Flipped Classroom Scratch Programming Lessons

scratchcatThis fall I began teaching Scratch programming to 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students and spent lots of valuable class time "presenting lectures" to my students. I quickly realized that Scratch programming would be an ideal subject for flipped teaching. Rather than devote class time to telling my students how to make a cat jump or how to make a bat fly, students could watch the videos at home and then start working and experimenting within the Scratch interface. Class time could then be dedicated to working on projects, answering questions that the students come across, and watching or re-watching the tutorial videos.

A lecture is essentially a non-linear format. While students MAY ask questions or ask for clarification on a topic, I believe that few students are willing to raise their hand and admit that they need something repeated. I believe that this may be especially true of lower-income students. In Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers, he writes that when wealthy and middle-class parents take their children to the doctor, they prompt their children by telling them, “if you have any questions, be sure to ask the doctor. This is your opportunity to talk to him about any health problems you’re having...” On the other hand, the children of poor parents feel less entitled to question an authority figure and instead they just accept what the doctor tells without raising concerns or criticisms.

The non-linear format of a YouTube video allows students to pause, rewind, or fast forward their teacher without having to raise their hand. Obviously, it also allows students to "time shift" their lessons and watch them whenever and wherever they would like. Salman Khan talks about this in his TED Talk Let's use video to reinvent education:

They told me that they preferred me on YouTube than in person. . . . [N]ow they can pause and repeat [me], without feeling like they're wasting my time. If they have to review something that they should have learned a couple of weeks ago, or maybe a couple of years ago, they don't have to be embarrassed and ask [me]. They can just watch those videos. If they're bored, they can go ahead. They can watch it at their own time, at their own pace. And probably the least appreciated aspect of this is the notion that the very first time, the very first time that you're trying to get your brain around a new concept, the very last thing you need is another human being saying, "Do you understand this?" And that's what was happening with the interaction with my cousins before, and now they can just do it in the intimacy of their own room.

Screenshot 2014-11-07 10.18.32Finally, Scratch files are an open format and allow anyone to look at the code behind the project. Recently, I was trying to figure out how to shuffle a list (if you've studied programming, you might call this an "array"). I found a Scratch project titled Randomly Shuffle A List (How To: Fisher-Yates) by user jgatcomb. By clicking the See Inside button, you can learn how another user programmed their work OR, if you're lazy, copy their work using the Backpack feature.