In our educational technology course, we were encouraged to explore a variety of different ways that technology can be integrated and used in elementary and middle classrooms. Our professor gave us a list of different programs that we could explore, as well as invited us to inquire into other areas of interest and to add them to the list.
There were quite a few interesting technologies on her lineup that I would love to further explore including augmented reality, QR codes, Minecraft EDU and Swift Playgrounds, however, I chose to focus on coding for kids and looked at Scratch Jr.
Scratch Jr. is a free iPad app created collaboratively by the Developmental Technologies (DevTech) Research Group of Tufts University, Lifelong Kindergarten of the MIT Media Lab, and the Playful Invention Company. It was based off of MIT’s Scratch programming language, redesigned for younger children to better suit their cognitive, personal, social and emotional development. Scratch Jr. uses coding block to introduce children 5-7 to creating their own interactive stories and games. They can modify or even add their own characters, snapping these coding blocks together to make them move and interact with other elements they may have included in their story. In addition to manipulating characters, they can also edit backgrounds and add their own voices and sounds.
I downloaded the app for my iPad to play around with the program but didn’t know where I wanted to start, so I decided to follow some of their teaching guides. They have a few introductory lessons available to teach kids how to become comfortable using the available functions of the app. I started with this video explaining how to use the program and the activities page.
I finished up by trying out my own variations of activities 1 through 6 making a dragon fly through a city, having animals run a race, creating two connected scenes where the sun sets into a nautical horizon leading into the moon rising over a calm sea, controlling multiple characters at once in a spooky forest scene, and finally getting the Scratch cat to dribble a basketball toward the net and make the perfect shot.
I had a lot of fun playing with this app and think it’s a great tool for getting kids to start thinking about how to piece together logical algorithms and to problem solve and persevere when the computer reads your code in a way that you hadn’t anticipated. After this, I had even more fun coding exploring Apple’s Swift Playgrounds, but more on that in another post!