I started my 7 year old on using Scratch Jr for the iPad. This app is for young children to get started with the idea of coding. It allows the child to drag action blocks to snap together to have a character do something. My daughter was interested in this for about 30 minutes when she then declared this was boring.
I looked up Scratch Jr protects and started challenging her to see if she could do them. At that point she was hooked. She keeps eagerly coming back for more projects to do. What I love is that I ask her to show me how she is doing on a challenge and she tells me things like “Wait, this is only try #2.” She is learning to learn through failure, which if you have ever coded something you know it almost never works right the first time.
Game theory tells us to keep players interested in the game you want to give them a challenge just above their ability level but within their reach. Too easy and they get bored. Too hard and they give up.
Tools are Boring
Ive heard people say that if their students had iPads or some other technology their students would be engaged. Simply handing kids a tool our thinking they will like to figure out how to program because you show them a tutorial website probably will not work for most students. Unless the student already has a project or specific goal in mind when provided with a tool or resource, their enthusiasm to learn the tool will probably diminish.
Students need a specific and measurable goal. “Do something cool” is too broad. If the project is several levels above their ability level the student likely will not be successful. Short term goals that are obtainable that lead to a larger goal will help students to more likely be successful.
“Using Scratch Jr, can you make the cat dribble the basketball?” “Now, can you get the basketball into the hoop?” Giving my daughter a challenge that she could do, but had to struggle through, really sparked her enthusiasm for Scratch Jr. Rather than giving her both challenges at once, allowing her to find short term success she could build on gave her additional confidence and a desire to do more.
Level the Challenges
Since all students are rarely at the same ability level, providing a list of challenges that start from easy to hard and that build on each other can differentiate for students, allow them to find short term success, set short term and obtainable goals, and ignite their passion for learning.
This spreadsheet template allows you to create a list of challenges, set their difficulty level, and allows the student to level up through the challenges. Distribute a copy to each student through Google Classroom or use /copy. This template is based off of the template for creating a challenge system for PD. Click Here to view the blog post on setting up the template.
Click Here for the template.