Philip Colligan, CEO Raspberry Pi Foundation and Simon Mtabazi, Tanzanian Educator at Scratch@MIT Conference.

 

The Potential Enhancement Foundation (PEF), Powering Potential’s Tanzanian partner was invited to attend the Scratch@MIT Conference this summer. PEF was one of 40 groups selected to present from a pool of hundreds of applicants. “It was an honor for us to go and talk about the work we are doing,” said Simon Mtabazi who represented PEF. He described meeting the CEO of the Raspberry Pi Foundation as one of the highlights of the conference. “He was really interested in the work we are doing and to hear about the challenges that we face. He asked us to work with their team and let them know how our initiative is going.”

Mitchel Resnick, the leader of the Scratch team at MIT, also stopped by PEF’s table to look at the poster presentation: “[he] came to the booth and we talked about the Pi workshop, teaching Scratch in Ngorongoro District in Tanzania, and the challenges we are facing. We talked about Scratch and an upcoming software update coming out for an online version but we need an offline version. I learned they are working very hard to make the offline version and to translate it into Swahili.”

Mitchel Resnick, Scratch Team Leader, and Simon Mtabazi at Scratch@MIT Conference, July 2018

 

Simon describes Scratch as “an educational software made for children to understand and play with. But Scratch is also just like Facebook and WhatsApp… [it] has created a Science, Technology Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) community where children and anybody who is interested in learning can share, network, meet people, talk about ideas, and talk about projects on that platform.” Simon emphasized that one of the crucial strengths of Scratch is that it is accessible offline. “We struggle a lot with learning material and connectivity in Tanzania.”

An interesting takeaway and unexpected resource from the conference “was being told by educators from all over the world who attended the MIT conference that we can try to use many online activities even with limited connectivity.” Simon also stressed that Scratch is free and open-source, “so contributing to it, and also distributing it widescale, becomes really easy.” All of the Raspberry Pis used by Powering Potential and PEF “come preloaded with Scratch on them…it’s so light to run and such a powerful tool for teaching.” For Simon it is the philosophy behind the software that sets it apart: “Scratch has evolved from just a tool for learning and teaching into a tool for sharing, a tool for playing, and a tool for storytelling.”