International SCRATCH Collaboration


Through a request email enlisting educators interested in running the Boulder Computer Science Education Week 2017(CSEd Week) in their schools, I got involved in this amazing program that gave me a fun-filled and amazing experience.

The CSEd Week program occurs annually worldwide, within the first weeks of December. It is aimed at introducing children to Computer Science, specifically, creating computer programs and robots among others, hence, appreciate the importance of Computer Science in their daily lives.

The email was sent out by Lindsay Craig, a Technology Educator and Program Director, Boulder CSEd Week. Prior to the interaction, through a collaboration between the participating school in Uganda and Colorado, educators would introduce their students to Computer Science using Scratch. Scratch is a programming language, and an online community that allows children to imagine, program and share interactive stories, games and animations.

I was interested in the program, mainly because I enjoy learning with children considering their curiosity and determination of trying out new things. I’ve also always enjoyed teaching children scratch because of the amazing games and programs kids end up building. Besides, the program was thrilling because educators had to work out a way of creating a program that would fit students from both countries and work as one team, albeit remotely.

Conveniently, Oysters and Pearls - Uganda was the coordinating organization in Uganda providing support, resources and equipment to inspire the little ones.    This first-of-its-kind international collaboration was between Unifat Primary school – Gulu, Uganda and Rocky Top Middle School - Thornton, United States.

The planning phase and preparations were even more fun considering I was working with Ms. Katie Maclean, an amazing educator in Colorado. For about two months, we worked together and organized the program through several Skype calls, Google documents and constant emails. We first developed a program, comprising a number of methods and schedules, before we came up with the final program.  The final program ran for five days, from 4th-8th December. There were thirty students in Uganda and thirty four in Colorado participating between 8 – 13 years.

The children not only used Scratch to imagine, program, share interactive stories but also learnt from each other through working on the same Animated Interviewing project in Scratch.




On the first day of the program, my students were introduced to Computers, they typed some texts, learnt about the browser and the basics of operating a computer. Despite their limited or no knowledge about computers (80% of the children couldn’t turn on the computer, type freely or move the mouse with ease) they were very enthusiastic and determined to learn.

Students worked in stations of four team members, two in Uganda and two in Colorado. Each student asked their colleague on the other side a question using the Broadcast Block and they would answer by creating animations, adding sprites and sound to the project.

Due to the time difference, and the fact that both the pairs of the team couldn’t log into the account at the same time, the students used the Scratch project page to communicate to each other, asking questions and adding their responses. They asked each other interesting questions about weather, favorite food, dream, games, hobbies, dream destination, school, pets, family, friends and many more.

This gave the children a feeling of connection, friendship, teamwork even though they hadn’t met physically.

One student mentioned I think it was a really cool way to connect with others in a different country! and another said,I’m very thankful we are the only kids that got to connect with kids from another country using SCRATCH.

With a lot of help from Oysters and Pearls-Uganda peer trainers and volunteers, we saw the kids make so much progress in their computer and programming skills with Scratch in only five days. Being able to add different sounds, sprites, backgrounds and texts put very big smiles on their faces. They loved being in control of their created programs.

Follow the links to see some of the projects the teams created.
Interview with Michael and Vanessa , Interviews , Interview , Getting to know you

The workshop too had struggles which involved my students mistakenly changing or deleting their colleague’s sprites and blocks when they logged in the next day as they were very new to computers. But at the end of the day it’s through the mistakes that they were able to learn and develop their skills so fast with support from their Colorado colleague’s, patience and willingness to help them improve.

I think it was a great learning experience because it was their first time using it and it helped us develop patience and guidance said Ms. Katie’s student.

The program ended with a Skype Video call between the two groups. Both teams introduced themselves, shared their learning experiences, amusements and challenges they faced during the program. Seeing their friends on video, hearing them talk, talking to them was magical, they couldn’t stop smiling and talking about it among themselves.

Can they really see us teacher?asked one of my students Brear, when the call had just started.
 
Scratch gave our students a learning, engaging, fun and social experience that they will probably talk about all their lives. Hopefully the program sparked each student’s interest in Computer Science and kick-started their journey to becoming the future creators and innovators of their generation.

As an educator with the resources and platforms available, I am willing to do all it takes to inspire more children into Technology, and guide them through developing their skills deeper. Having been the very first Scratch International Collaboration, I am looking forward to more and better collaborations with other educators within and other parts of the world.

 


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