Thing 17: Coding

This week’s thing definitely took me out of my comfort zone. While I love using technology and exploring the latest social networking site or awesome tech tool, I have little to no idea how they actually work (and even less of an interest in understanding what goes on behind the scenes). So, I considered myself a pretty good test subject for this week’s tools and their ability to appeal to my students.

I was pleasantly surprised with not only how fun the activities were but, how much easier they made it for me to understand the basic idea of coding and programming. I was so impressed, I decided to just go for it and try Scratch out with my 6th graders. This wasn’t the first time I’ve used a technology I wasn’t already an “expert” on with my 6th graders this year. But, it was the first time I lacked confidence in my ability to become an “expert” on our tech tool/project. I was out of my comfort zone yet again.

While there were definitely some hiccups, overall it went quite well. The first class I walked them through the Scratch site and the different elements of the script before sending them off to work on the tutorial. The second class, students were given the option to do the tutorial again, work on the e-card tutorial, or experiment freely to see what they could get the cat to do. We’ll be having a third and final class with Scratch later this week where we’ll once again be allowing students to turn their imaginations loose to see what they can accomplish.

While some of my students seemed to get stuck on modifying their characters and the background without ever attempting any actual coding, most of my students quickly moved from being apprehensive about coding to eagerly waving me over to see what they had made. I had students make two characters dance together, or in one case have a “dance-off”. Another student figured out how to make her character “talk” to her. Another student obsessed over getting the code just right so his bats looked like they were really flying around the screen. The classroom teacher and I had decided we would allow them to use this time between testing and April break to experiment and problem solve without requiring a final project so I hadn’t made them accounts with Scratch. But on Friday, when the sub asked if she could send some students down to use the library computers for end of day free time, all of them wanted to use Scratch and all of them had set up accounts on their own. Yet another kid tracked me down after school in the art room (I was helping with stage crew) because he was so excited to share how he “didn’t really get what we were doing at first but then I did and it’s really cool”.

Overall, I’d call my Scratch experiment completely worth it and I think we’ll be revisiting Scratch next year!

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