Amplifying quality learning 

A few weeks ago I attended the Scratch Benefit and it was wonderful to see the genuine love and support for the Scratch community. Mitch’s opening presentation powerfully illustrated it’s reach. With 200 million Scratchers globally it has the user base of the 6th biggest country in the world.

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Scratch has 200 million users.

For a learning technology that’s pretty remarkable but not surprising…for Scratch that is.

Many of the solutions I’ve tested and evaluated designed for low resource settings are disappointing replicas of rote learning models, only amplifying bad practice. They rarely (if ever) provide children and adolescents with opportunities to harness their own creative potential. They don’t demonstrate evidence of impact, they’re not engaging or fun, and they’re not grounded in learning science and design, which is why they have low rates of adoption and ultimately fail.

There’s a movement in the United States (with some level of institutional buy-in) to employ technologies like Scratch to support children develop 21st century and STEAM skills through project-based learning and similar pedagogies, but this hasn’t been as prevalent in other parts of the world. There are a number of makerspaces on the African continent, but so far these are emerging to meet demands in the technology and manufacturing industries.

It’s understandable why in “developing” regions of the world there’s considerable focus on closing gaps around traditional literacies like reading, writing and math, but platforms designed and deployed in these contexts can still support meaningful learning versus rote learning. It’s paradoxical when there’s evidence that shows that technologies which support and align with progressive education can help children develop these basic foundational literacies.

When I reflect on the failures around many of these technologies and the success of Scratch, I think the key differentiator is that Scratch is a community which supports learners, families and educators. Scratch is not a technology, but a movement around how to participate in quality and joyful learning, which all children deserve.

I hope we can start designing more leaning technologies which challenge colonial and top down models of education, rather than amplify them.