Scratch: The Future Of Programming
Computer programming has undergone an incredible evolution in the past 20 years. Back when I was first learning computer programming, BASIC was the language I learned and I wrote my first program in DOS. There may be more than 100 different programming languages that have been invented since then.
While there may be many different programming languages, they all require typing codes that most people do not understand. However, one particular innovation that I believe will fundamentally change this is Scratch.
Invented by MIT, Scratch is an open source system that enables individuals to program interactive stories, games and animations. Instead of typing code, Scratch uses visual blocks like puzzle pieces to create a program. Scratch is very similar to lego because the number of ways to arrange the blocks is endless. While Scratch is largely used to introduce kids to coding, it can also create sophisticated programs.
I believe the method of using visual blocks to create programs is the future of programming. Here’s why:
- Scratch does NOT require syntax
In order to build your own program, all you have to do is move blocks around. It is manipulated through visual means rather than by typing code. Visual blocks are more self-explanatory; even my eight-year-old son can intuitively use the forever loop block without explanation. While today’s development tools include features to help reduce typing mistakes, such as autocomplete, sometimes developers still spend hours debugging on a simple typo.
- Scratch can be used to create sophisticated programs
It’s not just for kids! There are many building blocks to choose from to create complex programming. When teaching my eight-year-old son how to use Scratch, I noticed he mostly resorted to using the more basic blocks. But if you explore the tools in more detail, you will find that there are many other blocks available. Teaching my son to send messages from one Sprite (an object in Scratch) to another reminded me of how many codes I needed to learn in order to send a message in Windows 3.1. But with Scratch, you can do the same thing by using just two blocks!
- Scratch is extensible
Many Scratch users may not realize they can add variables, list and even create their own blocks in the program! Users can even connect Scratch to hardware such as PicoBoard and LEGO WeDo. This extensible is really makes the possibility endless.
Scratch is an ideal tool for teaching kids how to code. All the material is free and there are many resources to help teachers integrate coding with their curriculum. In addition to teaching my son Scratch, I created a 1 Hour of Scratch online course by combining Scratch with a learning platform.
Explore some of the millions of programs created with Scratch at scratch.mit.edu explore and try the program for yourself. Another great resource are exercises at studio.code.org/hoc/1, where most courses have been created based on the same visual block principle used by Scratch. You can earn a certificate if you complete all 20 puzzles in this Hour of Code course!
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