Scratch – A Great Way To Teach Children Programming

(Originally posted 2007-03-18.)

Some time ago a colleague pointed Scratch out to me. It’s a programming environment for children.

When I was a kid I kind of learnt programming from the Elsevier Monographs my Dad had on his bookshelf. He (who’s probably going to read this) gave them to me for safekeeping some time ago. So I count HIM as my first bad influence. 🙂 But he did insist on STRUCTURED programming, so maybe he’s a GOOD influence. 🙂 Maybe he’s mellowed enough by now to just wait for me to get structured programming for myself. 🙂

Later on we had a Research Machines 380Z at school so I learned more by hands on. Only BASIC and a little Z80 Machine Code.

Then I got a job for 6 months as a professional programmer – before University.

A large part of my Master’s degree was also Computer Science. So I’m proper. 🙂

I won’t bore you with the rest. Suffice it to say I learned to program with a text editor on each platform – and a lot of trial and error and reading manuals, stealing examples, etc. It was an essentially TEXT experience.

So Immi, who’s 8.75, is starting with visual programming. It’s a great way to start. I think it’s much less intimidating than using a text editor. And Scratch is a lot of fun for kids. It allows you to create animations using graphical “characters”, sounds, loops, timers and tests. It’s very much in the drag and drop mode – with the programmer changing parameters in the (jigsaw-like) pieces. It’s rather colourful as well. There’s a thriving ecosystem – with a web site and lots of user-contributed example programs.

So, finally, I asked Immi what she thought of Scratch.

Immi says “Scratch is a good way to teach children how to program and it also teaches them animations don’t just come out of nowhere. :-)”

So there you have it – from a dad’s perspective and a daughter’s.

Published by Martin Packer

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