Enabling children to become creators not just consumers

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12 March 2014 by ATL
I am currently on the train back from London. It’s been a rather inspiring weekend. I ran an ATL 'teach meet' based on technology and computing with a group of trainee and newly qualified teachers. To get them thinking I challenged them to draw the internet. The results proved very interesting.

What is more interesting is when this activity is repeated with children. Children generally draw the icons for web browsers or Google, very few would draw diagrams of how the internet actually works. It is a crucial distinction in my mind.

We as teachers are very good at teaching children to be consumers and children are experts at teaching themselves. If we are to prepare children for later life, they need to have a basic understanding of how technology works, not simply how to use it.

This fed into one of the talk topics for the teach meet, and the wider theme for the day, where the focus was on how to enable children to become creators and not just consumers. One of the most interesting points of discussion was that by creating technology children are learning important skills in problem solving and resilience.

Children will inevitably need to debug code that they have created, something that can be a source of frustration, but will teach children perseverance. Other talk topics included creative ways of teaching e-safety, methods of sharing ideas between colleagues and enhancing other areas of the curriculum with technology.
Mozilla Foundation workshop
The afternoon session was run by Melissa Romaine from the Mozilla Foundation. She introduced Webmaker tools to us. Mozilla provide teaching materials on their website to support teachers in using the Webmaker tools within their classes to teach web literacy.

We had a brilliant time exploring the tools: X-Ray Goggles, Popcorn Maker and Thimble. As a roomful of adults, there was a real buzz and quite a bit of laughter as we used the tools. It was utterly engaging and children will find it just as engaging as we did.

“The internet should enrich the lives of human beings and they should have the ability to shape their own experience on the internet.” Mozilla Foundation

“Mozillians are people who make things, moving from consumption to creation.” CEO Mitchell Baker

X-Ray Goggles
This is a rather cool tool which allows webpages to be edited with ease - an exciting prospect. Children can use the BBC News format and edit it to create authentic looking news reports about, for instance, the Battle of Hastings for a link with history. The opportunities really are endless.

The webpage that the children create uses a new URL and essentially copies the format. But that doesn’t take away the excitement of feeling as though you are shaping and editing live internet pages.

Children will build a greater understanding of how websites are created and content on-line is determined by code and a set of instructions without them having to learn a programming language to access it. Very cool indeed!
Popcorn Maker
Popcorn Maker allows children to create videos using existing on-line content. Video, sound, speech bubbles, text, maps, images and more can be spliced together to create something new. It's a great way of creating multimedia content to record project-based learning.

For example, children could create a video about global warming, a historical figure or create a video documenting their time in primary school and summing up their feelings about moving on to secondary school.
Thimble takes the other Webmaker tools one step further with more advanced code. Children can either start building something from scratch, or use pre-existing templates and customise them to make something of their own.

The pre-existing template include signposts and instructions on the purpose of each piece of code and which part to change in order to alter the text, colours, or layout.

The Thimble tool combines HTML, CSS and Javascript code and, although it may seem very advanced, it is well within the reach of children in upper KS2.

Using these Webmaker tools ensures that the element of challenge is there when creating on-line content as part of computing lessons.

The possibilities are really quite exciting!

By Abbie Saxby, year 1 teacher and ATL Future steering group member based in Hastings.

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Teaching environment