The Personalized Nature of Scratch, the 5th “P”

In my work as an educational technology consultant, I am fortunate to engage with schools from around the country that have diverse school cultures, demographics, and background histories. In a recent trip to Maui, through work with EdTechTeacher, I had the opportunity to facilitate a workshop on Personalized Learning with the Kamehameha Schools.

Kamehameha Schools were founded in 1887 by the estate of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop. After their beginnings on the island of Oahu, they have since grown to include schools on the Big Island and Maui. Based on guiding principles they call E’Ola! (which align well with the Habits of Mind outlined by Costa and Kallick) educators at KS plan to integrate aspects of personalized learning into their classrooms and curriculum.

When designing the workshop for Kamehameha Schools, I drew upon a helpful resource, Students at the Center, Personalized Learning with Habits of Mind (Kallick and Zmuda).

Kallick and Zmuda focus on four attributes to Personalized Learning. The first, Student Voice, is defined as “the student’s involvement and engagement in ‘the what’ and ‘the how’ of learning early in the learning process…Students are valued participants, helping to set the curricular agenda and taking the wheel themselves.”

In Co-Creation, students “work with the teacher to develop a challenge, problem, or idea; to clarify what is being measured (learning goals); to envision the product or performance (assessment); and to outline an action plan that will result in an outcome that achieves the desired results (learning actions).”

During Social Construction, “students build ideas through relationships with others as they theorize and investigate in pursuit of common learning goals.”

Finally, when students are engaged in Self-Discovery, they come to understand themselves as learners through reflection “on the development of ideas, skill sets, knowledge, and performances” to become “self-directed learners who know how to manage themselves in a variety of situations.”

In my classes at Westside Neighborhood School, students are just finishing up their projects in Scratch. This block-based coding language from MIT is, in my opinion, the most effective tool for introducing core coding concepts to students in a scaffolded manner, allowing them to quickly and easily get up and running while providing tremendous growth moving forward. Scratch is a tool that offers “low floors, high ceilings, and wide walls,” as Mitch Resnick states in his book Lifelong Kindergarten.

Interestingly, while Mr. Resnick focuses on the four Ps of Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play in his book, I would offer that there is a fifth P inherent in Scratch; Personalized.

As we review the four attributes from Kallick and Zmuda, Student Voice, Co-Creation, Social Construction and Self-Discovery, Scratch promotes all of these. During the personal project portion of class, Student Voice is exhibited through the varied topics that students chose to focus on for their projects, ranging from digital storytelling to music videos, to entertaining quizzes and interactive games.

Students help to Co-Create the rubric by which these projects will be assessed, defining the range from sub-par to exemplary work. This co-created tool is embraced by the class as they take ownership not only of the learning process but the evaluation process too.

They engage in Social Construction when they choose to work in pairs or teams, and also when they build upon work originated from another Scratch coder (remix), or gather code from the gallery to include in their project using the backpack feature.

Self-Discovery is an integral part of the learning process for students in Scratch, as they continuously test their code, iterate on project design and reflect on their experiences through sharing their projects with peers. This Self-Discovery of skills and performances also empowers students to function as coaches and mentors for other students as they discover where their strengths and passions reside. Some students love the coding aspect of Scratch, while others focus on the artwork, and still others may show a preference for storytelling.

Here are the two Scratch studios that showcase student work in my Design, Code & Make classes in 6th grade and 7th grade. Please note that some projects are marked as draft, as they are works in progress. Some projects are remixes, branching off of another person’s original work. Most are projects that were created from scratch, pun intended.

I am constantly in awe at what children can do in Scratch. They are motivated because they’ve taken complete ownership of the project, and are willing to learn at all hours of the day, in and out of class. They will find resources on their own to solve a problem (hello, youtube!), and they will share what they know with others. They demonstrate the four attributes of Personalized Learning throughout the project development process.

Do you have tools and strategies that promote Student Voice, Co-Creation, Social Construction and Self-Discovery? I’d love to learn more.

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 8.58.19 AM
Screenshot of the 6th grade Scratch Studio

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