Scratch is the largest children’s coding platform and online community in the world. This free block-based coding program was created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and has become very popular in schools for introducing students to coding as well as for developing creativity, collaboration, and creative problem-solving. Scratch’s philosophy revolves around the 4 Ps—projects, passions, peers, and play—with a 5th P of purpose also woven throughout. Rather than simply following a recipe of steps, Scratch users are encouraged to be creative and discover their own purpose for using the program.
In this episode, we are joined by Francisco Cervantes, the Director of Creative Learning at Scratch. He shares background, insights, benefits, integration tips, and future plans for the Scratch product.
You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.
Maya Angelou, author
The following resources are available on AVID Open Access to explore related topics in more depth:
- Demystify Computational Thinking (article collection)
- Scratch (digital tool tip)
- The Wonder of STEM and Robotics in the Elementary Classroom (podcast episode)
- Inspire K–12 Students to Learn Computer Science (podcast episode)
- Computational Thinking: A Conversation with Tammie Schrader (podcast episode)
- Demystifying Computational Thinking (podcast episode)
More Than Coding
While Scratch is an ideal way to introduce students to computer coding, its benefits reach far beyond that. In fact, Francisco explains that the actual coding aspect of Scratch is not difficult to learn. The challenging part of the coding experience involves developing process skills that go far beyond computer science. Beyond coding, students learn to problem-solve, collaborate, reflect, debrief, and find purpose in their work. Francisco says that while basic coding is easy, considering how to express yourself is hard. He adds that the hard questions include things like, “How do we promote this authenticity, this notion of I care about you through the projects that I make, and how I’m going to make you feel through that project, and how I’m going to show a little bit about myself? That’s really hard, and I think that’s what I love about Scratch is that it poses that challenge front and center.”
In this episode, we learn more about Scratch and its potential in the classroom. We hear about skills developed through creative coding, the role of collaboration, how Scratch supports educators, and how teachers can engage their students in creative coding with Scratch. Here are a few highlights:
- Scratch: Now the largest children’s coding platform and online community in the world, Scratch originated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and was inspired from the idea of scratching a record and remixing content. It allows students to explore block coding and create interactive stories and animations that they can share.
- The 4 Ps: The Scratch learning philosophy revolves around the 4 Ps: Projects (the constructivist act of creation), Passions (creating something that you care about), Peers (communicating and collaborating), and Play (finding the delight in the coding challenge).
- Skill Development: Students learn both coding skills and transferable life skills while using Scratch. They learn technical skills, like sequencing, creating loops, and applying computer concepts. They also learn broader skills, like the ability to experiment, iterate, test, debug, and remix.
- Collaboration: Scratch believes in “the power of creating with and for others.” It’s not something done in isolation. Coding should be social and interactive. To facilitate this, the Scratcher community was created, where users can see other projects and copy, modify, and remix them.
- Supporting Educators: Scratch Educator Meetups are facilitated to bring educators together. There is also a global, virtual celebration for Scratch Week. Users have created and shared many resources, integration ideas, and lessons.
- Getting Started: Teachers may choose to use either Scratch (for ages 8–16) or ScratchJr (for ages 5–7). Scratch runs in a browser or with an install, and ScratchJr installs as an app. You don’t need an account to begin coding on the Scratch website, and tutorials are available on the site.
- Resources for Veteran Scratch Users: Consider checking out the Creative Computing Curriculum, which was created by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. There is also a new guide available about “getting unstuck.” Beyond that, slow down, have fun with it, and focus on the sharing and iteration of ideas.
- Free Conferences: Scratch is offering a free online conference on Thursday, July 21. There will be multiple sessions as well as an opening and closing. Register to access recorded sessions.
If you are listening to the podcast with your teaching team or would like to explore this topic more deeply, here are guiding questions to prompt your reflection:
- What do you know about Scratch and/or computer coding?
- Which of the 4 Ps resonate with you, and why?
- What key skills do you see students developing by using programs like Scratch?
- How might you use Scratch in your classroom?
- How might you facilitate collaboration around the use of Scratch or ScratchJr?
- To pursue the use of Scratch or ScratchJr in your classroom, how would you get started, or what would you need to do next?
- What more do you want to learn about Scratch or computer coding?