Scratch Project Participants' Feedback

In 2016, the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Belarus and the Hi-Tech Park launched a joint project Programming is the New Literacy. More than 100 teachers received special training in HTP, and over 1,500 school students are studying programming in Scratch.

At the end of the year, the organizers summed up the results and rewarded teachers who contributed to the development of the project. The most active of them Ц Elena Kemstach (Novopolotsk), Oksana Lovkis (Lida), and Svetlana Ivanova (Orsha) Ц were awarded a trip to Warsaw arranged with the support of the Science Around Us Foundation.

Elena Kemstach, Informatics Teacher at Novopolotsk Gymnasium No.1

Elena, why did you decide to join the project?

- I happen to have long been engaged in career guidance activities. For a number of years, students have tended to choose economy or law as their major without regard to physics and computer science. My colleagues and I tried to reason that studying physics gives greater opportunities. We organized career guidance meetings together with the Hi-Tech Park to reveal to students what prospects science opens up. Employees of HTP residents explained what universities to enter to get a job in an IT company, what to study to be a demanded professional, and demonstrated how they work on challenging projects and computer games. After a status quo analysis, I concluded that school students need programming as a subject. I have programmed in Scratch for a long time so I was delighted to learn about the launch of such a significant project in Belarus. I know by experience that Scratch is what helps students learn programming essentials easily, develops their creativity and enables them to do some research.

What challenges have you faced in the project?

- To tell the truth, lack of time is the greatest problem for me. I want to do a lot, tell a lot, and I have new plans and ideas on how to conduct interesting and informative classes. Hopefully, plans will become a reality in the next two quarters and 24 hours a day will be enough for me.

The most important question: do children like Scratch?

- I can confidently say that children are thrilled with Scratch. I am particularly pleased to watch them experimenting, trying to find an unusual solution. It is significant that parents are also becoming involved in the project; they come and say that children share their achievements at home and try to teach parents. We have great plans, and the most interesting is yet to come!

Oksana Lovkis, Informatics Teacher at Lida Secondary School No.4, coach of the project

Oksana, why did you decide to join the project?

- It all began long before the start of the project; I explored Scratch on my own. I was attracted by its simplicity and great opportunities it opens. At that time, there was a contest on programming in Scratch in Orsha, and my students took third place. After the contest, I received a proposal to join the project. I received training in HTP and became a coach of the project, and then I trained teachers who started learning about Scratch.

What challenges have you faced in the project?

- The most challenging for me is to hold the 5th-grade students attention. They are pretty grown-up and interested in the final product. I constantly think over new entertaining activities so that the students were truly excited about the class and looked forward the next one.

The most important question: do children like Scratch?

- Now I see that children want to create something but they lack theoretical knowledge. Students enjoy the practical part of Scratch; I see them inspired when working on their projects. As a teacher, I am to help them understand the theory quickly and easily to start creating.

Svetlana Ivanova, Methodologist at the Department of Education, Sport and Tourism of the Orsha District Executive Committee

Svetlana, why did you decide to join the project?

- I learned about Scratch several years ago; I watched different webinars and studied it independently. Though there was little information about it in Russian, I continued worked with Scratch. Then I started to conducted classes for students of grades 5,6,7,8 and soon saw positive results. Students participated in a international olympiad (organized by the Education Department of the Pskov Region and the Pskov Regional Institute of Teacher Training). I was delighted with their success, and we continued to study to prepare for new competitions. My students participated in the Vitebsk regional distance olympiad on programming in Scratch; the regional distance creativity contest for students of grades 2-7; and the national contest Programming in Scratch. When I was offered to join the project Programming in Scratch, I agreed immediately as I realized that the time had come when I could share my knowledge with other teachers and obtain new knowledge about Scratch from true professionals.

What challenges have you faced in the project?

- As a methodologist, I sometimes had difficulties with convincing teachers that Scratch was worth their attention, that any student can easily study this language. I detailed its advantages from my experience. Scratch was a new, unknown programming environment for many teachers, and they had to learn it from the ground up like school students. Now I can see them communicating with each other on the forum, discussing scenarios for classes, always inventing how to attract students Ц it makes me happy. My participation in the project helped me to overcome the anxiety while getting used to the role of coach. Teaching teachers is quite different from teaching students after all. It is always hard to start and be the first one but only a courageous and brave person can reach the top. We are the Scratch team, and we will succeed!


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