Easter Scratch Project

I┬árealised I’ve not added any blog entries for a few months, so I thought I’d do a quick update on the last few months of being a Code Club volunteer. Due to the half term break, we ended the original group and took on a new intake the following term, this time experimenting with a year 4 group.

I also wrote a simple Easter project for them, which I will try to post on here at some point for those that are interested, even if Easter has been and gone.

I’ll just bullet point a summary of observations from the past few months:

  • There was a great mix of children in both intakes, usually close to 50/50 in terms of boys and girls which is really good to see.
  • Most of them showed an interest in continuing their experiments with Scratch at home. Only one told me he wasn’t allowed because a family member was concerned about Viruses. I suggested the web based Scratch 2.0 (currently in Beta) may allow him to use it at home.
  • They all grasped the interface quickly and had no trouble understanding many of the concepts presented to them in the material, even the year 4 students.
  • Keep the group attendance consistent – it quickly becomes hard to keep everyone on track when you have multiple projects running simultaneously.
  • It’s quite hard to explain a concept to everyone when there is no central display to show them on – Electronic equipment failure rendered our projector unusable for much of the second intake.
  • Perhaps the single most obvious problem for many children was the difficulty in following instructions carefully. Attention to detail, rather than reading level and understanding seemed to be the usual cause of problems, particularly when they reached level 2 and the worksheets stopped providing all the scripts for them.
  • Make sure the network is set up correctly to save work – the network at the school didn’t allow that, breaking the whole Save Early Save Often concept in the Code Club materials.
  • Keep a set of laminated classroom worksheets that students can tick and re-use each week.
  • However, you need spare copies of most worksheets as students love to take them home.

The highlights

  • The student that came up with a workaround for a weird bug that I couldn’t explain.
  • Seeing students help each other when stuck.
  • The creativity they displayed
  • The number of students who have continued to use Scratch at home
  • Consequently, the number of students who appear to have quickly outgrown the current Code Club materials and want to do more advanced things.

What we plan to do next

We are going to revisit Code Club at the end of term or the beginning of the new School year.

The school in question are very keen to incorporate Scratch into their usual ICT curriculum. The ICT Co-ordinator wants to introduce Scratch to other teachers. I would expect it would run very similar to the Code Club level 1 projects, maybe even level 2. I would love to help with that process, as I maintain that it is important for the IT industry to help shape ICT education.

By making coding part of the standard curriculum, this would free up the after school Code Clubs to jump straight into the higher level projects, or to act as a supplement to those who are showing a keen interest in coding and want to code more practical things under guidance. As Code Club are looking to branch into HTML and CSS projects this may fit nicely.

However, that kind of code club would require more specialised volunteers, whereas Code Club is quite suitable for volunteers who don’t code for living. Code Club already has difficulty finding volunteers so spread the word if you can. Or become a Code Club Volunteer yourself!

Next week marks the first birthday for Code Club. I look forward to seeing it grow up.

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