Today, I had a look at the popular KS2 educational programming and coding site Scratch, for the second time ever. I have never seen Scratch used in the classroom, but have seen the app logo on many school i-pads. At first, I was slightly overwhelmed by the many different options and not having a step by step audio guide was quite daunting, however I quickly realised there was visual step by step guides on the website (which I will probably rely on for quite a while)! Even the vocabulary used throughout the site is all new and will take quite a while for me to get used to.
Setting up Scratch:
Scratch can be used via app or on the website itself making it quite a flexible programming device in schools, as educational institutions who may not have a plethora of i-pads are still able to access Scratch on computer and laptops. Once on the website, clicking create, gives you full access to programme to your heart’s content.
My Second Personal Experience of Scratch:
As at first I was quite overwhelmed, I quickly searched the website in the hope of some guides to help me navigate and start my coding adventure. A pop up box on the right hand side of the screen has many options to help you out. I chose to create a catch game from the step-by-step menu at the side to get my head around the endless possibilities Scratch has to offer…
The step-by-step guide talks you through each element from selecting sprites (the images used within the game) to enhancing the game by adding a scoring system. I found this particularly useful and it made the whole coding and programming process seem much less intimidating.
New ideas and actions were introduced during the step-by-step guide in a clear and concise way that are easy for children and adults alike to follow. The colour system used for the various sub-sections is also a useful feature and it makes it easier to search for the programming option you require and identify it more clearly when building the scripts.
The step-by-step guide not only tells you but shows you visually how to construct the scripts so they are successful and achieve your targets, putting an emphasis on how easy it can be once mastered.
After completing the majority of the step-by-step guide, I was able to play the catching game I had created using a monkey and bananas as the sprites. This game was fun and it was made even more satisfying by the fact that I had programmed it myself.
To test my skills even further and enhance the quality of the game, I added a scoring system (with the help of the guide). This was simple enough to do once told how to add it. It proved successful (after 2 attempts) and I was able to play as the monkey and catch the bananas, thus, with each successful catch I scored a point.
I enjoyed the challenge of creating my own game and feel KS2 would also enjoy this. It does appear rather complex but once broken down into manageable steps and you remember where everything is, it could be mastered quite quickly. The children could even work in small groups or pairs to further their reasoning, communication and teamwork skills or grouped accordingly to support someone who perhaps lacks confidence in computing.
I still need to have more a free play time on Scratch to develop my knowledge and understanding and programming in general, without specific instruction, to really enhance my skill development within the area of KS2 computing.
Potential Cross-Curricular Links:
Scratch is quite a unique tool and requires quite a bit of concentration to really engage within the programming and coding of characters and scripts. You could link it to a topic lesson by creating a theme within a game e.g. Viking characters and props linking to History. However, I believe the main focus when using Scratch should be on the computing vocabulary and the programming and coding itself, rather than mixing that focus with another topic.
Assessment for Learning:
There are so many options on Scratch. Children can create animations, games and stories either individually, within partnerships or in small groups. Teachers can easily assess the children’s learning as they are able to save their work and progressions, which is very useful for children to continually work on projects over the course of a term and enhance their programming skills according to their knowledge and understanding of computing. Children can independently save work by signing in and creating a Scratch account, which I am sure schools would invest in. Their account would be accessible by the teacher so that the children’s learning, knowledge and understanding can be recorded at different stages of the year. Similarly, the children will feel proud of their work as they could potentially create a programme that is completely unique and quite advanced if copious amounts of time are dedicated to Scratch over the course of a term or even a school year.
For the lower achievers, the teacher could create their own guides for children to follow but within these guides leave elements of choice so the children can discover ideas of their own and thus, feel proud of their work. It may even instil curiosity to try programming and coding on Scratch without a guide in a subsequent lesson once their confidence builds.
For higher achievers within computing, the teacher could ask questions regarding higher order computing skills and reasoning to further their individual development. These children could be highlighted after an initial task of following instructions to create a simple game has been completed, achieved successfully and whether the children added anything extra off their own back. All in all a great app and website for assessment and learning within computing.
To conclude this long blog, Scratch states that it helps children to work collaboratively, creatively think of ideas and reason systematically, which are all essential skills for successful computing, programming and coding within the 21st century. In addition, these skills are transferable to all the other subjects within the National Curriculum and therefore, this programming device holistically develops the whole child.