One of the best things about Scratch is its generous and collaborative online community. In order to share Scratch projects users have to make them public, which means that every project we make for the pupils we work with at London CLC is also accessible to users all around the world, should they happen to find it, writes Rowan Roberts.
When I create projects I try to include clear instructions, well organised code and sometimes comments, so that anyone who does stumble across the project can engage with it, even without any further explanation from me. Whenever I receive a notification telling me one of my projects has been remixed I’m always thrilled to find that someone has been enjoying my work and am sure to check it out.
Sometimes I find a project that has simply been copied directly. I think this is often either when a child enjoys it and wants to hang on to it or, judging by some of the usernames I’ve seen, when a teacher sees some value in it and perhaps wants to use it with their own pupils. As an educator it’s obviously very satisfying and rewarding to know that other tech enthusiasts consider some of my projects worth nabbing for their own purposes. Some examples of this have been this project which, when you enable your microphone, creates a visual representation of the volume of your voice or this very simple project which, when you click ‘see inside’, allows you to test the various pen colour numbers.
It gets more interesting, though, when someone remixes a project and tweaks it to suit their own purposes, perhaps making aesthetic adjustments or editing the code. For me, this demonstrates one of the most important characteristics of good code; adaptability. It also shows that the user has applied their evaluation skills to assess what they think they could improve in the project, and then identified exactly how to how about doing so. Dr Chips, for example, used my Beebot simulator project to make his own version in which the Beebot leaves a line as it moves; Mr Carney took the same project and added Google Earth imagery to personalise the backdrop, showing the location of his school.
But my favourite remixes happen when someone finds my project, looks through the notes or comments and manages to complete my planned activity themself. I love the idea of a user being able to understand what I was trying to achieve with the project, and I think it’s also impressive to see a child take the initiative to happen upon a resource like this and independently explore the possibilities it might hold for their own learning and creativity.
Some examples of this include Abdelilah’s response to my Cat and Mouse challenge or Klua’s debugged version of my broken palm tree project. A child called Arthur found my Egyptian hieroglyphs project and used it to spell his name, as did Atmaja – who also used my India animation template to create her own mini documentary about the Taj Mahal. Sometimes children even respond in the comments section, such as Lilytcypher, who was eager to let me know that “I got all of my predictions right!!!!!” when she tested my strawberry patterns geometry project.
Curiosity, confidence and creativity
Noticing this happening this year, in particular, has filled me with joy and optimism. It’s a time when many schools are finding themselves experiencing periods of limited contact with their pupils, and I know this has made it very difficult for teachers to ensure that their pupils are able to access learning. However, sometimes it can be surprising and impressive how much children can achieve when they develop an approach to home learning that is led by curiosity, coupled with the confidence to find creative solutions independently.
While technological solutions are rightly central to much of the planning and preparation for periods of remote or blended learning, the learning culture of a school plays an equally important role. As Kate Aktins observed early on in lockdown, fostering independent, confident attitudes to learning is always important, and at times like these the more we can empower pupils to have their own ideas, make their own discoveries and solve their own problems, the richer and more robust their experience of learning can be.