Scratch is a programming language created at MIT with young people in mind. It’s purpose is to foster 21st century skills such as: creative thinking, systematic reasoning, and collaborative work. It is designed especially for ages 8-16, but has been used across all levels of education to teach basic coding. Scratch can be used to create interactive art, stories, simulations, and games. Educators can used the ScratchEd website to share stories, exchange resources, ask questions, and find other people teaching in the same age group and/or discipline. (ex. I found the creator of the ScratchEd community who actually did her studies at UBC!) Scratch is completely free to all users, and has an active community on Web 2.0 (on Twitter, Facebook, etc.) Scratch can also tie in to the concept of “maker spaces” I explored a few days ago, as an online tool. One inconvenience that is currently being worked on is that there are no teacher and class account functions available at the moment (this is a problem because if students create their own accounts and forget the password, they might lose their work if they can’t remember how to reset it).
Today was the first day I started playing around in Scratch. The first thing I did was the tutorial provided on the front page from the “Try it out” button. This tutorial is great because it is easy to follow, and also allows the user to experiment a bit as they go through the process. The language is introduced in a comprehensible manner, and the colour sorted “puzzle pieces” of code build upon children’s existing knowledge of the function of puzzles themselves – a great introduction to coding. What I think excites me most in these initial stages of Scratch exploration is that it is SO customizable! You can insert your own sounds and images to make your project very unique. While “cookie cutter” options are available, I imagine many educators, especially when dealing with groups who are already familiar with this language, would encourage students to push the boundaries and create their own content for all aspects of their projects. I thought this was a great thread talking about how to introduce Scratch to beginners.
Moving forwards, I think this is the program I will use for my final project. It is so versatile that I can probably integrate some of the other tools I have/will explore(d).
In Mitch Resnick’s Ted talk “Let’s teach kids to code”, he broaches the topic of fluency – a concept we have discussed at length in this course. He talks about fluency within the bounds of what it really means in the digital age. He rejects the idea that all people born after 1989 are digital natives in the truest sense of the term. He instead argues that while young people (such as myself) are usually all very comfortable and familiar with all sorts of browsing, chatting, texting and gaming – we are not all able to create and express ourselves. I found it compelling the way he parsed the issue – we can read, but we can’t write. The main part of this talk which resonated with me was this: Once you learn to read, you can read to learn. Analogously… once you learn to code, you can code to learn. He also addresses how the program itself allows for children to create things, and in doing so, form meaningful connections with concepts learned along the way. The design skills one learns and practices in Scratch (and in any coding practice) will help a person throughout their life. Everyone learns to read and write, but they don’t all become authors. However, those skills enable them to succeed in careers where they utilize them in other creative ways. Similarly, design skills learned through learning programming language can be translated throughout an array of career paths.