Alexander (my 9 year old) gave me my first lesson on how to program in Scratch today – WOW! I am so amazed. Our first lesson lasted 45 minutes long. Alexander is the “expert” on Scratch in our house because he’s spent a total of 4-5 hours playing with the program so far. I had spent about 2 minutes playing with it before today. With Scratch, as with many other environments, the best learning appears to happen when you spend time playing and exploring.
In using Scratch and seeing the amazing way the software as well as its online environment has been setup to permit collaboration and learning, I flashed back to around 1982 and my first experiences doing VERY basic programming in BASIC in 7th grade. At that stage, we were impressed as kids making 2 line programs in BASIC like the following which scrolled text forever down the screen.
10 PRINT “This is so cool, I am programming!”
20 GOTO 10
Remember this stuff? Of course our programming went beyond that simple, initial stage, but the fact was, writing a program like that was exciting and empowering as an 11 year old in the early 1980s. It’s phenomenal to see where a program like Scratch allows learners of any age to START with programming fun today. I’m especially amazed to see how collaboration using screencasts and web 2.0 sharing features can put learning on steroids. (legally, of course!)
As an example, after Alexander showed me some basics in Scratch we went to the featured Scratch projects on the official website and found the shared project “Laser & Mirrors.” We not only looked at how cool this project was by viewing it “running” on the web, we also downloaded it and loaded it onto our computers (after we both created free Scratch accounts and logged in) so we could play with and manipulate the program elements. An hour later, Alexander is STILL playing around with that program, using the clone tool to make his own “mirrors” and redirect the laser in the program in different ways. So much fun, so many possibilities…. I’m watching a live case study of what “internal locus of control” means in the context of learning, right in our living room! 🙂
One of the things that made early HTML (and current HTML to an extent) so powerful is that on any webpage, you could/can “VIEW SOURCE” and look “under the hood” to see the programming code which made the webpage display text and images in a particular way. Scratch permits users to do the same thing: Apparently all projects that are shared are done so under an open license. In this way, users are encouraged to share and learn from each other by actually sharing program source-code via the official MIT Scratch website.
The support section of the Scratch website includes a variety of how-to videos and other resources to assist in learning Scratch. I like looking at cool projects and examining the source code, but I find myself actually wanting a more comprehensive, step-by-step introduction, starting with the “basics” tutorial of how to use scratch. These are available on the website– now what I need to do is spend more TIME playing and working my way through some of these tutorials!!! 🙂
This is an example of one video linked from the Scratch how-to website, explaining what can be done with some image effects. Oh my gosh! This is so cool! Do you think kids in your classroom would enjoy playing in a software environment which permits them to do such powerful things? Uh….. yes!
Time to invent the future!
This video shows many of the possible ways Scratch can be used. The possibilities are only constrained by our imaginations!
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