The Creative Computing Online Workshop is a six-week online workshop for educators who want to learn more about using Scratch and supporting computational thinking in the classroom and other learning environments.
I like the format because it is not a course – it is structured but there is a lot of leeway in how you approach the activities and it is emergent in how it is being built as with most innovation in this area of online learning.
I will be volunteering to teach Scratch (and other things I hope) at a local school. I’m a STEM ambassador and I’ll be doing some of this in that capacity and some for Code Club I hope. It’ll be good to get back to teaching for some of the time.
Here is one of the challenges I chose: to use 10 blocks to make a Scratch program.
I have set myself the personal challenge of creating an educational resource, with each exercise, that can be used in a classroom.
If you can’t see the Flash movie on your device here is a direct link – not sure if that will be a help though!
That’s the one problem with Scratch – the output to Flash – and I’m with Audrey Watters in that we need a Scratch for HTML5 please and also a HTML5 export option. The reason Scratch won’t work on Apple Tablets and mobile phones is manifold – Apple’s restriction on programming languages (oh the irony) and buried in the Wiki here because Squeak VM (behind every cat there’s a mouse ) doesn’t support those formats so it needs to be rewritten from the ground up I presume? There is talk of a possible HTML5 output at some point perhaps/ maybe… So all of you with iPads will just have to wait a bit longer. (UPDATE: It has just been pointed out to me that there is one HTML5 solution called Snap! – formerly BYOB (Build your own blocks) > http://snap.berkeley.edu/snapsource/snap.html - thanks Miles!)
ELECTRONIC DESIGN NOTEBOOKS
Each week teachers can make an electronic design notebook – so I documented the whole process in Google Docs:
I’m enjoying the course but I’m also thinking around the deeper implications of the pedagogical activities.
THE WIDER DEBATE – IT’S ALL ABOUT PEDAGOGY STUPID
Of course the wider debate is about pedagogy – it inevitably has to be.
There is an excellent discussion going on with secondary (high school) teachers in the UK (you need to join Computing at School to see the link) here taking in Scratch around this article by Shuchi Grover. With the new Scratch 2.0 it is entirely possible to remix and make a computer program without really knowing what you are doing even in terms of code.
The pedagogy of “design thinking” and a deeper understanding of when computing has to be to the fore is important – very important in this respect. Otherwise we’ll have a group of children who are competent at the mechanics of Scratch and some coding but not thinking beyond that skillset. I well remember people churning out “Concrete Poems” in another curriculum era without so much as a nod to the Calligrammes of Guillaume Apollinaire or even the rich cultural heritage of Rebus, wordplay going right back to the Egyptians. People just “did” concrete poems as part of the curriculum.
As an educator this deeper consideration is really important to how and what I will do with any group of children and as I will soon be back in the classroom I take this all really rather seriously. People “doing stuff” because they have to fulfil a curriculum requirement is going to end badly. That is why Doug Belshaw’s involvement with Web Literacies http://literaci.es/ is also important as is the emerging Maker Movement and the Makethingsdostuff initiative by NESTA in the UK. All these initiatives are leading to a new way of bringing communities of learning together.
This year’s Computing at School Conference will be one tribe that continue to address these issues I am sure. I, for one, will be interested to see how the Creative Computing course pans out in terms of discussion of pedagogy. I will also be using things like the http://csunplugged.org/ cf my broadcast of last year http://www.l4l.co.uk/?p=3032 and similar STEM Materials from their e-library to encourage algorithmic thinking.
It is really, really important that teachers in the UK coming to Scratch understand this debate and the need for a deeper exploration of computing rather than just following a lesson plan. I’m sure all sorts of commercial “training” packages will emerge in the next few months and my advice would be to resist the urge for quick fixes and take some time to explore – especially at KS2 (7 -11) - your KS3 (11 -14) colleagues will thank you for it in the long run.
The UK Digital Leaders site also has some excellent crowd-courced resources in this area:
I am also slowly building up a Computing resource on Licorize:
http://licorize.com/projects/3yebeams/Computing but as with everything else I do there aren’t enough hours in the day so these are just pointers for places to go. Now I’m actively involved in teaching and learning (albeit outside the formal classroom) I’ll be documenting this more and more.
So my advice to anyone wanting to implement the new Computing curriculum at KS1/2 is take some time out to play and reflect. It will pay massive dividends in the long run.