The folks at MIT’s (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Lifelong Kindergarten group have done much more than just create a new graphical programming environment with Scratch, they have created a space where children from all over the world can share their creative ideas, learn how computer programs work, and much more.
What is Scratch?
Scratch is a graphical programming environment that allows you to create interactive and animated graphical programs. Does that sound overwhelming? What that means is that instead of typing long or cryptic commands into the computer to write a computer program you can take graphical representations of actions or commands you want the computer to take when certain conditions occur and connect them like puzzle pieces. When you run your program the computer follows these instructions and can animate pictures, and respond to your input like when you press keys or click on part of the screen. Scratch is free to download and use.
What makes Scratch special?
I feel Scratch is special for several reasons:
Scratch can help young people learn to look at the media that they see on the Internet or television critically. This is exactly what I am trying to do with this website, help young people learn how to look at the world around them critically. Writing programs helps develop skills in problem solving and by designing a project you learn to organize your thoughts and have a greater sense of ownership of the final product.
Scratch helps you with learning and communicating beyond the 3Rs. Not too long ago, that all you needed to be able to do to get by in the world was read, write and basic math. That simply isn’t the case any longer. Young people must learn to use and combine written word with audio, video, animation and interactive elements into their communication skill set. The Scratch galleries and forums allow children to learn not just how to program from each other but how to share, how to give credit where it is due and skills in solving problems within a community.
See how computers are integrated into making measurements in science and the world around us. Computers aren’t used in science just to share knowledge, like on our website or to analyze data, like if you use Microsoft Excel to make a graph. Computers and software are often used to collect data from the world around us, but even more often to provide information in a human readable way without having to know how to turn the signal from a sensor into the needed value. These kinds of systems are called data acquisition and control systems. An example of a real world device that works this way is the register at your supermarket. The sensor in this case is the scanner that reads the barcode on the product you wish to buy. That sensor returns a number that the computer uses to show you what product was read and the price. Another example would be a GPS locator, which reads signals from the satellites in orbit around the Earth and turns those into latitude and longitude coordinates, but what you see is a map of the street you are driving down and where you are on it. By using Scratch Boards you can design a program that will respond to stimuli like light, sound, motion and resistance and gain a better understanding of how computers are used to make measurements in the world around us.
Visit the site at http://scratch.mit.edu, download Scratch and give your children a creative way to learn about computers.