Thursday, January 10, 2013

SCRATCHing the Surface of Learning

Igniting that all important light of discovery in our kids today can happen in so many new and innovative ways.  In my humble opinion they all deal with hands on discovery.  A child is a such a curious creature.  Filled with questions and lacking inhibition to try new things.  The introduction of technology into teaching opens up the door to trying a new way of learning.  It also prompts questions from the adult population around these kids, such as "Can a 7 year old really program a video game?"  The answer should always be "Let's try".

I was introduced about a year ago to MIT's innovative SCRATCH program, designed to be used by kids 5+.  At first I was not sure what I would think about this.  I, myself, am not a programmer or a gamer.  So when I opened the program and started to explore I was surprised to discover that the program was not only easy to learn but also fun to interact with.  The beauty of the program is in the design of the process, which takes geometric puzzles and turns them into parts of algorithms.  This enables children, even young children, to create success in a very quick way.  As we all know...attention span is not at the top of the list of capabilities for most kids, so giving them a tool that produces nearly instant results is brilliant.

Another great benefit to using this program in a classroom setting is getting to see your students turn into teachers.  Once a kid masters any part of a program, we turn them into the instructor for the other students looking to incorporate that same element.  The enthusiasm of the child instructor is not the only awesome thing happening in this scenario.  The other thing is that by allowing kids to learn from one another their pace of understanding changes.  "If he can do it so can I".  I find myself learning quite a lot from the students as well, because let's face it...if it is technology based it is already intuitive to kids who have grown up in an age when it's more unlikely to find someone without a handheld smart phone of some sort than not.

Scratch is for all ages....so go on...give it a try!


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