Wednesday, March 12, 2014

EIPS Scratch Day 2014

Today was Scratch Day in EIPS. Approximately 120 students in grades five through twelve from eight different schools met in a gym at Bev Facey for a day of computational thinking. We challenged them to participate in various activities and explore resources related to Scratch. To get an idea of what happened, check out the event website and our presentation. After the opening remarks about the importance of computational thinking and human competencies, students had time to play with Scratch and learn from experimentation, online resources, and from others around them. A number of us commented on the fact that we would see students get stuck on a problem and put up their hand, but by the time we got there another student had already helped them out.

In addition to exploratory time, though, we also had a few organized challenges. Right before lunch, catered by Bev Facey Commercial Foods, we "live-action programming" where students were challenged to "program" algorithms for another group member to complete an obstacle course. In the afternoon, mixed groups of students were challenged to create something starting with "Pico was out walking in a hay field, when something very strange happened...". Students had the opportunity to present their creative examples of stories and video games using that character and situation.

This year's event was somewhat different from last year's. The omission of points for completed challenges eliminated the competition aspect and increased student collaboration. We also had a number of technology demonstration booths hosted by Gerald Chung's students, including Raspberry PiLeap MotionKinect Party, and the very popular Oculus Rift.

It was also different this year having about half as many students as last year. This was probably because we weren't as proactive and intentional about the planning process, but some teachers also commented that they were more intentional about choosing students to attend this year. The students that came were engaged, enthusiastic, and well-behaved. While it was nice to have a smaller event, next year we may partner with some other organizations, such as DiscoverE, to have a much larger event on the University of Alberta campus.

This event wouldn't have been possible without help from Technology Services, Bev Facey staff, and the teachers and administrators that brought students to the event. Particular thanks to Gerald ChungJen FerenceAaron Tuckwood, and Peter Barron for help with organization and logistics.

We're looking forward to doing this again. Stay tuned for more posts that include reflections from students and staff that participated in EIPS Scratch Day 2014.

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