Project-Based Learning from Scratch


Ike Shaw Portfolio

The Scratch Cat!

Overview and Purpose

Utilizing Visual Programming in the Music Classroom

All students should be prepared by educators to go beyond using technology for simple information consumption. Using the visual programming language Scratch and lessons in basic music theory, music teachers can create a platform in which students can generate self-paced and self-selected projects utilizing technology to create original musical experiences for both in-person and online audiences.

Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to...

  • program a simple synthesizer and sound generator
  • connect basic music theory to programming objectives
  • provide technical support for project-based learning within the Scratch platform
  • support students in publishing their work online

Needs Assessment

1. Instructional Problem Teachers are subjected to many forms of professional development in which they learn how to use emerging technologies in the classroom. Unfortunately, given the time constraints and instructional nature of many of these programs, music educators can find themselves confident enough to engage with the technology themselves but ill-prepared to facilitate their students’ interaction with the platforms.

Technology training may also fall short in supporting teachers with clear suggestions for integrating their current curriculum with new forms of technology in transformational (and not simply automating) ways. By and large, students use technology in the classroom primarily to generate text-based responses and engage in internet research rather than conduct experiments or create music and art. (Thomas and Lewis, 2010) Without an explicitly stated pathway or robust overview of suggested applications, technology in the classroom can end up being a simple laptop on a desk used to check email, rather than a revolutionary tool used for cutting-edge content creation.

Fully online courses offer major benefits to learners, especially those looking for asynchronous content to fit their educational needs. However, "blended learning is consistent with the values of traditional higher education institutions and has the proven potential to enhance both the effectiveness and efficiency of meaningful learning experiences." (Garrison & Kanuka, 2004) By providing a blended experience, teachers can also build educational solutions in a blended format with a first-person understanding of the practices and benefits to such an approach.

By combining the proven educational benefits of a project-based learning approach with the open-ended creative opportunities of visual programming languages, music educators can follow a clear method through which they can apply their new found technical ability directly and immediately to support and facilitate their students’ learning in the classroom.

2. What is to be Learned

Educators will learn the basics of visual programming and specific methods of application to their curriculum. Participants will additionally learn the building blocks of project-based learning methods and how they can be used with programming languages to support student learning in the music classroom.

3. The Learners

Learners will include music educators teaching 4th - 8th grade populations. They will enter with a foundation of technological skills that include being able to access web-based resources and supporting their students with the same task. Learners can be expanded to include other arts practitioners as well as those in all subject areas, and the music educators who experience the initial lesson could also bring the process to their colleagues.

4. Context for Instruction

Participants will learn in a computer-lab setting, each with a personal laptop. Content will be projected onto a Smartboard of projection screen. All participants and instructors will access the visual programming platform and course materials through the use of a stable internet connection.

5. Exploring the Instructional Problem and Solution

Participants will observe examples of incorrect and inefficient ways of integrating technology into their classroom in order to better understand the difference between transformation and automation as they relate to classroom applications. They will create and participate in their own project-based activity within the visual programming platform to experience first-hand how students will engage with the technology and processes they are learning to implement.

6. Goals of this Mini-Course

One of the goals of this mini-course is to give evidence that technology can enhance and expand educational opportunities in the classroom in a tangible and readily accessible way. Another goal is provide music teachers with an innovative and engaging way to use project-based learning in an educational setting that is typically performance-based or skills-learning oriented. A final goal is to equip educators with the skills necessary to build competencies in visual programming so they can be effective facilitators for their students’ learning and understanding of technology.

Performance Objectives

Course-level objectives

Students will be able to...

  • program a simple synthesizer and sound generator in Scratch.
  • apply basic music theory concepts to programming objectives.
  • recommend technical solutions to guide their own students within the Scratch platform.
  • create project-based learning scenarios for students using Scratch.

Course Units

This mini-course includes the following units. Click the title of a unit to go to its page.

Unit 1: Scratch 101

Creating an online classroom, Sprites, Sound/Note/Event/Control Blocks

Unit 2: Connecting Music Theory

How does pitch, timbre and rhythm work in Scratch?

Unit 3: Coding Sound

Putting Blocks Together

Unit 4: Project-Based Learning

Creating a platform for student's musical creativity

Extended Resources

Gray, L., Thomas, N., and Lewis, L. (2010). Teachers’ Use of Educational Technology in U.S. Public Schools: 2009 (NCES 2010-040). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC.

Garrison, D. R., & Kanuka, H. (2004). Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 7, 95–105.