May I?

I had a great opportunity this week to work with some students. My goal was to “introduce them” to Scratch, and we only had an hour. The small group of students ranged from grades 2-5 (7 in total). By the end, we had customized a template I created to come up with a simple video game.

In our short time together, they learned about:

  • sprites,
  • backgrounds,
  • blocks and stacks,
  • changing costumes,
  • recording sounds,
  • adding variables,
  • and using keyboard controls in the game.

Scratch Game

I am quite confident they didn’t understand all of that, at least in the context of variables and even the complete Cartesian plane in Scratch, but together, in that multiage group, as a whole, we were getting there. That alone, was exciting.

But then several questions I received made me step back and take notice. They were framed as such: “May I record another sound?” or “Can I make the name of mine something different?” or “Can I paint mine differently?”

It was if the students were asking permission to exercise creativity. Creativity might have gotten into the way of my organized time with them, but those questions ultimately saddened me! Whatever structures were in place that required students to ask permission to be creative have to be assessed quickly—and changed. The desire to change things, to make things your own, is behind the constructionist-philosophy of learning upon which Scratch is based.

We have a lot of work to do, as schools. But I had a great time in the experience today, and it was especially fulfilling to see these students look forward to greeting their parents when it was time to go home, proud to show them the small games they had created. “Look at what I created!” was the gist of every greeting. On our best days, students should be proud to show what they have created. And that’s something to celebrate.

For more on Scratch, visit this page.