We’ve done Scratch classes here at the library before and it’s always been a fun class to teach. We use the different DK Coding Games books that are available and walk the kids through the different activities. I think the biggest challenges we face are that there are multiple different personalities between the kids and different learning paces and strategies. In our classes there’s always my coworker and I teaching, so we’re able to manage the kids better, and one of us can always stop and help the kids that are falling behind. We’ve also learned that we have to switch how we explain some parts, as some of our analogies don’t work for different students. We’ve only done two sessions of Scratch in this past year, but we’re planning to expand it in the coming year. I think one of the things that we need to change is allowing the kids to just spend time creating their own project in Scratch. After our third session (out of six) the kids were bored with the workbook and wanted to do their own thing. Also, knowing that I struggled myself with creating the animated name activity, I think we’ll need to expand how long we run the program, because it doesn’t give the kids enough time to interact with their project.
We have a makerspace in our School of Education, and one of our goals in that space is to help future teachers (our students) be more comfortable in divergent learning ecologies. We also work with public school educators.
We have found that future teachers and current practitioners are quite anxious about coding so we try a few different pathways to help them move into their “comfort zone”.
One path is quite indirect, we may be showing them MaKeyMaKey and once they graduate from connecting to the piano, we will introduce them to Scratch and guide them to the sound blocks.
We also try to contextualize our activities. We have had some success with early elementary educators engaging in retelling and storytelling, again using MaKeyMaKey as the interface. They identify a story, build conductive puppets, and use the recording feature in Scratch to record the different parts of their story. The entry point on this is simply leveraging the recording feature of Scratch, but from here, they can start to explore associated movements and interactions between the story narrative, their conductive puppets, and Sprites.
We have also had a lot of fun with Math majors challenging them to think about ways to make patterns with the pen. Depending on the grade level that they are working with (or planning to work with), the patterns can go from simple to complex with the introduction of lots of interesting variables.
We have also found that once educators are not as intimidated by coding that they start to branch out on their own and follow their interests.
Some critical conditions for this kind of exploration need to be in place. First, they need to feel safe and supported in their risk-taking. Second, they need to space to tinker and that wonderful noise of learning around them. We believe that learning is social and encourage out loud thinking, as this kind of thinking breeds new ideas and ways of knowing. And, we also promote asking two friends before they ask a teacher when they get stuck. We are seeking that balance between a good struggle in learning and a crushing one. We do not want to overwhelm our students but we do want them to wrestle with a challenge.
And finally, we try to practice deflecting student questions. We will ask, “What do you think?” “Is there another way to do that?” and sometimes, when we are not sure of the answer, “I don’t know, let’s work it out together.”
When helping others with projects…
I usually define the different steps and the input and output expected.
I absolutely agree that project work within a school setting can be exhausting. We have limited resources in terms of time, materials, and support. Balancing the needs of many students at different levels takes a great deal of planning, guiding, and ensuring that the learning goals are met so that the students can be successful in the coming year.
I find that I cover more of the curriculum expectations with greater learning, greater understanding, and greater retention through projects. I’m finding that it’s the integration of ideas that ensures the learning of the big ideas that students can build on. The projects are integrated into the teaching of the necessary content and are multi-disciplinary.
I find that I spend a lot of time at the beginning of the year identifying needs, levels, and independent and group skills. As part of this, I start with individual work/projects and small group projects. It’s very informative. You can spot who has learned how to work collaboratively and independently. I use this information to guide the structure of the projects to ensure that the students have an opportunity to develop and learn. For some students, the main thing that they will learn is how to get along with others. For others, they will learn how to connect their existing knowledge with new ideas. Depending on the students who come into my class, I may be able to do more in terms of projects than with others. I try to have at least one student generated and directed project for every student; however, reality kicks in and some years only some students reach this goal.
I suffer this problem myself.
Sometimes, with completely unexperienced users of Scratch, I’ve tried (though reluctantly) the guided approach. But somehow, if you propose very narrow activities, they tend not to fit with most of them, so it soon becomes chaotic.
On the other hand, when I’ve tried to be as open as possible (the “build whatever you want to” approach), many feel disoriented, they tinker for a while but get easily frustrated as they’re mostly going in circles.
So I’m just now trying to grab some of everyone’s ideas here to spark their imaginations towards something specific (and engaging) enough so that they focus toward some objective, provisional as it might be.
@Alex_Wolf. Where can I find more infos about this talk? Please can you suggest me the link to a video or maybe any slides?..
In my work with teachers and high school students, the biggest challenge I have is helping people experience this as a cycle. People have a tendency to slow the process down, dwelling in each step instead of moving forward to play and share with others.
I think that in general, this is encouraged by the assessment and instruction practices that dominate their prior educational experience, which bias us to try getting it right the first time, instead of playfully experimenting and moving forward.
Some things that have helped:
- Set time limits that are really quick so people don’t see perfection as an option
- Give people a low-risk task to get the cycle started (e.g. not graded, associated with play already)
Kids discussing about features and shapes of foam core model
One of the challenges I had when facilitating project with kids is that the time we can dedicate to the project after school always seems not enough. We always have bigger ambition than the reality allows. And the materials we have at hand always seem to lack one critical component.
