During the workshop, participants could choose to work with either ScratchJR or PlayLab.
Participants began by exploring the programming systems by following the tutorials (see ScratchJr examples in the ‘Teach’ tab) using a paired programming approach. Pair programming is great because it encourages learners to work as a team, solve problems together using a think-aloud approach.
We then moved into a session where participants worked in pairs to think of a lesson idea or way of connecting the use of the visual programming system into a classroom activity or theme. We had some great ideas emerge, with links being made to mathematics (pattern recognition, numeracy, directional language) and science (the world around us and growth). Exploring algorithms and visual programming was also emphasised as lending itself well to oral language development (listening and speaking), particularly in the early years.
We had some discussion around the types of visual programming systems and where they would fit in terms of development and it was perceived that a system like Blockly would be great for explicit teaching of programming statements, which could then be practiced and developed in other systems like PlayLab or with other programs on Code.org. The tutorial based activities were perceived as great to introduce children to the programming concepts, which could later be explored in a more open-ended system like Scratch.
Our participants suggested a great range of topics that could be explored by children in the systems, such as recycling, creating stories (with story boards as support) as well as game-making by older students for the younger year levels. We even had a Zombie themed series of lessons, which could be taken as a model and used on any various topic. The proposed model emphasised, what was a common idea that emerged in the workshop – that the use of visual programming in learning activities doesn’t have to be the sole focus. There are a number of opportunities for developing skills and using visual programming as a springboard for a series of lesson ideas or as a platform for students to create a product. Further, students can also share and disseminate their work in a variety of different ways, such as through a presentation, by sharing with a peer, flipping the story or by designing some product that explains their work (poster, advertisement, book cover).
We had a great session working with the teachers and we hope they enjoyed the session too! We have made our slides available for everyone in case you missed out!
Tomorrow we’ll be running another workshop about hands-on primary (F-6) activities you can do for the Digital Technologies learning area, based on those generated for and from our CSER MOOC.