Coding is for Everybody—Creating

June 06, 2013
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm PST
By Educator Innovator

Coding provides opportunities to create with digital media, not just interact. In this session, we’ll explore what people can learn through coding — and how you can get started coding with Scratch.

Key Questions and Comments:

  • (03:16) Scratch is production-centered. It’s also peer-supported: creators within the community encouraging remixing and build on each other’s work…It’s also openly networked: it’s a vibrant online community in which people can freely come, join, and download & share projects with one another.
  • (05:24) We’ve been so excited and energized by the community that’s been built up around Scratch, because Scratch is nothing without the passionate young learners, educators and parents. The types of themes and ideas we see playing out in connected learning, we see that in Scratch as well.
  • (08:19) One of the ways that I sometimes think about coding and the work we do at Scratch is by analogy to writing. A few people grow up to be professional writers…and yet we see it’s important for everybody to learn to write, for a few reasons. Partly because we can use it in our everyday lives…but, also, writing is a way to start refining your own thinking…One thing we want to think about with programming/coding is how it shares some of those same properties.
  • (10:01) Scratch was originally designed for ages 8-16, but has been used at the university level as well. There are plans in the works for a “Scratch Junior” program, aimed at 5-7 year olds.
  • (15:16) A lot of times, when people think of computer programming, they think of text with a lot of odd symbols with square brackets and semicolons. In developing Scratch, we really wanted to make it as intuitive as putting LEGO bricks together.
  • (19:00) Some of these examples start to show the connection with connected learning. We see Scratch being used in school and outside of school…connecting to the things young people are studying, but also connecting to their own interests. Scratch really cuts across boundaries.
  • (20:36) We looked at what young people value about their learning experiences with Scratch. There were four themes that were recurring:
    • 1. Creating: there’s something very powerful about learning through making, producing, building and creating
    • 2. Personalizing: when you care about something, it’s very motivating as opposed to “Tell me what I have to do”
    • 3: Sharing: both in terms of having an audience (creating for people), and but also having collaborators (creating with people)
    • 4: Reflecting: it gives you new ways of thinking about your own thinking
  • (25:00) I think a lot of the best learning experiences have all of those elements. We want to make sure that, as kids grow up with Scratch, they’re able to have that same type of experience but be able to build new types of things: dynamic, interactive creations with Scratch.
  • (25:42) One thing we think about a lot is “How is it that we can support learners as they start creating with Scratch?” We do a lot of workshops with adults, and adults bring a lot of anxiety of about programming: “It’s not for me. It’s for super-nerds.” So, that first experience is very important.
  • (30:00) We think it’s so important to connect to the learner’s interests. We really want to make sure that–from the beginning–they see this as something that they really care about; it’s not just coding for the sake of coding. They’re coding because there’s something they want to create.
  • (31:24) Seymour [Papert] often talked about developing tools with a low floor and a high ceiling. Meaning that it should very easy to get it started, but you should be able to do more and more complex things over time…but I think that’s not quite enough. We’ve recently started talking about “wide walls,” meaning that there should be many pathways.
  • (33:28) Sometimes, there’s pushback from students themselves. Kids, in the culture of schooling, have so long been separated from what they’re interested in, that when this moment comes to “be creative,” they shy away from it a bit.
  • (35:45) We see sharing in the Scratch online community serving multiple purposes. Partly, there’s a pride in showing others what you have done. It’s also an opportunity to get feedback.
  • (39:25) In the Scratch community, we encourage people to build on each other’s work. Of course, you should give credit and acknowledgment…there’s been a lot of discussion about the ideas of sharing through remixing, and it’s really helped ideas spread through the community and led to all types of innovative projects that I think would never have been possible if people weren’t building on each other’s work.
  • (43:10) When people think about coding, they know kids are going to be learning some specific computational ideas…for us, that wasn’t enough…we started thinking about how kids go beyond that when learning to code with Scratch.
  • (45:10) It’s not just about learning to design, but starting to see yourself as a designer. It’s great when we see kids starting to see themselves in a new way: “I can create things, I can express myself. I don’t just have to be a reader, I can be a writer.”
  • (51:27) So, how do parents fit into all of this? Over the past several years, we’ve seen different ways in which parents get involved. You have some parents who are the super geek: they love it, they want to geek out with the technology…as Mitch said, kids often bring it to the adults.

From this Series:

View the Conversation
During the broadcast, the conversation also took place on Twitter using the hashtag #connectedlearning.

Guests for this webinar included:

  • Mitch Resnick – Scratch co-developer and Head of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab. Mitch Resnick is the LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research and head of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab. He explores how new technologies can engage people in creative learning experiences. He co-founded the Computer Clubhouse project, a worldwide network of after-school centers where youth from low-income communities learn to express themselves creatively with new technologies. Mitch also helped develop Scratch, an online community where children program and share interactive stories, games, and animations. You can Follow him on Twitter at @mres.
  • Karen Brennan – Assistant Professor at Harvard University in the Graduate School of Education. Karen Brennan is an Assistant Professor at Harvard University in the Graduate School of Education, and completed her PhD at the MIT Media Lab in the Lifelong Kindergarten group. Karen studies how participation in the Scratch online community and how professional development for educators can support young people as creators of computational media. You can Follow her on Twitter at @karen_brennan.
  • Kylie Peppler – Assistant Professor in the Learning Sciences Program at Indiana University

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