Technology in the Classroom Blog

  • Middle School

Scratch, a product of MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten Group, is a programming language designed specifically for students. As a visual language, Scratch utilizes color-coordinated blocks of script that snap together to control sprites, backgrounds, and sounds. Using these blocks, students can create games, animated stories, presentations, and more. Today, the cloud-based Scratch platform has over 22 million registered users across the globe and has become the go-to program for introducing students to coding. 

At Kinkaid, all sixth-grade students have the opportunity to explore Scratch programming as a part of Mrs. Deller’s year-long technology class. To promote collaboration, problem-solving, and creativity, students work independently or in teams to create interactive projects that demonstrate an understanding of visual coding. 

One sixth-grader, Stella, created a choose-your-own-adventure game called Mr. Bear on a Magic Carpet Ride (her code for just one sprite can be seen above). Stella acknowledged the challenges involved with coding, but relished in working with others and the satisfaction that came with overcoming obstacles. As she described, “Scratch allows you to use your imagination and has no limits to what you can create. It has a few complicated blocks that are hard to figure out, but being able to see other people's projects helps you to learn about new blocks and how to use them.” 

Another sixth-grade student, Siddharth, enjoyed the Scratch unit for many reasons. “Scratch makes you think and encourages you to be creative because you have to find your own solutions to things, and it inspires people to code. There are multiple solutions for one problem and sometimes one works better than the other.” He utilized a MakeyMakey to link his Scratch project, Drum Lords, to a handmade drum set he built at home. Each panel on the drum kit corresponds to a key on the keyboard which in turn activates the drum sounds through blocks of code in Scratch. The video below shows Sid demonstrating how it works.

The benefits of coding are bountiful as Mrs. Deller can attest. “Many students have to step outside of their comfort zones when using Scratch, but learning to code strengthens their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. During this project, my classroom is buzzing with activity and conversations. At the end of our Scratch unit, the big payoff is how proud my students are after writing their own code and sharing it with me, their classmates, and the Scratch community.” 

  • Lower School

In November, I traveled to Stanford University to attend FabLearn’s Flagship conference. The conference, held at various locations globally, is a gathering of thought leaders and educators from around the world sharing experiences about making in a variety of educational settings and communities. This year’s theme was “Creating a Sustainable Ecosystem for Making in Education.”

At the conference, I had the opportunity to be present on a panel about the importance of making and creativity throughout a child’s school career. Topics at the conference included Artificial Intelligence, coding, design thinking, creativity, and collaboration. With our Lower School Launch Pad focusing on the areas of building, coding, production studio, and wearables, the FabLearn experience translated perfectly to our day-to-day experiences and to the program we work daily to build for our students.

 

Students in The Kinkaid Lower School use the Design Thinking process developed at Stanford’s d.school and the process steps hang on our walls. These steps help remind us that good design often begins with empathy and requires testing and rebuilding. The six-step process is about starting with empathy and thinking of the user. With the Lower School’s integration of the mindset stances, this entire process is strengthened and allows students the chance to take their thinking to the highest levels possible. In first grade, this may look like solving a problem for a book character while a fourth grader may solve a problem for a friend, teacher, or animal. Whether the user is fictitious or real, the process of design thinking connects the learner with their user by truly empathizing with his or her needs.

Touring Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, known as the d.school, was the ultimate example of the type of flexible, customizable, and collaborative environment we work to create in The Kinkaid Lower School Launch Pad each day. As I noticed tables on wheels, desks of various heights, a variety of materials used for prototyping like Post-it notes and Sharpies, as well as cardboard, and devices, I could not help but think about the work our PreK through Fourth graders are doing each day in the Launch Pad. I feel good about the opportunity it provides for our students.

A true highlight of the tour was meeting David Kelley, author of Creative Confidence, and founder of the d.School.  Kelley shared the school's story with us and gave us a behind-the-scenes look at the importance of the work that the school is doing in design thinking and its application to any field.  Students come from all over Stanford's campus to participate in classes because design is a necessary component to advance in any area of study.

The basics skills of technology are no longer enough for our kids. It has to become about what is done with devices, not what the devices do. Learning in our current time has changed in so many ways, but the one thing that will always remain the same is the curiosity and creativity in our kids. I was reminded of that at FabLearn and continued to be reminded of it every single day in The Kinkaid Lower School.

 

 

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Krissy Venosdale is the Lower School Innovation Coordinator.  You can follow the adventures in the Launch Pad at @klslaunchpad on Twitter and Instagram.

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