Last week we hosted Ricarose Roque from the Scratch team at the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. She visited last January and we spent some time trying out programming, incorporating scratch into chain reactions, and working on a monster mash activity with visitors. In the past year we have been continuing experiments with scratch, beetleblocks, and other ways of incorporating computation into tinkering activities and environments, so it was really great to reconnect with Ricarose and share ideas.
The first thing that we did together was to try out a workshop that she has been prototyping as a group in our weekly meeting. Ricarose introduced the idea of using Scratch and maKeymaKey as tools for storytelling.
As a group we generated a list of words including emotions, characters, and locations and then split into pairs to make a story with three randomly picked words from the list. Each group then spent about forty five minutes programming a scene and creating a physical way to trigger the event.
Ricarose emphasized that the words were really just a way to get started and think about a quick scene and could be modified or discarded at will, but we all felt that it was a really playful way to get going with the project.
At the end of the workshop we went around the room and shared our stories. One thing that I really liked was that there were many things that people could be proud of and focus on as they presented their projects. Afterwards we reflected a little bit on the workshop and brainstormed together ways that this could be adapted to the drop-in space on the floor of the museum.
A few days later, we decided to try a similar workshop with visitors on the floor of the museum. We tried to arrange the tables so that people could share ideas and see what each other were working on, set out a selection of materials for switches, and create an space as an example project so that visitors could get an idea of the activity.
While a lot of kids said they had tried block based programming or hour of code activities, there still seemed to be a bit of explanation required before learners could really get going. We thought it was a little harder to facilitate this as a drop in because in a workshop setting it's easier to have a formal intro or to stop all the groups and give tips and tricks.
Instead of generating the list of words together, we picked some of our favorites and but them in a mystery box and asked people to pick three. It was nice to see some examples of adults and kids working together to create silly stories.
Ricarose also created some handouts with reference guides which were helpful for groups when facilitators couldn't come over right away. They also gave a sense of some of the possibilities with scratch in terms of adding sounds, changing backgrounds, and programming multiple characters.
Even in the short amount of time, we could see visitors creating things that they seemed really proud of and were a reflection of their own ideas, although it did seem people were more interested in the scratch than building something in the physical world to trigger the story.
Overall it was a really nice first step and gave us a lot to think about around Scratch activities, storytelling, and how environments and facilitation need to be adjusted for this new topic. There's lots of things that are challenging for visitors from just physically using the mouse and keyboard to understanding electical connections to learning how the blocks work together. But, it's been super fun to run this workshop with visitors in its beginning stages to see what we need to work on as we continue to design these new activities.