Over the next couple of weeks, one of my main projects is making some updates to our Scratch+micro:bit zine. Reflection is an important part of any creative process, and so on this thread I’ll be sharing what I’m thinking about and experimenting with as we make this zine – as a way to invite you all into the process of creating PLIX resources. If you have any questions or comments along the way, please feel free to share them below!
A couple of things I’m reflecting on this week…
Starting with a list of assumptions about audience & context
A good way of getting started involves making some assumptions about who’s going to be reading and using the Scratch+micro:bit zine. Some assumptions I thought through in the initial brainstorm process: a particular age range for readership (middle school); level of familiarity with certain tools (like Scratch), and that this zine might be accompanied by other learning materials (like these Scratch cards). These assumptions have steered the way I’m thinking both about what content to include in the Scratch+micro:bit zine, but also how that content will be framed/delivered!
Creating a storyboard/outline
PLIX zines have (in addition to a front and back cover) three main spreads. Across these three spreads, I’ve been experimenting with outlining a narrative that involves three main ideas:
- What are the tools?
- How can I get started combining these tools?
- What are ways to put this all together to create projects and stories?
Creating this outline has allowed me to ‘storyboard’ the zine in an organized way, helping to decide which text should go on which pages/spreads!
The initial brainstorm process!
Drafting text using the Hemingway App
Something I find difficult is to create short and concise paragraphs, which is critical when you have limited space for text in the zine! To that end, I’ve been playing around with a web app called Hemingway, which helps measure readability. Hemingway even outputs a grade-level for the text you’ve input! Given that we’re aiming to make this zine primarily for middle-schoolers, that function is particularly useful.
But for those who want a free online tool to assess the reading level of a piece of text, a friend of my friend George made this free online analyzer: https://wordsift.org/
If you enter your text and then click on “Text View”, you can see some Readability stats on the right.
Automated Readability Index
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level
Average Grade Level
Flesch Reading Ease
This is what came up for your P on Hemingway :
This is awesome! I will test it out on the zine text, too! Thanks for the tip, Michelle : )
Selecting a character for the zine
Some PLIX zines feature a character or ‘cast’ (the recent Space Food zine, for example) that guides readers through the learning material. Because the Scratch+micro:bit activity is about blending the physical and digital worlds, we want to somehow showcase physical interaction with the Micro:bit. Initially, @caratarmey and I had thought about using retro-style robots to illustrate these interactions. @katherine shared feedback that using robots might skew readership more towards readers already interested in engineering and technical concepts, and suggested using some form of creature or animal to appeal to all types of learners!
We decided to go for “cool” mice (partially inspired by @binka’s recent re-reading of Stuart Little), to also appeal to our middle school audience : ). Here are the results!
Illustration by @caratarmey!
Thanks for the credit but the original spark was the fact that “micro:bit” and “mice” share the same first three letters, and the devices themselves are mini-rodent-scale. Then we also realized that the Scratch cat and a bunch of micro:bit mice would have a classic play pattern a la Tom & Jerry, Itchy & Scratchy, etc. Cara’s drawings are so delightful. I love that she’s aged them up with sneakers and tattoos.
I brought up Stuart Little because the original drawings by Garth Williams had him looking lean and rather human-like. Like this one…
Using the ‘annotate’ feature in Zoom for real-time white-boarding
Back in the non-remote days, members of the PLIX team took turns printing off the most recent version of an in-progress zine, marking it up with edits and ideas, and thereafter handing it off for an additional round of revisions. It took awhile to find a protocol or tool that allowed us to mimic that experience. We recently realized that we can use the annotate feature on Zoom to make edits in real-time on a shared screen. In this case, @caratarmey shares her Adobe InDesign files, and the rest of us mark up the screen as if it’s a whiteboard! This process makes visualizing thoughts a whole lot easier than with words, and is also a ton of fun : ) I hope that you’ll try it out! Here’s what it looks like in action with the Scratch+micro:bit zine we’ve been working on:
For those following this thread, we’ve recently completed our Scratch+micro:bit zine! You can find it on the PLIX Activity Repository, here.
While creating this zine, the BBC announced the release of a new version of the micro:bit, with additional sensor capabilities (including a microphone and capacitive touch), as well as a speaker. While we don’t explicitly mention the new sensors in this iteration of the zine, the project ideas outlined in the final spread can certainly make use of the novel features! If anyone purchases a new micro:bit, I would love to hear about your experiences with the latest and greatest version!
Let us know your thoughts on the finished product, and how you plan to use this zine with your patrons!
We also have some new social graphics for the Scratch + micro:bit zine! Stayed tuned to see them on PLIX social feeds :