Throughout my experiences, I’ve come to learn following three things:
Let the kids prioritize tasks
Kids are owner of the projects. Let them decide the list of tasks and how they want to proceed. Even if the the progress turned out to be too slow or they found there are some important tasks missing afterwards, with some deliberation they will learn how to prioritize and proceed better next time around.
Completion itself is valuable.
Even if the plan or result of execution isn’t perfect, completion of the project itself is still highly valuable because it set up the stage for next project adventure by leaving something unachieved. Most important, completion of project gives kids great sense of achievement.
Emphasize the process
To emphasize the process is to put more emphasis on how one can do better next time, and less on the final output of execution. Overtime, it will develop resiliency and a habit of constant improvement.
I have used a lot of my mental strengths to solve a lot of problems related to the Calculus and Advanced functions, but it would have been much better for me if I had done project based learning at school.
Calculus is not practical for most of students after they graduate school because they can’t use the Calculus for their life. I wouldn’t have taken Calculus if I had had a freedom to choose what I want to take at school.
You make a good point. Unfortunately, the maths are often taught with very little imagination. If you’re lucky, you have a great math teacher who can make it relevant, interesting, and, yes, fun. My best math teachers were the ones who were great mathematicians who saw math all around them and loved to share their passion.
There is nothing in the rule books that says that the maths cannot be taught within a project based structure.
I created mine animation of the name, but I did not really know how to follow the directions. But I am pretty sure, it will be a process that to be familiar with the scrach lab, all the function button can be worked out. It also kind of combination of the PPT and photoshop which allow the animation and creative designs. I like it, and I am willing to invest some time to know how to use it more.
Gradually Release of Responsibility this is an effective way to learn to create a project.
1. Teacher leads
2. Teacher leads as the students helps
3. Student leads as the teacher helps
4. Students leads
(This is what gradually release of responsibility look like)
This system provides students the guidance in order for them to reach independency. This will help avoid confused and frustrated students. Also make learning fun and enjoyable.
Great point on emphasizing on the process rather then the grade. This allows learning to be purposeful. Grades have a tendency to be uneffective rather then effective. Due to the fact that most students achieve for the grade instead of the learning goal.
This is a great illustration of the Maslow Theory. If children are not able to remember (recognize and recall facts) at the foundational level then they will not be able to proceed.
Due to the fact that most students achieve for the grade instead of the learning goal.
This is unfortunately so true under current grade-based evaluation system. I recommend a related video.
This is a great point. Even though I no longer use Calculus after graduation, the enlightenment I got from taking Calculus class in college had really advanced my thinking about mathematics and about how we can analyze things in an “extreme” way to gain useful insights.
Thank you, beconomist, for posting this video. I hope that lots of people view it. I’m a teacher of grade 4-6 students and a number of years ago I gave up on writing marks or grades on assignments. If students are interested, they can do the addition and averaging themselves. The reason: Students went straight to the mark and paid no attention to what they did well and what they did poorly on. And, they did not read any of the feedback. My approach was/is contrary to the push to assess everything and provide a rubric with a level. Since making the change, I see more attention being paid to what they did and more questions being asked. Interesting enough, I had no push back from parents. My students tend to be more relaxed about assessments and assignments. I see progress in their learning and effort throughout the year. What is also interesting, students who are grade driven really struggle the most in my class at the beginning of the year.
The video also brought something to my memory. Years back, I came across a study that seamed to indicate that being a Mensa member also didn’t reflect success. But, I do like to use their puzzles to teach thinking outside the box.
Thank you for this insight. I think knowing oneself well is probably one of the most important thing to be able to do in life. By providing an average number or a letter grade, it just eliminates the opportunity and motivation for students to carefully review their strengths and weaknesses. As a parent to an 8-year-old myself, I rarely take those grades seriously, I think the level of engagement and interest he has in learning something is very direct and apparent and I don’t need a letter grade to tell me that. That said, this way of learning requires dedication from parents, students, and teachers and sometimes it’s just not available to some social groups.
True. I don’t take test marks too seriously either. There are too many reasons for good or poor performances that have nothing to do with learning.
Fully assessing a student’s and a classes’ areas of competency is extremely time consuming. Separating understanding from following procedure takes a lot of time and planning. I can have students fully engaged in a learning activity. What I need to know is what are they learning from it. Can they apply what they have learned in different scenarios.
I do not want to give the impression that I do not assess, mark, and grade. However, I do this for me to determine growth, areas of need, and areas of competency. If I didn’t, I would not be able to effectively provide the necessary learning activities for my students or flag additional help for those who need it.
Another thing to keep in mind is that learning is cumulative. I don’t necessary expect my students to fully understand everything. At my grade level, many things are foundation builders and I know that they will keep revisiting and learning the same concepts throughout their life. Like climbing a spiral staircase.
I agree. The ability to recall is so important to learning. This does not mean that it is learning. It’s just part of it. The difference between students with strong recall and poor recall is very noticeable. It doesn’t mean that children with poor memory are not able to learn. It does slow down their progress and this frustrates them to no end.
Having taught children with extremely poor memories, for a variety of reasons, I know that the amount of patience, time, and repeated practice to bring them along is huge. But, it’s well worth it. Seeing their sense of self and their growth in independence develop is very rewarding.