A couple years ago, the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT Media Lab developed a Web 2.0 programming platform for kids called Scratch. Scratch allows kids, and virtually anyone else, to create and remix rich media of all kinds—video, video games, even simple photo animations. The programming behind Scratch focuses on building blocks, like Legos, to get kids not only friendly, but adept at the technology that dominates our world. Each user can create a project, whether it be a video or a video game, and upload it to share on the Scratch website. Scratch currently exceeds more than 400,000 projects, all licensed CC BY-SA, allowing any youth to flex her creative muscles and enhance a peer’s project by remixing it with her own.
The School Library Journal wrote up an excellent article about them last week, emphasizing that “Literacy in the 21st century encompasses the full range of skills needed to engage in our global society—computer, information technology, media, and information literacy skills.” The SLJ reports that Scratch is now being tested in libraries in the Minneapolis area, “to determine if the workshops and classes for young people are replicable and sustainable for a range of libraries.” Unsurprisingly, library staff are finding that kids quickly learn the program on their own, and are guided more by their own intuitions than an “expert’s” instruction.
I decided to try out Scratch myself, and found some cool projects along the way. One project by “cougars” is a photo animation of a human skateboard. Another is a video game simulation of the Buggers war from Ender’s Game by PetertheGeek. (How cool is that?)
What’s more, the Scratch program is global, available in more than 40 languages, and the code itself is free for anyone to copy, publish, or distribute.