Scratch from scratch

As I said in my last post I have been fortunate enough to have a day with a group of Year 6 children when I can have unlimited use for a day of the school’s well equipped I.T. suite.

After a lot of thought I decided that I would try “Scratch” the brilliant post Logo program that was developed at the Media Lab at M.I.T.

From the very first time that I came across it I saw that it was a worthy successor to Logo and follows the path that had been started many years ago at M.I.T. by the great Seymour Papert.

The mixture of programming made simple (with slot in instructions) and the link to animation, sound and computer art was really taking the ideas that Papert put forward into the 21st century. I could see why so many children (and a hell of a lot of adults) were impressed by it and were producing such wonderful animations.

But where it really came into the 21st century was the linking of all the power of the program with the facility to upload content and have content changed from participants throughout the world. This is truly a social media environment which links creativity to learning “powerful ideas” (to use Papert’s phrase from a book he wrote many years ago.)

This morning, rising early and getting onto the internet just after breakfast, I thought that I’d do an initial investigation into how to go about leading the children into the wonders of Scratch.

I did the inevitable Google search and found that there was a site called learnscratch.org (http://learnscratch.org/index.php ) which had a number of online video tutorials.

I went, as you would, to lesson 1 and found that this literally was an introduction to Scratch from scratch! I was impressed with the building up of skills and it reminded me of a concept that I had read about in John Mighton’s book about “Jump Math” of the building up of skills like a wall, bit by bit, that allows children to gain ownership and mastery (just like the apprentices of old who picked up skills from a master one bit at a time).

I started to make Scratch the cat move forward and then back… then in the next lesson I learnt how to repeat an action and then use the Green Flag to start it. I learnt how powerful it all was by experimenting bit by bit.

Even though I am a bit long in the tooth, I found that I learnt easily this way and it made me wonder why we sometimes rush through difficult concepts, particularly in mathematics, without allowing children to have the building blocks that allow them to have ownership of it (as Mighton says in his book).

My first session is planned then, we will log into learnscratch.org and will let the children discover the nuts and bolts of the program. When they build up confidence (which I believe they can do quite speedily) then I will let them loose on drawing their own sprites, downloading music and hopefully collaborating with each other in the creative process. I really feel that they will love the day and get a lot out of it… but they will get the most out of it if they start from scratch and build up their confidence and skills!

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