I joined Lifelong Kindergarten (LLK) in August 2007, shortly after the launch of the Scratch online community in May 2007. This was an incredibly exciting time to start working with the group, and Scratch has been a central focus of my research activities.
Having joined LLK from a Faculty of Education, I was preoccupied with the role that educators might play in the Scratch online community. The Scratch online community was primarily a space for people who create interactive media - not ideally designed for educators, those who support the learning of people who create interactive media. It also seemed critically important to involve educators in Scratch activities, as a way of broadening participation in computational creation, to go beyond early adopters.
In response, I designed ScratchEd, an online community where Scratch educators can share stories, exchange resources, ask questions, and find other educators. The site was launched in August 2009 and more than 4000 educators have joined. The online community is only one part of the ScratchEd research design activities, which include the design of professional development gatherings and resources to support design-based approaches to the cultivation of computational thinking.
In August 2010, this work received funding for three years from the National Science Foundation. Several interns from the Harvard Graduate School of Education have contributed to this project since its inception in 2007: Jeanne Wellings (2008), Michelle Chung (2009-2010), Ashley Lee (2009-2010), Robyn Bykofsky (2009-2010), Linda Qian (2011), Anushka Paul (2011), Krista Shapton (2011), Gracie Elqura (2011), and Aaron Morris (2011). Michelle Chung has worked as full-time research staff on the project since September 2010. We would both be happy to hear from you, regarding any questions or suggestions.
I am fascinated by the work of young Scratchers. How are these young people participating as computational creators? How is this participation supported (or not) through access to others? What are these young people learning?
To explore these questions, I have adopted an ethnographic approach, using extensive observation and interviews with Scratchers to build case studies of young people's participation in the Scratch online community. In particular, I have studied and written about the online community, with a focus on: gender participation, collaboration, design-based practices, and computational thinking. Some of my publications and presentations about this work are available online.
Several interns from the Harvard Graduate School of Education have significantly contributed to this work: Amanda Valverde (2010-2011), Joe Prempeh (2010-2011), Mydhili Bayyapunedi (2011), and Mylo Lam (2011).
At the closing session of the 2008 Scratch conference held at the Media Lab, two questions emerged.
First, the conference had been focused on the participation of adults - educators, researchers, developers - yet so much of Scratch is driven by the passionate participation of young people. How could young people be more involved in a gathering like this?
Second, the Scratch community is an international one, with people having attended the conference from 30 different countries around the world. Could the Scratch conference be hosted somewhere else in the world?
Inspired by these questions, I developed the Scratch Day concept - a worldwide network of gatherings, where people could come together to meet other Scratchers, share projects and experiences, and learn more about Scratch. In January 2009, I launched the Scratch Day site, a space where people could declare their intention to host a local Scratch Day event.
Since the launch in 2009, hundreds of events have been hosted, with thousands of young Scratchers, parents, and educators from around the world participating in the gatherings. In addition to designing the Scratch Day environment, I have studied the experiences of Scratch Day event organizers, through interviews and event artifact analysis.
In this project, Shaundra Daily, Colleen Kaman, and I explored the connections between empathy, technology, and storytelling as ways of supporting civic engagement. We framed empathy as a necessary precondition for civic engagement, in that individuals need to be able to: (1) adopt the perspectives of others, and (2) collaborate with others.
Our work was organized by several overarching research questions that connected empathy, technology, and storytelling. First, how can telling multithreaded stories support the development of perspective-taking abilities? Second, how can technologies (including Scratch, cameras, and audio recorders) be used to cultivate perspective-taking abilities? Third, how can technologies support the creation of stories?
For several months, Shaundra Daily, Colleen Kaman, and I worked with a group of 10 middle-school students through Citizen Schools to construct understandings of these questions. We documented our workshop approach, which is available at Beyond the Looking and has been translated into multiple languages.
We have presented our work in several venues, including the 2008 Interaction Design & Children conference (short paper, poster), the 2008 Knight Future of Civic Media conference (video), and the 2011 AERA annual meeting.