The first session of the recent Scratch Europe Conference in Churchill College, Cambridge (UK) was a ScratchEdMeetup hosted Richard Millwood and Mags Amond of the Ireland chapter. It was an indoor-outdoor affair with participants from many countries. It was a bit meta, as much about introducing the ScratchEdMeetup format itself as it was about discussing Scratch; an idea we shamelessly stole from the ScratchEd team at the MIT 2018 conference. Much praise is due to Karen Brennan and her ScratchEd team for putting huge thought into developing this idea, with impressive attention to detail, to foster discussion and sharing within the community of educators which has evolved around Scratch.
ScratchEdMeetup is popular in Europe but this was the first outing in the UK (hopefully not the last). The Meetup format is adapted from Open Space Technology unconference ideals, as is the Edcamp model more familiar to educators – participants with a similar interest or quest gather in an opening circle, questions are posed and shared on a bulletin area, the agenda is agreed from those suggestions, interests groups form and go away to discuss their chosen area, and eventually everyone returns to the open forum to share their ideas and findings. The only rule is The Law Of Two Feet – if you find yourself in the wrong place, move yourself to the right place. The time frame depends on context – in this case we had two hours allocated; it was just right – half hour getting sorted, hour discussion, half hour dissemination. [If there is a real-world decision making need in the air, way more time would be needed]. Numbers need not be a problem – this time we had 15 sign up, over 50 turn up, people came and went throughout the afternoon, but a core of about 40 got ‘stuck-in’ for the duration.
In this ScratchEdMeetup, after the initial whole group introduction, the agenda emerged around six possible themes – Scratch in formal education, Scratch in informal setting, physical computing with Scratch, Scratch for Art and Creativity, Building the Scratch Community, and a mixture of singular topics we dubbed “The Rest”. Four groups formed, each led by a volunteer chair, each adopting one the the first four themes for discussion. There was enough overlap with the other two themes to ensure they were not neglected.
After an hour of group discussion, the large group reconvened and each chair reported their group’s findings. The largest groups were the physical computing and formal teaching, and their report back in each case articulated needs of participants very strongly. All four groups report reflected passionate interest in developing skills and raising standards of the entire community. Eavesdropping on all four groups, it was clear there was huge sharing or ideas going on within the hour of discussion, and the general discussion bore this out – each suggestion or idea reported back was answered with offers of information, resources location, solutions. Most tellingly, we had to call time on the final conversation and ask folk to continue talking together in the interstitial spaces of the rest of the conference weekend. Which they did.
The strongest calls at the end were for more training for formal educators, more support and ‘know how’ connections for informal educators, more ease of inter-platform connection and agility in physical computing, and more recognition and support for those taking a creative and innovative artistic path. Close up of the notes on the questions posed are on agenda boards at the end …
So it is over to you now, lovely Scratch friends, to organise more ScratchEdMeetups – the initial administration route is a little circuitous but for me the joyful atmosphere of the meetings is well worth the effort. If you are using Scratch in any way, this is a good format to call on others and share what you are up to. Details of how to do this are at the shiny new website here: https://meetups.gse.harvard.edu/
And sincere thanks to Helen Drury of Raspberry Pi and her organising team, for taking the decision to include this unconference element in this year’s Scratch Europe Conference.