By Luke Lohden.
Product: Scratch is a program that allows kids to create their own interactive stories, animations, and games. Scratch is developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab.
Glows: Scratch is fun, free, and easy to use with great educational value. It’s a great way to learn to code in an interactive way!
Grows: Scratch stumbles somewhat in explaining some of the basic mathematical concepts it uses (variables, random numbers, etc.). Unless kids have already learned these, they may have some difficulty understanding them in Scratch.
Bottom Line: Scratch is a fantastic, well-designed platform for teaching and practicing the basics of programming. It does so in a way that engages kids and allows them to express creativity while exploring and learning technical skills.
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Courtesy of Scratch.MIT.edu
What Is Scratch?
Learning to code can be challenging—especially when you are first starting out. Making the transition from our normal, every day thinking to the kind of thinking required to communicate with a computer is a challenging task. When I first started coding, I was a freshman in University, and it was like learning a foreign language. It took a lot of patience, perseverance, and good teachers to become fluent. I wish I had started when I was a kid with something like Scratch.
Scratch is a free website and downloadable application developed by MIT’s Media Lab that makes learning to code easier by simplification and guided education. Scratch lets users combine graphics, photos, music, and sound to create simple interactive animations, games, and stories using an intuitive drag-and-drop coding language. Users create scripts by dragging and dropping graphical blocks that snap together like puzzle pieces—something that really helps to visualize how the language of coding works.
Learning to Code: Built-in Tutorials
Beyond the work Scratch has done to make the process of learning to code easier for beginners, it has also done a great job creating fantastic tutorials that can help any new user hit the ground running. Scratch’s website has a wide variety of tutorials to choose from, each with step-by-step instructions that guide users while they code. This allows guided exploration for learning to program.
Scratch has built up an amazing community of users who are supportive and collaborative with each other’s Scratch creations. Through the forums, users of Scratch are a fey keystrokes away from connecting with others for help on a challenge, advice on a design, and people to show off your creations to!
Tons of Examples
The creations of other Scratchers are all saved and shared with the entire community—all the way down to the code behind the scenes. What this means is that anyone can peruse the libraries of games, for example, find something they like and see how it’s made. Scratch even includes a neat feature called Remixing that allows you to adopt someone else’s project and make your own adaptions and changes.
Where to Connect
It’s easy and free to get started in Scratch. Go to http://scratch.mit.edu and click on “Create”. This will launch the program in your browser. If your child wants to create an account to become part of the larger online community, click “Join Scratch.”
Luke Lohden is a Connected Camps Counselor attending UC Irvine for a BS in Computer Game Science.