Hey, loyal followers! I’ve been spending my summer relaxing, reading, cleaning my house, and (of course—because teachers always spend their summers working) exploring some new educational technologies I can share with my teachers this school year. I recently started playing around with Scratch, a super-fun, easy-to-use coding software for kids, and I wanted to share it with all of you.
What is Scratch?
According to Scratch creators themselves, Scratch allows kids to program their own stories and games and share with others. Though extremely simple and easy-to-use, Scratch teaches kids basic programming and other essential 21st century skills like collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. Scratch was created by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab, and—best of all—IT IS FREE.
How Do You Use Scratch?
One of the best things about this programming software is that it (in comparison with a lot of other programming software out there) is extremely simple to use. If you’re making a Scratch animation, you just drag building blocks (with a programming action on them) over to your workspace. These building blocks say things like, “Say Hello for 2 seconds” or “Move 10 steps.”
Users can also control what makes the animation begin (like when you press the space bar or when you click on the character in the animation) by moving “Event” building blocks over to your workspace. Users can also easily change the background of their game or story by clicking stage in the bottom right-hand corner of their screen. If, at any time, a user is confused, there are a myriad of tutorial videos they can watch explaining how to do so many different things.
How Can Scratch Be Used in Your Library?
Scratch was designed to be super easy for students to use on their own (without the help of a teacher or librarian). For this reason, I think Scratch would be a great program in the elementary school library setting as an individual activity. Elementary school librarians would need to show students how to use it once and then offer it as an option during library free selection time or before or after school library time. It would allow students to have practice coding on their own and, because it would be used outside of assignments, it would be a fun activity for kids instead of a forced one they view as the ever-dreaded “work.”
Who Should Use Scratch?
Scratch Pros and Cons
- It’s free
- It’s super simple
- It would be a super easy program to use to introduce your students to programming in a fun way
- It allows for collaboration
- It allows for creativity
- It runs in the browser so you don’t have to have any special equipment and students can access their games or animations at school or at home
- It’s the most popular programming language for kids
- Did I mention it was free?
- Though its simplicity is a pro in my opinion, some might argue that its simplicity is limiting in the kind of projects you can create using Scratch
- It doesn’t teach math or other coding-related subjects as well as MicroWorld or other less simple programming languages would
All in all, Scratch is a super useful tool to use in the elementary or middle school library. If you’re looking for a simple, fun way to ease your students into programming, Scratch is the programming language to use. Oh yeah, and did I mention it was free?
Martinez, S. L., & Stager, G. (2013). Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering and Engineering in the Classroom.Torrance, CA, USA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.
Scratch, MIT Media Lab, scratch.mit.edu/.