SCRATCHing the Surface: Trying Out Scratch

Scratch is a block-based programming tool from the MIT Media Lab that gets pigeon-holed as a tool for introducing students to coding & programming.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great tool for that, but it’s oooohhhh sooo much more!  In my mind–and in the minds of many students who have used it–Scratch is a place with infinite possibilities for creation.

That creation can be, well… just about anything. And that anything could relate to games or music or jokes or…. science, math, social studies, language arts, world languages…. you get the picture.  ANYTHING.  It could be a great classroom tool.  Especially when put in the hands of students.

So, let me give you a little intro to Scratch.  Let’s SCRATCH the Surface.

I’ll update this post periodically, adding a few new #EduGIFs at a time.  If you subscribe to my newsletter, you’ll know when new #EduGIFs are added.

First Steps

Head over to scratch.mit.edu and create an account.  You could use it without creating an account, but then you couldn’t save your creations.

Then, on the main Scratch page, try out some of the featured projects.  Experiment a little bit.  Get a feel for what is possible in Scratch.  You’ll quickly see that the possibilities are nearly endless.

1. Select or Create a Sprite

Sprites are the characters or objects that make up your Scratch projects.  If you think of a game like Pong, there would be 3 sprites: the paddle on the left, the paddle on the right and the ball (seriously, is that thing a ball!?).

Choose a Sprite in Scratch Animation

2. Exploring the Movement Block

The area on the left contains all of the possible blocks that we can use to program our sprites.  Let’s explore the basic movement blocks.  (here’s a Pausable #EduGIF)

Explore Movement Blocks in Sprite Animation

Next Steps

3. Applying Movement Blocks

In order to give our sprites movements that actually happen in our final product, we’ve got to drag them into the center area.  (here’s a Pausable #EduGIF)

Scratch - Move Your Sprite Animation

4. The Wait Block

If you want to combine two movements and have them happen separately (i.e., jump up, then fall down) you’ll need to split the two of them up using a wait block.  Check it out below. (here’s a Pausable #EduGIF)

Scratch - Wait Block Animation

I’ll update this post periodically, adding a few new #EduGIFs at a time.  If you subscribe to my newsletter, you’ll know when new #EduGIFs are added.

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Jake Miller

Jake is a Google for Education Certified Trainer and is the Lead Technology Integration Specialist for Brady Middle School in Ohio's Orange City Schools. In the past he taught STEM, Science & Math in Stow-Munroe Falls, Ohio, where he was also a leader in the district's Technology Leadership Team and a co-advisor for the middle school's STEM Club. He has been an educator since 2003. His Bachelor's Degree is in middle-level education (math/science) from the University of Akron and his Master's Degree is in Instructional Technology from Kent State University. He has enjoyed providing more than 100 professional development opportunities at conferences and school districts across the state of Ohio. He is very involved in Twitter (@JakeMillerTech) and provides regular pointers for educators with his #GAFETip tweets.

2 thoughts on “SCRATCHing the Surface: Trying Out Scratch”

  1. What are your thoughts on keeping kids safe on Scratch accts. They seem to have infinite abilities to interact with other users. People can comment on their projects. Kids like to sample other projects which are sometimes inappropriate. This is why I stopped using Scratch in elementary classes. To keep COPPA compliant, would you recommend using this with kids 13 and older?

    1. Good question, Sarah!

      I’ve never had any experiences with inappropriate content on Scratch, but I’m sure it’s possible for the reasons you listed. In my opinion, if a kid is allowed access to Google Search, they should be allowed access to Scratch, but I know that school districts have varying perspectives on these types of things. I certainly think that if you want to keep it to 13+ only, you have fair reason to do so.

      However, in terms of being COPPA-compliant, I believe Scratch is okay because it does not intentionally collect personally identifiable info without parent or teacher permission.

      I found Part 3 of their TOS at https://scratch.mit.edu/terms_of_use to be applicable to this question as well.

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