I was able to visit with our school principal today, as well as one of our PTO presidents, about the idea of having an “every other week” after-school computer club, most likely for just 4th and 5th graders. (I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago in the post “Digital Playground of Dreams.” Our focus would be creating things with Scratch, the new FREE programming environment for kids of all ages from MIT. I pitched this as a “computer club” where kids will be invited to create, learn, and share different types of projects they create, from animations to games to stories. The idea was well received, so conversations will continue to determine the best way to setup guidelines for participation. We have five classes of students per grade level at fourth and fifth grade, so even if we limit the club to those grade levels there will potentially be over 200 students who could express an interest and want to participate. The school’s computer lab has 25 stations, and from a management standpoint I’m thinking we wouldn’t want more than 25 kids in the computer lab at a time. We’ll need to do several things, including:

  • Coordinate software installs in the computer lab with the district’s IT department. Even though I plan to focus primarily on Scratch, I’d like to also get Audacity and PhotoStory3 installed in case we decide to do some digital storytelling down the road. (Easier to do coordination for installs of 3 free programs all at once, rather than go through the process again later in the year.)
  • Setting up a schedule of parents to help supervise / staff the school computer lab for the club meetings. I had thought about offering this every other week, opposite our “Chess Club” which met last year every other Tuesday after school.
  • Figuring out how the best way to manage participation if we have more than 25 kids that want to participate.

What do you think about the third issue? We could have students apply to participate and just choose 25 to be “in the club,” but I’d like to be as inclusive as possible. It occurs to me that we could have sign-ups each week for students, so 25 kids could come to the lab and participate each session. I’m not sure which path would be best.

Our kids have SO many after-school activity choices these days, so I am really not sure what the response to this will be. I think after school activity options like Chess Club and a Computer club (programming club) are great for young people these days, when so many families seem myopically focused on sports team participation after school. I think sports are great, but I also think it is good to value different cognitive abilities, as well as creativity, which may not be emphasized in the same ways on the fields of friendly strife.

If you have thoughts on the best way to handle “club participation” in this case, I’d value your ideas. Because of the coordination and planning issues involved, our “club” may not actually start till later this fall or even next semester. We want to make sure we think through as many aspects of this as we can– of course we can’t plan for everything, but hopefully we can devise an environment that provides opportunities for lots of students (who are interested in this) to develop and share their creativity with Scratch!

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3 Responses to Update on “Invent the Future” After School Club / Scratch Programming

  1. I would suggest having Google Earth installed as well (if it isn’t already). I just started back at school this week and I had forgotten about the “Wow” factor it has with students that have not really used it before. Screen shots from it could also be used for your digital storytelling and backgrounds in Scratch.

  2. This is a great idea Wes. As far as #3 goes, I would rather see different sections so kids don’t see it as a personal issue if they didn’t get “picked”. It is better to send the message that technology is inclusive than exclusive. In our school we ask kids to provide 3 choices and it is extremely rare for a child not to get into one of their 3.

  3. Ross Hampton says:

    I include Photostory 3, Google Earth and Sketchup and Audacity on our Wellesley laptop image
    so that even if teachers don’t use the software now it’s there when they want to! And they will
    want to! I want to do some work with Scratch too…..

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