Skip to Content

A Story from Dubai: Students Teach Students

In the Fall semester of 2012, year 2 (sophomore) students on the Computer Systems undergraduate degree program at Heriot-Watt University Dubai Campus had to learn scratch to develop a serious game for their coursework in ‘Interaction Design’. The aim of the game was to promote health issues such as diet and fitness. Teaching scratch was not on the syllabus, and it was a good exercise in self-teaching, and students managed very well without my help.

In the second semester, this group of students were given the chance to deliver a 3-hour workshop to fellow students on the Foundations program at Heriot-Watt. Two sessions were held, each having 8 Foundations program student participants. This small number was ideal to ease students into the idea of becoming instructors themselves. They showed amazing self-confidence, even when the teaching computer at the front of the room failed, they were quick to connect one of their own laptops. At any one time, one student was using the teaching computer to demo a quiz or an animation, while 3 other students were milling around the room assisting any student that needed help. The material used was collated by the teaching group and put to me for approval.

The workshop had the following format. It started with a demo of some animations and the impossible quiz which are available on the scratch website. This was followed by the briefest of introductions into the scratch environment highlighting the different screens and the terminology used. The students theproceeded to creating their very own animation. They were given clear instructions, following the steps of the student intsructor of how to go about this and were given explanations where needed. Students were then in a position to develop a basic racing game, again, with the help and guidance of the student tutors.  There was a half hour break in between.

After these 2 in-house sessions, we were ready to hold our first ever scratch workshop to students from local high schools. There were 25 students who attended, representing 8 school in the United Arab Emirates. The workshop was a slightly longer version of the previous 2 workshops, and students had the time to develop one more game. We started at 10:30, had a one hour lunch break and finished at 3:00. The larger number meant that we could not progress as quickly.

Going forward, a colleague in the psychology department is very keen on students there to get exposure to scratch. It should help them develop far more interesting experiments for their Research Methods course. I will post updates when this actually goes ahead.


Dr Hind Zantout MBCS

Postgraduate Director of Studies and Lecturer in Computer Science

School of Mathematical & Computer Sciences

Heriot-Watt University Dubai Campus

Dubai International Academic City, P.O.Box 294345, Dubai, UAE

Telephone: +9714 4358764