This past Friday night and Saturday I facilitated the first “Scratch Camp” for the Div Jr., a new educational outreach program of The Div in Edmond, Oklahoma. In this post I’ll share a few lessons learned from this initial “Scratch Camp” experience. If you are or know an incoming 3rd through 8th grader in Oklahoma, be sure to get / get them registered for our WEEK LONG “Scratch Camp” through Div Jr. in Edmond July 16 – 20, 2012. Each day we’ll have a morning session from 9 am to noon. Scratch software ROCKS and it’s very exciting to see young kids (both girls AND boys) getting fired up about programming, storytelling, and game development!

Scratch Project

Parent / Child Workshops Can Be Great

I’ve wanted to facilitate a parent-child technology workshop for a LONG time, but this past weekend was my first opportunity to do so since the early 2000s when I helped teach a series of TIE grant workshops in Plainview, Texas, for Dr. Carroll Melnyk. This model worked GREAT for our initial Scratch camp. It was great to see the parents having good discussions with their kids about their projects and working together through different challenges. The dynamics of the workshop were (as I expected) very different from an adult-only workshop. When I asked a question, the adults generally let the kids answer, and the kids took the lead in asking some of the questions too. Overall I was VERY pleased with these workshop dynamics and would DEFINITELY setup the workshop the same again. We opened registration to incoming 3rd through 8th graders, and asked that they bring one parent and a laptop to share (if they had one) to the workshop.

1.5 Days is About Right

I think it was good we didn’t just do the workshop one evening or one day. Having it spread out over an evening and a day gave both kids and parents more processing time, and I think reduced the “information overload” tendency which is so easy to create in a technology workshop. Our schedule was 5 to 8 pm on Friday night and 9 am to 3 pm on Saturday with lunch provided on site. I’m glad we didn’t go LONGER than 3 pm on Saturday, since that was plenty of time, especially for the younger students. I really liked this time setup and would repeat it again.

Great Scratch Workshop Activity Suggestions

Of all the Scratch resources I provided to participants and utilized to get ready for the Scratch Camp, this Scratch Workshop Design Guide (PDF) from ScratchED was the most useful. I wish I’d actually followed some of the suggested “getting to know you” introductory activities in the guide. The activity suggestions were great, however. We used the “8 Block Build” activity, as well as the Scratch Cards. The activities we did followed many of those I’ve used the past few semesters when I’ve taught Scratch to pre-service undergraduate education students, but we had a few more “guided lessons” in Scratch Camp since we had a longer period of time together. The cycle of show, play, reflect, share was a good one to follow and led to a lot of learning for everyone, I think.

'Scratch Cards' photo (c) 2012, ScratchEd Team - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Island Tables Work Better Than Rows

The first evening the room tables were setup in the default layout with rows facing the front. I re-arranged these for Saturday, putting them in “island” groups, and that worked better for collaboration and sharing. I’ll definitely setup the room with tables facing each other again for future Scratch Camps. While there definitely are times for direct instruction at the front of the room, those times are limited and I like the work environment which collaborative tables invite. It also makes it easier for me to walk around as a camp facilitator and help students who get ‘stuck’ or have a question.

Microphones Make It Fun

In the afternoon I provided some Plantronics Audio 655 USB Headsets for participants to use in recording their own voices into their Scratch projects. This was a lot of fun and definitely a great thing to do. I actually would provide these earlier in the day next time, because I think adding audio really helps get the “creativity juices” going. (Especially when kids are involved.)

Game Design Is Challenging (in good ways)

My favorite quotation of the day came in the afternoon, when one of the boys said, “This is hard!” He was having fun and really enjoying himself, especially in drawing his own sprites. It was a big realization for him and others, however, to learn how many steps and how much thinking, planning, organizing, and work had to go into creating things like computer animations. It reminded me of something I heard Gary Stager say years ago about programming with kids. It can be “hard fun!” I think that may be a Seymour Papert quotation, but I heard Gary say it so I’m attributing it to him! I definitely mentioned Papert’s role in creating Logo and being the grandfather (in many ways) of Scratch software.

Scratch: Analog to Digital

Learning to Use the Scratch Community Is Key

One of the most important things I taught our Scratch Camp participants on both days was how to use the Scratch Community. One of the first things I asked them to do was create their Scratch website accounts, and they both learned and practiced how to “favorite” projects as well as upload/share their own. If you’d like to check out some of what the participants liked and created, you can link to their Scratch website profiles on our June 2012 Scratch Camp wiki page.

Our Scratch Community UserIDs

Those were some of my main “lessons learned” from Scratch Camp this weekend. Have you shared Scratch software with students, parents, and others with a special event? What were your lessons learned?

Please consider offering a parent and child “Scratch Camp” event at your school, community center, church, or other neighborhood group. Scratch is free and SUCH A wonderful environment for creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, and the development of computational thinking skills. For anyone sincerely interested in developing both student interest and skills in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) a Scratch Camp is a home run!

Feel free to use any of the Scratch resources I’ve linked on the Div Jr.’s Scratch Wiki site. If you live in Oklahoma, I hope to see you for our next Scratch Camp July 16 – 20. Unlike our June Scratch Camp, however, the July camp will just be for students in grades 3-8. No parents this time! If you’re a teacher or adult interested in learning more about Scratch and being a facilitator for workshops, please contact Lindsey Miller at The Div. It’s likely we will have room to “get you in” to participate!

Long live digital creativity and the fruits of many laborers at MIT’s Lifelong Kindergarten Group!

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