Learning Scratch, from an eight-year-old

Much has been written in recent years about the state of ICT education in Britain’s schools, so imagine my pleasure when my wife told me that my son was learning Scratch at school. I’d hoped that he would do something more than Microsoft Office and Google soon but had a suspicion we might have to wait for secondary education (he’s currently in year 3).

I asked him about it and he seemed really enthusiastic, so I asked if he’d like to do some more at home. Then, this weekend, I plugged the Raspberry Pi into the TV, loaded up Scratch, and asked him to show me how it works.

Wow! After two lessons at school, he’s off and away. Within a few minutes we (actually, no, I was a bystander – it was my son doing the “driving”) were drawing shapes on the stage with a helicopter sprite. He progressed from squares, to circles, changing the colour as each pixel was drawn on the screen, then worked out how to draw triangles and within a short while was doing what I can only describe as the modern equivalent of a Spirograph (remember them?), running two scripts in parallel with a single keypress.

Scratch

I was about 12 before I got my first computer (a Sinclair ZX Spectrum+) and took my first tentative steps in BASIC. Meanwhile, my kids are growing up in a world of smartphones, tablets and netbooks. It’s fantastic and I only wish there was some special STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programme at his school as he clearly enjoys it (sadly, he finds writing more difficult and I had to “bribe” him to complete his spelling homework by saying he could have some more time in Scratch if the spelling was completed without any fuss…). Private education is out of our reach but I’m pleased he’s getting exposure to Scratch at such a young age.

I’ll have him on JavaScript and C# next!

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