I’m an unabashed fan of Radio NZ and in particular their Media Watch, Insight and This Way Up programmes. While the wireless might seem a little un C21, if you get interrupted while listening, you can head to their website and listen again or even better download a podcast to use in a lesson – a great example of traditional media using new media in a very user-friendly way…
Recently I came across a review of Scratch via Radio NZ. Wow. Now I said I’d walk the talk wherever possible but in this case admit the most I have done is visited the website, taken the tour for new users and watched some of the amazing clips featured there. I’d urge you to do likewise…but I’m getting ahead of myself!
Scratch is a Web2.0 application that enables users to create and share games, animations, music and art. In the past gamers needed several years IT programming experience to develop the magical code needed to create games. In true Web 2.0 “because we can” fashion, Scratch simplifies the game creation process via its lego building block based system where users literally snap together blocks of code to create their own projects.
Before you panic about copyright issues – remember this is C21 learning. On Scratch everything is available for all users to share and download. In fact quite a few of the projects are “remixes” of other creator’s work. Scratch automatically credits other users’ input into a project.
Why might this be a useful classroom tool? Here are the main points from the This Way Up interview:
- Game building used to be the domain of tech geeks (sorry) who understood a language based around codes – Scratch removes this barrier and is ideal for visual and spatial learners
- Moving blocks of data means anyone can create their own project – it’s highly accessible
- Creator’s get instant feedback on their projects via the online community
- Students can collaborate with other creators from around the globe
- It’s multifaceted requiring maths, logic and creative skills
- Students can work in groups as a team building activity
- It’s a good extension activity for more able learners
- Exposure to Scratch can ignite an interest in programming and set users on a career pathway
The show also talks about the use of “tech angels” in the classroom where more able learners cooperatively assist other students to create projects. Scratch really does tick lots of boxes in terms of the NZC vision and key competencies.
On a practical level, teachers could also use it as platform for subject related activities. So in my subject areas you might:
- Find a scratch animation that partly tells a story – get the students to finish it based on what they see i.e. a starter for a creative writing exercise
- Create a game that is based on a text narrative – the witches of Macbeth versus the Generals
- Use it as an introduction to online editing for media studies students
- Get an english class to create a digital poster around a text – take the wall poster concept into C21.
See what I mean? Of course the biggest plus for this application is it has grown from the popularity of online games hence kids will want to do it because it’s fun – and surely that’s half the battle! Now if we could only dissuade Kiwi kids from pronouning “project” with Nth American emphasis….(listen to the interview and see what I mean)
You can listen to the This Way Up review by clicking here.
Or visit Marc Prensky’s website for more on why gaming is a valid learning tool (he’s the guy who invented the term “digital natives”)