Scratch – the Coding Platform for Young People with Inbuilt Creativity and …. Community!

A quick report from the International Scratch Conference: “The Next Generation” – Massachusetts Institute of Technology, July 2018

Ciarán and Sabine in Cambridge & Boston, Mass.

We both made the trip across the Atlantic to experience Scratch where it is created… in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Lifelong Kindergarten Group, led by Mitchel Resnick, at the MIT Media Lab has been creating and developing Scratch since 2003. We got to meet lots of them at the conference, as well as many of the 600 other educators. There were workshops and keynotes, an exhibition and lots of great opportunities to talk to others using Scratch. Most were educators (lots of primary school teachers, a good few secondary school teachers, more librarians than I would have expected). The Scratch Team were very much there as well, always available for a chat and very engaging and open to all.

I brought home so many great ideas that I can just scratch (oops) the surface here. The conference will definitely influence the cccSkerries coding classes for the next 2 years, until Scratch 2020! Still, here are a few thoughts.

Scratch 3.0 – soon coming to a Smartphone Near You!

The big news: Scratch is being updated.  We knew this in theory at the latest since the conference in Bordeaux in 2017, but it’s now becoming a reality. The next generation of Scratch has just gone into public beta, which means that everyone who is on the Scratch website is encouraged to try it out. It looks and feels …. very similar, yet quite different. The biggest difference is that it is now working on mobile devices!!! Hooray for that! It will be the “main” Scratch from January 2019, and all my groups will transition to Scratch 3.0 between now and January.

Community … One of the great Advantages of Scratch

Scratch is one of the safest online places I know, and the community is great at reporting whenever somebody errs on the wrong side of caution and supportiveness. All of the older teenagers present at the conference had had very good experiences in the Scratch community over the years, starting with the Welcome Studio, where new Scratchers can get tips for their journey. It’s something I’ve mentioned before in my Scratch Coding groups, and something I’m going to emphasise even more in future.

Combining Scratch and the Real World: micro:bit and other extensions

You can use Scratch to make words flash across the micro:bit. You can connect Scratch to Lego computers. We tried both! You can create patterns with Scratch that, using a certain third party program, can then be stitched onto textiles by a computer-driven sewing machine. Fact! And you can use real-life objects – bananas, apples, wooden boards balancing on tennis balls (like demonstrated by Ciarán below) – to control Scratch games!

Scratch and the Older Coder: Not just for the very young!

Great to see many older teenagers and some adults (mainly educators) creating engaging projects in Scratch and being active on the community. Scratch projects can be as complex as you’d like them to be!!!!

Creativity!!!

We are not just about computing classes (which would make us ccSkerries with just two c’s), but about creative computing classes (hence cccSkerries) – and I was delighted that one of the keynotes was about creativity. It was probably the best, most refreshing event at the competition (with the micro:bit workshop a close second, once I got the Bluetooth connection working). Austin Kleon (author of the bestsellers Steal Like An Artist and Show Your Work!) pointed out that in the digital age, it’s sometimes important to make (non-computer-related) use of your digits! And that making use of what others have created is a good thing… if it’s done right. See his Good Theft vs. Bad Theft list in the pic! Reminds me a lot of Remixing in Scratch… which is taking somebody else’s project and adding something to it, making it your own while giving full credit to the original creator. 😀

That’s it for this report. More of the same in 2020!