Ok, so let’s all just take a moment, do a little slow clap and welcome me to this next generation of learning. Let me explain. A few months back when the new Ipads rolled out into our classrooms one of my colleagues was telling me about Scratch Jr. and that it was a great ‘coding’ app. I literally looked at her with a blank stare, wondering if she was speaking English! I then, actually forgot about that conversation until Kelsie started talking about her coding project for this class! This is when I really became interested in what coding was all about.
Giph Credit: Giphy
Over the past few months, I have been hearing and reading a lot more about coding and I am now becoming aware of what it is and why our students and children need to learn these skills. My time on Twitter over the past few months has really helped me become aware of different coding programs and what other teachers are doing to incorporate coding into their classrooms. The article “Why Kids Should Learn to Code” by Erik Missio was a great read that helped me begin to understand the benefits of children learning to code, as well as tips on how to help kids get started.
Similar to Kelsie’s blog post, Scratch Jr I am also going to be writing my review of the program Scratch Jr. This school year I was given a few Ipads to use in my classroom with my students and Scratch Jr is one of the apps on classroom Ipads. I wanted to use this time to dig into and look at the apps that are found on my classroom Ipads so that I can get comfortable with the programs and begin to implement more of these programs into my classroom.
Photo Credit: Scratch Jr
When I started to do some reading about Scratch Jr it was apparent that this is a program that is widely used and that it is a great starting tool for kids to learn how to code on. The article, “Scratch Jr: Coding for Kindergarten” shares how coding is a “new literacy” and that children will need to learn how to code to keep up with today’s ever-changing world. The following video shares the ideas behind Scratch Jr.
Video Credit: Scratch Jr: Coding for Young Kids
Let’s get started!
When logging on to Scratch Jr I can immediately see how user-friendly this program is. It is visually appealing and welcoming. When logging on you are able to watch a ‘how to’ video which gives you a tour of the app and all of the features on the app. The video shows someone working through creating a code so teachers and students can watch an example that helps them understand the different features on the app. It shows how to add the backgrounds, the different characters and how to create the sequences for the characters to move and do many different things. The following video is the introduction to Scratch Jr.
Video Credit: Scratch Jr
When you log on to begin coding you have many different scenes that you can choose from. The backgrounds that you can choose from include, parks, schools, stages, classrooms, cities, space, ocean, houses and many more. You can also choose to create your own background or upload a picture from your camera to use as your background.
Photo Credit: Scratch Jr
There are also many characters that you can choose from. There are people, animals, objects, plants, cars, and buildings. There is a wide variety of characters and objects that students can program into their stories. Similar to the backgrounds students can also draw and upload different characters and objects.
Photo Credit: Scratch Jr
Once you have picked your background and your characters you can then begin to code your story to tell your characters what you would like them to do. You start by choosing which character you want to program and then you begin your sequence by choosing a ‘yellow’ programming block that signals you are going to begin your sequence.
Once you have selected a yellow trigger block you can then select from the other blocks to create your sequence. The following are the blocks that you can choose from for your sequences:
Motion Blocks (Blue): the blew motion blocks help move the characters around. You can move the characters right, left, up down, turning right, turning left, hopping up and down as well as having them return to their home position.
Looks Blocks (Pink): the pink looks blocks help to alter the way a character appears. You can increase or decrease the characters size, place a speech bubble above your character, hide and fade your character and show your character.
Sound Blocks (Green): the sound blocks allow you to add sound to your characters. There are two choices for sound blocks. The first choice is to choose the default “pop” sound provided in Scratch Jr and the second option is to record sound using the Ipad’s microphone.
Control Blocks (Orange): the control blocks let you control the script. With these options, you can pause the script, change the rate at which they run, stop all of the characters scripts as well as repeat the blocks a specific number of times.
End Blocks (Red): the red end blocks indicate the end of the script. You can choose to end the script or choose to repeat the script over and over.
Children use all of these blocks to help create the sequence or code that they want their character to carry out. They drag the blocks to the bottom of the screen where they link together to create the sequence. It is very user-friendly and easy to manipulate on the iPad. If students get stuck while working they can hit the question mark and that takes them back to the information video as well as examples to help get them back on track.
Photo Credit: Scratch Jr
I found my time spent on Scratch Jr to be very informing. Like I said above, prior to this I had zero knowledge of coding. I feel that this app is very user-friendly and the visuals make it extremely easy for young students to navigate the app. It is geared toward early elementary students and I feel that the Ipad is the perfect tool for young students to learn to code with considering they can use the touchscreen.
I also found that there were lots of options they can use which helps to keep them engaged, entertained and on task working on this program. There is a multitude of backdrops, characters, and codes that the students can choose from and play around with. I feel that students would have tons of fun creating many different sequences using the different settings and different characters.
I do particularly love the option to customize pictures, characters, and voices. This allows students to use the camera and microphone to customize their characters. I feel that this would be great to help students create and share by using the characters and retelling stories by adding their voice to the characters.
I really do appreciate how user-friendly this app was and I now feel like I have a basic understanding of what coding is and how it is an important form of literacy that needs to be incorporated in today’s classrooms. I feel that this week gave me the opportunity to dive into a resource that I already had access to but haven’t had the time to try out yet. I am excited to share this with my class as I know many of them will be very excited about using Scratch Jr to learn more about coding!
All in all, I give Scratch Jr 5 stars!