From concrete to abstract: motivating contexts for novice programmers

Helping pupils clearly describe processes with Scratch
Peter W Donaldson

Pupils use information structures and carry out processes every day; from using a timetable to find out when their next class is, to getting dressed in the morning, but they rarely get the opportunity to clearly describe them to someone else. However this ability is the key to turning students from passive consumers to active creators in the digital age. Without the ability to describe process and structure clearly, students are unable to harness the full potential of their computers.

In this session I will discuss the motivating contexts we use in our introductory Scratch programming units and how they encourage pupils to gradually develop their confidence and ability to think computationally. We’ll also explore the sequence of activities we use and the methods we employ in Crieff High School in Scotland to keep all students fully engaged.

Finally I’ll outline some of our thoughts about assessing pupils' learning and the trade-off's we've made to allow pupils to demonstrate what they know without stifling their creativity.