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ScratchJr - Teaching pre-school kids how to write computer code

ScratchJr - Teaching pre-school kids how to write computer code
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A computer programming app has been released that is so easy to use that even kids aged five can do it according to its inventors.

ScratchJr is the brainchild of researchers in Massachussets, who are currently testing it out on kindergarten children there.

Specifically designed for children as young as five who haven’t yet learned to read, the app allows kids to craft their own interactive stories and games, by stringing coding blocks together in order to make animated characters move, jump, and change size or colour.

“To control the characters in their stories in ScratchJr, children snap together graphical building blocks, much like putting together Lego pieces, and each block tells the character what to do,” explained ScratchJr co-developer, Mitchel Resnick.

ScratchJr was inspired by the popular Scratch programming language also developed by the MIT Media Lab and already used by millions of children aged eight and up around the world. The ScratchJr team redesigned the interface and language to make it appropriate for younger children.

“There’s been a growing interest in helping people learn to code, but we see ScratchJr as the first programming language that was designed specifically for children as young as five years old to really meet their needs and their developmental abilities,” said Resnick.

The initiative is intended to transform children’s interaction with the screen from the traditional practice of consuming content that is largely in the form of entertainment.

“It’s clear some parents are worried about too much screen time, and it’s also clear that there are some parents who are really proponents of technology. So, you have to think about how it fits within your parents’ world and how they want their child to be raised,” said Dr Sandra Calvert, director of the Children’s Digital Media Centre at Georgetown University.

Its developers say that while teaching coding to children who might not even know how to read yet may sound strange, the idea is to expose kids to computer programming early to eventually make it accessible to everyone.