On Friday the 8th of June the 2018 Digital Strategy Action Plan was published. The plan sets out a road map for the next twelve months. There are over 80 actions outlined in this action plan and one of these relates to Coding in the wider Primary Curriculum. Action Number 1.2 states that four sub-actions will take place during 2018.
● Publish examples of schools’ working with coding – phase 1 of research on current approaches on the use of coding in primary schools (Q1)
● Publish short research paper on computational thinking (Q2)
● Publish a comparison of coding curricula in six jurisdictions (Q2)
● Work with a network of schools in exploring different approaches to integrating coding in the primary school curriculum (Q1-Q4)
These sub-actions will all begin after the “Going Back to School” in late August, which, co-incidentally, happens to coincide with the launch of Scratch 3.0. The two previous incarnations of Scratch, Scratch 1.4 and the current Scratch 2.0, form the backbone of the majority of coding working in Primary Schools. Certainly there are lots of other coding resources available to teachers and pupils, however, Scratch is the one that has gained prominence at Primary school level.
The release of the next generation of Scratch will be warmly welcomed as it no longer depends on Flash, instead it works on the now standard HTML5 platform. This means it will run in any modern web browser including those browsers on Tablet devices. Unfortunately there are several caveats; it will only work on iOS 11+ and Android 6+ supported devices. My current iPad is running iOS 9.3.5 with Chrome 65 and I am unable to access the Scratch 3.0 preview platform! However it happily loads and functions on my iOs 11.4 iPhone and because of the new bigger blocks, the drag and drop was really easy to do.
So what’s new in Scratch 3.0? For a start, there are lots of new blocks; new sound effects blocks, new operator blocks for working with text strings, new pen blocks and a sprite “grow” block. All of the blocks are available in a scrolling panel on the left of the screen and the “Stage” has been moved from the left to the right. The “Pen” and “Music” blocks are now accessible via an “Extensions” feature which is located at the bottom left of the screen.
There’s a new Paint Editor and we are promised a new library of sprites, sounds and backdrops.
The new extension system will allow pupils to program other devices such as the Micro:Bit and Lego Boost and also link to web services such as Google Translate.
The current Preview version of Scratch 3.0 is by no means fully functional; if you try to save a project or access unfinished areas you are presented with a “We are working on it” message!
Scratch 3.0 and Scratch 2.0 side by side.
All things considered I think that Scratch 3.0 will be well received by teachers and pupils; the scrolling block palette will make it easier for pupils to find a particular coding block that they want to use and the new code blocks and extensions will please even the keenest coders! Schools with iPads running iOS 11 will be delighted to add Scratch to the list of uses that they have for the iPads and Chromebook users will be able to use Scratch 3.0. We are promised that Scratch 3.0 will be backward compatible, meaning that Scratch 3.0 will be able to open and execute Scratch 2.0 projects.
You can try out Scratch 3.0 yourself by following this link! Exciting times ahead for all those involved in introducing Coding to their pupils!