For my independent project I chose to develop my skills in the studio of YoYo Games.
YoYo Games - Game Maker is the best tool available for creating games because you can make anything you can imagine with it, and not have to worry about the         
complicated technicalities typically associated with making software; like
compiling, libraries, runtimes, memory, drivers, devices and hardware
compatibility.  I found it quite fun and after the tutorial it was rather easy to use.
Students will really benefit from this activity for it is extremely engaging! Special needs students will find the colours and sounds stimulating and will want to complete the task. Achieving this ensures students are able to Develop and modify programs. There is a huge variety of themes and levels so age and ability will all be tailored for successfully.



Relevant links to Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting
Authority (ACARA, 2013):



2.4 Identify, explore, and use digital systems (hardware and software
components) for personal and classroom needs


4.4 Use a range of digital systems and peripherals for diverse
purposes, and transmit different types of data


4.6 Design and implement simple visual programs with user input
and branching


6.7 Design and implement digital solutions using visual programs
with user input, branching and iteration


8.9 Develop and modify programs with user interfaces involving
branching, repetition or iteration and subprograms in a general-purpose
programming language


 8.10 Manage the sequence of tasks, the types of processes and the
resources needed to develop software that meets user requirements

 
 
I took my time in checking out a few different alternatives to Scratch, I found three that I felt would be relevant and quite easy to use within the classroom.
Below is the Draft Australian Curriculum descriptors to which I have connected these activities/alternative programmes to.
Draft Australian Curriculum: Technology (ACARA,
2013).


Content descriptors:


2.4 – Identify, explore and use digital systems (hardware and software
components) for personal and classroom needs
 2.5 – Follow, describe, represent and play with a sequence of steps and
decisions needed to solve simple problems
 4.5 – Define simple problems, and follow and describe the algorithms
(sequence of steps and decisions) needed to solve them
 4.6 – Design and implement simple visual programs with user input and
branching
 6.6 – Follow, modify and describe simple algorithms involving sequence of
steps, decisions, and repetitions that are represented diagrammatically and in
plain English
 6.7 – Design and implement digital solutions using visual programs with user
input, branching and iteration


PLUG AND PLAY MAPS
http://www.plugandplaymaps.com/
This program can be used in a variety of ways to match your needs. It is fun and the students will love the different elements on this site.

MONKEY JAM
http://monkeyjam.org/
Monkey Jam is a digital pencil test and stop motion animation program. It is
designed to let you capture images from a webcam, camcorder, or scanner and
assemble them as separate frames of an animation. Age Appropriate and fun to use.

GAME SALAD
http://gamesalad.com/
This fantastic site allows for students to create their own game and understand how exactly apps and computer games are established and made. A great chance to be creative.

The draft form of the Australian Curriculum Technologies allows
students to be able to use their education in technologies to move from creative
play through to being able to develop new innovations.  The huge variety of programs are available online, will also support the Curriculum’s goals to cater for different student abilities and learning capabilities (ACARA,
2012).
 
 
In Phase two we are to extend our knowledge of Scratch and computer programming by engaging in self-directed exploration of programming with Scratch. I chose to build another race car game and make the track itself a complete track instead of just point A to point B.

Draft Australian Curriculum: Technology (ACARA, 2013). 

2.4 – Identify, explore and use digital systems (hardware and software
components) for personal and classroom needs
 2.5 – Follow, describe, represent and play with a sequence of steps and
decisions needed to solve simple problems
 4.5 – Define simple problems, and follow and describe the algorithms
(sequence of steps and decisions) needed to solve them
 6.6 – Follow, modify and describe simple algorithms involving sequence of
steps, decisions, and repetitions that are represented diagrammatically and in
plain English
 6.7 – Design and implement digital solutions using visual programs with user
input, branching and iteration.

Learning Potentials

I found within this activity of the extension of the race car, it is a very structured way to establish new ideas through scaffolding.  With this activity I feel as though it will be suitable for those students who finish  first or better yet, they find the first activity of phase one basic and have the desire to move onto a more advance level.
 
