Scratch is an online programming language and online community for kids developed by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). It started at the Longlife Kindergarten media lab at MIT, a group whose goal is sowing the seeds for a more creative society.
With Scratch, Kids can create their own stories, videos and games using Scratch’s very easy way of programming by building blocks of text. By writing commands and organizing them, kids can control their “sprites” to do what they want them to. My 6 year-old has been playing with the program, and even though she doesn’t fully grasp the capabilities of what the system can do, she’s little by little exploring and trying out different things.
Here’s a video on the basics of what Scratch is and how it works.
Learning to Code or Coding to Learn
Dr. Mitchel Resnik, one of the creators of Scratch, gave a TED talk where he went a lot more in depth of why the program was created, and what the researchers are attempting to do with Scratch. He also co-founded the Computer Clubhouse project, a worldwide after-school program where low income children and youths can learn to develop their creativity using new technologies. Out there, in the Computer Clubhouses, everyone uses Scratch. By creating little videos and games, the kids learn as they do, thanks to the simplicity and user-friendly nature of the script coding. They also get a chance to integrate variables and other math concepts while they play. Dr. Resnik argues that coding is like learning to write… not every one will be able to produce a novel for knowing how to write, but you’ll be able to express yourself and communicate.
Scratch also allows kids to see and develop their projects from beginning to end… from a kernel of an idea, all the way to a full finished project that can be shared and commented by their peers. I think that the perseverance that this teaches the kids is invaluable. In my own Movie Class series I’ve been focusing on developing ideas by stages, so the children can have a record of how their idea is growing from beginning to end. In these days, when everyone wants instant gratification, learning that you can work on things little by little until they are their best is incredibly important.
A World Wide Community
Scratch is available in over 150 countries around the world and in 40 languages. It’s used both at schools and learning centers, as well as at home. Their creators say that the program is and will always be free, and the Sign up information they ask from the kids is pretty minimal, just to help retrieve passwords if need be. Through the online community you have a chance to share and see other people’s projects… and also learn, change, comment and interact. As the coding is open, you can always learn what other people are doing, or do remixes of their projects putting your own spin on someone else’s video or game. All you need is a computer or tablet and access to the internet. You can check out their list of best projects of all time by clicking here.
If as a parent you’re concerned with allowing your children be a part of an oniline community, Scratch also allow you to play around with it offline. Whichever way you feel comfortable doing it, I recommend you and your kids try Scratch out. If our kids are to be in front of a computer screen, I believe it is profoundly useful to have them be creative than just consumers of entertainment.
Would you let your Kids try out Scratch? Do you know of other programs or games like this that you can recommend?