While it’s often assumed that programming is difficult to learn, many 8 to 14 year olds are now learning programming skills using a specially designed programming tool developed at MIT called Scratch. Scratch is a free program that runs on Mac, Windows and Linux. First released in 2007, it now has an extensive following of students around the world. The developers saw Scratch not just as a programming tool, but an opportunity for students to explore and be creative with computers. Although today’s digital natives can ‘read’ computers, until now most wouldn’t have the first idea about ‘writing’ for computers – i.e. programming. That might change as more students discover Scratch.
Learning to program has so much going for it that it’s probably only a matter of time before it becomes regarded as an essential part of learning for children of all abilities. Not only does it develop logical reasoning and problem solving skills, but programming can creative and challenging at a number of ability levels. Since programming lets students create projects connected to their own particular interests, projects are more likely to be ones that students find relevant and more meaningful, and so more likely to have the motivation ingredients found in a self-directed learning activity. Perhaps best of all, programming fosters a healthy attitude to mistakes and setbacks. Analysis of results by review and reflection are fundamental programming skills. Last but not least, programming can also be a lot of fun. Read more