The University of Warwick Technology Volunteers attended the international Scratch@MIT conference in August 2014. The three-day conference explores the creative ways that people around the world are programming and learning with Scratch - a free programming language developed by MIT aimed at introducing young people to the world of coding and programming. The Warwick team submitted three proposals for presentation at the conference, all of which were accepted and well received with attendees.
By attending Scratch@ MIT 2014, the Warwick team aimed to share their ideas and resources, developed for use with young people in the Coventry and Warwickshire area, and to interact with the international Scratch community. The team developed three activities for the conference:
- Sensing Me! Workshop Session - this session showed attendees how to use a picoboard with Scratch to develop sensors which can detect light, sound and movements. The session also highlighted the concept of using everyday materials to create sensors, including items which may otherwise be considered 'junk' such as old plastic bottles. In the session, the team were able to show the sensors that they themselves have created and used the example of demonstrating sensors to detect things about the human body such as how lenses in your eye work or how we see colours. It is clear from this activity how such platforms can be used to teach children in creative ways and stimulate their curiosity.
Attendees were provided with access to the Warwick team's free resources so they could take these ideas back to their own activities.
- Controlling our World Poster Presentation - the aim was to promote a free, open source program (SuperEasy-A4S) which was designed and produced by one of the Technology Volunteers, Thomas Preece. Thomas's program was designed to use an Arduino with Scratch (a microprocessor for controlling outputs and reading inputs). The objective of the presentation was to raise awareness of the software and encourage use of outputs and sensors with Scratch and Arduino. The feedback received from the presentation has also enabled Thomas to refine the program further and he has since heard that his software is being used as far afield as Australia.
Free worksheets have been produced which help to guide users through Arduino and electronics.
- 'What we learned whilst teaching Scratch' Ignite Presentation - An ignite presentation is a fast 5 minute presentation alongside a live demonstration. Whilst the Volunteers gave their presentation, two teams undertook a live demo of coding in Scratch. The important message being conveyed was about how there are many ways to solve a problem with Scratch. This is significant as it is often observed that young people will simply reproduce the exact actions they are taught rather than creating their own versions. The two live coding demonstrations showed that the same solution (creating a game) can be achieved by two different methods.
The message: it is important to push children to be creative with Scratch and do things in their own way. It is a wonderful way to grow their confidence in their own skills and abilities and to develop their creativity.
The Technology Volunteers time at Scratch@ MIT proved to be hugely successful. They managed to make many new contacts and strengthen collaborative relationships with the Scratch community all over the world. They have developed new resources which can be used to train future cohorts of Technology Volunteers and run workshops for schools and clubs in the local area.
Visit the Resources page to view the downloads available from the Technology Volunteers >>