This fall will mark the tenth anniversary of Free Technology for Teachers. Over those ten years I have reviewed thousands of free resources for teachers and students. Some of those free resources have come and gone in a blaze of glory (remember when Second Life and Nings were the cat’s meow?) while others have stood the test of time. Over the next couple of months I am going to revisit some of the free resources that have endured over the majority of the last ten years. With a nod to the Grateful Dead song of the same name, I’m calling this series Built to Last.
Scratch is the second entry in my Built to Last series. Scratch is a free program designed to introduce students to programming concepts. Through Scratch students can create animations, games, and videos. Students program in Scratch through a process of dragging and dropping blocks into sequences. Each block represents a command.
When I first wrote about scratch almost ten years ago, it had to be downloaded and installed on your computer. Today, you can still do that or you can use Scratch’s online version. ScratchJr, a program based on Scratch, is designed for students under the age of eight to learn programming basics on an iPad, an Android tablet, or on a Chromebook.
Plenty of tutorials abound for getting started using Scratch. The best place for teachers to start is on the Scratch for Educators site. There you will find many tutorials, activity guides, and a curriculum guide. The ScratchEd community is the place to go for inspiration from other teachers who are using Scratch in their classrooms. For example, in ScratchEd you might find something like this Google Doc filled with ideas for using Scratch in elementary school mathematics lessons.
Why did Scratch make it into this series? Because not only has it endured through the years, it has spawned other tools for teaching programming. Google’s Blocky, Snap, and many others have been built from the basis of Scratch. Finally, Scratch 3.0 is now available for testing and is scheduled for a full release in 2018 so Scratch is here to stay.