Near the beginning of March, the Plano Maker Space (“an all volunteer, non-profit organization formed to provide a place and the infrastructure for creative people to collaborate, share ideas, and pursue creative / technical interests“) reached out to me on Twitter, asking if I’d be interested in doing a Scratch class for their meetup.
I asked if they’d be interested in Katelyn, my 10 daughter, teaching it instead of me, and they were delighted.
Challenge 1: Date/Location
Because they’re currently in the process of raising funds to open a maker space in Plano, the first discussion was about where they’ve held things so far (one just happened to be at Improving Enterprises, where I work) & what type of class they’d prefer.
I had initially assumed it would be a one-hour talk, but was told that so much excitement was seen at a Scratch booth they had set up during a local STEM event, that they were hoping for a full workshop, some time in April.
After speaking with my daughter about timing (as soon as a month away!?!), I asked my employer about using a room on a Saturday & was greeted with an emphatic, “yes, we absolutely would love to host that, and we’ll sponsor the pizza too.” I love what Improving stands for & how much value is placed in learning, sharing & paying it forward.
After agreeing on a date (April 19th), a ”Scratch for kids!” Meetup was created, and we were off to the races.
The Day of the Event
If you’ve read my prior posts, you know that one of my biggest fears is that of public speaking.
It is incredibly important to me that I do everything in my power to ensure my daughters do NOT follow in my footsteps, as far as that fear is concerned.
This was my first time to be in charge of something like this (not just first time for/with my daughter… first time, period), so I wanted to ensure we had enough time to get comfortable with the environment, practice & get the equipment working.
Fortunately, we arrived two hours early.
90 minutes before the Talk
While Katelyn was practicing her talk, she was suddenly greeted with a “site is down” message.
I went to their Twitter page, and found this:
:] ??? No. –> :[ x1000!
My 10yo daughter was scheduled to do her first full tech talk, to 30+ rsvpd-people (including classmates from her elementary school) in 90 minutes!
It seems we were not the only ones caught by surprise:
THANK YOU Google Cache!
So I Shushed My Panicking Daughter & Went Into Firefighter Mode
After a short outburst of, “SHHH! Mommy needs a minute! Shhhh. DON’T PANIC! Just BE QUIET FOR A MINUTE” (mom of the year), I googled “download scratch 1.4,” hoping to find the old 1.4 installer (as far as I knew, v2.0 was web-only & completely dependent upon their website being up*).
I downloaded this & installed it, first, on the computer Katelyn was presenting from. I then instructed her to go through all 12 of the day’s lessons using 1.4 (we had practiced them in v2.0 only), while Lauren (my 7yo) & I installed it on the machines in the room (NOT something that’s normally ok, but I was in a “better to ask for forgiveness from my IT guy than to risk Katelyn never wanting to speak again because her 1st talk was a disaster” mood).
As Lauren & I got done installing on the machines, Katelyn finished testing the lessons, and told me all work except #10.
About 10 minutes later, people started arriving.
*I’ve since learned that a Scratch 2.0 offline beta version is available if you install Adobe Air
The turnout was great! I think there were about 35 attendees. I was blown away at how engaged the kids (of all ages) were.
Katelyn led the entire thing, as I walked around the room helping anyone who needed it, and making sure everyone had enough time to complete each lesson before we moved on without them.
About 2 hours into the 3-hour workshop, the site came back up, just in time to finish the class using v2.0 on their web site.
- During the week prior, we had worked quite hard on printing, folding & cutting out a set of these 12 lesson cards for every attendee.
Here’s an example of one:
I had no idea how much of a difference these would make. These cards worked two ways:
- They enabled those able to completed each lesson faster than the group speed to work at their faster pace, then experiment more, without getting lost because they were experimenting in the middle of a lesson.
- The separate lessons created great “stop for break” places, throughout the workshop.
- While helping people catch up, the cards enabled me to look at their screen & point to the card, to guide them using visual commands (“now you need a forever loop from the orange ‘Control’ section”)
The other thing this experience enabled to be pretty big “lessons learned” include:
- Never RELY on the internet
- ALWAYS have a plan B
- Speakers can thwart disaster more easily by arriving early!!!!
Best Reward Ever: Planting Seeds
On Easter Sunday (the next day), we woke up & saw this Tweet. Katelyn grinned from ear to ear all morning. That was powerful, and oh-so-special.
In addition to that epic, precious goodness, the feedback & support for Katelyn, from attendees was wonderful:
Another Surprising Outcome
I shared some of my favorite kids’ programming links at the end of the workshop (also posted in comment in the meetup):
App Inventor 2 was something I hadn’t looked into. Now, thanks to @aarbogast, I’ve since discovered it’s a Scratch-like way to build apps for Android phones, also built by the Media Lab at MIT. How cool! I had no idea!
**My personal blog posts often serve as reference for me, for things I don’t want to forget. Because of this, I took screenshots of the Meetup, in case it comes down & is no longer linkable, one day, and added them as a blog page.