ScratchJr is a wonderfully worthwhile project

Scratch JrScratch is the gold-standard for teaching kids programming. A group has now got a funded Kickstarter campaign aimed at launching an even simpler version aimed at teaching the basics of coding to even younger kids.

ScratchJr is an introductory programming language that enables young children (ages 5-7) to create their own interactive stories and games. Children snap together graphical programming blocks to make characters move, jump, dance, and sing. Children can modify characters in the paint editor, add their own voices and sounds, even insert photos of themselves – then use the programming blocks to make their characters come to life.

The campaign was seeking US$25,000 but after only a few days has achieved over $40,000 in pledges. They will be launching an iPad version of Scratch Jr but with the additional funds will also be looking to make an Android version, add sharing features and provide more materials for teachers. This is a wonderfully worthwhile project; even their description of why they are doing it is one of the most succinct summaries of why coding is important that I’ve seen:

Coding (or computer programming) is a new type of literacy. Just as writing helps you organize your thinking and express your ideas, the same is true for coding. In the past, coding was seen as too difficult for most people. But we think coding should be for everyone, just like writing.

As young children code with ScratchJr, they learn how to create and express themselves with the computer, not just interact with it. In the process, children develop design and problem-solving skills that are foundational for later academic success, and they use math and language in a meaningful and motivating context, supporting the development of early-childhood numeracy and literacy.

With ScratchJr, children aren’t just learning to code, they are coding to learn.

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