Laura G

Blogging for ICT

Scratch – A Mental Workout?

on March 1, 2013

Based on my experience of using Scratch in the classroom, I can say that I agree that it is both an excellent “mental workout” for cognitive and collaborative skills.

Firstly, with laptop and computer work in the classroom, the lesson automatically immediately becomes collaborative, as children share the machines. This brings not only IT collaboration, but also works with the social skills of the child. For example, the children get used to taking turns with the computer and being the observer. In this kind of situation, they automatically collaborate on the Scratch projects, working together to come up with how to solve a problem, create a script, and then make suggestions of how to improve it. Where in other projects this may be problematic with children, in the experience I have had, the children work really well together to come up with scripts. In fact, I noticed that most children who were working alone were more likely to be slower in deciphering how to create a script for the sprite to perform an action than children who were working together.

However, this trend seemed to only apply to children who were beginners at working with Scratch, which was the majority of the children. There were some children in the class who had been to “Wiz Kids”, where they had learned Scrath before, or children that like to practice at home a lot tended to prefer working alone and creating more advanced creations than what the rest of the class were doing. But that’s the beauty of Scratch, once you gone through the basic element, you can build on it to make it your own. Its just like any other school subject, there are some children stronger or more experienced than others at Scratch, but the lesson differentiates itself. While on one side of the classroom, there was a child still wondering how to decipher the x and y axis, on the other side of the classroom a child had balls bouncing randomly in a game.

Also in relation to working together, we have set up a class Scratch account on the scratch.mit.edu website for all the children to submit their work and see what other people in their class are doing, perhaps get a few ideas from their scripts and so on. It also allows them safe access to a larger collaborative Scratch network of the over 3 million Scratch projects available to look at on the website.

Cognitively, it is clear that Scratch is an excellent challenge for children, no matter what level they are at. It involves problem solving that is rewarded with a cool outcome, be it that the lion sprite actually does what you wanted it to do on the trampoline, or that you have created a fully functioning, glitch-free game. It involves designing, analyzing and predicting how the blocks are to be used effectively and efficiently. They are also able to draw links between different subject areas and Scratch, such as maths.

Other computer games have seen this potential for cognitive development in children, For example, in the last few years in Sweden, children play the popular mining game “Minecraft” as part of their schooling, for the same reasons we are doing Scratch with our classes. It involves creativity and problem solving that is rewarded with something children of today value more than a gold star sticker. More information at http://edudemic.com/2013/01/this-swedish-school-now-has-a-mandatory-minecraft-class/

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