This week Gabriel and I have been co-teaching a course called Learning to learn Scratch. The class is made up of 20 kids from a local 3rd grade. The kids use a puzzle piece method to create small games in two class sessions, and on Monday they will present their work in the new part of the lab on 10 big screens in front of their family, friends and the local media.
The kids have worked great together and despite the gorgeous weather, we have had trouble getting them outside to take breaks and play tag in the sun.
Gabriel and I have had high hopes for this class. Our pedagogical goal has been to model ways of solving problems that integrate analog, digital, and cognitive skill sets. Gabriel has taught similar courses many times, but this has been my first time so I thought I would take a few minutes to sit down and reflect a bit on the experience.
The first day the kids and I went through a three hour tutorial where we made a princess and firefly game. It was both complex and simple and I thought, ‘Wow! How are the kids EVER going to remember this!!’. I voiced this to Gabriel, but he smiled and assured me that the kids retain more than they even think they did. And after watching them begin on their own games yesterday, I see that he was right. Fairly complex scripts that have some characters wait while others complete a task, backgrounds that switch or that whip characters through portals are just a few of the things the kids were able to do after very little prompting. I am so impressed at their abilities after just ONE tutorial.
The media has also been quite interested in our little class. We have had the visits from both the local newspapers, a tv crew and a radio guy. And I was a bit surprised on the questions they chose to focus on. You could almost say that they were very ‘moral panic’ focused (should talk with Simon about this at some point). In the class you see here, only two girls were signed up. They made a hamster game while one group of boys made a war game. The two other boy groups both made fairly neutral games that involved chases and fantasy beings. Rather than looking at all the games, the hamster and war game were set against each other in a discourse that was both somewhat gendered and with a focus on ‘computer games=violence’. I think it is an unfair association towards the hard work these kids have put into their games. On the whole, the games were very neutral and fun. Yes, there was one slightly violent game, but the actual game turned out to be fairly tame and also provides an opportunity to discuss issues with your student/child about the themes he or she uses in their game.
You can check out the media coverage in the following links. They should be active for a month from today.
All in all, the class sees to have been a great success. The kids have been enthusiastic, and the games fun. The real measure of success, however, will be if one or two download the program and continue coding at home. If nothing else, I hope that we have shown them a different view of what they can achieve with a little excitement, a lot of curiosity, and a willingness to learn and try new things.