Making Meaningful Connections in 2016
Reflections from the Scratch Foundation: Q1
Millions of Scratchers
Recently, Scratch became home to more than 10 million users worldwide. This is a big deal, considering Scratch had roughly half that number of users this time last year! Also noteworthy, the free ScratchJr app (for younger children ages 5–7) surpassed the 2 million download mark last month!
We believe these numbers will continue to grow, as more young people discover the creative potential of Scratch and ScratchJr to create their own stories, games, and animations.
We also know the numbers will grow based on education efforts we’re seeing around the world that are using Scratch. Coding is becoming part of the national dialogue in countries such as Finland, Singapore, England, Australia, and Italy, and in some cases is required instruction. The European Union started CodeWeek.EU in 2014 and the inaugural Africa Code Week launched last year in more than 18 African countries.
Here in the US, President Barack Obama recently announced the CS for All campaign in the final State of the Union address of his presidency. The new initiative calls for millions of dollars in funding and commitments from corporate partners, and is designed to provide hands-on computer science classes for all students.
At the Scratch Foundation, we remain strong proponents of children learning to code, yet we are cautious about initiatives that focus solely on building skills to get a good job. We continue to support a different approach. Our goal is for young people to become fluent with coding. Not only do we want them to gain the basic mechanics and concepts of coding — we want them to develop their voice and understand how to use code to express their ideas. We hope that concepts like creative thinking, problem solving, and collaboration will begin to spread, as more young people learn how to create their own interactive projects using Scratch.
2016 Benefit: Celebrating Kids, Coding, and Creativity
One of the primary goals of the Scratch Foundation is to garner financial support for Scratch, ScratchJr, and ScratchEd. In March, we hosted a fabulous Benefit dinner (our second annual!) in New York City. In addition to inspiring opening remarks by founding board members David M. Siegel and Mitchel Resnick, we were joined by Christina Miller, President and General Manager of Cartoon Network.
Talking passionately about kids, creativity, and technology, Christina’s remarks reflected the shared commitment between Cartoon Network and the Scratch Team to help kids unlock the power of technology to become creators, inventors, and innovators. As a former art educator, I was particularly inspired by Christina’s closing statement:
“Coding may be the literacy of the 21st century, but I believe it can be the art class of the 21st century too.”
We closed the evening with a Scratcher panel discussion, moderated by Mitchel Resnick, who leads the team that develops Scratch, and longtime Scratch Team member Natalie Rusk. While it’s great to hear adults talk about the creative potential of Scratch, the young people on the panel were the true stars of the evening. The wide-ranging conversation included stories of creative expression and debugging, along with reflections on the Scratch online community, as described by 12-year-old Zach:
“When you first join Scratch, you may join for the programming language, but I think you stay because there are so many friendly people out there who want to help you. You’re never alone when you have people who want to help you.”
The evening was a tremendous success and we will continue to host similar events, to ensure that Scratch continues to thrive as a creative tool and community for everyone, for years to come.
Making Connections: Upcoming Scratch Events
Scratch Day is a global network of events that celebrates Scratch — and the young people who code and create with it. This year’s Scratch Day is May 14, 2016 in 91 locations — and counting! Consider hosting a Scratch Day in your community.
Scratch Educator Meetups are participatory professional learning experiences for teachers who want to learn more about teaching with Scratch.
ScratchJr Family Day is a new, hands-on initiative from the Developmental Technologies Research Group at Tufts University that encourages cross-generational collaboration. Piloted in December 2015, ScratchJr Family Days are free for families and promote coding as a tool for storytelling and creative expression for children ages 5 — 7.
I am enormously proud to be a part of an organization that supports young people, as they learn, create, and express themselves with Scratch, and I am so happy to share this work with you! 2016 is off to a spirited start, but there is still so much more work to be done. If you would like to support our work, please consider making a donation to the Scratch Foundation.
Scratch Foundation Executive Director