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problem solving software
Stagecast Creator is a Java-based authoring tool that allows users to make personalized worlds and then animate them as desired -- without any knowledge of programming, and without ever seeing a line of program code! With this program, parents, students, and teachers can create interactive simulations, models, games, stories and lessons.
Users begin with an empty ‘stage’ or screen, and add characters which they create with the program’s Picture Painter, or import from clip art files. When satisfied with the new character’s appearance, the user places the creation on the empty stage. It can then be taught rules which allow it to perform as directed by its creator. A ball can, for example, be taught to bounce up and down on the screen by defining a rule that tells it to “start at point A, move to point B (above point A) and then move back down to point A”. This is done simply, by clicking and dragging the character on a grid.
Now the user might decide to create additional characters and have the cast interact with each other. She might choose to add a house to the stage. Now she can teach the ball to bounce up and over the house by including both the house and the ball in her grid, and clicking and dragging the ball up and over the house and down. This new action is only the beginning of the world of amazing possibilities this innovative program provides. Kids can create interesting simulations complete with key-controlled interaction and sound effects.
Bouncing a ball over a house sound boring? How about building a simulation demonstrating the environmental and geological processes behind erosion? Or a simple one that demonstrates entropy? The range of simulations the user can create seems limitless.
Kids also learn how to use computer tools, manipulate graphics, define rules, and set parameters -- concepts that can be transferred to other areas of computer use. They receive immediate feedback as they create new rules and apply them. Although their concepts sometimes fail, the result is always interesting and often sparks new ideas. Stagecast immerses students in a world of vast possibility.
Kids generally opted to settle for rudimentary looking characters or imported clip art in order to proceed to the ‘rule maker’ portion of the program. Here they were delighted with their immediate successes, and enjoyed trying to outdo one another with outlandish animations. Most were satisfied to create at a basic level, not wishing to invest the time needed to learn the complexities of the program.
Although there is a steep learning curve with this software, kids can expect to create their own animated worlds almost immediately. Stagecast Creator comes with an intimidating looking ‘Creator’s Guide’ that takes the user step by step through the program’s many capabilities, and although the dedicated user would benefit by reading this manual from start to finish, we found that the separate, laminated (quick start) guide and the program tutorial were sufficient to get the new user started. Once involved in the creative process, testers were able to refer to the more in-depth Creator’s Guide as needed for specific help.
PC: Windows 95/98/NT, 486/33 or faster cpu (Pentium class recommended), 40 - 75 MB of free disk space, 16 MB RAM for Creator and Player (32 MB for Web Player), 32-bit color display, Internet Explorer 4.0 or later.return to top of page
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