Not-So-Final-Project Part 1: Sharing & Remixing with Scratch

Almost a year ago to the day, I was really nervous about teaching my first middle school computer class. Not only was it a new age group for me, but the subject was also a little beyond my wheelhouse. Luckily, I stumbled upon some great curriculum. MIT’s Scratch provided simple block programming and even better, they knew how to make it work in the classroom. So, I borrowed lessons from Scratch’s “Creative Computing”  curriculum and reworked them into a blended format.  The images below are
screenshots from my Moodle course. **All the little creatures on the assignments are Scratch Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 10.57.28 AMsprites. In total there are 6 units whose projects and coding concepts get progressively more difficult. Integrated into the unit themes, students are also given opportunities to de-bug code, complete group work, and give constructive feedback.

For my “not-so-final project,” I added five assignments to the unit “Scratch Surprise & Sharing/Remixing” and revised one assignment that was already in place. This unit immediately follows the creation of the students’ Scratch account. My goal with the additional assignments was to address an issue that I’d run into last year. Students had a tendency to overlook the little details as they wrapped up a project, but two of those details were fundamental to engaging on Scratch: sharing your project and giving credit when you remix or borrow. I purposely placed the new sharing and remixing assignments at the beginning of the semester when I first introduce Scratch so that students would be aligning with the Scratch “Community Guidelines” from the get-go. Not only did I want to introduce and reinforce a procedure for students to appropriately share and remix projects, but also help them meet the norms of this digital community.

Unit Overview

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Scratch Surprise – This lesson was already in place, but I went back through to add images and match the language to the assignments that follow. The new sharing assignments use this project as a base, so I needed to clarify exactly what I wanted to see in this project before moving them to the next step.

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Sharing on Scratch – Before writing up this assignment, I didn’t know that Scratch projects fell under a Share-Alike license. So I got to drop a little Creative Commons knowledge, but not too much because, you know, attention span. For me, knowing that the projects had this license made it all the more important to encourage students to share their work because it’s what will allow the Scratch community to grow. I was so excited, I had to highlight it.

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Sharing Reflection – I think the big question on this reflection is number 2. In the “Sharing on Scratch” assignment I basically told them that other people are going to mess with their precious projects that they spent hours and hours working on. That can be a tough pill to swallow and instead of pretending that it’s all cool (which I usually do), it’s important to let them vent their fears/hesitations about loss of ownership.

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How to Remix and Give Credit – Since everything shared on Scratch has a Share-Alike license, you’re able to remix any project you find on the site. Even though the license doesn’t require attribution, it’s part of the Community Guidelines that when you remix or borrow from another Scratcher, or pull media from elsewhere on the web, that you give them appropriate credit. The note about pirated music was actually a late addition to the assignment. After talking with the other middle school teachers this week, it was clear that we needed to be consistent between classes on how students use online media for their classwork. As for the second video about how to give credit, I recorded a screencast with a sample project that remixes someone else’s work and uses royalty free music.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 10.41.17 PM**Link to the YouTube video

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 10.16.29 PM**Link to my screencast video

My First Remix – This project tries to scaffold the three skills that the students just learned: how to build; how to share; and how to remix.

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Online Media – I’ve never used the “Choice” assignment before, so I’m curious to see how it plays with the group. My goal is to use the results for a bigger class discussion about copyright, ownership, and maybe a little IP. They’ll each answer individually on the Moodle assignment. Then I’ll put them in their respective result groups to develop some some arguments for their choice. When they have something ready to share, we can tackle the question from a couple different angles to test their choice (What if you buy the music and then distribute it? What if a million other people have already shared it?). We should be able to loop back around to the “no pirated music” topic, so they’ll know it’s not just me crushing their pirate-y dreams.
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Wingman – Make it Accessible

In the spirit of Collection IV, I took D’Arcy up on her “Make it Accessible” assignment:

Task: An essential component of being a responsible and compassionate “digital citizen” (and educator) is making sure that your works are accessible to an audience whose abilities fall across the spectrum. For this assignment, go out of your way to make your materials more universally accessible. This could entail creating accurate closed captions for your video in YouTube (if using auto caption, go through and correct them), providing an accurate transcript of your audio recording, going back to your recent blog posts and adding alt-text to your images and/or making your links more accessible, using built-in styles for proper heading structure in documents (see the “Headings” section on the linked page), or something else. Create a post that links to your completed work and describe what you did to make things more accessible. Use the tag makeitaccessible for your post.

While I had been fairly consistent using alt-text with images last semester, it was a task that ended up on the wayside for this course. So, it was time to go back through and make my images more accessible by filling in all of the alt-text boxes. I started with my Barbaric Yawp and worked my way through each of the posts until I was caught up with the present. I used the website that D’Arcy linked to in her task description to help get me started. It was pretty interesting to read about which images needed alt-text, how the alt-text should adapt to the content, and the difference between the caption box and alt-text. Like D’Arcy, I also had some infographics that took a bit to explain and I had to do a little extra research on how to best express the content. I think those are still my weakest alt-text examples, but overall the content on my site is becoming progressively more accessible.

Points: 10/10


Grok & Korg – Tagging

While I was out browsing through the cohort’s blogs I stumbled upon Heidi’s post “Searching across blogs for “wingit” and since this was exactly what I was doing, I figured I should probably read it. First, HEIDI YOU ARE SO RIGHT! It seems basically impossible to search for specific assignments on the cohort blogs because it doesn’t include tags in the search results! Very annoying, but there had to be a way to make this happen (spoilers: there was). So, I proceeded to go through many of the same steps Heidi went through: searched cohort pages for “wingit,” messed with command+F, checked if my Feedly list would search tags. All of this was to no avail (and it’s not that I didn’t believe you, Heidi, but I had to see for myself). This entire summer our group has been diligently tagging, and until now I had no idea that you couldn’t go to another person’s page and search their tags unless it was chilling in a tag cloud widget or you serendipitously ran into it on a recent post.

