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My reflections from the April 13, 2013 ScratchEd meetup

What great ideas come from teachers gathering to generate a project for introducing High School students to computer science?


At this meetup we had quite a few High School teachers looking for strategies and activities with Scratch for an Introduction to Programming course.  We decided to use Breakout, a game that is common to beginning programming curricula. Colm was brand new to Scratch so he teamed up with Laura, a ScratchEd intern and created in Scratch 1.4. Pam and I worked online in Scratch 2.0.  Both “teams” ended up with a basic knockout game that they are eager to build upon.

However, what really emerged was a collaborative problem solving process.  Our new Scratcher served as our skeptic with questions like: “Will I really have to make each brick its own sprite?” That question prompted the group to come up with different approaches:

·         Make each brick its own sprite

·         Make a sprite for each row or set of rows and change the costume whenever the ball goes to a certain coordinate range

·         Make the bricks in a background and change the background when the ball goes to a certain coordinate range

Can you think of other alternatives to making each brick a sprite?

I served as a facilitator, keeping track of our progress so that these teachers could have something to take away from this meetup.  The Scratch program is so rich with creative components, it is easy for new Scratchers to get lost in the options and not finish the project. This is especially important for HS teachers who want to introduce multiple programming languages in their intro or survey course.  Facilitating is not giving answers, controlling the solution or just keeping time, rather it is recognizing successes and barriers and encouraging the team to overcome the barriers.

How do you facilitate the learning in your classroom?

We were fortunate to have Laura, a HGSE student and ScratchEd intern join our collaboration, pairing up with Colm on the 1.4 version of Breakout.  Laura’s experience with Scratch blended successfully with Colm’s perspective as a computer programmer. Pairing up in programming is yet another valuable strategy for a HS programming classroom.  The resulting exchange of ideas and solutions can certainly help the students’ comprehension of the programming language.  

Pam took on the challenge of building in the Scratch 2.0 beta environment, while continuing to participate in the group’s ongoing dialogue and maintaining the goal of creating a Breakout game that could be used to instruct programming concepts.  Working in both 2.0 and 1.4 helped our team identify some of the new features including the ability to change a background directly from a sprite and to keep high scores.

 Regardless of which platform and how many resources we had, the visual feedback that Scratch provides was the most important instructional tool.  These are some questions we had to answer to complete the project:

1.       Why did the ball go off the screen?

2.       How do I get the ball to keep moving?

3.       Why didn’t the brick hide when the ball hit it?

4.       How do I make the time count down?

We figured out what programming concepts can be used to answer these questions, can you?