Why Scratch Jr ? It isn’t “real” coding...
I hear that feedback sometimes and the person who says it is usually quick to regret it when I share my "why"! (I'm always polite yet maybe a tad too passionate).
Visual programming blocks enable the student to develop a real understanding of how programming works before they tackle a specific language. Many key computer Science concepts can be experienced in the Scratch Jr environment; events, sequences, loops, algorithms and one of the most powerful for self directed learning, debugging.
My experience with Scratch Jr is in a workshop environment, small, multi age groups 6-12 years, sometimes with kids that have learning challenges...I cannot say enough about this valuable learning tool, I really love it. (I have a feeling that isn't news at this point).
Scratch Jr is a program aimed at the K - 2 age group however I have found it to be very effective for older coders. It's simple intuitive interface, bright colours and quirky characters have obvious appeal and the simple snap together coding blocks provide a fabulous introduction to the exciting world of programming.
There are a lot of "monkey see, monkey do" coding environments out there. This can be positive, especially in the beginning, being able to copy code and then "run" a program is an undeniable thrill and it can lead to more exploration, however, it can also lead to shallow engagement & understanding of the process.
Scratch Jr's non threatening coding environment & simple tool set encourages innovation, students really want to push it to its limits and see what it can do.
Coding is all about the questions you ask and the logical (yet creative) way you design the solutions.
If you would like to explore Scratch Jr for yourself you will find links to download it for your device here: Free Resources.
I have observed the positive benefits of free range maker spaces and the limited benefits of pseudo maker spaces!
The problem with the "pseudo" spaces is the school timetable, not the educators that run them.
The design or computational process of;
Time needs to be created and preserved in the curriculum so these learning opportunities can happen without pressure. Educators are swamped with busy work and constant box ticking. Freedom from standardised assessment and generalised standards would free educators to facilitate real exploration. Self directed learning, reflection and feedback could then take centre stage.
I conduct workshops for school children and homeschooled children.
(General) observations over the last 12 months have been...
The "schooled" children wait politely to be lead through each step, they seldom take inspired action but wait for orders from above. When our time is up they are eager to "save" their work to "show" it to others for approval and that seems to be the main focus rather than taking risks to achieve a better outcome.
The homeschooled kids often race ahead with their own ideas, get stuck and frequently crash and burn! However, when they hit problems they don't wait to be rescued they (argue) and collaborate to find a solution. They won't leave when the session finishes, only when the aim has been achieved (or they are thrown out). They are not concerned with saving anything until they have nailed it and success is it's own reward. They push the project beyond the original brief every time and their ideas are usually so spot on I (humbled) always tweak my plans to incorporate them in my future sessions!
This is the person the marketplace says it wants!
So do I think this "difference" can be attributed to the educators of the "schooled" children?
Most educators I've met are open, eager to embrace new ideas & have the passionate desire to facilitate real connections and make a difference in their student's lives, but the system impedes their journey.
When I'm cleaning out a drawer my favourite method is to throw everything out and then only put back the items I know will be useful to me in the future. I create space and my attention and time is no longer wasted searching through junk to find a relevant item.
I allow you to make the connection between that drawer and the education system you may be working in!
This newspaper article sparked a personal observation about "learning to read".
My own son struggled to read in Prep/ Grade One and Special Ed was suggested as a solution.
He hated reading...home reading had become a tearful chore, however I knew that all of this new trauma was so unnecessary and all would be fine if he was just allowed to make connections his way when he was ready.
Time to take the pressure off, and bring the enjoyment back, by reading to him once more.
My favourite Grade 5 teacher used to read to us for hours on long hot summer afternoons. I'll never forget listening to The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe under a shady tree. It nurtured a love of books in many of us.
So we dumped the mind numbing "readers" and chose real stories filled with excitement and adventure. He would be at my shoulder following the words as I moved my finger along them. Sometimes I would point out a word that recurred in the text and each time we came to it he would read it, if I left a small pause.
After 6 - 9 months of enjoyable reading together (without pressure to "learn" to read). He was reading chapter books suitable for children 3-4 years older! Sometimes stuck, but undeterred because he was engaged and eager to find out what happened! I'll never forget him running into a bookstore (when it all clicked) and declaring joyfully "I love books!".
The trouble with "systems" is they create an artificial timeframe for progress. Learning broken down into a one size fits all process. This is flawed because it is not how humans learn...
That's when educators make all the difference, by knowing their students and tweaking the stepping stones so they resonate with individual students but sadly even they can be constrained by outdated educational norms.
Learning is a unique and individual process.
One aspect may resonate with an individual student, which then inspires them to further exploration & more connections. Another student may need to take a completely different path. Outcomes achieved in this self directed way are long lasting and meaningful.
A one size fits all system will only ever deliver for a narrow defined band of students and that is a tragic waste of potential.
There is a thriving, innovative alternative education community out there and like Ken Robinson says...when alternative education becomes mainstream, then we'll be getting somewhere!
We need students to graduate that have essential skills, but we also need students that know how to learn. Students who know what questions to ask that will lead to the answers they seek. Self directed learners who don't fear mistakes but use them as a trigger for deeper exploration. Creative problem solvers prepared to tweak their answers after reflection or feedback, able to be flexible and creatively collaborate.
The era of the "sage on the stage" is over as we enter a new time of "the guide on the side". Less teaching and more facilitating, directing & guiding. Making resources available and then allowing the time and space to let real learning happen, not constrained by 45 min bells or rigid Naplan timetables.
