Is it a game? a learning tool? a programming language?

Whatever it is, it’s been around for years, I’d never heard of it and it’s become a huge educational phenomenon: it’s been used to create over a million projects

Oh, and it recently won a major award in the annual Digital Media and Learning competition.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFTLMhM_RZc

A new programming language developed at the MIT Media Lab turns kids from media consumers into media producers, enabling them to create their own interactive stories, games, music, and animation for the Web

With this new software, called Scratch, kids can program interactive creations by simply snapping together graphical blocks, much like LEGO® bricks, without any of the obscure punctuation and syntax of traditional programming languages.

Children can then share their interactive stories and games on the Web, the same way they share videos on YouTube, engaging with other kids in an online community that provides inspiration and feedback.

Taking the geekiness out of making ideas come to life on the screen

“Until now, only expert programmers could make interactive creations for the Web.

Scratch opens the gates for everyone.

As kids work on Scratch projects, they learn to think creatively and solve problems systematically – skills that are critical to success in the 21st century.

It’s exciting to wake up each morning and see what’s new on the site”

Mitchel Resnick, Professor of Learning Research at the MIT Media Lab and head of the Scratch development team

Resnick’s Lifelong Kindergarten research group previously developed the “programmable bricks” that inspired the award-winning LEGO® MINDSTORMS® robotics kits.

Just as MINDSTORMS allows kids to control LEGO creations in the physical world, Scratch allows them to control media-rich creations on the Web.

Designed for ages 8 and up, Scratch is available by free download from the Scratch website (http://scratch.mit.edu). The software runs on both PCs and Macs.

The MIT Media Lab is now collaborating with other organizations — including Intel, Microsoft, Samsung, BT, The LEGO Group, Motorola, and One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) – to create other versions and applications of Scratch, including versions for mobile phones.

The name Scratch comes from the technique used by hip-hop disc jockeys, who spin vinyl records to mix music clips together in creative ways. Similarly, Scratch lets kids mix together a wide variety of media: graphics, photos, music, and sounds.

A glance at the Scratch website (http://scratch.mit.edu) reveals a kaleidoscope of projects created by kids: a story about a polar bear school, space attack games, and a break-dancing performance. Some creations are goofy and fun; some reveal serious social themes.

Children are constantly modifying and extending one another’s projects on the website – and learning from one another in the process.

And what do teachers think of this?

“There is a buzz in the room when the kids get going on Scratch projects.

Students set design goals for their projects and problem-solve to fix program bugs.

They collaborate, cooperate, co-teach.

They appreciate the power that Scratch gives them to create their own versions of games and animations”

Karen Randall, a teacher at the Expo Elementary School in St. Paul, Minnesota

Throughout the development process, the design team received feedback from children and teens at Intel Computer Clubhouses and school classrooms.

Scratch was developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten research group in collaboration with UCLA educational researchers, with financial support from the National Science Foundation and the Intel Foundation.

About Mitchel Resnick

He’s LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research and head of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Laboratory, explores how new technologies can engage people in creative learning experiences.

Resnick’s research group developed the “programmable brick” technology that inspired the LEGO MindStorms robotics kit.

He co-founded the Computer Clubhouse project, a worldwide network of after-school centers where youth from low-income communities learn to express themselves creatively with new technologies.

Recently, Resnick’s group developed Scratch, an online community where children program and share interactive stories, games, and animations.

Resnick earned a BA in physics at Princeton University (1978), and MS and PhD degrees in computer science at MIT (1988, 1992).

He worked as a science-technology journalist from 1978 to 1983, and he has consulted throughout the world on creative uses of computers in education.

He is author of Turtles, Termites, and Traffic Jams (1994), co-editor of Constructionism in Practice (1996), and co-author of Adventures in Modeling (2001).