July 15, 2010
Workshop helps area K-12 teachers learn benefits of Scratch software
MARYVILLE, Mo. - Teachers from throughout the region came to Northwest for "Scratch: The Workshop," a free, one-day workshop geared toward teaching K-12 teachers about the computer program that helps students create stories, animation, games, music and art.
The workshop on June 24 in Colden Hall on the Northwest campus brought together 44 teachers representing elementary, middle and high schools in Maryville, Conception Junction, Stanberry, Rock Port, Savannah and as far away as Columbia, among other area school districts. Faculty in Northwest's computer science and information systems department presented the workshop.
While there has been a national decline in students entering computing professions, Dr. Carol Spradling, assistant professor of science and information systems, said part of the motivation for hosting the workshop at Northwest was to raise awareness of the ways students can learn through computing.
"By hosting this workshop, we wanted to show elementary, middle school and high school teachers that computing may be integrated in curriculum areas such as English, math, science, social studies, art and music," Spradling said. "Additionally, we wanted to show that gifted students as well as disabled students will benefit from computing."
Scratch is a free computer program from MIT Media Labs for kids ages 8 and up that lets them create stories, animation, games, music and art. It reinforces key mathematics and computer science concepts that all students should know, and it helps them think creatively, reason systematically and work collaboratively.
Scratch uses a metaphor of puzzle pieces to control images on the screen. Each piece performs one task, but they snap together to make more complex actions. In seconds, students can have animals, or any of the images they choose, scurrying around the screen and making sounds.
"Students, by programming with Scratch, will actually be learning math and computing concepts in a very fun way," Spradling said. "In our experience, when you bring Scratch into the classroom or into an after-school program, your biggest challenge will be getting students to leave."
Teachers who participated in the workshop said it was beneficial and they are making plans to incorporate Scratch at their own schools.
"The Scratch workshop was fantastic," said Michele Starke, a third grade teacher at Eugene Field Elementary in Maryville. "The workshop provided time and expertise in working with designing computer programming for the inexperienced like me. The objectives and instruction were well-presented with guided practice and peer tutoring throughout the day. The hands-on learning was, as we all know, the best way to do this workshop."
Starke said she had not used Scratch prior to the workshop. Since then, she has experimented with it by showing her step-grandson how to use it. Starke said she hopes to incorporate the software into an afterschool program and eventually daily classroom activities.
Mendi Verley, an ESL teacher at Douglass Elementary School in Kansas City, Kan., said the instructors were helpful and brought a fun atmosphere to the workshop. While Verley had not used Scratch, the workshop included time for users to complete projects and explore other uses of the program.
"I plan to use Scratch to write my own programs to introduce and review vocabulary, and to demonstrate logical thinking skills," Verley said. "Later in the year I will teach the kids to write their own programs. I am also excited about the idea of starting an after school club to start the kids writing programs right away."
Cerner Corporation supplied a lunch and several goodies at the workshop, including a USB drive for each teacher.
Northwest is considering offering additional workshops next year.
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