Science, technology and mathematics are fundamental to modern society. They are used to measure, to assemble, to prophecy, to speculate, and even to design entertainment. Personal success and national success depend on them. But they are unevenly delivered to our youth. Which jeopardizes the successes of the aggrieved and our nation.
The Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab developed a tool that develops competence in technology while enhancing mathematical skills. Don’t be cynical. Stay with me. It is free. Well, almost free. One must have access to a computer and commit to experiment and learn its critical skills.
What is this tool?
It is a programming language, called Scratch. The Kindergarten Group designed Scratch to be easy to learn. Its users ages range from 10 years to the retired.
Designers eliminated all programming worries
Scratch designers have pre-typed all instructions. They encased each instruction in a color-coded enclosure and place them on the desktop. Thus they are always in view.
To execute an instruction, drag it into a central area and drop it. With a click of the mouse the instruction executes.
To execute more than one instruction, drag them to the central area. The instruction enclosures snap together like Lego™ blocks. If two instructions fail to snap together, the computer will not execute them. This snap-and-execute design makes Scratch easy for the curious young to learn.
Why should you introduce your child to Scratch?
Scratch is fun. It has many capabilities: sound, pictures, animations and text capability. How are they used? Simply drag the appropriate media control into the central area and drop it, Then select the sound to produce, select how long you wish it to be on, then click to execute.
What can I do with Scratch?
Scratch makes composing stories, animations, games and simulations easy. Each is a step away from beginner’s level. So your child can write stories, interspersed them with various media and have fun.
Scratch users are an online community. They display their projects on the Internet for others to see, to study, to copy and to use in their own projects. In fact, a preferred method to learn Scratch is to copy someone’s project, tinker with it, make it better or just to study the effect of your changes. Scratch’s documentation is an easy read and its FAQ handles all beginning situation.
If you have a new problem, email it to the Group. Since the website went on the Internet in 2007; 10,000 responses have been logged. In this supportive environment, your young one will learn the secrets of this language in no time.
Scratch is an opportunity to develop creative skills.
Scratch projects are starting points for your child’s projects. They are also a source of ideas and Scratch techniques. As your learner downloads, tests and tinkers other programs; her personality filters into her newly acquired skill. Then she will be in her own pasture to creating new projects.
Scratch enhances mathematical skills.
Variable, iteration and conditional statements are basic to constructing mathematics. They are also basic to computer programming. As your child builds Scratch projects, he repeatedly uses these concepts. In the non-intimidating Scratch environment, he will learn them as he uses them.
Scratch is a way to become fluent in a desirable skill.
Some computer programs choose Scratch as the beginning environment to develop their students programming skills. Upon the Scratch background, students are taught the tools of C, C+, Java, etc.
Download Scratch and allow your young one to experiment and learn. If your child does not become a computer programmer, he will have had some experience analyzing a project to execute on a computer. This is a desirable problem solving skill for future endeavors.