Digital Homeschool Tips/Suggestions for Parents and Teachers

Hi all. I’m a visual artist and part-time guest teacher at a high-school in the Netherlands where I teach students how to use different graphical and programming applications. 
The past several years I’ve researched a lot of different applications for my own interest and also with the purpose of finding easy and interesting applications for students with an interest in computer science and graphics to use. Because of the corona virus I was wondering if there is something that i can do to help out others instead of writing about my own projects etc.
 
So for all the parents and teachers who suddenly have to come up with interesting homeschool assignments for their kids and students because of the Corona virus, I present a couple of suggestions. Most of the examples are related to graphics, digital art and computer science:

Scratch 
With scratch students (and teachers) can learn how to program 2D video games using simple drag and drop Lego style blocks. Scratch is a very good first introduction to programming because it can introduce kids to basic programming concepts like variables, loops, if-else statements and functions.
Kids can use Scratch’s built in images or ‘sprites’ to create games with or they can draw their own sprites directly in Scratch. 
In contradiction to the name they don’t have to start from scratch because there are hundreds of games made with Scratch that they can copy and use to create their own versions of.
Scratch is free and can be used from web browsers but can also be downloaded.

Website:https://scratch.mit.edu/

Image showing the Scratch website with the Scratch code blocks

SonicPi
A great tool to teach kids and grown-ups how to program and create awesome electronic music with is SonicPI. SonicPi lets you create music, by programming with the very easy to use and understand built-in SonicPi programming language. 
Using SonicPi to create music with code is like writing sheet music the traditional way but with all the advantages of today’s digital technology. 
SonicPi comes with a very well written and easy to follow built-in tutorial that covers all the basics of how to create coded music, with plenty of copy/paste-able code examples as well as enough built-in synthesizers and samples to start creating awesome tracks within minutes.
Just like Scratch, SonicPi is also totally free.

Website:http://sonic-pi.net/

Image showing the SonicPi application with the welcome screen.

Raspberry Pi
Raspberry Pi’s are tiny credit card sized but very affordable computers that can be used for a basically endless amount of different DIY computer and electronics projects. 
Because Raspberry Pi’s are just like normal computers running linux they can be used for all sorts of different programming and computer science projects but because Raspberry Pi’s also have what are called GPIO- (General Purpose Input Output) pins that you can hook up (hobby) electrical components like LED’s, servo’s and electro-motors to. 
With Rapsberry Pi students can write their own Python scripts that control those electrical components directly on the Raspberry Pi. 
Raspberry Pi’s own operating system called Raspbian comes with many pre-installed educational applications like SonicPi and Scratch, example games and a special educational Raspberry Pi MineCraft version.

Website: https://www.raspberrypi.org/

Image showing the Raspberry Pi website


Sculptris
Sculptris is a very user-friendly basic 3D modelling/sculpting application that can serve as a great introduction to creating 3D models and characters. Sculptris has a very simple user interface that doesn’t really require any explanation. Sculptris is mostly suited for creating organic looking models and characters like animals, people, aliens and monsters etc. After creation models can also be exported to different file formats so they can be sent to other more advanced applications if wanted. Modeling with Sculptris is like modeling with clay in the way that you can start with a ball and shape it by grabbing and squeezing, but instead of clay, the ball is made up of triangles.

Website:https://pixologic.com/sculptris/

Magica Voxel
Magica Voxel is a great app to easily create 3D-models that consist only of voxels (cubes) with. Kids familiar with Minecraft will be right at home but Magica Voxel is also great for those who like Lego or just building things in general. Magica voxel is also a great first application to introduce people to creating 3D rendered images because the rendering process in Magica Voxel is so easy to use.

Website: https://ephtracy.github.io/ 

Image showing the Magica Voxel application with a model of a Dutch house.

Unity3D
Unity3D is an industry standard game-engine used worldwide to create games with for many different platforms like PC, MacOS, Playstation, Nintendo, Android, iOS etc. 
Though much more complex and advanced as Scratch, Unity3D has a large community of users and teachers that use the engine to create games, interactive art, science visuals, animations and applications with. Unity3D also has many official tutorials and demo projects for creating both 2D and 3D games on its own website.
Unity3D is free to use for any student and individual who doesn’t make more than $100K per year using the software.

Website: https://unity.com/

Image showing the Unity website front-page

Blender
My favourite application for creating 3D-models for my own game projects. Blender is one of the most used industry standard tools for creating 3D-Models, animations, cgi and architectual visualisations. Blender is not really an application for beginners and can take many years to master, but for those teachers and students who are willing to go that far and get bored if things are too easy, Blender is great. Blender has a large community of experts, teachers and students and there are a lot of good Blender tutorials online.
Blender is also free for everyone.

Website:https://www.blender.org/

Kahn Academy
Great app to learn about different school subjects like math, science, art and history. Kahn Academy is my favourite phone app for learning maths because it let’s me easily find the subjects that i’ve missed at high-school. All the Kahn Academy lessons and trainings come in easy to digest bite sized chunks and most of them contain both video and written explanations about the subjects.
Kahn Academy is also free.

Website: https://www.khanacademy.org/
iOS app: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/khan-academy/id469863705

Image showing the Kahn Academy app in the App Store

Lesson Up
LessonUp is an online platform that makes it easy for teachers to create lessons using video, images, interactive questions and quizzes.
Teachers can use LessonUp to create lessons with their own materials and ideas but also have access to a library of ideas and lessons made by other teachers. 

Website: https://www.lessonup.com/en


Thats it for now,.. 
Hopefully these suggestions will be helpful to someone and if you have any suggestions of your own feel free to add those in the comments!

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