Seeing your comment here and looking at others you have some fantastic ideas! Thanks for sharing your thoughts @breenworks
Daniel in Zambia…
“Have you helped others learn to create projects?”
I’ve been developing a program to reach adolescent girls and young women (actually as young as 10 and as old as 56) from rural, typically off-grid, Zambia. Taking kids from no exposure to anything electronic, let alone computers, to coding games in Scratch within an intensive week-long technology camp setting has been interesting.
::Biggest challenges" and “Strategies”
The girls and young women I work with are particularly marginalized and underprivileged in Zambia. They are mistreated in many ways, and often end up having sex with grown men at a young age, high rates of HIV and pregnancy follow. Inspiring them to use creative thinking takes a few days during the camp… we play what I call “Scratch Pad” which is to act out Scratch coding using people on a stage… this is much loved. We then have teams come up with their own Scratch Pad, using original ideas and they share their understanding of coding principles using the acting game.
My audience is quite different from even urban and peri-urban Zambia, and certainly much different from elsewhere in the developed world. How can we help these girls get into the swing of creative processes in project based learning when they have so much to “catch up with?”
I am helping out in Coder Dojo because I am very new! I try to help my young class of 5 and 6 year olds apply Scratch Junior and Coding to everyday tasks such as English- narratives and Math.
In the Coder Dojo it is difficult because there is such a range of students coming in and working on a range of projects. We continuously have to debug and help eah other learning the skills of collaboration and problem solving !
I have been using Scratch to deliver coding workshops in a public library for a few years now and alway learn something from new after each workshop. We struggle to met the demand and also managing the varying skill sets of the children attending. I like the idea of offering project based session and when this has been offered the children struggle with either the coding component or the design, for example they will spend the whole worksop creating a great looking project with no coding attached to it and then there are other children that follow the coding and put no thought into the design they stick completely to the instruction given.
In CoderDojos of Lugano and Como we also use the Scratch cards as idea starters, especially for newcomers.
They are a very effective tool.
How do you challenge students to evaluate and redesign their open-ended Scratch projects?
I find that when I am working with kids in Scratch (esp. middle schoolers), after a quick introduction, they start to work on their idea. When something goes “wrong” with their idea- like their sprite starts to rotate instead of change colors- instead of trying to figure out what went wrong, they adapt their concept. “I like it that way, I’m going to keep it.” Coming from a computer coding approach, I find this difficult to overcome. I want the kids to learn computer logic, but getting them to investigate the problem and fix it themselves is challenge.
Who has some cool strategies for this?
As a teacher, I try and incorporate projects into school subjects whenever possible. I believe that projects provide a stronger incentive for students to participate in their own learning while also exposing students to teamwork, planning, revision and editing, presentation preparation, organizational skills, and other such skills in addition to the mandated curricular content. I feel that students may not always remember all the lessons that I’ve taught them, but they might remember the project that they created.
Some of the biggest challenges to project based learning is time. I think that there is a fear that if we put all our effort and time into one project, that we might be able to: a) cover all the required outcomes; b) run out of time for other subjects. It feels like a huge risk. But the reward is so sweet. I find that in project based learning, student participation and buy in is greater. The willingness to try and try again is higher. Students don’t tend to focus so much on their grades.
When it comes to strategies, I find clear planning and using multiple calendars the most helpful. There is a monthly calendar which shows the general themes and ideas that will be covered for each week with a potential end date to ensure that the project doesn’t run on and on. Then there is a weekly calendar with lesson plans to indicate what area students will be working on and what supporting lessons and tie ins are required. I’d like to find more resources to help with project based learning and learn different ways that others implement it. So far I find the Buck Institute of Education has some excellent resources.
Just a few questions:
With the open-ended Scratch project, do they have certain parameters that they have to meet within the task?
For example, in the animated name challenge, perhaps one of the tasks is that one letter should change color, one letter should spin etc?
Do you feel the lack of willingness to address the challenge presented is one of motivation or fear? Are they unmotivated to change it because it would mean spending extra time on a task? Or are they afraid of making mistakes and prefer to cover up the potential for failure by just saying they like it that way?
Possible ideas for addressing - just spitballing here:
Be a Gamer: Make each task into a game or give points for attempting new code lines
5 points for making something spin
5 points for changing color
5 points for making your sprite disappear and reappear in a new place
User review reports
Similar to how we read book reviews, game reviews, movie reviews etc
Could the students do a user review of a project while looking for certain criteria and providing their feedback?
Knowledge Based Circles
This was a concept one of the teachers at my school taught us. It is where students sit in a circle and talk to only each other about something. There is extremely limited direction/input from the teacher. Students discuss with each other a problem, question, or challenge they have and the group response to it by offering comments, suggestions or help. This makes the students more accountable to each other and look to their peers for help rather than always looking to the teacher for guidance. Before they start their work on a project, they can take 5 to 10 minutes to check in with the circle to discuss these issues and set goals for the session. At the end, they can sit and review with each other what worked, what didn’t work, what was accomplished, what they want to do next time, etc.
Hope that helps and good luck!
I think the opposite would be something of a stand and deliver approach. What makes you hesitant to attempt project based learning? What resources have you checked out? There are some great websites that can help with planning and tracking projects as well as provide inspiration such as https://www.bie.org or http://galileo.org
This is a BEAUTIFUL visual! It makes total sense and great for showing what learning looks like.