Many of us learned how/why we should tag our posts with our very first assignment for ED654 tagged yawp. I count myself among the newbies to tagging, but I could immediately see how tagging my posts would help me organize my content. I assumed it would help visitors to my site find like post as well (apparently they’re pretty important to search engine results as well). When we were given the chance to “Bling Your Blog” almost half of the cohort specifically mentioned enhancing the tagging feature in their post: Erin, Linnea, Samantha, Tatiana, and Valerie.

Screenshot of a "tag cloud" in WordPress.

All of the ladies above added the “tag cloud” widget. As to why this was a popular widget, I think Linnea said it best, “so that the content of the website was more visual.” This clever widget shows you in a second not only what the blogger posts about, but how much play each topic gets relative to the others. The tags in the cloud are also clickable, which is kind of important once you realize that the tags don’t show up in the search results. Funnily enough, I had been way more focused on the actual act of tagging posts (see “Work Out Loud”) and did not have the “tag cloud” widget on my sidebar. That has since been remedied.

Tagging has been a requirement for every assignment we’ve turned in, so have we all been tagging and not searching? Are we only navigating the tags through the widget? How has only one person in the cohort posted about this weird issue (kudos to you, Heidi)?

I know that some people *coughChris* almost certainly have a sneaky work around to search tags, and I’m sure many of you have also found a way, but this has been a low-key issue for me all summer so I figured it was now or never. I had already messaged Tatiana (WordPress Queen) to see if there were any plug-ins to help the end-user (nope), and my next message was going to be to our fearless leader. But…I figured out a way to make it work thanks to some “page 2 Googling,” and it’s so easy I feel like I should have lied and told you I knew how to do it all along.

Type in the site:

And add: /tag/tagname/

Ex. would bring you to a list of my “Wing It” assignments

Pros: You can finally find everyone’s “Wing It” posts (or any other tagged posts)!

Cons: You’re searching each individual site and you have to know the name of the tag

So, for all of you who thought your blog was super duper user friendly because you were tagging your posts, consider a few additions. The “tag cloud” is a nice sidebar addition that shows the reader all the tags you’ve used and draws attention to your most tagged topics. But everyone should get one of the search plug-ins that will include things such as tags in the search results on your site. I decided to go with the plug-in “Search Everything.” This will help visitors navigate your site even if it kind of drowns them in search results. While it would have been sweeter to find a solution that allowed me to search tags on everyone’s sites, a “joy of helping others” ending will have to suffice.

Fire Away – ADA Questions

Before this collection, I hadn’t given much thought to a student with disabilities’ rights at a postsecondary institution. My knowledge of disability legislation was limited to its role in the PreK-12 world since that’s where I’m employed. I’ve seen all the accommodation notes on the course syllabi, and I guess I just assumed that the disability services from the secondary system extended to postsecondary as well. But this isn’t necessarily the case, even if some of the accommodations look familiar. I looked into this transition from high school to college a little further with these sites, Differences Between Secondary and Postsecondary Education and Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education, but I still have a couple questions:

  1. How, and how well, does this work? What kind of preventative measures are in place so that students with disabilities don’t fall between the cracks as they transition from high school to college? How do we go from IDEA where the parent is the most powerful advocate to the student stepping into that role? Who prepares them to self-advocate? What kinds of numbers do we see for ADA student retention rate at universities?
  2. Why does the definition of “unreasonable” change in this transition? Secondary teachers are often asked to modify the essential requirements/fundamental nature of a course for special education students, but postsecondary professor are not required to do the same. I can’t decide if I think this makes high school look like they are just trying to push kids through, or if it makes universities look like hard-asses. Is there more to this than just one is required and the other is voluntary? For some reason, this issue struck a nerve in me. What about when you’re teaching an AP class (or an actually college class) to high schoolers and they are earning college credit? They would still be covered under IDEA, but how much modification is permissable when successful completion of the course represents work done at an academically higher level?

My third question kind of bounces back to the end of my “Exploring the ADA” project. We can adequately provide for students with disabilities at the school I work at, but only to a certain extent. Students with severe disabilities are bussed to a larger school an hour away to receive the support they need. I ask a few other questions in my write up about balancing financial hardship of the district with the hardship endured by a student with disabilities having to commute outside of their community, but I realize that there are still resources available for those students, which certainly isn’t the case for most of Alaska.

      3. How do these disability rights laws work when it seems close to impossible           to support a student with severe disabilities in a rural/isolated location?                  How do village schools in Alaska support these students? Is there money                           specifically set aside to support necessary accommodations or new special                       education hires? Are students ever removed from their community because the                   school is unable to meet their educational needs?

Exploring the ADA

Exploring the ADA

I developed this project primarily using Adobe Spark (which unfortunately doesn’t embed anything but a clickable headline). I’ve used their “Page” templates in the past, and while it doesn’t provide much room for customization in the format, I think it pulls together a collection of ideas really well and the product has a nice flow. You’re able to insert videos to the “Page,” which also gave me a chance to play with Adobe Spark “Video.” Again, not a ton of customization in the formatting, but it’s clean and straightforward. I had anticipated using the whole Adobe Spark suite for this project just to see how they all worked together, but their “Post” feature was incredibly underwhelming, so the two infographics I included were made using Canva.