Friday, 26 September 2014

Using Scratch for Learning Strategies

We needed something to get our class back working together as a cohesive unit today. Yesterday we had an amazingly awful run of things trying to get text-to-speech tools installed and running on all students devices. It was chaotic, crazy and frustrating for many of us.

We had planned on starting with Scratch next Monday, but needed something exciting and fun to end the week on a positive note. Wow, did that plan work!

Scratch is a tool created by MIT that allows youth to create animations, videos, games, etc. while developing some skills required for coding. Over the past few years Scratch has moved to a web-based platform that runs in the browser. This means my students could access it from any device except iPads. Lucky for us, their teacher is a bit geeky and always has an extra Chromebook kicking around. In learning strategies we are using Scratch to address the following learning goals:

  • Practice skills required to learn new things.
  • Develop critical thinking skills required to troubleshoot when things don't go as planned. What can you do when something doesn't work? 
  • Develop collaboration skills. Students can build together, learn new features from each other, build on each others code. 
  • Practice critiquing each others work and providing effective feedback for improvement. 
  • Reflect on what it means to have "grit" or resiliency. How do we respond and feel when things don't go as planned? 
  • Develop skills for creativity and innovation. How can you make this piece of work even better? 
  • Provide context and practice of some literacy skills. We will be keeping design journals as we go. 
  • Provide context for reflection on learning skills.
  • Provide a real virtual community to practice and demonstrate our digital citizenship skills in. These skills will include appropriate communication, sharing our work, remixing others work while providing credit. 
We had great conversations about "the Grandma rule" (don't post anything online that you don't want Granny to see). We also talked about the skills required to troubleshoot when technology goes wrong and what it means to tinker and figure things out on our own. 

During the initial exploration period, students explored previously created Scratch projects and started to create their own unplanned projects.  Unrestricted exploration. Their reflection was based on brainstorming things they could create. As I walked around class, I heard the following from students;
  • "how did you do that?"
  • "here! come see this!"
  • "Wow, did you know that you can... ?"
  • "ok, so what if you did this and I did this... "
  • "urrrrrggggg, why can't I get this to work? Ok, lets try this..."
  • "I just made the coolest thing, come here and I'll show you how I did it"
  • "so, how did the person make that game? Here, we can look at the code. Does it make sense?"
Todays class was the most engaged I have seen my students by far. It was also the most collaborative they have been, with exception of previous "directed" group work. Meaning, they were all up and learning over each others computer screens, helping each other out and interacting with each other. 

Mission accomplished. A great end to the week. Next week we'll each find a feature to share with classmates. 

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