The summer has been a nice respite from an otherwise busy academic year. Perhaps what is unique about it is the amount of quiet time I've had to sit with ideas, develop and respond to questions and try things out. For example, one day I spent nearly twelve hours working on some sample Scratch projects I might try out in the fall with new students. My office was quiet, I was armed with enough water and snacks to sustain me and I had my laptop charger. And- I had the luxury of time on my side. That day, I not only worked on the larger objective of developing a sample to share but I also dug into the details. This included painstakingly editing my characters (or sprites) to make the animations more realistic, scouring the internet for images that would bring my story to life and perfecting small little details to get my project to work the way I wanted. At the end of it I had a robust prototype that I could proudly share with others. I felt like I had learned more about how to work with Scratch in that one day then in all the other short sessions I had over the course of the year because in those cases, I was always rushing somewhere else and I couldn't invest the time.Interestingly, this same theme of time was evident in many of my students' reflections on our Spring Scratch workshop. In their interviews and on a survey where they reflected on the course, they explained that they liked having the time to work on their projects. My students appreciated the lack of lecture and mentioned that they liked the mini debugging activities that I had selected to help them get more comfortable with Scratch. I, and my co-teacher were truly in a facilitation role: we worked with students as they had questions or ran into a challenge their group members couldn't help them with. If you had walked into that room on any Wednesday, you would have observed a scene that included the following: students typing, chatting, moving between tables to ask questions - some kids had their headphones on, others just played music. Some sat on desks, others on chairs. Those things didn't matter, because my role was to help them to get where they wanted to go, in this case, to complete an app.In the end, every group had created their own app that ranged in content, aesthetics, complexity and functionality. However, they all felt good that they got to this point. And this is because they had something that is a scarce resource in K-12 schools: time. I gave my students the time they needed to work on problems they were interested in solving. There is much research to suggest that when youth are engaged in personally meaningful making and have time to develop their ideas and can also reach out for support, that they are inclined to continue to refine and develop a range of robust artifacts ranging from television shows to video games to books.Notice I didn't use the word "flipped classroom" or phrases like "personalized learning plan" or any other buzz word that get co-opted by a range of people/organizations to sell the experience I described above. Creating time and space in schools for youth and teachers to pursue meaningful problems would put a lot of people out of business. This time would include time to plan, time to think, time to read, time to ask questions. If you stepped back and removed the test prep and the obsession on elevating "the skills" or "the standards" that kids must gain, there would be time for kids to actually be engaged in meaningful learning of their choosing.Though I am happy the students felt good about their final apps and their overall experience, I am still concerned about how these ideas might be made useful in more traditional settings. Questions that I as a teacher and researcher am continuing to ask:
- what should I have done with youth who didn't get as much time in Scratch because they were responsible for the art or imagery and chose to work in other programs?
- how do I support the youth who want to learn but might find the orientation of this kind of classroom space confusing or in opposition to their other class experiences?
- acknowledging that traditional classrooms differ from after school or out of school classroom spaces, how do I research the lived experiences of kids in these creative contexts?