Scratch is a media production tool that is developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Created as a learning tool along constructivist principles, Scratch introduces the logic of computer programming to a wide age-range of students, from 3rd grade through middle school.
To learn more about what Scratch is capable of, take a look at the Scratch website. There, you'll find thousands of examples of what students across the world are doing with this tool that's free on both Windows and Mac platforms.
You can extend Scratch's reach with the use of a Picoboard - a USB-based hardware accessory that introduces new sensors and buttons to Scratch's arsenal of inputs.
We feel Scratch is an integral part of helping students experience 21st century skills. It encourages at its core creativity and problem solving for students. The website, in turn, fosters sharing, collaboration and re-mixing.
Many teachers first experience Scratch and are put-off by the complexity of some projects they find. This is normal! Scratch makes your brain hurt just a little, but this is typically a sign of something good. You're learning a simple system that can crunch-out complex experiences. Once you learn the system, you'll fly.
In November, 2010, we created some examples for learning more about Scratch. Each example requires about 20 minutes of interaction with the program.
At the end of 2008, Scratch compiled some statistics on the software:
Introducing Scratch to any population--teachers or students--is greatly enhanced through the use of an interactive whiteboard. Developing a new project in tandem where everyone can come up, manipulate the Scratch interface, and problem-solve in groups makes the process lucid. I typically start with the cat sprite, label him with a name (we typically call him Scratch), and then I challenge the class to make him do different things.
People immediately see there is no one right solution about what to do: your imagination is stimulated and the possibilities are many. What I always want folks to see after they experience how the application works is how just about any subject matter can be brought into a Scratch project. Teachers can use Scratch to enhance a math lesson, a social studies lesson, and more, just as easily as they could be targeting art or English/language arts.
Best of luck in integrating Scratch into your students' lives. Encourage them to download it at home and start Scratching!