Literacy from Scratch

Literacy from Scratch is a novel project using the simple Scratch programming tool to develop literacy (and other subjects). We include a sample page of Key Stage One project material from the site here. For more information go to the Literacy from Scratch Web Site:

Lawrence Williams Email:Lawrence.Williams@brunel.ac.uk

School of Sport and Education, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex,
U88 3PH, UK

Miroslava Cernochova Email: Miroslava.Cernochova@pedf.cuni.cz

Faculty of Education, Charles University in Prague M. D. Rettigové 4,
116 39 Praha 1, Czech Republic

Abstract

“Literacy from Scratch” is a response to the UK government’s initiative to develop computer programming skills in both the Primary phase of education (pupils aged 5 to 11) and the Secondary phase (aged 11 to 18). The project has several related aspects: It involves the reworking of Primary and Secondary Initial Teacher Training (ITT) programmes at Brunel University, through which Postgraduate students are taught how to use the MIT Scratch programming language to create sustained and animated narrative work. This work is also being developed by a whole year group (Year 8 pupils aged 12 -13) at a local London secondary school. Support materials for creating these animated narratives are being developed at both institutions (the school and Brunel University), and are sent by email to a school in Prague, where, with the assistance of both the staff and student teachers at the Faculty of Education in Charles University in Prague, a local Prague Basic School is undertaking the same project with two groups of 23 Year 5 pupils (aged 10 – 11) and 14 Year 4-6 (aged 9-12). “Literacy from Scratch” is also a response to an existing situation regarding poor provision in ICT education in the Czech curriculum for Primary Education.

Keywords

Key words: computer programming, literacy, Fine Art education, animation, creativity, initial teacher training (primary and secondary), narrative, chronological order, international collaboration

1 Introduction

“Literacy from Scratch” is a project designed to develop skills in computer programming, while simultaneously developing creative and collaborative writing skills. It is being developed at Brunel University’s Education Department, and has several related aspects. Most important are the need for developing cross-curricular links at Primary classroom level, which were sadly lost under the 1990s education reforms, and for cross-department links to be established at Secondary level.

While the Scratch computer program is being effectively used to develop many exciting forms of games creation, there is a clear opportunity to create well-structured narrative work by teachers of English, working with their ICT and CS colleagues. In this way, narrative work can be more extended, and CS skills more rigorous.

The introduction of programming in SCRATCH into education in Czech Republic is also a radical opportunity to enrich and update compulsory ICT education so that it could be more attractive and interesting for Primary school pupils. ICT education according to the curriculum for the Czech Primary Education (FEP EE, 2007) is focused mainly on user skills development, to use standard peripherals and SW, and to search and present information on the Internet and in a digital form which is not a popular activity with pupils or teachers. Some Czech ICT teachers have introduced their Primary School pupils to fundamental bases of programming; Czech programming environment Baltie[1] or Slovak Imagine[2] or the MIT Scratch programming language are used in some Czech schools for this purpose.

However, the teaching of programming remains in the majority of cases an isolated teaching project without any context or relevance to other subjects, especially literacy. Nevertheless, some schools connect ICT education to another school subjects with the aim of opening a space for creative and art, pupils’ skills development, and facilities to narrate and communicate their ideas and stories using multimedia and interactive tools. The Primary School ZS Korunovacni belongs to this type of school, and it is why it was decided to apply in ICT education a new and innovative teaching procedure proposed by the team from Brunel University, London, setting it within the context of Art and Language thinking and design.

2 A MODEL OF INNOVATIVE TEACHING OF COMPUTER SCIENCE IN PRIMARY SCHOOL  EDUCATION IN UK

Accordingly, at Brunel University we set about creating a series of innovative teaching initiatives:

  • Working across secondary departments, linking English and ICT training courses

At Brunel, we have been working to create links across the secondary curriculum, and one successful initiative has been a close collaboration between the university’s English and ICT Departments. Initial teacher training (ITT) students have come together in practical workshops to share their different areas of expertise. This work has included bi-lingual narratives, English work integrated with Science research, and, most recently, the linking of English with computer science, using Scratch.  In this way, secondary student teachers of ICT and English, collaborating in practical educational Workshops, are able to benefit from each other’s expertise, and to take this cross-curricular model into their first schools, when they eventually qualify as teachers. This method of working has been supported by taking the same curriculum model into a local secondary partnership school, where teachers have worked together to create a new scheme of work for their Year 8 ICT pupils (ages 12 and 13), linked to narrative development, with ICT work being supported by English teaching expertise.

