I am going to my kids’ school this morning to meet with the head of the computer lab, the principal and the district’s main computer person to talk about Scratch (that is assuming it stops snowing!). The school is beginning to take first steps in teaching Scratch and I want to convince them to step up the pace. I firmly believe that learning how to make computers/robots do things (rather than just do things with computers/robots) will be a critical skill going forward.
Scratch is wonderful for many reasons. It is super easy for kids to get started and build something that is immediately meaningful. I have described why that is before:
[Scratch] is a visual programming environment for kids. Instead of writing code in a text editor, kids snap together templates to form scripts. The scripts are attached to sprites. Creating sprites is also super easy in the integrated graphics editor.
Instead of drawing graphic, kids can just copy and paste them off the web. But even better, Scratch comes with a community of published projects, which can be downloaded, modified, extended, etc. much like in the open source world. All of this is captured well by the tag line of “Imagine-Program-Share.”
The point I want to make this morning is that the use of Scratch can and should be pervasive throughout instruction rather than being something taught separately. For instance, the kids have been using Keynote to present several science and history projects. For all of these Scratch would have offered an interesting alternative. Scratch is great for just telling a story with moving pictures or showing a mini simulation. So Scratch could and should even be part of English class — create a miniature play in Scratch. Of course, it is also fantastic for most of math instruction.
The key message to students should be that “programming” computers is no longer something separate to be learned by a few “geeks,” but instead relevant to all areas of knowledge and practice. My goal this morning is to convince the teachers of that!