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Scratch@MIT Conference Witnesses Idea Convergence

Christo Jacob
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Christo Jacob
Scratch, a simple easy-to-learn programming language designed at MIT’s Media Lab, lets anyone create and share video games and animated stories. Introduced just over a year ago, it is attracting kids that are aged between 8 and 15, and is applied in a variety of uses that its creators never imagined about. The three-day “Scratch@MIT” conference, held last month, was a chance for “sharing experiences, people talking about new initiatives they’re starting, and what worked and what didn’t.”

As they create Scratch projects, they can learn important mathematical and computational ideas, while also gaining a deeper understanding of the process of design. Scratch uses a simple set of modular building blocks that can be dragged into place and snapped together on a computer screen like Lego bricks. The software is available for free download from the Scratch website and runs on both PCs and Macs. The website also offers tutorials, forums, and the extensive archive of projects that people have decided to share. “It’s excellent. Even I can pick it up pretty quickly and I am not a teenager. I would love to see more examples of the works of the young programmers,” says Mohan Kumar, one of the users.

Scratch is already available in 30 different languages including Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and Hebrew. The software will also be made available soon for low-cost computers such as the One Laptop Per Child XO and the Intel Classmate. “It’s grown beyond our greatest expectations,” says Media Lab professor Mitchel Resnick, who leads the Scratch project. Already, more than 160,000 projects created using the Scratch system have been uploaded to the Scratch website.

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