More than a language


When I read the title to this article and then its content, I’ll admit to being completely astounded.

China bans Scratch, MIT’s programming language for kids

The first step was to do a fact check and see if there were other news media reporting the same thing. Yes, there was. I looked at Scratch’s website and there was no official announcement but lots of discussion happening in the forums. The original article indicates some of the reasons why the Chinese government made the decision to block. Some of the visitor comments to the post are sadly racist and hurtful and I’m sure would only serve to convince the government that they had made the right decision.

A few years ago when I co-chaired the Bring IT, Together Conference, there were all kinds of session submissions dealing with Scratch. My co-chair Cyndie and I joked that if it wasn’t for Scratch, we might not have a full schedule for the conference.

Scratch is undoubtedly one of the very best implementations of a block coding language. It’s not the only one – I think I first started with Blockly and there are many others, nowadays built for programming a connected device.

To be honest, many conference sessions are focused on the nuts and bolts of the language and getting it to do neat things. Often, they miss the mark for teachers which is how to teach with Scratch. Big difference. I’ll refer people to the University of Northern Iowa’s course Intro to Programming with Scratch. Facebook page here.

The latest big thing here in Ontario is the inclusion of coding in the Mathematics curriculum. I know that many educators see Scratch as the answer to various parts of that challenge.

Therein lies one of the biggest concerns. This wouldn’t be the first time that China or a Chinese business has created a similar product. They’ve even created their own form of Google.

I would suspect that making a programming language similar to Scratch would be relatively easy. As noted above, many companies have created their own drag and drop languages.

The whole Scratch experience is much more than that. Things around the language would be much more difficult to build from scratch. (sorry)

  • a community of educators who have developed resources and skills for teaching Scratch
  • an online community to develop your own Scratch applications and testing – no downloads required
  • the ability to develop code and then share it with others so that they may remix it for their own purposes
  • the ability to bring external resources into your own product
  • a network of support for parents of students using Scratch
  • a wealth of tutorials, and ideas for inspiration
  • research into action project from the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT

I can see how a new language could be easily developed but it’s the wealth of things around that language that will be tough to replicate, if that’s the plan.

OTR Links 09/14/2020


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.