on education

thoughts from a graduate student at the university of mary washington

literacy and creativity. week four.


You know, I’m gonna get to gettin’ (that’s a Texasism, y’all) here in a second, but first, I want to tell you a little story.

March 31, 2012.

My husband and I are at the Volvo dealership here in Fredericksburg looking for a new sedan. Truth be told, I already knew exactly what I wanted, I was just poking around to see if they had it there. I’m a pretty simple person, really. The saleswoman asked me what I was interested in, I said I’d like a red one with light brown leather and a moonroof, please and thank you. Oh, but did you know that we have this and that option and hey! these little blinkie lights tell you if somebody’s in your blind spot and did you know…

Red one. Light brown leather. Moonroof. Thanks.

And then my husband chimes in, and I have to entertain him since he’s the one with the cash, if you know what I’m saying. My husband? He’s a techie geek. I repel it.

So, I got my red one with light brown leather and a moonroof. But it also has bells and whistles I can’t even remember and certainly will never use. But when he drives the car, he geeks out about it completely. There is literally nothing else that they could have put into this car; it’s got everything. Why?! Why.

Enter this week’s big assignment — the programing on scratch. I feel the same way about it — WHY?! WHY. My husband saw what I was trying to do and got all warm and fuzzy inside and was already dreaming up ways in which he can use this nifty little program. I literally cursed at my computer. Repeatedly. I am a digital immigrant, to be sure. Nevermind that I’m 28. This is not second nature to me!¬†Things like this are so far over my head. I wasn’t kidding in my intro video when I said that technology is my weakest area. I watched the videos for how to use it. I read the guides. I still didn’t get it. I tried to start very simple, and I just could not understand what to do. I struggled with the ideas I wanted to work with because I couldn’t figure out how to make them work. Then I decided to try to make a fish eat another fish. That’s a process, right? The food chain, and all that. As I tried and tried to work with it, I just started putting in whatever I thought would make a fish move across the screen. My husband stood behind me for nearly this entire process (which spanned HOURS), laughing at me and my ridiculous fish. At one point, the fish was swimming across the screen and somehow I wrote a code to make it flip over and sink to the bottom. We both laughed pretty hard at that. I said “That’s it! I’m done! The life cycle. Right there.” My husband just had to ruin it for me kindly reminded me that I needed two sprites and 10 lines of coding each. Oh yeah, great. Fine. Get out of my office and go feed the children. Thanks.¬†

I spent all night trying to figure out why my fish weren’t doing what I wanted them to do. Why my music wasn’t working. Why my starfish wouldn’t skeedaddle. By the time I finally managed to get something together, it was 12:30am. 12 hours I spent working on a 20 second clip!

I think I honestly have to say that this is not one of my favorite things. I try to embrace new stuff — I’ve been tweeting like a fool. I joined Classroom 2.0. I’ve got a LinkedIn page and I even set up a google reader account. And setting up my own custom search engine was really neat. But this? This was torturous for me! It was funny in the end, but I don’t think I could repeatedly spend several hours for something so small. I bet my students would like to use it, but somebody else would have to explain it to them! There are technology teachers in schools, right?! That’s how I see using this program going down — I probably won’t use it myself, but I could see encouraging my students to try and use it. I know, I know, I’m supposed to be modeling these things for them. But you can’t win them all, and this one I lost. Horribly. I’ll also never understand algebra. I accept these things as fact and move on!

I coded my shark to swim and bounce just like the fish, and I still can’t figure out why he swims backwards. When I checked it before uploading it, he was swimming along just fine. I’m honestly afraid to go back and try to fix it because I don’t want to ruin the whole thing! Check it out — the ocean food chain:

Scratch | Project | oceanfoodchain.

Clink on the link above to see my project.

Here’s a screenshot preview:

Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 4.09.12 PM

The end lesson here is that even though I didn’t like using this tool, I still tried my hardest to make something fun. And even though it’s not perfect, it’s the best that I have. And I think that’s a good reminder for what we’ll get from our students sometimes — and we need to remember that sometimes, it’s going to turn out a little wonky. But they’ve no doubt learned things in the process even if their project or paper or assignment isn’t quite right. That’s okay by me.

I learned how to make a custom search engine, which is going to be very useful in an elementary classroom. I thought that was really neat. I’m just starting to explore what Classroom 2.0 has to offer, but it seems like a great place to get ideas from other educators. Maybe one of them is an expert at scratch.


posted under INDT 501
4 Comments to

“literacy and creativity. week four.”

  1. Avatar February 10th, 2013 at 4:26 pm Jordan Kroll Says:

    I like how your anecdote at the beginning connects to this week’s topic, and I guess opposites attract? I don’t think it matters that you’re only 28–some people just really don’t…connect with technology (get it?). My boyfriend is in his early 20’s and the only things he knows know to do online are check his school email and post videos from youtube to his Facebook that he checks maybe once a week. It’s just not important to some people. I really enjoy exploring new technology, and I still found Scratch to be frustrating, so I can only imagine how it made you feel. The good thing is, you don’t have to create programs to use them in your classroom. It seems like there’s a ton of user-uploaded programs already out there, so if you really wanted to incorporate them into your lessons for your students, I’m sure you’d be able to without spending half of a day cursing at the computer.

  2. Avatar February 10th, 2013 at 5:21 pm hyoung914 Says:

    I completely agree! I had such an issue with scratch and yours is 100x better than mine! I too would probably not use this tool besides an introduction to a lesson. I would hate to see my students suffer as much as I did!

  3. Avatar February 11th, 2013 at 7:31 pm acrerie Says:

    Your Scratch project is WAY better than you think it is– nice job. Frustrations aside, think of the value of this trial and error process. Failure is important. And now you have learned a lesson, haven’t you?
    (if you see my blog post, you’ll see that I also had a rough time with Scratch myself).

    And the most important thing is that you found things that you DO like– the custom search engine, I think, will be very useful– and exploring new things often involves some amount of failure and some amount of success, right?

  4. Avatar February 12th, 2013 at 11:11 am bwebber Says:

    You did a GREAT job with Scratch!! I mean mine is OK, but yours is really great!! But I agree, I don’t think I am ready to use it with my students.

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