While working with 7th graders on basic Scratch functions, I realized again that each person comes to technology applications just a little differently. There are groups of students who simply “get it” and there are groups that learn with a real variety of success.
I might be asking the obvious here, but what’s so different from learning programming with Scratch and learning how to write a 5 paragraph theme I would have my students write using a pen and paper?
The setting of course was so different. One January day, my Juniors were finishing up an in class writing assignment while the wind whipped around the three story brick building (built in 1934) with very leaky windows along the outside wall. One student actually picked up his paper and blew off the little bit of snow that had sifted through the leaky window frame. Really, I’m not making this up! Of course, this happened rarely, and the wind just happened to be in the right direction (horizontal, blowing snow) that cold, January day in my classroom at Greenville High School on Moosehead Lake, Maine.
The point here is that all my students could write. They all knew how to use a pen/pencil, and how to form words on the paper in a manner that was organized (we worked on that), spelled correctly (there was no spell check), grammatically constructed in an understandable way, and to the point.
Now let’s switch to the computer lab where students are not using the PC towers, but their own MacBook Airs with Scratch. The difference in success is striking. Yes, all can “write,” but not all understand how to make the basic constructions to make the sprite follow the arrow through the maze we had designed. Nor do many understand the concept of the “reset” in a game, bringing back the players game piece to the original screen. They can follow broadcast and receive, but I suspect they are just following instructions and not understanding the concept, the why. These students have been in school for the past 7-8 years.
I guess the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ was pretty well ingrained in my Juniors that cold January Day as they worked on their in class writing assignment.
I’m not so sure these 7th graders have the same comprehension with Scratch programming. Most think “it’s really cool,” but here in Lyndonville, Vermont, there’s no snow filtering past the weather stripping on this below freezing November morning.