  • Primary Teacher Training Programme

The Primary training programme at Brunel has been similarly developed through a project called “Creativity, Cross-curricular ICT, and Computer Science”.  “Literacy from Scratch” forms the computer science element of this programme.

Aim

To develop a practical course during which Primary PGCE students have the opportunity to explore creative links across the primary curriculum, in order to meet the new requirements of the Secretary of State for Computer Science to be introduced.

Objective

The student teachers are asked to produce narratives with their classroom pupils, which address the different aspects of creativity, cross-curricular ICT, and Computer Science.  This work is developed in four phases:

Phase 1

A single introductory lecture is given to all primary students on how to use ICT to create links across the curriculum, using ICT tools, with examples of creative pupil practice.

Phase 2

Working in tutor groups of about 30, each trainee student is introduced to the “Stories for Children” project.  (Note 1) This is a project which is designed to support bi-lingual narrative work, using the “old” technologies – PowerPoint, Paint, Draw, with music files, and “voice-over” sound files.

Aspects of the curriculum covered by “Stories for Children” include:

  • Literacy
  • ICT (PowerPoint) looking at text, images, animation, and sound files.
  • Multiculturalism
  • Bilingualism 

Phase 3

Working in tutor groups on “Science Through Arts”, (Note 2) employing the same model as in Phase 2, this model widens experience to include NASA space science data.  This project has been successfully trialled with Primary and Secondary schools, and fits well with Years 5 to 9 curriculum (ages 9 to 14), either as literacy skill development, or as science.

Curriculum aspects covered are expanded to include:

  • Literacy
  • ICT
  • Science
  • Art
  • Drama
  • Music
  • Mathematics

Phase 4

An introduction to the computer science program, Scratch, is added into the above model.  Student teachers are currently trialling ideas within their school placement classes. 

Assessment Criteria

Learning outcomes (stories in two or more languages or incorporating NASA space science data) and, for the Specialism, the additions of computer science generated animations are assessed against the following criteria:

 Literacy

“Stories for Children”: Is the story engaging, accurate, well-illustrated?

“Science Through Arts”: Does the story, in addition, contain significant and accurate space science data?

 ICT skills

Is the story animated? Does it contain well-chosen images, animations, sound file, and/or music files?

 Computer Science

Has Scratch been used successfully, to add animation into the story?

Summary

 This model encourages:

All student teachers to understand how to implement cross-curricular themes using ICT

Most student teachers to develop either multi-lingual or science based narratives

Some student teachers to start using computer science programmes in a creative and engaging way.

3 CREATIVE AND COLLABORATIVE TEACHING FOR ICT AND ART EDUCATION IN CZECH PRIMARY SCHOOLS

Accordingly, in harmony with this working model, at Charles University, Faculty of Education in Prague we decided to start to modify our teaching approach to ICT education, and to develop profound links between ICT education and Art Education.

Intertwined Art Education and ICT Education

At the Primary School ZS Korunovacni, a key idea for teaching in all subjects in all levels is the concept of the Creative School[3] which has been implemented in this school not only into teacher work, but also into pupil thinking and the whole approach to learning. “A mutual acceptance of teachers and parents is a fundamental presumption in order to a pupil would not struggle against his/her learning and school and s/he would have a good feeling in school. It means teachers perceive parents as the best ones of their children. And on the other hands, parents accept school and its teachers as the best school and the best teachers for their child. It is very important that parents and teachers would create and arrange for a child an unloaded and emotionally safety space for his/her development and school work.”[4]  The school applies a fundamental principle for designing learning activities which reflects J.A.Comenius’s idea that “pupils who are plugged in learning actively and through all senses adopt and acquire new knowledge and skills more easily than in a case of in a traditional teaching based on transmission and interpretation of study matter as a ready knowledge, on doing notes in workbooks and memorization.”

