Friday, January 14, 2011

You don't know me!

By Mike Kaechele

Been thinking a lot about relationships lately. I think they are one of the most important parts of teaching and learning. If there is little or no relationship between people than it is hard to have the trust to push each other to a deeper level. When something goes poorly in my room it is one of the first things I check. I also think it is important to reflect openly even when things do not turn out as well as planned.

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I like to experiment in my classroom and am not afraid to try something new. Recently my 8th graders worked with an 8th graders in Vietnam designing video games in Scratch. The project was modestly successful at best. One of the reasons was that the students in Vietnam were more experienced with Scratch and in thinking like a programmer than my students. Many of the international students had used Scratch for a few years whereas almost all of my students were first time users. We learned the basics by making a few basic games following step by step instructions. Most of my students were fine with that but when they had to create their own game from "scratch" then they struggled.

Some of the groups worked well with each other, but many of the groups struggled. The reasons were varied as some students slacked off and let their partner students do most of the work. Others had miscommunication about either their designs or how to actually make them work.

By Aphrodite
But the key breakdown that I saw was the lack of relationships between themselves and the students overseas. We had the students create introductory videos but did not have time for them to make any more videos through out the project. Skype unfortunately is not an option because of the time difference. Students were supposed to email the game files back and forth to each other and explain what they are working/stuck on. They often forgot to do this or did not take the time to write good explanations.

The students just were not "connected" to their overseas partners so they were not very motivated to cooperate. It was easier to blame some abstract student partner who was not in the room. We were under the gun time wise to get this project done, but next time we must lay more groundwork before the collaboration to develop relationships between the students. For most middle schoolers their social life and friends are their life. We need to tap into this to build meaningful relationships to inspire deeper learning.


  1. Thank you. I have been struggling with how to get my 6th-8th grade students to work with others outside the classroom walls. Remembering that the process is the goal - not necessarily, the end product - is the key.

  2. @Pete

    I also think a key ingredient is time. You have to give students lots of opportunities to interact including and especially informally. Friendships on-line are not really different than f2f. Both of them take time and interests to explore the other person as who they are. Only after relationships are developed will students truly collaborate.

  3. I definatly agree that time is a necessary ingrediant for any project, but especially one dealing with SCRATCH. I am looking to start a project that works with SCRATCH with my students, they have never used the product before, nor have I ever taught it before, any suggestions for a newbie?

  4. Great stuff. I have been developing a linking program between Australian children and children in Vietnam and Laos using mostly video interactions.

    One of the things that we found was most exciting was letting them use the cameras themselves after some basic training.

    We are still going through the data of the initial activities but would love to share some findings once we have more information. What would be the best way to get in contact?

  5. @tabitha I have many resources on my class wiki

    The lessons are powerpoint instructions for making 4 different games. They are what I use to let students learn the basics.

    Under resources are other tutorials and lessons. It is a balancing act to figure out how much support to give students and how much to push them to play and figure out things by themselves.

    @totcol Would love to hear more about it. You can leave a comment on my blog at or contact via twitter. I am concretekax.


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