Scratch

LQ: 9.2

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Brain grade: 10
Fun score: 8.4

Platform/Console: LWK Recommended Age: 10+ Thinking Skills Used: , , , , , Academic Skills Used: ,

Scratch is a suite of interactive media creation tools designed by MIT’s Lifelong Kindergarten Group. Consisting primarily of an easy-to-use coding language and a user-friendly drag and drop interface, Scratch lets kids create their own animations, stories, programs, and even games from, as the name would imply, scratch. Scratch works by way of a coding language designed to look like blocks (legos, almost) that can be fitted together to create elaborate command sequences. While the essentials of Scratch are easy enough to pick up, becoming proficient with Scratch’s coding language will challenge a child to grasp complex computational relationships and encourage an understanding of logic, mathematics, and the importance of organized thinking. Not only does Scratch have a unique “programming” language, but it also boasts a rich user generation aspect, as users can create and customize sprites, backgrounds, and sound effects. Once they’re done, users can share their creations online or take some time to browse more than 2 million other projects uploaded by children from all over the world. Due to the complex nature of understanding code, Scratch is recommended for ages 10 and older.


THIS PROGRAM IS GOOD FOR KIDS WHO NEED HELP WITH:

Flexibility

Adapting and adjusting to changing conditions and expectations.

Scratch relies on your child's ability to get the most out of the tools provided. Scratch requires him to think creatively and adapt to problems that arise from “programming” inconsistencies or incompatible language commands.  Your child needs to take full advantage of the versatile toolset at his disposal in order to resolve such issues, and therefore has to think on his feet in order to make progress. Knowing the ins and outs of Scratch’s language allows your child to come up with creative solutions to problems or achieve certain effects and results that would otherwise seem impossible. For instance, if the he wants to code a sprite to move in a certain pattern, your child will need to be able to combine several different language commands, format them properly, and then change any commands that might interfere with the other game processes. This requires your child to adjust his work until the desired outcome is achieved.

Focus

Getting started and then maintaining attention and effort to tasks.

Scratch requires your child's sustained attention in order to see results. Your child needs to concentrate and keep in mind things like established rules and commands, relationships between various game features, and the overall tone he wishes to achieve with his project. Lack of attention during the often complex game-making process, can result in incompatible commands and other possible game-breaking issues. Focus is key if your child wants to create a fully-realized game or an elaborate animation, as these can be serious undertakings that require hours, if not days, of concentration to complete. A misplaced block of code in a moment of inattention can bring the whole project to a standstill.

Organization

Arranging and coordinating materials in order to complete a task.

Because there is so much potential for coding conflicts, your child needs to be constantly aware of the functionality of elements in play, and understand how these elements will interact with any newly introduced feature. Therefore, your child must develop a comprehensive, well-structured view of his work in order to succeed. It would be very difficult to go about building a complex, functional project without keeping track of the various blocks of code in use and understanding how they work with each other.

Planning

Developing a systematic approach for setting and achieving goals. 

Like organization, planning is a vital skill for a program like Scratch. To create a fully-realized end product, your child must go into the creation process with a good idea of his goals, as well as the steps he will need to take in order to accomplish those goals. Scratch is nearly impossible to simply jump into with no forethought. A plan is necessary in order to end up with something resembling a working game. Ideally, the nature of these programs will encourage your child to take some time beforehand and sketch out a plan, then determine how to accomplish that plan using the available tools. For instance, if your child wanted to make a short game in which the player is asked to answer some questions, he would need to research the language blocks dedicated to this kind of function. He would also have to decide on a background beforehand, whether or not he wanted to use preexisting sprites or make his own, as well as the inclusion music or sound cues. All of these things are much easier to establish before the starting the project. A little forethought goes a long way towards creating a compelling finished product.

Working Memory

Recalling and retaining information in our mind while working.

A game is built from the ground up, and it is necessary that your child keeps track of the elements and commands that he has previously used. This will help him to avoid conflicts, broken commands, or flawed gameplay experience. Scratch provides a constant memory exercise, as your child needs to keep in mind the available tools, the tools that have been deployed, and the ways in which these tools interact with one another when grouped together in a project. Remembering past strategies for working around complex command situations, allows your child to readjust more quickly and efficiently to any challenges in his work. At a more basic level, memory is as important in coding languages as in Spanish or French. The more proficient the speaker, the easier communication (and creation) becomes.

Self-Awareness

Understanding our own actions, thoughts and feelings.

Scratch provides an excellent expressive outlet for creative children. There is nearly endless potential for aesthetic and imaginative self-exploration. Using Scratch, your child can create stories, pieces of interactive artwork, and even games. By exploring the possibilities and restrictions inherent in Scratch, your child grows to understand how he can use systems and structured languages to express his work and art. This understanding can facilitate the willingness and ability of a child to do the same later in life, perhaps with different and more complex toolsets or languages (coding languages and versatile yet intricate programs like Photoshop come to mind). There is also an important community aspect to Scratch, in the form of an online space, where users can post their games and animations and receive feedback and advice from other Scratch users. This is a useful forum for children looking for outside perspectives on their work. Your child will have the opportunity to see how his peers react to the work he has done, and the chance to fine tune that work based on constructive criticism from an objective third party. Working cooperatively with a creative online community is an increasingly valuable experience, given the importance placed upon digital communities in many modern workplaces.

Mathematics

Any type of coding language owes its existence to mathematical concepts. The idea of creating a code for a story or game is based on the idea of building. In Scratch, you child will literally place blocks of instructions, or code, on top of one another, to achieve a finished product. The order in which the blocks are placed, like the order of operations, will ultimately impact the end result. Your child must be mindful of how he uses order to propel his creation into completion.

Reading

The intricacies of a program like Scratch, make it important for your child to be able to understand complex directions. Each command and function in Scratch has a detailed description. Your child must be able to comprehend the description and understand its application, in order to achieve a finished product. Strong reading skills are key to exploring Scratch's functionality.

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