem solving skills quickly • You find that all problems are made up of increasingly smaller and simpler problems • Once you have success once, it’s easy to build on... until you’re unstoppable.
  12. 12. Curiosity • These days, it’s not a question of what’s possible, it’s a question of what tool will get you there fastest and easiest? • For every question you or your kid has, there’s an answer out there on the web. • And if not, it’s easy to find a tool that will help you answer it.
  13. 13. Creativity • When every question is answerable and every problem is solvable, the fun is in finding the most creative solution • If you can think it up, you can build it, almost always for free - using open source tools and a little experimentation and hard work.
  14. 14. What do kids love to do?
  15. 15. Kids love to tell stories,
  16. 16. invent games,
  17. 17. build worlds,
  18. 18. explore their worlds,
  19. 19. and create imaginary characters.
  20. 20. Tools for the job... • Pencil (or crayons, markers, pens, brushes, sticks) and paper • Clay or Play-doh • Your computer... which is what we’re going to talk about. Because I’m a nerd.
  21. 21. Scratch
  22. 22. Programming Made Easy • Teaches basic programming constructs using drag and drop widgets and fun animations. • Allows kids to start really simple and eventually build complex games and animations. • Max calls it “kiddie Flash”
  23. 23. Some Things Max Has Made... • Cursor’s Adventure: a short point and click adventure game • Bouncey Dot animation • Lots of other little toys (like a cat that turned 45 degrees every time it ran into a wall)
  24. 24. Demo Time!
  25. 25. Let’s Animate the Cat!
  26. 26.
  27. 27. Any questions about Scratch?
  28. 28. iStopMotion
  29. 29. Wallace and Gromit... And You • Make your own stop-motion animation • All you need is a Mac and a web cam • Easy to use, and you can export things to iMovie easily.
  30. 30. Make It Easy On Yourself • There’s no shame in looping the same frames over and over again. • Don’t try for perfect - remember, it’s supposed to be fun! • Goofy faces are fun to animate too!
  31. 31. The Coriolis Effect • It took about an hour for every ten seconds of film. That included Max writing and recording the voiceover. • We looped a lot. The earth rotating and the coriolis loops were 1.5 seconds repeated for a couple minutes and then cut. • We used my “fancy” camera, so it’s higher quality than you’d get with a webcam.
  32. 32. Other Tools Used • iMovie to edit all the clips together • Garageband to record and export the voiceover • iDVD to burn it for class.
  33. 33. The Downside • iStopMotion isn’t free or open source. • You need a Mac. • There are Windows alternatives, but I can’t recommend any because I don’t do Windows. • There are some for Linux too, but I haven’t used them.
  34. 34. Any Questions about iStopMotion?
  35. 35. istopmotion/
  36. 36. Inform
  37. 37. Interactivate Your Fiction • Build your own Zork-like text adventures. • Plain text programming language • Very good documentation built-in to the application • Works on pretty much every operating system.
  38. 38. Demo Time!
  39. 39. Informative Caveats • There’s a bit of a learning curve. Max got kind of frustrated when he first started playing with it. • I had to remind him to read the manual several times before he actually sat down and did it.
  40. 40. Why is Inform so Great, Max? • There are tons of downloadable extensions • Plain-text coding! • Introduces a new generation to text adventures! • That’s all he can think of...
  41. 41. Any questions about Inform?
  42. 42.
  43. 43. Ficly
  44. 44. Max says it’s awesome.
  45. 45. What is it, Max?
  46. 46. It’s a gigantic ever- growing book of short stories, written by constructive awesome people.
  47. 47. Ficly, according to me...
  48. 48. Creatively Constrained Writing • You have 1,024 characters to tell a story. • Anyone can write a prequel or sequel to any other story. • It’s great for young writers who are mature enough to handle constructive criticism. • Not made for kids, but they’re welcome if they can play nice (adults have to play nice too).
  49. 49. Max’s Favorite Stories • My Mom is Gone - A plea by a son for his mom to start writing again. • Z is for Zed - A zombie story about a guy trapped in a portapotty • The entire USS Ficly series
  50. 50. Any questions about Ficly?
  51. 51.
  52. 52. Teaching Kids to Program
  53. 53. Get a Book • Learn to Program by Chris Pine is an excellent introduction to programming languages ( learn-to-program-2nd-edition) in general and Ruby in particular. • Max read it and went through most of the tutorials in a couple days and had fun doing it.
  54. 54. What Did He Learn? • Basic loops and controls • Math • Echoing strings • Writing programs to “say” things
  55. 55. Other Things Max and I Have Built • A MadLib generator • Frank, the Turing test failing, question answering little computer person
  56. 56. Let’s meet Frank!
  57. 57. The Possibilities Are Endless
  58. 58. Architecture? • Google Sketchup (http:// • Allows you to easily create floor plans and 3D models of buildings
  59. 59. Animation? • If you want to get hardcore, check out Blender or Processing: • •
  60. 60. Audio and Music? • SuperCollider: • Audacity:
  61. 61. Hardware Hacking? • Arduino: • Make Magazine:
  62. 62. Building Your Own Games? • Unity: • GameSalad:
  63. 63. Conclusion • There’s a universe of possibilities out there for creative self-expression. • There’s no limit on creativity and the tools have never been easier to find and use to build whatever you want. • It’s all about fun. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.
  64. 64. Anything you want to add, Max?
  65. 65. Questions?
  66. 66. Thanks!
  67. 67. Max & Kevin Lawver
  68. 68. Contact Stuff • Kevin’s Blog: • Max’s Blog: • E-Mail: • Twitter: @kplawver