Digital Canvas Workshop is expanding based on this innovative 21st Century model and we are eager to keep sharing our discoveries with you.
I have this overwhelming urge to try to record the last term of Digital Canvas Workshop. If I can capture it on this blog I get to keep it, savour it!
When I set out with these first groups I didn't know what to expect, I hoped I could match my vision but was wary enough to "wait and see"...
All of it has exceeded my expectation, these wonderful bright little beings, so thirsty for information and a grace and ease around technology that is so inspiring.
I am even more convinced that if you allow children to explore, create and play, while guiding them in the direction of the knowledge they seek, their capacity and innovation will amaze you.
I requested feedback from my "mums" and you will see by their responses how lucky I am. Open validating warmth came my way. They have given me permission to publish their responses. So grateful I get to create with them all again in Term 3!
Feedback Term 2:
Lindsey: Hi Shauna, just a quick note to let you know how much both Noah and I have enjoyed the courses you have run for you. You are a natural, patient and intuitive teacher and know how to guide and explain the programmes and apps to us in a way that we understand, no matter what our learning style is. I love how you get kids with a difference and are able to accommodate them and build their confidence in a gentle and non judgemental way. We are always made to feel so welcome. I am so looking forward to continuing our digital journey with you. Many thanks for opening your home to us. xxxx
Bella: Dabble Daily.
Words flowing from Shauna Kay at her recent Digital Canvas Workshop for Parents.
I sat there in anticipation of learning some new skills (the whole tech thing sends me into a frenzy of forward rocking and head shaking).....and so it was.
I sat there calming myself so that for the first time, I would see technology as my friend!
So this workshop gave me more than I had intended it would.
A fresh perspective on how joyful technological tools can be.
How empowering it is to be a learner again, in the real sense. And that really means, 'a dabbler’.
This 1.5 hr session was a gift in that Shauna systematically introduced us to 5 adobe tools we can use together to create something personal with a voice. It was a lighthearted session where risk taking felt easy, exploration easy and dabbling the biggest teacher of all. Dabbling with support.
Larissa: Hi Shauna, I just wanted to write and say thank you for the workshops you ran for the boys and also the recent parents workshop. Our boys loved learning about animation and cannot wait to join you for more. For me seeing what Adobe are doing on iPads was a real eye opener and opens up a world of learning and creative opportunities. The way you communicate with the kids is fantastic, you are so positive and open, what a champion you are. thanks for opening up your world to us, we are really grateful.
Nicci: All I can say is thank-you for the opportunity to show me ways to use my iPad I never imagined possible. I went home yesterday and could not wait to play. Austyn sat at my side amazed that I could creat so many special things. It has changed the way I see the iPad in uses for education and fun. The Mamma's class is a must for all mums. I will never look at my iPad in the same way again.
Tania: I highly recommend checking out any of the Digital Canvas Workshops. My 11-year-old took part in the 5-week Introduction to Animation and absolutely loved it! It was interesting, fun and interactive - the kids had a ball trying out different apps and learning cool new animating skills. From stop animation to blue screens and plasticine modelling - the kids got stuck in and created some amazing end products. Thanks Shauna for your patience and willingness to help kids of all abilities. We will definitely be back again next term!
Why I believe being introduced to creative digital tools is important and the drive behind establishing Digital Canvas Workshop.
Computer Science and its unique language is the literacy of our children's time. It will shape their future opportunities in ways we are only beginning to fathom!
There is another equally important component that will determine our children's place in this high tech world...the ability to communicate their creative ideas and solutions and share them effectively within the digital realm. In order to achieve this, they will need to be proficient in the use of creative digital tools.
Learning these skills does not confine children to a career in animation, film or graphic design, but rather expands their opportunity, by introducing all the innovative skills that careers of the future will demand.
It is estimated that over 50 percent of future jobs will require the ability to understand code and also the ability to be actively creative and comfortable expressing and sharing original ideas.
Being able to creatively collaborate will be a vital skill as well as the ability to effectively organise and reflect. Practical skills such as breaking creative projects into smaller achievable steps will enable innovative solutions to become a reality.
When a child learns to express their original ideas or tell stories using creative digital tools, they are no longer passive consumers in the digital world merely watching or playing, they become creators well placed for future career opportunities!
That is my mission (and my passion) and why I work to create opportunities not yet accessible in mainstream education.
Well I was already a Ken Robinson fan! But here he is talking about my two favourite things, creativity and technology. He talks about how digital art tools provide a "palette of possibilities". A phrase I have adopted for Digital Canvas Workshop because it sums up what we are all about. Introducing your children to creative leading edge tools so they can fly!
When you're planning a digital technology project and need ideas it's fun to look at a story you already love and extend the narrative...maybe from another characters perspective? For example, in "James and the Giant Peach" what did the seagulls think when they were captured in the silk and had to fly through the air carrying the peach? Did the talk to each other through gritted beaks?
From there you have a spark of an idea...
Have fun with it, maybe draw a scene with stick figures with balloon dialogue (story boarding) Or go into voice memo on your smart phone and record what the characters might say. Take turns playing different characters and adlibbing, you'll be amazed what happens and the fun you will have!
In the workshops we would create our original characters, record their dialogue and then create our animation using "real" animation techniques. With real animation, you record movement in real time as you move the actors around the stage.
Explore the magical Roald Dahl Website here!