Over the past couple of weeks we have been continuing to mess around with beetleblocks paired with the watercolorbot with visitors in our workshop space. As we prototype the interactions, we are constantly experimenting with the environment, facilitation, and activity design.
Sebastian made some really beautiful inspirational examples that combines the pieces of code with the resulting artwork. One really nice touch to this design is that the code makes the pattern in the foreground, but it needs to be tinkered with to create the more complex version in the background.
We showed these examples to visitors along with some "updated" handouts. Instead of what we tried the last time where we showed how to make specific shapes, for this workshop we made signs that showed some basic patterns and left the blanks to be filled by visitors. At this point these still feel too 'text heavy' to me but I think that the general direction was good.
We also focused the creations more specifically on the watercolor bot and set up the station so that people could see both the code and the machine painting the designs. There were a lot of interesting conversations about the technolgy and the programming even with people who didn't get the chance to directly participate.
It seemed like these changes led to much more variability in the designs. Some of them were very beautiful and unlike any that we had previously made by us. This taste of multiple outcomes (wide walls) gives us a good feeling about the prospects of this activity to really support personal expression.
Another thing that I really like about the workshop is the type of collaboration that we're seeing between kids and adults. It seems like coding in general (and especially with this slightly unusual outcome) really levels the playing field between and allows the possibility for the child to more quickly become an expert.
Over the period of development, we've been debating back and forth about the merits of Scratch on it's own vs having a physical result of the digital code for people to take with them. As I scanned back through the pictures of the workshop, I was especially struck by the look of pride on the faces of the participants who made really amazing designs that we're painted by the bot. In this case, having a painting, sticker, or scuplture at the end of the interaction seemed to really intensify their sense of accomplishment.
Already we have changed the way we introduce the activity in the hopes of immediately geting people into the mode of testing and changing the designs instead of creating something interesting but unrepeatable. At the end of the day, we tried starting people with the two "when button key pressed" blocks to run the program and to reset it. This seemed to encourage participants to create discrete programs that they could test and change, instead of clicking multiple times, using the "move" blocks more as a drawing function. Although this creates interesting patterns, it makes it more difficult to go back and subtlely tweak the code.
We'll keep messing around with these ideas both on the floor and with visitors in the tinkering studio as we continue to develop the workshop, but it's been fun to continue to use our workshop space on the floor as a venue for R&D and share these new technologies with museum visitors.