“Some of the best software begins with a blank screen.” — Del Siegle

Some of the most exciting and interesting software comes free from university research laboratories. From the Massachusetts Institute of Technology comes Scratch, one of the fast-growing software packages used in schools around the world. Scratch was developed as a tool to explore the world of information and technology, incorporate the sounds, music, animation, and game elements that children love. Students and teachers use Scratch from elementary to high school to create projects that foster creative expression and sharing. Developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten group at MIT’s Media Lab, it is in use in thousands of schools around the world. Let’s see some examples and then learn how to use the system.

Here are some examples of student and teacher projects (many are not “polished”); most will open and run in your Web browser. Usually you click the green flag to begin and the red stop sign to stop. Directions may be given within the Scratch window or in the right-hand panel of the web page:

“Mad Libs” style story generator: http://scratch.mit.edu/projects/me27/562723

A geometric design generator: http://scratch.mit.edu/projects/Ziquallx/818989

Animated DNA replication: http://scratch.mit.edu/projects/ahawesome/355811

A photo warping project: http://scratch.mit.edu/projects/OJY321/19072

A hockey game example: http://scratch.mit.edu/projects/scratch_the_kat/846007

A digestive system game (video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVVFZHv27iM

Scratch Videos: View the 5-minute How to Use Scratch Intro video at: http://info.scratch.mit.edu/Support/Videos

Now it’s time for you to learn to build your own small project in Scratch. Visit the Scratch website at MIT to download the program for Windows, Mac OS X, or Ubuntu Linux. The program is free for unlimited school and home use by teachers and students. Note that adult and child users have uploaded over 800,000 Scratch projects to the site. You will be adding your project to the site at the end of this unit. (You may create a personal Scratch account for yourself now or later.)

You can follow the abbreviated directions on the Scratch website at: http://info.scratch.mit.edu/Support/Get_Started

Or follow the step-by-step directions below:

Download Scratch from: http://scratch.mit.edu

After you have installed the program on your computer, it’s time to follow a tutorial to learn the basics. Here’s a good 5-minute introduction to Scratch. You may want to watch the video first and then follow it step-by-step:

5-min introduction to Scratch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfGE-PfMPIA

You can continue learning with the 14-page PDF tutorial that you can print out or view on the screen. It’s designed as a step-by-step tutorial to orient you to the tools for creating projects that may contain animation, sound, music, text, and game elements.

PDF Scratch tutorial: http://info.scratch.mit.edu/sites/infoscratch.media.mit.edu/files/file/ScratchGettingStartedv14.pdf

You can see short step-by-step sequential video tutorials in the Scratch basics with these videos (follow them all to reinforce how the parts of Scratch work together:

Lesson 1: Creating your own objects (sprites) 3:00 min: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qi9ooZcBBWg

Lesson 2: Animating your sprites (continuing where lesson 1 ended) 1:30 min: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7A_fxYik4Qw

Lesson 3: Adding sound to your sprites: (1:30 min): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAGHGERpVCo

Lesson 4: Sprite interactions with variables (4:30 min): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFKvgoUSFY8

Lesson 5: Animating the donut man – putting the pieces together (5:50 min): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Df9g1n0e2DE

Fun with your face (or mine): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPfkdzE0V34

Now it’s time to let loose your imagination and build your own Scratch project. You may follow the Scratch tradition of building your project using sprites, sounds, and instructions that others have created. Just give credit to those whose ideas and parts you have used, and tell us know what part(s) was your original work.

You can explore existing teacher and student projects from the “Projects” and “Gallery” tabs on the Scratch Website: http://scratch.mit.edu.

Note that the projects from the Scratch site will run in a Web browser, so the Scratch program does not need to be installed on a computer to use a project, only to create one. If you wish, you can download any project to examine its instruction blocks, sprites, and sounds within the Scratch program.

Upload your completed project to the Scratch website, and record its web address so we can view it in the Unit 1 Wiki. Here’s how:

  1. With your working project loaded in the Scratch program, select “Share this Project Online …” from the Share menu. Enter your Scratch login name and password (or create a Scratch account now). In the large box for comments, PLACE ANY DIRECTIONS to use your project and GIVE CREDIT to any project or creator whose ideas or components you have used. Place our course name ED5012 as one of the TAGs. You may enter other tags (like Wilkes) that would help people find your project.
  2. Visit the Scratch website, log in, and click on the “My Stuff” tab. You should see your project. Click on the project to see it run in a browser window. Copy the web address of your project from your browser’s address bar.
  3. Open the wiki in Moodle Unit 1 (NOTE: You’ll need to use the editing toolbar that appears in Firefox but not in Safari. IE may also work).
  4. Click the “Edit” tab and type your name, your project’s name, and it’s web address on a blank line on a new line.
  5. To create a hot link to your project, select (highlight) your web address and click the “Insert Web Link” icon (the chain link). Paste the web address into the top field in the “Insert Link” window.
  6. Click OK to return to the edit window.
  7. Enter a one-sentence description of your project to entice your colleagues to check it out.
  8. Click SAVE (under Edit window) to save your entry.
  9. Test your hot link. If it doesn’t work, try again.

Congratulations! You’ve created a multi-media project and made it available to the world and to our class! You can also embed any Scratch project in a blog or web page. Enjoy viewing the project created by your class colleagues.

Reflect on what you learned. You used a program that is currently in wide use across the world. The program is an example of several instructional technology trends. It was developed by a research university using up-to-date theory about how children really learn. Students create their own authentic projects that embody the values of constructivism, constructionism, problem-solving , and project-based learning. The projects can use multiple sensory modalities (sound, music, images, animation, text). Students can share their project over the Internet and comment on each other’s projects. The program is freely available for all kinds of computers so that cost or operating system is not a barrier to entry. The program may be used at school and at home for school assignments and for independent fund. The program supports many global languages. It’s designed to be inviting and fun to use. Children can learn fundamental information science and technology skills from the program, including ideas and skills regarding the automation that is dramatically changing job options today and tomorrow. In all of the above ways, Scratch illustrates trends that relate to issues raised by Thomas Friedman, Christensen, and Jonassen. You may want to devote a paragraph in your discussion to this relationship and to specific trends that Scratch illustrates.

About this page

About Scratch

This free software for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux was designed over at MIT based upon the Squeak environment developed by Alan Kay over more than a decade.

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