This blog has been contributed by Guest Blogger, Sumedha Singh.
The joys of learning by doing! A couple of years back, my then 6 year old came back home from school all excited, glowing with joy and pride. He had in his hand, a plastic container full of Fenugreek (Methi) saplings. These were grown as part of a class activity – each student had filled their containers with dirt, planted the seeds, found a sunny spot in the room and remembered to water them just enough each morning. Once the saplings were out, they were allowed to take them home, the science lesson on plant life successfully conquered.
I see a similar joy and pride, this time for creating games and music in Scratch. An open source programing language developed by MIT Media Lab, Scratch has made programming, quite literally, a child’s play. Designed to help children learn basic programming skills, students can create their own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art in Scratch. It provides an easy drag and drop UI, simple enough for 8 to 16 year olds to comprehend and use. And, it’s free.
Scratch is a great way to engage this digital generation in learning the ways of the medium that has them hooked. According to the makers of Scratch, it encourages critical thinking, problem solving skills and creativity – important skills for the 21st century. And because it allows you to share your creations, it sets up a positive-feedback loop of learning. So the digital generation can now move from just downloading and using games and apps to creating a few of their own. Parents (and teachers) can sit back and revel as they watch children find ways to make sure the sprite does not move through the walls of the maze they so diligently created, work on nested repeat blocks to create the music they want or just check the code (or logic) of a scratch creation they like.
Scratch is etching itself into school computer classrooms, at least in the US. But you can learn and teach Scratch easily at home. There are some great Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) courses that teach programming in Scratch at your pace. edX has a great course on Scratch. So let the learning begin!