Collaboration between student teachers and experienced teachers in school

At Charles University, Faculty of Education in Prague we have been working to create links across the ICT teacher education and teaching practice in schools  with the aim to bring new ideas for ICT education. This work in SCRATCH contributes to create profound links between the student teachers and experienced teachers in schools, who would like to innovate their teaching and who are open to share expertise from the young student teachers’ generation.

Working in secondary schools, and linking with Prague           

Sharing advanced knowledge and expertise between ICT student teachers and teachers

Context

 Brunel University’s Education Department has an Erasmus Bilateral Agreement with The Charles University in Prague.  As part of this new collaboration, educational projects are currently being developed between Czech schools and UK schools, using ICT tools, especially the development of computer programming.

World Ecitizens is an international website created by teachers to give students a “voice”, by publishing their learning outcomes.

MirandaNet is a leading on-line community of teachers, dedicated to sharing best educational ICT practice at an international level.

Scratch is an elementary computer programming language, developed at MIT.

Background

In January 2012, Secretary of State Michael Gove “disapplied” the programmes of study for ICT, recommending that schools should teach computer science, including computer programming. In response, Brunel University set up the new courses in computer programming for student teachers, at both Primary and Secondary level. 

Year 8 Scratch Pilot Project Aims at Bishop Ramsey School, London,UK

  • To develop computer programming skills using Scratch
  • To develop narrative skills using Scratch (not currently developed)
  • To publish student learning outcomes (on World Ecitizens) and a project report for teachers (on MirandaNet)
  • To explore new ways of collaborating with Brunel University

Objective

School pupils, in Year 8 ICT lessons, explored the use of Scratch to create a piece of narrative work by creating about ten linked scenes (called backgrounds).  Characters were added to the scenes, and animated, and sound tracks were also added. This work will be linked, in the next academic year, to Music and Art lessons.  Students were allowed to work alone or in pairs.

Method

Introductory lessons were given to Year 8 students by Lawrence Williams, Teaching Fellow at Brunel.  The project was explained to staff and pupils, and the tasks were introduced in these lessons.  Support for the school from the University was maintained through weekly visits.

 Assessment

Following the lesson development, the stories were assessed:

  • as successful narrative work (narrative structure, development of characters, use of dialogue, and description)
  • as effective (efficient) computer programming
  • for cross-curricular elements such as art work (developing pupils’ own sprites and background scenes), and music (development of sound tracks in music lessons, or as homework)
  1. 1.      International dimension

In Prague, there are the following personnel supporting the project:

Dr. Miroslava Cernochova, Assistant Dean of Education, Charles University in PragueTomas Komrska, Head Teacher, ZS Korunovacni School, Prague

Lukáš Kotek, a student on the MA study program for ICT teachers, Charles University in Prague, Faculty of Education

Accordingly, Bishop Ramsey School and Brunel University, working together, sent out details of the project to his group in Prague, including some of the support materials developed in the UK.

At the Korunovacni School, Tomas and Lukas worked with three classes to develop their own response to the project, focussing in particular of the artistic potential of the project.

Group 1: Has compulsory ICT lessons on Mondays. This group consists of pupils of

Year 5 (aged 10-11). The pupils have designed their scenarios on paper and written the stories on the paper in their  lessons of ICT education. They have an ICT teacher (female) who is very enthusiastic to work with children in Scratch.

Group 2: Has optional Art lessons on Tuesdays. This group is managed by Tomas

Komrska. This group consists of pupils of Year 4 to 6 (aged in 9 – 12) who have, with

Tomas, an optional course of Arts in which they also design stories for programming in Scratch. This group is taught programming by Lukas.

Group 3: Has compulsory ICT lessons on Wednesdays. This group is managed by Tomas Komrska. This group consists of pupils of Year 7 (aged in 12-13). The majority of these pupils are supported in resolving social problems and some study problems. They were introduced to Scratch, but they did not design their own scenarios. They will program the scenarios which were developed by group 1 or group 2.

Following much the same working model as in the UK, the Charles University supported the project with regular visits to the school by Miroslava Cernochova, working with her MA student, Lukáš Kotek.

At the Primary School ZS Korunovacni in Prague (http://www.korunka.gns.cz/) the project focused on programming stories in Scratch, and was realised with three groups of pupils. The first one was the group of pupils of Year 5 (aged 10-11) who designed in a frame of a compulsory Informatics Education stories on paper structured in four sequences.

