My Scratch Project

I am in week 2 of the “Learning Creative Learning 2” MOOC from the MIT Media Lab.
our assignment this week was to use the “Scratch” program to cover our interest/interests.
Scratch is a brilliant computer program that allows you to create sophisticated media presentations, or create games very easily. It is basically a multimedia platform that introduces computer coding in a user-friendly manner.
For our project this week we had a video introduction by Professor Mitch Resnick of the Media Lab that gives you a great idea about the power and potential of Scratch.
I had done a similar Scratch project in the first Learning Creative Learning course a year ago. I decided that I would update it. I looked at the programming which was fairly simple. It combined a use of captions and pictures from this blog, the writing of which was the main focus ( my interest ) and I recorded a short commentary at the end.
I decided that I would add to the commentary. I recorded a new commentary reflecting on my experience in creating the original programming and a reflection on the power and potential of Scratch Programming for education.
The “slotting in” of the new commentary required some problem-solving. I initially “attached” the new commentary to the old ( pieces of Scratch action attach to each other like Lego bricks which they have connections to). The result when I ran the programming was that I heard the two commentaries together! I had a bug that I needed to fix.
I tried a “Wait 2 Seconds” instruction and had almost the same as effect! ( with a two second delay).
I therefore worked out that the “Wait” command needed to be the length of commentary 1 (1 main 27 Secs) and on trying a new wait of this length found that I had the continuity that I was seeking.
This was deeply satisfying and shows how Scratch allows play with multimedia, using powerful computer concepts and allows for debugging that can clearly be seen ( or heard). It has the ” low floor, high ceiling” that Seymour Papert talked about when he developed the ancestor of Scratch, LOGO.
To see my humble effort goto

The toy typewriter


I have been asked as my first assignment for the MIT Media Lab MOOC “Learning Creative Learning” to write about an object that I encountered in my childhood which transformed my life.
My object was a toy typewriter.

I wrote a blog post about my love of writing and written communication that can be seen here.

Here are the relevant parts relating to my fortune in getting this object in the first place:

“He remembered the first time that he encountered something different. One Christmas, when presents were being distributed as they always were. He had been given a Meccano set. His brother has been given a toy typewriter. He had never really enjoyed making things out of nothing, his brother had an aversion to writing   but loved creating things from string and sticks or getting some construction kit and making a model from what seemed like little bits of an impossible jigsaw.

Later, when he had settled into his new Digital land, he would find out about a man, Sir Ken Robinson, who would write a book that told about finding your “element”. He knew that his element was not in construction and his brother did not like writing. In an inspired moment worthy of the judgement of Solomon, his parents decided to swop the gifts around.

He faced the typewriter which worked very slowly and laboriously to put letter after letter onto a piece of typing paper. It was magical to him. He found that he could write and that with his writing came communication to others. It all came so easily.”

I went on to describe my later discovery of an Amstrad electronic word-processor. This machine made my mechanical experience of a machine that can make my ideas with words come alive into an easier experience.

This led me to a fascination with the power and potential of the fast developing world of digital technology that has led me to my second year as an LCL student.

As I type these words for my assignment on my Nexus 7 tablet, I can see a direct line of interest in writing and technology that derived from that first sight of a small toy typewriter!

My teacher is an app turning me into a robot

I have just been listening to the excellent series on technology in education on BBC Radio 4 called “My Teacher Is an App”.

It was extremely balanced in showing the growing commercialisation of technology in schools and in particular pointing out the possible perils of having students doing programmed lessons that supposedly lead to higher achievement levels in standardised tests.

I was particularly impressed by the teacher from the Waldorf School in Palo Alto, California, otherwise known as “Silicon Valley“, the home of the great microtechnology innovations, who stated the reasons that Google and Apple employees were sending their children to a school that eschewed the use of technology by their pupils until they were 13 years of age! To  read more about the school see this informative article from the New York Times.

The reasoning of the tech people was that many schools using the commercialised programs with their students were effectively “programming” the children to become good at taking tests. They were concerned about the lack of creativity and how the products of these schools could become human “robots” capable of doing a narrow range of activities very well but not equipped to cope with the  ever-changing global economy that we live in and capable of tackling the many problems that our world is beset with in regards to global warming, poverty, political destabilisation and growing urbanisation.

Perhaps the greatest problem in relation to the growth of this educational technology is the new players on the scene. The likes of Rupert Murdoch and Pearson were mentioned as huge commercial interests that have seen education as a growth area for making huge profits. Their influence has grown in the last few years and they have brought their “robot making” machines into schools. This is particularly seen in the poorer areas of the United States where Government money has been spent to create charter schools sponsored and supplied by these commercial giants. The growing threat to teachers of this commercialisation was covered extremely well in a blog article by Will Richardson in 2011, also called “My Teacher Is an App“.

There was also an interview with Salman Khan the founder of the “Khan Academy” whose video lessons have supposedly transformed education leading to the popular idea of the “flipped classroom”. No mention was made about the quality or accuracy of many of these video lessons which have been found to contain inaccuracies and which, in respect of the style used, present a “show, tell, lecture” approach that is all about filling empty minds with supposed important knowledge.

I think they key point to this very worthwhile discussion is to get us to realise the huge conflict that is happening within the world of education between those who are concerned with testing and standardisation and want a return to the values of the past and are backed by huge commercial interests that are able to pressurise Governments into using their “technology”. The other side is fighting for an education system that uses the technology to promote the 21st century skills of “creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking.”

Technology is not, in itself, an answer. We should all be involved in the debate about the use of technology in education. I am so pleased that the BBC has taken this subject seriously and has made such an interesting and well-balanced series of programmes which I would commend you all to listen to in order to work out where you stand in the debate.



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