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Scratch Around the World, Part 3 of 4: Engaging Community through Peer Learning

In this four-part ScratchEd feature story series, we explore ways that Scratch is being implemented in classrooms around the world, with a focus on developing countries. The stories expand upon common challenges and strategies shared by three educators: Alisha Panjwani, Julia Reynolds, and Claudia Urrea, who share their experiences using Scratch in developing nations around the world.
“We had no idea that kids could teach. We thought they could only be taught.”
This was the response from Rwandan government officials who attended Julia Reynolds’ Scratch community workshops in Kigali. As part of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) team’s efforts, Julia worked in Rwanda for four years, supporting technology use in schools while organizing several Scratch workshops in communities for children, their parents, and on one such occasion, invited Rwandan officials. During the event, students who had developed programming concepts in Scratch were given the opportunity to teach adults attendees interested in Scratch. Kids easily shifted their role from student to that of Scratch coach or mentor, much to the surprise of ministry officials. “At the time, our role was to work with the Ministry of Education, but the culture and education with respect to technology – the idea of it – was just foreign. Scratch was one of the main things that was more obvious for people in terms of activities on the laptop. And now kids are teaching Scratch.”
Similarly, Alisha Panjwani’s students in Bangalore, India were eager to share their Scratch learning with others. “It is always very exciting when your child has created something that matters to them. At the learning center, I noticed that parents, who came to see their children’s projects, had not used computers at all. The kids were trying to explain Scratch to them and the adults were using the computer, which can seem very complex at first.” Students explored ways to best help their family members enter into programming with teaching approaches picked up from their lessons with Alisha. First step? Play. “The parents saw what their child has created and played the game the child has made. One of my most memorable incidences was of one of my students, Eashan. He created a game story quiz about the history of numbers, and we used the variable option for the questions and answers. He took it home, showed it to all of his family, and called me at 10pm to tell me about his experience. He tells me that now his sister wants to use Scratch.” (See Eashan's Scratch projects below.)

In an effort to engage a worldwide peer community of educators supporting local Scratch usage, Claudia Urrea established a weekly, online seminar. Claudia has been joined in over 100 seminars by educators and program managers using Scratch all around the world. “I enjoyed working with the educators to make sure that they incorporate technology in a way that is meaningful and beneficial to kids. To see a community of teachers that really prove that change can happen – I was just really encouraged by that.” During each weekly session, educators shared teaching tips, project examples, and stories of practice, often shifting the focus of discussion from the machine as a technology tool to how to use it, and how to use tools as Scratch, to support quality learning.I strongly believe in good examples and we have to work harder to make powerful cases for tools like Scratch. But also beyond that, technology by itself is not going to make a difference. Kids freely using the machine, connecting to their interests and things the care about and having the right support of peers and mentors, achieve wonderful things. I’m worried about those local and national programs with broad and less clear goals, ‘We want to change the quality of education,’ so they introduce computers to students, but the quality of the support for teachers is very low, the intension is missing. I think people now are not questioning whether technology is going to come and should come or not, but more of, how do we do it?”

NEXT: Scratch Around the World, Part 4 of 4, Confronting the Challenge of School Culture

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