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Aug. 16, 2013
As teachers head back to their classrooms this fall, a group of area K-12 instructors have some new ideas for helping students think creatively with a computer after they attended the fourth annual Scratch workshop and camp hosted this summer by Northwest Missouri State University.
Forty-one K-12 teachers participated in the workshop and camp at Northwest’s Kansas City Center in Liberty and explored ways teachers can integrate computing into subjects such as math, science, art, music and foreign language.
Participating teachers chose one of three workshops to attend: Scratch, App Inventor and Scribbler Robots. Scratch is kid-friendly software that allows students of all ages to create computer games, animations, stories, art and music. App Inventor allows children to write apps they can run on Android devices using a Scratch-like interface. Scribbler Robots allows kids to tap into the thrill of robotics.
All of the programs help students develop problem-solving, creative thinking, systematic reasoning and teamwork skills in a way they find entertaining.
“One of the benefits of learning this software is that teachers are able to incorporate computing into the classroom subjects,” said Dr. Carol Spradling, associate professor of computer science and information systems at Northwest. “Additionally, students are learning how to access information and process it, collaborate with others and think independently about a problem.”
Along with Spradling, Northwest’s Dr. Judy Clark, Dr. Michael Rogers and Ashley Greeley led the workshop. Seven Northwest students assisted with instruction during the workshop. John Pais, a math and computer science instructor at Ladue Horton Watkins High School in St. Louis, also led a portion of the workshop.
After learning the technology, teachers had an opportunity to test its application in a classroom setting.
“Teachers created a lesson plan for their particular software and visited various Liberty schools and instructed a class of students on the software,” Spradling, said. “That part of the workshop was a hit with the teachers and students.”
Kim Walker, a computer applications teacher at Eugene Field Elementary School in Maryville, has used Scratch with second through fourth graders during the last three years. She attended this summer’s workshop to enhance her knowledge of the software and develop more ways to lead students through Scratch projects.
Walker said she enjoyed hearing how other teachers are using the software in their classrooms, and she hopes to develop an after-school Scratch club for Eugene Field students interested in exploring the program deeper.
“The kids just love it, and I want them to have more time to share the interactive stories and animations they create,” Walker said. “It’s an excellent tool for those students who enjoy the open-endedness of creating things. They learn so much from working together and bouncing ideas off one another.”
Linda Heeler, who teaches robotics to fifth and sixth grade students at Northwest’s Horace Mann Laboratory School, also incorporates Scratch in her classroom because of the cooperative learning and problem solving opportunities it offers. At this summer’s workshop she received hands-on training with Rogers and the Scribbler Robots tool, which she plans to introduce to her students this fall.
“It is impressive to see a new format of programming that is similar to the Scratch programming,” Heeler said. “It is straight forward, and I know my students will see the connection between the Scratch and Robots programming.”This was the fourth year Northwest has hosted the workshop and camp. The event was made possible, for the third consecutive year, with the help of a Google CS4S Grant.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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