Scratch – the way learning should be

I attended a Scratch PD earlier this year run by ICTEV and left full of ideas about running with it in my Grade 5/6 ICT classes.  Chris Betcher’s blog post a short time ago reminded me of my earlier thoughts and pushed it to the front of my agenda.  All I can say is – WOW!
For those of you not familiar with it, Scratch is a program which allows users to create their own games, stories and artwork using blocks of code which slot together.  It doesn’t require programming skills but introduces the early concepts of programming without much of the stress.

This week is my third week working with Scratch with my Grade 5/6 students and I am constantly blown away by its power and the learning environment it helps to create.  You could have heard a pin drop in the classroom today as students furiously moved blocks, tested code and tried different ways to get their car to move around a race track. The only sounds were those of collaboration – ‘Do you know how. . .’, ‘Can you help. . . .’, ‘Look at what I did!’.  Students who previously were lukewarm about ICT are suddenly and thoroughly engaged and grumbled when the bell went and it was time to go out for recess. Most importantly, they’re doing what I’ve been trying to encourage them to do all year – Explore. Experiment. Try things to see what works. Question. Set their own boundaries then push them out further. While I’ve introduced Scratch each week through a guided activity where they make a game similar to that which I’ve created, this is only aimed to give them the basics and I constantly encourage them to see where they can take it.  Not that they are needing much encouragement – the majority of students love it. I walked out of the classroom this morning feeling fantastic and like I’d been part of rich, effective learning.  It was one of those ‘moments for which we teach’.

The final, delicious icing on the cake was having students ask about what they needed to do to become computer programmers. I’m not suggesting that they’ll all follow this path (nor should they) but I hope that it’s ignited the spark in some and that it’s added another possibility to the list for others. Anything that provides children with a feeling of possibility and excitement about the future has to be a good thing.