 
Phase 1 included the challenge to create a car game.   Firstly, I had to change the background colour to green, then draw a grey road and then draw a red horizontal line at the end of the road.  I developed the sequence which would have the car begin at the starting position and stopping at the red finish line using the control elements such as the arrows keys to direct the car in the correct direction.  Scratch can be used in the classroom in this way to customise and differentiate activities. Students can work at their own pace and complete projects they way they want to and still meet the
objective of the activity. Students will use their problem solving skills along
with creative and critical thinking with creating or extending a Scratch
program/game.
Draft Australian Curriculum: Technology (ACARA, 2013).
The activities from phase one, align with the following  descriptors:

 2.4 – Identify, explore and use digital systems (hardware and software
components) for personal and classroom need.
2.5 – Follow, describe, represent and play with a sequence of steps and
decisions needed to solve simple problems
4.5 – Define simple problems, and follow and describe the algorithms
(sequence of steps and decisions) needed to solve them
4.6 – Design and implement simple visual programs with user input and
branching
6.6 – Follow, modify and describe simple algorithms involving sequence of
steps, decisions, and repetitions that are represented diagrammatically and in
plain English
 6.7 – Design and implement digital solutions using visual programs with user
input, branching and iteration

PING PONG GAME

Next activity I had to create a Ping Pong game by creating a paddle and a ball. I then followed directions to develop a program sequence for the game. I found this one very difficult as my computer kept freezing on me.  This is not ideal while using Scratch :(
 
 
My journey began with phase one -  Introduction to scratch programming of the assigned Scratch activities, I had to start by installing Scratch onto my computer as I have never used this program before and found it in the beginning to be very challenging and difficult to understand how the controls were to work. I was quick to begin experimenting with Scratch by following the directions outlined by the course lecturer in the course activities. When
beginning the journey with the program ‘Scratch’ it became apparent that it
clearly takes all of the essential programming constructs like sequencing,
conditional branching, control structures, data manipulations etc, and wraps
them in a very friendly, very easy to use environment that even the youngest
students can use with just a little knowledge.  

 
 
I am currently on twitter and following many experts in the industry not only for education, but for special needs organisations and professionals.  I am currently in the process of interacting with 'Autism Awareness' @AutismAware who are currently tweeting about providing these wonderful children with apps etc. to communicate.
My query to these experts what whether these apps are providing opportunities or barriers for these children.
They continue to refer back to a documentry on the television show 60min which gave the perspective of the benefits apps and iPads create for children with autism.

I am also in the process of following the @WeAreTeachers site as I feel they provide some fabulous infomation about relevant resources that can be used within the classroom and online.
Opinions from fellow teachers are also stated which helps me to understand the overall view of certain products and programs in the industry.  I connected with this site and as they were discussing resources online to use on the interactive whiteboard.  I asked of their opinion of what resources would be relevant for those children with special needs and the conversation continues.

I am finding twitter to be a great resource in itelf to connect to experts and professionals in the industry.  Even by following a professional on Twitter allows me to read posts and discussions about interesting topics relevant to my collection.
 
 
 
 
It is obvious to see that majority of ICT resources have its major advantages for special needs students.
Allowing these students to be able to communicate and participate in activities within the classroom.
Giving them the opportunity to really feel as though they are included in the group during the learning experience.

A huge part of ASD is the fact that their social skills are very minor and they almost act as if they are ignoring you and being rude.
This is simply an aspect of their disability and can result in the individual to be isolated and very much a loner. In most cases students feel more comfortable playing alone as their stress levels can build within a group situation. Students often need to be taught how to act within a group situation as these social skills do not come naturally. 

With this in mind, can a piece of technology such as an iPad increase or decrease their opportunities to learn and build onto their social skills?
Relating back to my little brother, he has a very obsessive personality and when he begins to play a computer game of some sort he will become very attached to this game, needing to play it at certain times of the day and often locking himself in a small room to do so.

If at anytime he is taken away from the game, his temper fuels and he becomes extremely violent towards anyone in his path.
Losing control of his computer game can result in a huge, dramatic scene.  

Has technology created monsters in our children and blocked opportunity to interact with others? Opinons?