Another set of stories designed by a pencil on paper were developed by the group of pupils of Year 4-6 (aged 9-12) in a optional course of Fine Arts. Both groups succeeded in designing visually original characters and figures embedded very often in unusual stories. This paper phase is very important. It contributed to visualise ideas and storyline and to define its four stages. The visual and graphic forms of stories are indeed original. Besides that, each pupil described his/her story verbally as an essay. It was proved how important is the detailed planning of the stories in a paper version, prior to programming in Scratch.

The third group are pupils of Year 7 (aged 12-13) who had been introduced to programming in Scratch in a compulsory Informatics Education without any initial idea of their own stories. They were trained how to move with sprites, how to design and change a background and how to change a sprite’s shape. The pupils started to program their story in Scratch using paper documentation and essays shared with pupils from the two groups above.

Here are some short examples of support materials presented to the students to support the development of their creative work:

What makes a good story, in Scratch?

Structure

Beginning: Introduce your characters and your setting.

Middle:  Develop the story so that it leads up to an exciting climax.

Ending: A resolution, or happy ending, with a moral.

In Scratch, you can place a sentence of narrative across the bottom of each “page”.

Setting

In Scratch, you do not actually need to describe the setting, but you can make your own “backgrounds” against which your story will unfold.  Use Draw or Paint.

Characters

Characters: In Scratch, you do not need to describe your characters, but you can show their thoughts and emotions in two ways:

  • Speech bubbles
  • Thought bubbles (they may not be thinking what they are saying….)

You can use or modify sprites from Scratch, or from the Internet, but you can also create your own.  Have fun animating your characters! (They are called “Costumes”.)

Music files

You can add music files to add atmosphere to your story.  You can use the files from Scratch or from the Internet, but you can also create your own music, using the school’s music software.

Voice-overs

 You can use a microphone to add the conversations spoken by the characters in your story.

 Conclusion

Already, there is considerable interest in this project.  In February, students and teachers from Bishop Ramsey School plan, with Brunel University, to present their stories at the BETT13 Exhibition in London.  In March, the project will be presented at the UK’s National Education Show in Birmingham.

This multi-layered programme is on-going.  We plan to publish both a library of stories created using Scratch, together with detailed support files for teachers, on a new web site, when all of the strands have completed their first cycle of development.  These will be posted here on the World Ecitizens web site, hopefully in a steadily increasing number of languages.  The first stories will be in the English and Czech languages.

This work was supported by grants of the Czech Science Foundation P407-12-1541 Information Technology Competencies of Children and their Development in Primary and Lower Secondary Schools.

References

Note 1 See: http://www.worldecitizens.net/projects/curriculum-development/stories-for-children/

 Note 2  “Science Through Arts” was presented at WCCE 2005, Cape Town. See: http://www.mirandanet.org.uk/star/star.htm

FEP EE (2007) Framework Education Programme for Elementary Education (with amendments as of 1st September 2007). Research Institute of Education (VÚP) in Prague, 2007.

SGP Baltie http://www.sgpsys.cz/en/

Imagine http://imagine.input.sk/

ZŠ Korunovační http://www.korunka.gns.cz/

[1] http://www.sgpsys.cz/en/

[2] http://imagine.input.sk/

[3] www.tvorivaskola.cz

[4] http://www.korunka.gns.cz/cl1801736408.htm

Biographies

LawrenceWilliams currently teaches in the Graduate School at Brunel University, West London, following 40 years’ working in south London secondary schools.  His interests are in literacy, creative uses of ICT, cross-curricular learning, and international collaborations, on which he has published widely.  As well as winning numerous national and international Teaching Awards, he recently received the Naace 2012 ICT Impact Award for Life Long Achievement.

Miroslava Cernochová graduated from the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics at Charles University in Prague. She works for the Faculty of Education at Charles University in Prague at the Dept. of Information Technology and Technical Education where she is responsible for courses focused on ICT applications in teaching and learning (ICT in education, E-learning in school practice, Didactics aspects of Information Education) as a part of the MA Study Programme for ICT student teachers. In 2003-2006 she was invited as an expert to be a member of the Czech Ministry of Education consultative body for realisation of the Governmental Information Policy in Education (GIPE). From 2004 she is a chair of the RDC group “IT and Teacher Education” in the ATEE.

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