I love thinking of new ways to engage young people to express them selves creatively through projects. They have to be open ended and include time to share, collaborate, and modify further. Weather it has multiple materials or a selective amount of materials, I try to select materials that can be manipulated and are easy to find. From cardboard to pipe cleaners, legos, tape, clay or even paper. I also try to implement projects that can be easily taken on by younger or older learners to provide the widest reach. One thing I love to ensure is that it can be an inter generational experience. Weather it’s a 16 year old collaborstinc with a 10 year old or an 8 year old mentoring a 12 year old. With all this in mind I’m moved to discuss the second part of this reflection:
What were the biggest challenges you faced?
I believe it is when I come across a young person with a disability that I want to try and engage and make feel welcome but it’s been no easy task trying to help them feel they can participate equally or meaningfully. When I ran a Computer Clubhouse program in South Boston, I had a delightful Clubhouse member with Cerebral Palsy and another young person wit His Asbergers. Each required a different approach to engagement. The girl with crebral Palsy, Let’s call her Emma, could not use the computers easily l, but I did have a music keyboard she enjoyed using. I asked her parents what ways I could best engage her and they were very kind to bring in her specialized computer mouse. It was helpful but I wanted to find more ways. The other young person with Asbergers loved hacking my computer stations. I made him part of my tech team to maintain computers which at times worked out well and other times was not so successful. I had to reboot systems often and if he didn’t get his way he would have a melt down. This that was and still remains to be a challenge. I am trying to find ways to engage these young people from various abilities in creative projects but I still have so much to learn. Although this happened many years ago and these young people are now adults Im still confronting this challenge in project making. Any suggestions would be great
This is very interesting for me, thanks! Do your teachers accept that they are giving their students the freedom and choice to take control of their learning and therefore that they might not cover the material specified on the curriculum (as the student outcomes become differentiated by their own decisions), or do they believe that they can cover the curriculum with a project based approach? Which leads to a question I am always asking myself… do we compromise the benefits of students learning through projects if we have very specific content related expectations regarding learning outcomes?
This is the million dollar question! As an educator, as far as I can see covering specific curricula outcomes is convenient for adults, for example it allows universities and employers to compare students against each other, makes it easier for governments to hold schools and districts accountable, and ensures that adults remain in control of the specific content that everyone learns. In my opinion a more student centered approach where students are given freedom, choice, and trust to produce their own education (with very skilled mentoring and assistance from well trained adults) is very difficult to measure and manage, so most school’s and governments do not know how to embrace the idea…
The biggest challenge I face when helping others to create projects is the transition from developing ideas and empathy for the problem in hand, to actually making or producing something. I find it difficult to judge how long a group should spend discussing, researching, and possibly procrastinating before actually making a prototype, or committing to a possible solution.
I was reading your post and couldn’t help to notice your suggestions of directing the activity with success criterion.
I’m a video game designer by profession and I’m passionate about playful learning.
I find project oriented learning with scratch great especially because it is creative and self-determined
the motivation behind the use of the tool should remain intrinsic to the kid’s personal interests and skills
if they have a goal they care about they will learn at the level they are and can keep on learning as long as they enjoy themselves but giving extrinsic motivations like scores for doing specific things might very well do the opposite from what you are trying to achieve. it will steal the intrinsic motivation that they might have had and replace it with the extrinsic motivation you provide them. (I recommend reading Deci & Ryan - Self-determination theory about that)
it feels that forcing specific ways to use a creative tool such as scratch kills the purpose
If I could recommend something it would be to let the kids use the tool as they like and focus more on helping them to find what they care about and supporting them with technical help on-demand when they need it for something that is meaningful to them on their own journey. believe me, they will learn much better that way
good luck with your group !
I was wondering if anyone would like to share examples of what kids found “meaningful” for themselves as projects (with or without scratch) ?
Have you tried using MakeyMakey? It’s a fantastic way to extend Scratch (and other programming platforms) into the real world. I have read about several people who have developed computer interface devices to accommodate specific physical disabilities/challenges. Perhaps some of these youths could be engaged by developing such solutions for younger kids with similar obstacles to using computers/games/etc?
There’s a fantastic TED Talk by MakeyMakey co-developer, Jay Silver which addresses this approach:
Hack a Banana, Make a Keyboard
There was also a panel discussion on the topic of Creative Computing For All at last summer’s Scratch Conference at MIT:
Working on projects with students has been a challenge. I liked that you have many ideas to put into practice. Some of them are very creative and imagine different worlds. Others are very focused on reality or the world in which they live. I guide each of them so that through coding they can translate their ideas into a work. The important thing is that they learn to program and do it in a fun and motivated way
I feel the biggest challenge in project-based learning is the students that are not motivated by the project. How do you get them motivated to work on the project? Even when I allow the students time to learn and work on their own projects these students are not motivated. One thing I have found that works for some is to show excitement and energy when talking about a project. It takes awhile but the students come around.
Building common experience and building relationships are keys for me in facilitating others. In my role I receive lots of “you should do…” ideas, but I don’t have the capacity or interest to follow through on many of these. I keep a list, both of projects and contributors, and work to connect ideas and people as I can. Sometimes these connections develop into peers playing with their passion projects, sometimes not. Being on the recipient end of the “you should” is definitely a challenge, and my list-keeping strategy has definitely helped me out in that there’s a place to receive and mull over lots of good ideas without the burden of “should.”
As far as project-based learning, I wonder about how loose is too loose, especially in a formal education setting. How does project-based learning look/feel different in formal vs informal learning environments? What does the research say about this?