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Let's bring Passion back to Learning!

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The following thoughts were initially intended as comment to a blog post on "Computational Thinking" (as a scholarly discipline).


Computational thinking to me has to do with disciplined and rigorous logical reasoning and diligent implementation, because without those skills you can never succeed in debugging a large body of program code. Nature is clearly much more error tolerant than a compiler or interpreter. This is exactly where Scratch builds a bridge and makes programming accessible to kids who don't have sufficient skills and discipline to write flawless syntax and conceptualize what variables and programming constructs are doing.

To bring passion back to learning, I don't think computers can do as good a job as real world group projects can. Take the kids on a camp, organize a treasure hunt. Do some strategy simulation or role playing game out in nature, with a camp fire at night. Now, how can you connect that kind of emotional, playful experience to learning about programming (i.e. logical planning and disciplined execution, as above)?

Perhaps, we could find a good way to connect Scratch activities to nature? Of course, that is technically quite challenging. I was told Scratch doesn't run on iPhones, because Apple insists on having total control of the software on their gadgets, which fundamentally doesn't allow for interpreters or programming of any kind. Notebook computers are still clumsy baggage if you want to catch a grass hopper. They are not well suited for climbing on rocks, trees or waterfalls.

A diary, an animated collage of photographs, drawings and comments, is the best I can think of, to use Scratch on a field trip. Add some sound sensory input from the Picoboard, such as resistance of dry and wet leaves, which could be transformed into sound, or connect WeDo's ultrasound sensor. I have never tried whether the ultrasound sensor is sensitive enough to detect the flapping wings of a butterfly, or even frog jumping away. Maybe ripples in a pond or a creek could work? Or a branch in the wind, could be transformed into sound or motion on the screen?

Please do let me know if you have any ideas or experience how to connect Scratch to nature exploration. How can this connection be made captivating for kids?