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Help your favorite child learn computer programming

Help your favorite child learn computer programming
Katarzyna Bialasiewicz | Dreamstime.com

It's strange to think that our youngest generation doesn't even remember what life was like before smartphones or the internet. There was never a time when they couldn't Google something they didn't know. They have more information than they know what to do with.

Sure, this could be viewed negatively. Many from the older generations feel that kids are missing out on more outdoor "unplugged" play time and that social media is ruining society. What they may not see, though, is the potential.

Teaching computer coding in schools and at home has become increasingly popular in recent years -- and with good reason. Learning to code at a young age can provide kids with essential skills needed for life in the 21st century like creative thinking, systematic reasoning and collaboration.

What is Scratch?

Scratch is a simple programming language that provides the opportunity to create your own games, interactive stories, music, art and animations. These creations require a certain level of skill that is acquired through logical trial and error, creative thinking, and collaboration, allowing for a great deal of education to be masked by a ton of fun.

Scratch was created by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group (LLK) at the MIT Media Lab. LLK encourages creative learning experiences by developing new technologies and activities that mimic the learning styles presented in kindergarten, such as building blocks and finger paint. Their methodology focuses on learning through action and developing a strong connection with a skill beyond simply reading or writing.

How to get started

Ready to sign up your favorite little one? Signing up is free and requires as little information as possible. In an effort to protect the privacy of children online, Scratch limits the information collected and will never sell or rent account information to anyone.

If you're still concerned about privacy, Scratch has you covered. They offer an offline editor that allows you to create projects without signing up or providing any information at all.

Dive into Creative Learning

The Guides and tutorials offered on the Scratch Tips page walk you through the process of creating a new project from adding movements and sounds to customizing colors and sharing your project with friends.

Step up the fun factor with the Scratch activity cards! Each card focuses on a specific task. You can print the cards for free online or purchase a printed set. It's a great way to provide more structured learning.

Parents: want to know more?

LLK knows that, as parents, you worry about where you send your kids online. Scratch has a page dedicated entirely to parents to answer all your questions. Topics cover everything from the privacy policy to the community guidelines.

Is Scratch good for educators?

Educators are using Scratch in more ways than you could imagine. It is used in schools, libraries, museums and community centers across all grade levels and subject areas.

Best of all, Scratch provides an online community for teachers, ScratchEd, where educators can exchange resources, share stories and ideas and connect with other educators. They even offer Scratch Educator Meetups where educators can share their ideas in person and teacher accounts with features to help manage groups of students.

What about you?

Scratch is great for everyone! While it was designed with kids ages 8 through 16 in mind, people of all ages can benefit from the skills obtained through computational creativity. Adults can expand their knowledge using Scratch and even younger children can start learning early with the help of their parents. After all, who doesn't want a free education in coding developed by MIT?

Learn how to code for free

To most people, computer code very much has a Matrix-like feel, with letters, numbers and symbols somehow making up the apps we use and the websites we visit. Behind all of that are people who understand coding and are able to build and maintain it all.

Click here to start your free coding education

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