Scratch, bringing kids to the adventure of Creative Computing.

For a long time, computing or coding or programming puts its focus primarily on the technical details of the programming language, which makes it challenging, boring and disconnected when kids of younger age are taught how to program. However, Creative Computing (a concept advocated by Harvard Graduate School of Education) emphasizes computing should instead inspire the learners’ creative potentials, and empower them to better use computers to achieve great personal outcomes.

The computational literacy should focus beyond the actual computing language, algorithm and operating system and put more emphasis on creation, imagination and practice.

Certainly not everyone would become a computer programmer at the end of the day, that’s why computing needs to focus more on interest and inspiration of the learners than knowledge and skills of how to write code. For kids at their early school age, it is more important to teach them how to solve problems using the logical / computational thinking.

Based on the concept of Creative Computing, Scratch was created. Scratch is a programming language designed specifically for age 8 to 16, but is used by people of all ages. It provides a Block style programming language, and in its editor tool code is built by drag-n-dropping small blocks of commands. It’s very intuitive and easy to learn, and has many powerful features to create great applications.

If Scratch is something that could inspire you to know more about coding, here is a quick start guide to help you get hands on right away.

1. Scratch, the programming tool

Click the picture above you can get to the SCRATCH web site, which is https://scratch.mit.edu/ .

For the first time visitor, you will need to register an account (free) so that what you create can be saved or shared (if you choose so).

Click Create from the menu bar at the top you can launch the Scratch Editor, which is the single screen to create, run, publish program as well as to edit many other resources.

The Scratch programming environment is running perfectly inside a modern browser like IE 9+, Chrome, Firefox, Safari and etc.

If you prefer to use Scratch offline, you may download the offline package, install and run it on your computer without a live Internet connection. Here is the download link.

There is also a simplified version for mobile devices called ScratchJr. You may find more details from here.

2. Getting Started

Computing is a science. However, learning computing in Scratch isn’t that hard at all. Once  you are in the Scratch Editor, all you need to do is to drag the needed ‘blocks’ into the central panel (called Script area) , organize them in a proper sequence and groups so that the little cat (it’s called sprite, and can be changed to anything you like)  will do exactly what you want it to do. To test your program, just click the green flag, and to stop click the red dot.

Some useful resources to help you start:

3. Step-by-Step Guide

To quickly learn what Scratch can do, the best way is to go through the step-by-step guide. Simply click the Tips command from the menu bar at the top of the window, a panel will be sliding out from the right. There are 10 modules to guide you through various features of Scratch. They are interactive and very easy to follow. So why not have a go?

4. Feel Like to Do More Coding?

There are numerous projects created by thousands of people (mostly kids) all over the world which you can browse, try and remix (means modify them to make them more cool). Here are some good ones you don’t want to miss:

  • 10 Blocks : what can you make using less than 10 blocks?
  • Game design : create a maze to challenge others
  • Cloning : clone sprite as many times as you want and create great things.
  • Video Sensing : learn about the camera magics

Or simply type some keywords in the search box to find whatever you are interested.

Computer is a powerful tool to make our life better, if used properly and smartly. Learning to code is certainly one of the smarter ways of using computer. Instead of playing stuff other people made, why not challenge yourself to build something you like others to play? With Scratch, this is definitely possible. Maybe, one day, you could be the creator of the next Angry Bird or MineCraft.

 

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