Fostering invention-based collaborative learning for social change
by Eduard Muntaner-Perich
Inventors4Change is an initiative of UdiGitalEdu, an interdisciplinary group of researchers devoted to designing and developing experiences that blend science, technology, and art to encourage creativity, critical thinking, and teamwork.
Primarily supporting children from underserved communities, we provide children with tools, techniques, and knowledge to effect change in the world.
The initiative consists of a network of schools and organizations from around the world that promote invention-based collaborative learning. Inventors4Change celebrates cross-cultural exchange and connected learning through mixed teams.
We launch online challenges related to sustainable development issues (such as human rights, poverty, gender equality, global warming) and encourage children to express, create, and share their own ideas, inventions, and solutions. The idea is to empower children to learn how to think critically and express themselves creatively through new technologies.
During the last academic year, children in Spain and India created collaborative stories and animations with Scratch about a controversial topic in Europe: the refugee crisis.
In the last three years, nine schools have participated in Inventors4Change: six schools in South India and three schools in Catalonia.
Most of these schools provide education to underserved children from disadvantaged communities. They all have educational innovation programs.
In India, we have been working with Shanti Bhavan (a boarding school in rural Tamil Nadu for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children of India’s lowest castes) and the Parikrma Humanity Foundation (a network of four schools for children from the slums of Bangalore).
The Valley School in India and the Institut de Gurb in Spain also participated in the refugee crisis project. Although these schools do not specifically focus on education for underprivileged children, they emphasize the importance of education in global citizenship.
To begin, the students researched and discussed the many sides and perspectives of the European refugee crisis.
During this stage, each school investigated the topic on its own, but the teams exchanged photos, comments, opinions, and related articles on a collaborative blog.
Both students and teachers learned many things they did not know. They became aware of the realities of refugees and discovered amazing stories of determination and resilience that they shared on the blog. These stories became the seeds of their future projects in Scratch.
After the research phase, the different teams in India and Spain met each another virtually through several videoconferences.
To get to know each other better, teams created presentations about themselves and their schools using different formats.
Some teams chose to film videos.
Others created Scratch projects.
Finally, it was time to start working on the projects.
Based on the research they did, the Spanish teams composed stories about refugee characters on paper. They also drew representations of these characters.
They added the illustrated characters to Scratch projects.
Now, it was the Indian teams’ turn.
The Indian teams drew backgrounds and added them to the existing Scratch projects started by the Spanish teams.
In the final stage, the Spanish and Indian teams collaborated to program their refugee stories with Scratch. They added movement and animation, sound, dialogue, and more!
The result was simply stunning.
Some stories were especially poignant, like Nizar dreams.
Throughout the process, the students used the Scratch platform and the collaborative blog to communicate and iterate.
All of the projects were added to the Inventors4Change studio.
We also created a special project containing all of the sprites and backdrops designed by the students and invited the Scratch community to create their own refugee projects. As a result, the remix tree now has over 40 projects.
TRAININGS AND WORKSHOPS
In addition to promoting the virtual collaboration of schools around the world, another important part of our work is providing teacher training and conducting workshops and activities with students at the schools in the Inventors4Change network.
Among the exciting activities that we facilitated during the last academic year were low-cost robotics, unplugged computer science, underwater robots, hard-fun robotics challenges, computer games, and collaborative storytelling with Scratch programming.