Discuss the benefits (or lack thereof) of computer programming initiaves such as Scratch in the Classroom to develop the personal and professional attributes of students in initial teacher education? Areas for discussion may include –
- Planning & preparation (lesson notes, objectives, resource materials, creativity & originality)
A confusing principle tries to explain how to plan lessons effectively in the most complicated fashion I have ever heard!! It is not hard to plan a lesson once you have a lesson template/scheme.
Planning and preparation for any lesson is vital to ensure the lesson runs smoothly. If a teacher is unprepared, or unsure of the content in a lesson, children will become aware of this and so are inclined to ‘switch-off’. In order to create the optimum learning environment for learning the teacher should have clear objectives they wish to achieve and be fully prepared for said lesson. A teacher should plan to mix teacher-talk and pupil-initiated tasks. Active participation is key in every lesson so teacher talk should be kept to the bare essentials. For this reason, computer programming initiatives are extremely beneficial to develop the personal and professional attributes of students as through each lesson the children are active. They are not passively reciting information. Similar to any academic subject on the curriculum a teacher should plan and construct materials to accompany the lesson, e.g. form a game using the new blocks introduced in this lesson. When using computer programming, the topics chosen should be exciting for the children, relating to their lives and from my experience even the simplest topic was thoroughly enjoyed by all students. A teacher should make themselves aware of each child’s prior experience with a computer programme, e.g. whether they have used Scratch before or this being their first time using it. Henceforth, a teacher will be enabled to plan activities to suit the range of abilities in the class, e.g. they may use open-ended activities to accommodate this wide range of ability in their class, thereby challenging each and every pupil.
- Classroom management (communication, scanning, praise, positive cueing, opportunities for group work/pair work, maximising pupil engagement)
From my experience teaching Scratch, I found classroom management more difficult when using computer programming than when teaching an academic subject. This is because you cannot see the activity of each child when they are using laptops, whereas it is easy to spot a child who isn’t completing a writing task, for example. Even though it was more difficult to scan the classroom when using computer programming I didn’t encounter any disruptive behaviour in the classroom. If there is clear communication between the teacher and pupils of expected behaviour, and more importantly the pupils can see why there are rules within the classroom, then the pupils are more inclined to adhere to said rules. Furthermore, in general, the children are intrinsically motivated when using computer programmes so when a task is set they are eager to figure out how to complete it. If a pair are having difficulty, they can communicate with their peers in order to solve this problem or I would assist them. I would never inform they exactly how to solve the problem but I would give them clues in order to scaffold them so they will arrive at the solution.
Pair work is far better than group work or individual work in my opinion, in order to maximise learning when using computer programming. The pair can work collaboratively to complete the required task, both having the opportunity to use the software and develop their problem-solving and communication skills. All children were engaged and active throughout my 4 teaching lessons using Scratch. They didn’t want the lessons to end! If teachers use computer programmes to develop all curricular areas I think each child’s learning would increase to no end! I have yet to experience using Scratch with a child with a condition but research shows that computer programmes enhance their engagement and so are extremely beneficial in this case.
- Teaching and learning strategies (lesson structure, pacing, subject knowledge, questioning, consolidation of learning, pupil-centred learning)
Lessons are structured in sequence – they begin simple, exploring the basic functions of a computer programme and lead to using the computer programme in all its complexity. As with any lesson, the pacing of it will depend on the pupils being taught. On teaching placement, we were able to move at what I consider a moderately quick pace as the children absorbed the lesson content rather fast.
Each week the children built on their subject knowledge of Scratch as they were all integrated. Thereby, consolidating material they had learned previously and further developing it.
Similar to any academic subject the teacher should ask higher and lower order questions based on the child’s ability, e.g. which block section would you use to move your sprite? or how do you turn your sprite right? explain.
Teacher talk is be minimised to allow the children to experiment with the computer programme, develop their skills in using the programme thereby becoming active agents in their own learning. Scratch is a user friendly programme which enables this to occur
- Assessment & evaluation (appropriateness of lesson objectives, reflection, lesson consolidation)
Lesson objectives from one lesson should coincide with the objectives of the prior lesson/s. At the beginning of the lesson, a teacher should revise prior knowledge of the topic with the children, eliciting from them the required blocks to complete an action for example. This consolidation should also be completed at the end of the lesson also, to assess if the objectives of the lesson have been met. A teacher can use this assessment to reflect on the reason behind a lesson’s success or downfall.
- Personal qualities & professionalism (motivation, diligence, rapport with pupils, pupil-teacher interactions)
In order to engage pupils a teacher needs to be enthusiastic about a subject and computer programming is no different. If a teacher is motivated and excels a positive attitude toward a computer programme, then the children will become motivated and eager to learn. A teacher requires an in-depth knowledge of the computer programme in order to teach it and encourage children to explore it. If a teacher only knows the required code for the lesson at hand they may hold children back that are exploring various techniques and codes. As classroom management may be more difficult when using laptops in a classroom, a respectful rapport between teacher and pupils is essential in order for a lesson to run smoothly. This would also link with a teacher’s knowledge of each pupil individually, their interests and ‘pet hates’. As children complete set tasks, it is vital a teacher acknowledges that there are numerous methods of completing a challenge, i.e. using different codes to complete the same task. Each child will put their own individual ‘stamp’ on their projects and it is important a teacher offers feedback, praises and affirms their efforts.
To conclude, the time of chalk and blackboards has long gone. We have entered into a new era with technology at the heart of it. Children develop immensely from using computer programming at present, socially, emotionally and intellectually. Furthermore, the use of computer programming in schools allows child and teacher alike to develop the necessary IT skills in the changing technological society of 2013!