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Special Education

« Teaching with Scratch
2 replies [Last post]
Therese Langevin Frech

 Students with developmental disabilities and emotional/behavioral disorders have few options to develop 21st century skills.  

I have an 18 year old son who can search for cheat codes on line, sort through the hits, copy the codes and enter them into his game console to change the parameters of his games (zelda, pokemon, final fantasy).  With a game controller in his hands, he can focus for hours.  In class, he can focus for minutes.  The reason he finally learned to read was in order to understand game dialog and walk through game guides.   His game skills have not transferred to any other aspect of his life.  

I think Scratch (and video gaming) could be doorways into computer literacy for students like my son who populate classrooms/schools separated from the mainstream because of unacceptable behaviors.  His future employment is likely to be cleaning offices or washing windows or shredding paper.  If he worked online, his behaviors would not be an issue.  His fine motor skills are impressive.  He wants to design video games but expects his first effort to look like something from Square Enix or Nintendo.

Is anybody teaching Scratch to these students?  (My suspect credibility as Mom makes it hard for me to teach him Scratch --or anything else--at home.)  In a structured setting I think he would really enjoy using Scratch and uploading his projects for feedback would support his interest in becoming a video game designer.  How can we introduce Scratch to Special Education?  

Vicki Gold

I have been able to introduce game programming to these kids through  tutoring, and after school programs. I have worked successfully with Scratch and Game Maker. I've had  success with girls using Scratch, but boys  prefer Game Maker . Game Maker is intuitive and looks more like a shooter up video game. On the other hand Scratch really teaches the kids how to program. If you use Scratch, my advice, is to have prepackaged cool Scratch tricks up your sleeve to start. These tricks can demonstrate how cools Scratch is, so no one gets frustrated with how difficult it is.

Both communities have great online presence. Scratch's presence is a more appropriate and kid friendly environment. Game Maker is more graphic, but still Jacob Hapgood does a great job with keeping his program free and updated. 

I work a lot with Asperger kids, who love computing and I have found that whatever programming environment you put in front of them, they will do great things, without much guidance.

Last but not least, the one trick that has been tremendously successful is to have the more advanced students tutor the less advanced students. Everyone likes this.

In general, I teach Computer Science in High School using Game Maker, REALBasic, and java. I'm still trying to get Scratch to be taught in the lower grades. It's an uphill battle.

Karen Brennan

There were several educators at the Scratch conference in 2008 that were looking at using Scratch with students with developmental disabilities and emotional/behavioral disorders. I'll email some of the educators to see what they've been up to and if they'd be willing to share their experiences.