Sunday, July 27, 2008

Scratch@MIT Conference

We just returned from presenting at the Scratch@MIT conference at MIT in Boson. If you are not familiar with Scratch, it is a new programming tool developed at MIT. Students imagine, create, and share games, animations and more. This past year we used the software in my fifth grade elementary technology classes. Also, students formed a club to continue to learn more ways to program using Scratch. I did not realize how important Scratch has become and what a huge impact Scratch has had world wide until this conference.

Participants all over the world ( US, UK, Australia, Russia, Korea, Taiwan, Poland.....) shared ways we incorporate Scratch in schools and groups in elementary through high school levels. Great things happened each hour including new ideas, resources, research partnerships, and collaborative plans for the new school year.

Four students from various countries were featured during Mitchel Resnick’s Opening Keynote (see video). My students will be surprised when I come back with videos and photos of famous Scratchers. More than once these students heard that they were like rock stars of the Scratch community.

The organization of the conference had other choices that were new for me. One way that worked very well was to have three presenters in a room. In one hour, each presenter gave a 10 minute talk. The rest of the hour was a Q&A session with the audience.

My first session choice began with Tracy Ho sharing her case study of student performance using Scratch. I was most interested in her findings of the patterns of events in which students learn, transfer, and apply Scratch. Tracy is a professor in the music department at Taipei Municipal University of Education, Taiwan. Jeanene Bluhm de Carvajal, founder of the Thomas Jefferson Institute, shared how they implement Scratch to help develop student creativity in their schools in Mexico. Krystof Haber, who has spent eleven years teaching Indigenous students with the last eight years at Antarringinya Centre in Australia, shared his unique teaching experiences with the audience. We were incredulous to learn how he uses Scratch to keep students engaged in having fun learning. His Australia Aboriginal students come and go, so Scratch offers the tools of engagement that he needs and that they love.

Friday at 9:30 am, we (JoNelle Gardner and Audrey Cageao) presented with a professor originally from Spain and another presenter from Russia. With three presentations for the hour, the audience got to hear and talk to:
• Teachers who use Scratch in their technology classes. Audrey shared how she introduces, guides, and supports students in their Scratch experiences. I (JoNelle) added how I integrate Scratch with science, math, language arts and technology via student wiki websites
• Creator (Juan Carlos Olabe) of a supportive website that has and extensive lists of Scratch video tutorials
• Head of a laboratory and coordinator of (Yevgeny Patarakin) and learn how young programmers in Russia are using Scratch

Other conference sessions were also incredible. It was great listening to educators of all levels and regions of the world who are ready to lend a hand and work together.

I met educators and high school students from Arizona who are involved with Kimberly Scott’s wonderful program called COMPUGIRLS. These girls use Scratch with themes of social justice – very inspiring. We exchanged contact information to video conference with my computer club this year.

During Karen Bennen’s (from MIT Scratch Team) Scratch-Ed session, she brilliantly led the group in sharing, learning and supporting professional development for an upcoming new website for the community of Scratch educators.

I’ll describe more sessions in the next blog entry. Until then you can see more about the conference at
Conference Program:

A HUGE THANK YOU to the Scratch@MIT TEAM!! Mitch and his team are marvelous. They all are an enthusiastic bunch and show a genuine joy for what they are doing and sharing with us.
And ooooh my… to the fabulous caterers too - you are the best!!