SCRATCHJR: CODING AS AN INNOVATIVE APPROACH TO MULTIMODAL LITERACY

 

ScratchJr is an introductory programming language application designed for children ages 5-7 to create interactive stories and games. Both ScratchJr and its big brother, Scratch, designed for users ages 8 and up, were created by MIT Media Lab to teach coding to children. ScratchJr is a free app for both iPad and Android tablets.

In ScratchJr, users put programming character blocks together that are interactive and move, jump, dance, and sing. Users can edit voices and sounds, including adding their own voices, and they can even insert their own pictures to make the blocks come to life. The goal of ScratchJr is to make coding fun and a part of students’ literacy education.

According to the creators of ScratchJr, “Coding (or computer programming) is a new type of literacy. Just as writing helps you organize your thinking and express your ideas, the same is true for coding. In the past, coding was seen as too difficult for most people. But we think coding should be for everyone, just like writing.”

ScratchJr has an innovative approach to literacy as the goal of ScratchJr is to encourage children to create and express themselves via coding. Writing via code allows students to “write” interactive stories, games, animations, and simulations. They begin with planning, rough drafts, editing, and finally publishing as they share content they have coded. Not only do students move through the creative process, they are also given opportunities for problem solving skills, sequencing skills, and math and language skills. Students are constructing meaning through coding, and as ScratchJr states, “children aren’t just learning to code, they are coding to learn.” This multimodal approach to literacy and learning gives students the opportunity to take learning to the next level and create such things as animation, virtual tours, simulations, PSAs, multimedia projects, interactive tutorials and stories.

ScratchJr offers four projects students can work on. However, in addition to providing projects, the app also offers manipulatives, such as printable coding blocks, an animated genres curriculum, which has three modules: Collage, Story, and Game, a playground games curriculum in which students can recreate popular playground games, and activities that reinforce the Common Core standards, including upper and lower case letters and counting.

ScratchJr provides children an interactive, multimodal approach to learning coding as well as offering practice of highly transferrable literacy and learning skills.

Sources:

ScratchJr – Home. (n.d.). Retrieved September 9, 2015.

Shapiro, J. (2014, August 6). Your Five Year Old Can Learn To Code With An IPad App. Retrieved September 9, 2015.

Multimodalities in the Classroom

Multi modalities are at the forefront of education in today’s 21st century classroom. Teaching and learning encompass many modalities: speech, gaze, gestures, body language, writing. When technology is added to the classroom, the multimodal aspects are heightened. Pre-classroom education preparation and experiences have changed for students. Most students have exposure to electronics such as computers, tablets, and video games prior to entering school. Students are now expected to come ready to learn computer literacy, or have some background knowledge of it, much like kindergarten students practice their alphabet before entering school. In the English Language Arts classroom, literacy is now multimodal and is redefined with the introduction of computers and tablets into the classroom. The introduction of technology has provided new opportunities for students to work in their preferred learning modality. This touches in both cognitive and effective domains and allows for greater individualized student growth, achievement, and more student-specific assessment. The move to a digitally influenced classroom changes the nature of education and because of this shift, multimodality in the classroom has become more necessary than ever before.

Multimodal Literacy is evident in my English Language Arts classroom on a daily basis. As a Google school with Chromebooks, I have recreated my curriculum to pull in multimodal experiences with nearly every topic students encounter. This supports new models of student learning as students are often the expert in the classroom, integrating their technology skills and aptitudes for technology. Students share their knowledge with one another as they collaborate on classwork and projects using Google Applications for Education (GAFE). They use the Chromebooks to complete quizzes on Socrative and they play review games on Kahoot, both which allow for greater peer interactivity. Students participate in Socratic seminars via video chats with students from other school districts, which globalizes their experiential educational interactions. Multimodal literacy is changing how content is published in the ELA classroom as students create digital video PSA’s using their written persuasive essays, and they turn book talks about their required readings into movie trailers. They also take narratives, crafted from drafting to revision and create, edit, and publish multimodal narratives. These multimodal narratives use videos, graphics, music, written phrases, and take into consideration design, content, and auditory selection, in order to create a piece that reflects the mood and ideas students are trying to express.

Multimodal experiences heighten student motivation as they insist that students invest in the learning process as they create and share their work. Lifelong learning is now more applicable than ever as the multimodal skills students hone are highly transferable to the workforce. It seems that education, with the coupling of multimodal experiences, has begun to answer the relevancy question, “When am I ever going to use this?” The answer in today’s technology based society, is every single day in the workplace, at home, with your children, in continuing education. In the new era of digitized education, schools now offer students preparation for the technological world that awaits them beyond school doors.