Scratch Europe Conference 23-25 August 2019 – review

London CLC’s Peter Lillington shares his personal highlights from a packed programme at the annual Scratch Europe conference

Scratch Conference Europe ended with a bang, literally, with science presenter, TV personality and pyrotechnician Fran Scott from the Royal Institution setting off Scratch-controlled bottle rockets and balloons to send us on our way in an entertaining finale to three days of an amazing conference. Scratch Conference Europe moves around from year to year: this one was hosted at Churchill College Cambridge by the Raspberry Pi Foundation with the initiatives of Code Club and Coder Dojo prominently featured.

Highlight of the conference for me has to be hearing Scratch’s creator Professor Mitch Resnick from the Kindergarten Lifelong Learning Group at MIT’s Media Lab. He modestly presented the phenomenal success that Scratch has had worldwide since its launch in 2007.

Here’s his slide showing the amazing rise in children registered as users (and that doesn’t include those not creating Scratch logins, but regularly learning with Scratch!).

 

He chose to demonstrate impact by focusing on the specific life-changing impact for an individual user who started as a child but is now an adult. He also reminded us of the 4 Ps that, in his view, are necessary ingredients for successful learning and teaching with Scratch:

You can watch a video of the keynote presentation here: https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/keynote-speeches-scratch-conference-europe-2019/

(You can also see an amusing Scratch game-based ‘show’ from Neil Monterio that finished off day two as well as the conference finale from Fran Scott).

Exciting Scratch developments

Most of the MIT Scratch team were present in person and were really approachable and it was good to get an idea of their way of working. There were some intriguing hints of more exciting Scratch developments to come including the ScratchBit/ScratchGo (you can see a picture here https://www.media.mit.edu/projects/scratch-pad/overview/). We also learned of  more useful Scratch extensions on the way, that the Chrome app version of Scratch is imminent, and continuing commitment to ScratchJr, which will be redeveloped in due course. 

Many of those present were really interested in the multi language capability and the Google Translate extension, which Rowan recently featured at our Summer conference. I was delighted to bring back to London CLC a brand new Raspberry Pi 4 which will run Scratch 3.0 thanks to close working between MIT and Raspberry Pi.

Practitioner talks

There were lots of good sessions including one from Phil Bagge reconsidering his own teaching and materials in the light of cognitive load theory and other research. It was great to hear him speaking along the lines of what we have been saying here! You can see his slides here on the code-it website: http://code-it.co.uk/cogload/.

I also enjoyed hearing Sean McManus, author of several good books on Scratch that I have used in the past. He did a useful talk on common debugging issues that children may face, based on his Code Club experience: these will ring true to many. See the summary on his blog https://news.sean.co.uk/2019/08/debugging-in-scratch-download-my-slides.html – he has some free materials on his website worth looking at.

Sharing ideas

Pre conference I was able to participate in an informal ScratchEd meet up led by colleagues from Ireland. It was great to exchange thoughts and ideas with educators from around the world. As well as some longer presentations there were short talks and workshops from delegates from Europe and many countries further afield including Japan. It was fascinating to hear of projects both in other countries and some closer to home (for example, some local schools have participated in the Erasmus+ Inventeurs project for which London South Bank University is a partner).

I really enjoyed a hands-on Tiles for Tales session led by Professor Margaret Low from Warwick University. This, she said, took its inspiration from Story Pebbles or Story Dice with the idea being that pupils or students would make a story tile each or in as a pair and that these could then be taken as the inspiration for story telling – but there would be many other possibilities too. Because of time constraints, as participants we benefited from some nicely pre-prepared resources such as a ready-wired rig for the LEDs saving on time using screwdriver. Although we used micro-bits the idea could use a number of other options such as Crumbles for even simple switches and bulbs. I’m hoping to feature this project in more detail at our upcoming Computing Conference in November but you can see details of the ongoing project here https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/wmg/about/outreach/resources/tilesfortales

Takeaway thoughts

In conclusion, there was loads of great content and ideas at a jam-packed conference with an international mix of teachers, educators, academics, programmers and volunteers and enthusiasts – attend one if you can!

Four take away thoughts for me personally are:

  1. Make more of the Scratch Studios option for sharing (Rowan sets a high standard here! https://scratch.mit.edu/users/raroberts/)
  2. Think carefully about pedagogy and presentation and progression in any Scratch activity (as well as Resnick’s 4 Ps)
  3. Continue to develop options for physical computing that are inclusive.
  4. Check out the new MIT media lab Learning Creative Learning online course when the 2019 version launches in October.
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