Creative Computing

Resources and support for teachers who want to promote computational literacy in their classrooms

December 8, 2016
ScratchEd Meetup cartoon logo on yellow background

It’s computer science education week, a chance to reflect on the increasingly central role of computing in our lives, workplaces, and schools. Computational literacy is a core requirement of an increasing number of jobs in the United States (and the compensation for those jobs remains high), making it more important than ever that every child gains access to computing and to the learning experiences it offers.

First, though, teachers need the background knowledge and support to prepare students to engage powerfully with this new form of literacy. That’s where ScratchEd comes in.

Raise Your Computing Comfort Level

ScratchEd is a network of educators who are using the kid-friendly programming language Scratch in their classrooms, often in unexpectedly creative ways. When coding and computing seem daunting, ScratchEd empowers teachers at all levels of familiarity to learn with and from one another as they develop ideas and strategies to help their students succeed.

On ScratchEd’s website, teachers can find a wide span of resources to build their knowledge of computer science and the interactive programming projects they can launch in their classrooms. There’s an introductory curriculum guide, lesson plans, and sample Scratch projects for teachers to replicate or use as inspiration. There are also resources for students of all ages — preschool and kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, and high school — and for projects across all disciplines, from math to social studies.

IRL: Meetups with Scratch Educators

Looking for more interaction? Try a ScratchEd meetup. Teachers can sign-up to participate in a meetup in one of ten cities around the country, or they can start their own.

“ScratchEd Meetups are the opposite of ‘teacher training,’” writes ScratchEd co-founder and Harvard Graduate School of Education associate professor Karen Brennan. In these monthly gatherings, participants set the agenda, deciding what they want to learn from each other and how they will build and share that knowledge.

These meetups are for everyone: novices just beginning to discover how to introduce programming to their classrooms, Scratch experts looking to expand their knowledge, elementary and high school teachers, and teachers across all disciplines. The gatherings can be especially relevant for teachers in urban, high-needs areas, where students may be less likely than their suburban peers to have access to coding enrichment outside of school.

This week, Brennan and her team are launching the ScratchEd Meetups Network to make it easier for teachers to connect. The goal is to celebrate and promote teacher learning.

Get Started

If you’re looking to expand your creative computing skills and enrich your students’ learning experiences, here’s how to get started:

  1. Investigate the ScratchEd community. Along with hundreds of resources, the site also hosts a discussion board for teachers and an events page to learn about upcoming workshops and conferences.
  2. Check out the Guide to Creative Computing to learn more about initiatives to expand and enhance coding in K-12 schools.
  3. Attend a ScratchEd meetup. Currently, there are regular meetups in Boston, New York City, Chicago, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, New Orleans, Providence, Portland (Oregon), Westchester (New York), and Lexington (Kentucky). Meetups have from 20 to more than 150 participants from all sectors of K-12 education.
  4. Organize your own meetup. ScratchEd offers guidance and resources to help teachers do it themselves. Start by getting the ScratchEd Meetups Guide [PDF]. 
  5. Recognize that it’s OK to feel a little lost. Computing experiences can be difficult to approach for teachers. They may feel like they hardly know more about the content than their students, and that they can’t offer assistance when challenges arise or when kids get stuck. But with ScratchEd, teachers can build a community of support. Read more and watch a video about the challenges of “getting unstuck.”  

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Usable Knowledge is a trusted source of insight into what works in education — translating new research into easy-to-use stories and strategies for teachers, parents, K-12 leaders, higher ed professionals, and policymakers. Usable Knowledge is produced at the Harvard Graduate School of Education by Bari Walsh (senior editor) and Leah Shafer (staff writer). Contact us at uknow@gse.harvard.edu.