I have been using Scratch software with teachers and
their pupils from the Elevate Learning initiative of the Digital Hub and what a fantastic free resource it is. Scratch is a graphical programming language that lets you control the
actions and interactions among different ‘sprites’. For those of you familiar with Logo from some time ago you will recognise the similarity between it and Scratch. However gone are all the vagaries of Logo with its syntax issues and now Scratch has modernised the concept with no need for typing of code to make things happen. To create a code you simply snap together blocks that look like puzzle pieces.
This is constructivist learning at its best and Scratch also brings the concepts of sharing and audience to its users. It can be used with students of any age who can make simple animations right up to advanced users who can build games complete with all kinds of multimedia. The pupils love it and will work happily for hours making their ‘sprites’ sing and dance in environments of their creation. But this is not just creative play. There are many learning outcomes evident. So far I have observed collaborative learning, problem solving, language development, curriculum integration and procedural thinking. And for numeracy development a range of concepts are being developed such as length, shape, angles, decimals, time, random numbers, positive and negative numbers and coordinates! I’m sure there are many more learning opportunities within the software that I have yet to see. If I sound like I’m advertising Scratch I am! I think it’s the best free resource I’ve ever seen for education and recommend you give it a go. The website has great downloadable documents to support you and has a great community of users with which to share work if you wish. All projects, simple or complex, can be downloaded from the site and the ‘scripts’ can me modified or changed. There is a strong social dimension to the site and students can leave comments about the projects they like and also view comments about their own work if they upload it. So where to go to get scratching? Here it is:http://scratch.mit.edu