Last week, Nicole and I traveled to MIT for the biannual scratch conference and spent a few extra days sharing ideas and prototyping with our friends at the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the Media Lab. During the conference we ran a scratchpaper workshop, highlighting a new idea we've been developing to help learners get started with scratchx by programming paper circuit cards.
The workshop took place in the LLK room at the Media Lab, an inspiring place where we felt right at home. The twenty-four participants worked in pairs to explore the lights, switches, sensors, and vibrating motor monsters. We were a little nervous since this type of workshop required people using their own computers, downloading the right software and getting the example sketches transferred. Things went pretty smoothly, but as we move more into explorations of computational tinkering, these workshop logistics give us something to think about.
Near the entrance of the room we created a 'corner of curiousity' to show off some possible extensions to the activity. We included examples of paper circuits that use the attiny chip, some more artistic paper circuit examples and nicole's analog copper crown that uses light sensors and RGB LEDs in an interesting physical arrangement.
Nicole also made an example modeled after the work of Tinkering Studio AIR Shih Chieh Huang that incorporated the scratch stage into the project. As the black circle moved on the screen the RGB light changed color.
Although most of the participants had used scratch before, it was a first chance for many to explore the arduino extension on scratchx. We felt it was important to start with just a single light and a example sketch showing how to hook things up before moving to more complicated projects.
We wanted to support a collaborative and playful attitude for the activity since we were experimenting technical and possibly intimidating parts like sensors, resistors, and circuit baords. We felt that the social scaffolding of people working together and the mix of familiar and unfamiliar materials went a long way towards helping us create an inviting environment.
Scratchpaper Frog Crossing from The Tinkering Studio on Vimeo. Participants made all types of projects using the physical objects, showing off the wide walls of the activity. Some of the groups incorporated music, others turned into simple games, and some participants spent the time investigating all of the different components. One interesting project was a "street crossing frog" that moved when the light turned green and yellow but stopped when the light turned red.
We spent about forty-five minutes exploring the scratchpaper construction kit, shared our projects and then reflected on the aspects of facilitation, materials, and environment that supported the playful and collaborative approach to learning. It was great to try this fairly new activity with a thoughtful and fun group of collaborators and we got a lot of ideas about how to keep developing the workshop. As well, we're looking forward to see how other educators remix the idea and make it work for their own setting.
The entire conference was really inspiring as well. It started off with Mitchel Resnick, the leader of the LLK group, giving a emotional tribute to his friend and mentor Seymour Papert, who developed the idea of constructionism and whose teachings and writings greatly influenced the tinkering/making movement. I would recommend watching Mitchel's summary of Papert's ideas as well as the other thought-provoking keynotes that were thankfully recorded and posted on the Scratch conference website.
During the three days of the conference, Nicole and I participated in workshops, roamed the poster sessions and listened to panel discussions. Some of the things that we're excited to try and learn more about include using the new microworlds feature of scratch to create more manageable starting points, the next iteration of beetleblocks, experimenting with WeDo to create playful motions and mechanisms, and using turtle stitch to export scratch designs to an embroiderly machines. And we even had time to take a tinkering t-shirt challenge photo with the famous LEGO scratch cat! We'll continue to share our thoughts and experiments around scratchpaper as well as these other expressions of computational tinkering using scratch.