Digital fluency refers to “the ability to use technologies in a confident manner” (Howell, 2012, p. 243). In preparing students for the modern digital world, the ability to use a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation tool is vital (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2013). However, given the rapidity of technological change, I suspect that achieving true fluency will require students to move beyond tool use and delve into digital manipulation and creation.
Scratch is an excellent tool to introduce logic and basic programming. Teaching students to code creates”a fundamental shift” in their relationship with technology, developing a deeper understanding of the digital tools they use by turning “passive consumers into active producers” (Morrison, 2013, para 9).
When using Scratch, I became a digital content creator engaged in a real world task, and it was immensely satisfying. I was impressed that the program was scalable; suitable for simple activities to complex tasks, for a variety of skill levels. It has an intuitive user interface that prevents expression errors, and I appreciated the immediate feedback, with none of the frustration of code compilation. The functionality that allows a user to design their own characters and backgrounds provides a wide scope for creativity.
When I was introduced to Scratch for the first time, I took note of my learning experiences to provide an insight into how my students may approach a similar task. Therefore, given the intuitive learning predilections of digital natives, I chose to explore Scratch instinctively without viewing the instructional videos (Zur, 2014, para 2). Here is my first attempt, a simple animation that required no user feedback.
After the first trial, I chose to use the ‘remix’ option to alter a game-based animation, adding in functionality to both improve a game-play experience and challenge myself. The ability to view and alter others’ work allowed me to see the outcomes of small changes, and understand the available functions more rapidly than if I had attempted to discover them myself. I suspect this reworking-to-learn practice will be applicable in far more pedagogical areas than just programming, and I will look for further opportunities where it can be utilised.
I envision using programs like Scratch in my classroom with upper primary students, combining a basic coding introduction with a creative, student-led task. For example, my students could work as a team to create a storyboard, write a script, design characters and scenes, and then build their animation before sharing it online and with the class. The concept of a multi-modal lesson, one where I can combining coding and creativity, fills me with enthusiasm.
Here is an interesting video on Scratch use at school:
Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority. (2013). Information and communication technology capability. Retrieved from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/GeneralCapabilities/information-and-communication-technology-capability/introduction/introduction
Betcher, C. (2010, 26 Oct). Scratch1 [Image]. Retrieved from http://chrisbetcher.com/2010/10/teaching-kids-to-think-using-scratch/
Howell, J. (2012). Teaching with ICT: Digital pedagogies for collaboration and creativity. South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press
Morrison, N. (2013, 27 December). Teach kids how to code and you give them a skill for life. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/nickmorrison/2013/12/27/teach-kids-how-to-code-and-you-give-them-a-skill-for-life/
Zur, O. (2014). On digital immigrants and digital natives. Retrieved from http://www.zurinstitute.com/digitaldivide_clinicalupdate.html