Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Scratch Cat Fever!

Well it's all over now.  Six weeks ago I began, in an online workshop, learning about Scratch, the programming language developed at MIT to teach programming to kids.  It was great fun, although in the midst of it I was also trying to continue a graduate level course in curriculum design, attended an unrelated three day conference on digital curriculum curation, and finished up the school year, helped with graduation and then started the new school year two weeks later. Whew!  

But back to the Scratch workshop, or Creative Computing Online Workshop (CCOW) as it was officially known. Many thanks are due to Karen Brennan, a director at the Harvard graduate school of education for spearheading this project.  I learned so much in the six weeks, programming with Scratch being only one of them.  I finally started using Google+ as well as hangouts for the first time. What a great tool that is.  I would love to use Hangouts to connect students with others from another area.  There was a great camaraderie among the participants, and everyone helped each other out with questions on using Scratch, via the Google+ and Google Groups communities.  The scratch team set up a wonderful program with video tutorials and activities.  We also had to keep a design notebook as an electronic portfolio of evidence of our work for earning our certificate of participation. It was truly a MOOC. They also held biweekly office hour conferences via Google Hangout to answer questions and let us know what to expect the following week. There were even reading assignments and discussions, which I have to admit I did not get to, due to my other class, but I will go back and read the authors they recommended at a later date.

The workshop culminated in a real life symposium at Harvard University on the last Saturday of the workshop.  We were able to tinker with MaKeyMaKey and Lego WeDo blocks, got tips on how to do some advanced programming from the CCOW leadership team, and discuss issues in education and technology integration, among other things.  The symposium was set up like an edcamp, where we all had input into the topics for the mini sessions, then the schedule was arranged and everyone chose which session they wanted to attend.  I really loved getting a chance to play with the maker tools, or at least observe others doing it.  I am excited about the possibilities of using the MakeyMakey as an adaptive game controller with disabled students.  I just ordered one for my technology students (and me) to play with!

But most of all am so excited to start using Scratch with some of my students to teach them computational thinking.  We already started last week and they are excited about it too.  I like that it not only teaches how to create projects, but incorporates some mathematical concepts, such as x,y coordinates and degrees of a circle.  The kids were a little apprehensive when I mentioned algebra/geometry, but after they got it they were surprised how easy it was. 

I want to say thank you to Karen Brennan and all the rest of the CCOW leadership team for all their hard work and help on the program.  This was the best professional development or class that I have ever taken.  I wish we could do it again, on another subject, advanced Scratch, programming Raspberry Pi's, etc?  There were a few glitches, but the whole project was so well organized it was not an issue.  I will miss the office hours, which I attended most of them, I think.  They were well organized, interesting and fun too!  I can't say enough about the CCOW team.  It was wonderful!

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