Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Learning some programming (Scratch)

To make room in the schedule for an extra hour of CS Unplugged, I cut the two Scratch lessons from last summer down from 90 minutes to 60 minutes.  I based the first Scratch lesson on the video course Scratch 1 provided by the curators of  TechKobwa students are more adept at reading written English than understanding spoken English.  I therefore started with a written transcript of the videos that we had created for last summer.  It had already been modified to use Scratch 2.0.  For this year, I also modified the order in which topics were introduced to give a quicker overview and encourage more experimentation, and added a lesson on changing the back drop. 
A teacher started by leading the students through the first couple of lessons, and then let them proceed at their own pace to read instructions and try things out.  Family leaders circulated through the room to answer questions.
The second Scratch lesson was delivered entirely by teachers with the help of family leaders, as I was teaching the fourth CS Unplugged lesson with half of the students at the same time.  They followed instructions for programming a simple show with two acts.  The teachers tell me that the students had a lot of fun with this lesson.   
The instructions for the lesson started out very detailed, as illustrated by the first few pages of the handout shown below:

Instructions gradually became less detailed.  The lesson left lots of room for extensions--addition of entirely new acts and embellishments of the two existing acts.  
For some reason, we don’t have any pictures of the Scratch lessons with students—maybe because all hands were to busy helping students and having fun with Scratch themselves.  This photo is of me introducing Scratch to the teachers during TOT. 
Unfortunately, several of the teachers are at schools that lack the infrastructure they would need (enough computers and reliable electricity) to teach Scratch at their home schools.  This was the rationale for spending more time on CS Unplugged lessons and less on Scratch, even though the teachers and students both had a lot of fun with Scratch. 

Of course, besides being fun, the Scratch lessons reinforced many of the algorithmic concepts they had learned about earlier in the week.  They could very concretely see that each sprite carried out a sequential algorithm; but that events allowed them to execute in parallel.  They also became very familiar with the concept of repetition.

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