Scratch That Itch @ Scratch Conference 2016

Inside The Scratch Conference 2016 At MIT

Attending the Scratch conference 2016 at MIT sure was an experience! Since it was my first Scratch conference, I didn't exactly know what to expect, but I left feeling renewed and excited to think outside the box like so many of the attendees I met at the conference.  The theme of the conference was "Many paths, many styles" and it played out over the entire conference between one on one interviews and shared experiences.  Scratch is so much more than a tool.  It's more a vibrant and collaborative community, freely sharing ideas and experiences that you can put into practice with your own project ideas for your students.

I was invigorated by stories like the one from @bubble103_ from South Africa, the creator of Color Divide, who was on stage for the Keynote with Mitch Resnick. She made several very compelling points about using Scratch. "Scratch is a place where making mistakes is not only ok, it's the best thing you can do." She collaborates with the community to create a lot of her story content. This makes her the most qualified and youngest computer science project manager I've seen. She curates music from other Scratchers, along with character artwork and animations. That she is so successful, given the challenges she faces around loss of power and access to computers, was awesome to hear!

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Another presentation was from @udigitaledu who only had 20 computers for their Scratch Club and ended up with over 120 students, so they created some awesome "unplugged Scratch"activities. My favorite was the Cootie Catcher. This ended with them on stage touching hair and blowing kisses to the audience. If you'd like to create this in your classroom you can get the template for the printable version here.

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One of my own key takeaways from the conference centered around culturally relevant project ideas to address topics of social justice.  There was a specific breakout session around this topic where we created our own framework for a socially relevant game using this lesson plan outline here. I am more inspired to use these same ideas and concepts in some new projects and activities as I build more courses for schools using my curriculum. Take a look at some of the amazing projects that students have created in the studio here.The conference was geared toward inspiring and giving confidence to those new teachers and communities just venturing into the world of Scratch. There is a curated twitter feed here and if you scroll through a lot of the comments you are left with a theme of passion, joy, and excitement to find new ways to engage students and communities into the world of Scratch. In fact, the second day keynote was geared directly towards this with the discussion topic of Pathways to participation. You can view the recording for this session here.

The posterboard section at the end of each day provided ample stories of at-risk and underserved youth finding success; these stories often included teachers who have little to no coding knowledge, but their passion for helping students lead them to using Scratch. It was a fairly popular part of the convention!

At the end of it all, the relationships and connections formed at the conference provided everyone a plethora of new ideas as the Scratch leaders freely shared their ideas, passions, and resources with the attendees. This convention focused on teacher experiences and fostering project concepts. As the conference wasn't necessarily technology focused, I did still have an interest to learn about what is coming up with Scratch 3.0, and how our team at Ucodemy might start to plan and prepare for it. They are focused on "tabled first" and I was able to learn more about the Javascript engine and plans for other new features through hallway conversations with the Scratch developers, wearing their distinguishing orange lanyards. The one session I did see that went into some technology, the new teacher accounts, was overflowing and not everyone made it in.

Probably my new favorite Scratch app was the creative unplugged activity below though!

Jason in Scratch

For teachers interested in Itch, the Scratch Teacher Dashboard, please visit https://www.itchcode.com for more information.

For a full list of the sessions and resources from the Scratch conference 2016 just email me through our website for a link to the resources.

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