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Scratching at programming August 8, 2008

Posted by davidit in Uncategorized.
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I have just been reading through my latest copy of New Scientist and I came across the following article. (Unfortunately you will only be able to read the start of the article unless you subscribe.) New Scientist 2 August, 2008 No2667 pp26-27 if you want to get to your local library to read it.

The article is about Scratch and how popular it has become in Europe and the US, 300 000 downloads since its launch in May 2007.  The program was showcased at Ulearn07, unfortunately I did not attend that session, but one of the teachers on the Supertanker raved about it and had it installed in her class.  Unfortunately that teacher has left now, but the article has spurred me on to look at it further.

One of the great things about Scratch, according to the article, is its modular approach rather like Lego bricks.  I have been thinking about that today and that approach is why I think other programmes such as Lego Mindsotrms and Mark Overmars’ Gamemaker are also so successful.  Students do not have to get their hands dirty with programming and coding  in order to get a result.  For me my perennial favorite is that other MIT stable horse from the 80’s Logo.  Logo is not as popular as the others these days it seems because of the coding element, although I still love it.

Gamemaker and Scratch are both free and that makes them a valuable resource for collaborative projects.  The New Scientist article highlights the trading in blocks of Scratch code that students from different locations enter into as part of their own collaborative projects.  John Rowe the headteacher of St Mary’s School in the UK who has been using Scratch heavily commented on the benefits of Scratch collaboration this way.

“Having an audience for their output is really important because it provides context and engagement.  Once you have got that half of your job as a teacher is done.”

Isn’t that the case for anything that we do in the class?  Programmes like those mentioned above should be widely used in the general class environment, I believe, and should not be seen by teachers and students alike as the preserve of geeky boys.  The quality and depth of thinking and problem solving that I see each week in my robotics class is argument enough as far as I am concerned to make Scratch, Gamemaker and Lego Mindstorms core elements of every classroom curriculum.

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1. Artichoke - August 8, 2008

Have seen Scratch being used in general class environments in schools in New Zealand David, and have even played at creating stuff myself so that I could more clearly imagine it’s potential for kids … but I must admit that the best thinking around its use in education that I am aware of is not in any blogs in the wobbly isles but across the ditch in Australian educator Bill Kerr’s blog

2. Marnie - August 9, 2008

David, I saw it at Ulearn last year too – never got it started in my room but this is the wiki from the workshop I went to http://creativethinkingulearn.wikispaces.com/Software I think it was run by Rocky Jenson.

3. Helen Hardie - August 11, 2008

The following video shows what St Mary’s Church of England Primary School have been doing! http://www.ideasforlife.tv/watch/385
I will certainly be exploring the potential of using this next year!

4. Gamemaker - revisited « Turning the Supertanker - September 15, 2008

[…] Logo, MSW Logo, New Scientist, Scratch, Softronix, The Pit trackback I wrote a post last month on Scratch, and since then it has got me thinking.  Scratch made a bit of a stir at Ulearn07 in Auckland and […]

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