Scratch Conferences around the World

To commemorate 10 years of the Scratch programming language, communities around the world gathered to share ideas about creative learning

By My Nguyen

In 2008, the Scratch Team hosted the inaugural Scratch conference at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Focusing primarily on an adult audience, they designed the conference to bring together educators, developers, researchers, and others who focus on helping young people create and learn with Scratch around the world.

Scratch is a programming language, and it is also much more than that. In Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity through Projects, Passions, Peers, and Play, Mitchel Resnick, director of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group and head of the Scratch Team, shares that from the beginning, they wanted to create a “new type of online learning community where young people can create with one another, share with one another, and learn with one another...”

At the same time, they wanted to help parents, educators, researchers, and designers understand how online technologies and communities can support creative learning. At Scratch conferences, people converge to share ideas, engage in peer-to-peer discussion, participate in hands-on workshops, and build upon one another’s ideas.

Since the first conference, the Scratch Team has organized and hosted Scratch@MIT every other year. In the years in between, members of the global Scratch community have organized and hosted conferences — in Barcelona in 2013, and in Amsterdam in 2015.

In 2017, in celebration of Scratch’s 10th anniversary, there were six regional Scratch conferences around the world, stretching across oceans, continents, cultures, and languages.

The Scratch Foundation spoke with the regional organizers to learn what motivated and surprised them about hosting a conference, and what they hope Scratch will bring to their respective communities.

Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.


China*Love
Shanghai, China | May 20–21, 2017

The China*Love conference invited teachers, parents, and anyone passionate about education to share ways to promote learning and creative expression with Scratch in China. Organizers hoped to inspire creative confidence in both children and adults. The Scratch Foundation spoke to Jovi Tong about the event.

What kind of experiences did you hope to create during the conference?

We wanted to create a free and fun experience and emphasize that Scratch is about self-expression, not just software skills. We wanted to allow kids to play freely, rather than teach them step-by-step coding.

Why did you decide to host a Scratch conference in your region?

Out of love for creative education. We hoped to open more teachers’ and adults’ eyes and minds to this kind of creative learning, so that in turn, they can open more minds and impact more lives.

What moment during the conference was most memorable you?

Seeing all of the smiling faces. Children shared their projects proudly and confidently to strangers, and parents saw qualities and strengths in their own children that they had not seen before.


Scratch2017BDX: Opening, Inspiring, Connecting
Bordeaux, France | July 18–21, 2017

The Scratch Conference in Bordeaux, France, attracted a diverse group of attendees of all ages — from 40 countries, and ranging from roboticists and coders, to teachers and researchers. Scratch2017BDX focused on celebrating creativity and exploring new discoveries about Scratch and beyond. The Scratch Foundation spoke to Joek van Monfort about the event.

What kind of experiences did you hope to create during the conference?

We wanted the conference to ignite sparks and create in-between time to explore together. We worked hard to facilitate many hours of informal gathering.

What moment during the conference was most memorable you?

An unexpected great “moment” was the Saturday after the conference at Marché des Douves, when some 30 unstoppable attendees facilitated bonus Scratch workshops for children of Bordeaux and each other.

What made this conference different from previous ones you’ve hosted?

The participation of Africans in Bordeaux showed us just a glimpse of what Scratch means to people on their huge and wildly-diverse continent. They were very much inspired by Mercy Ngoiri’s Scratch-n-Sketch Adventure and Bubble103’s participation in 2016 Scratch Conference at the MIT Media Lab. These two women inspired attendees with truly original ways of widening Scratch’s walls.


Scratch 2017 @ Budapest
Budapest, Hungary | August 24–25, 2017

Organized by EPAM Systems, the Scratch Conference in Budapest invited members of the Scratch community to meet, share, and collaborate with one another. With free admission for all participants, the conference was a unique opportunity for educators from schools, clubs, and universities from nearly 26 countries to revel in creative thinking and coding. The Scratch Foundation spoke to Shamilka Samarasinha about the event.

What kind of experiences did you hope to create during the conference?

Our aim was to bring together the Scratch community from across the world to share their knowledge and experience in teaching Scratch to children in schools, clubs, and community centers.

Why did you decide to host a Scratch conference in your region?

Hungary, specifically, has a long history of teaching Scratch. EPAM Hungary has a very established eKids program, which is our signature program that encourages primary-aged children to learn coding through hands-on challenges and close mentoring opportunities with our employees. There is a very active Scratch community in Central Europe — and given how popular our EPAM eKids program is — we felt it was timely to host a Scratch conference in this region. The attendance and engagement at the conference reflected how important the event was for educators of this region.

What moment during the conference was most memorable you?

There were many wonderful memories, but one of the most significant moments was when Mitchel [Resnick] took the stage. His presence and impact is phenomenal and inspiring–it was that moment when we realized after eight months of planning that the conference was actually happening!

What surprised you about organizing a Scratch conference?

While we were excited to host the event, we didn’t anticipate the number of people that would actually attend the conference. We were pleasantly surprised when so many people were interested and not just from the region, but from the United Kingdom, the United States, and Asia, too. The conference also engaged an incredible amount of people on social media, resulting in over five million impressions!


Scratch al Sur 2017: Imaginando, creando, compartiendo
Santiago, Chile | August 31-September 1, 2017

Scratch al Sur 2017 emphasized the importance of introducing programming languages in schools in South America. The lectures and workshops mainly addressed school teachers of all levels and subjects. The organizers hoped to build a “Spanish Scratch Community,” with people from different countries who share the same language. We spoke to Rodrigo Fabrega Lacoa about the event.

What was the goal of the Scratch conference in Chile?

The main purpose of our conference was to promote the use Scratch as a tool for creativity in the classroom.

Why did you decide to host a Scratch conference in your region?

The community of Scratch users has significantly grown in Chile. We observed that previous local Scratch Day events have had excellent participation. We wanted to be part of celebrating the tenth anniversary of Scratch, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity for teachers to share their experiences, participate in the different workshops, and learn more to share with their students.

What moment during the conference was most memorable for you?

It is difficult to mention only one, but from the students’ point of view, the most memorable moment was when they had the chance to talk to the co-director of Scratch, Andrew Sliwinski, ask him questions, and show him some of their projects and ideas for the future. It was also very meaningful for teachers to participate in different workshops. This allowed for important academic exchange between the participants, as well as gave different generations an opportunity to share their common interest in Scratch.

After the conference, people who couldn’t attend the event contacted us to ask us to organize events in other cities in the country. That is why we organized two additional events in December 2017, one in the south of Chile and another in the north. This is the best sign of the impact this type of conference has — people from different countries who speak the same language can create a Spanish-speaking Scratch community.


Conferência Scratch Brasil 2017 
São Paulo, Brasil | September 28–30, 2017

Organized by Centro Interdisciplinar em Tecnologias Interativas, Universidade de São Paulo (CITI-USP), Rede Brasileira de Aprendizagem Criativa, and LSITec, with the support of the Lemann Foundation, Conferência Scratch Brasil 2017 served as a meeting point for educators, researchers, developers, and makers interested in creating, sharing and learning with Scratch.

Attended by participants from all over Brazil and other parts of South America, the conference fostered discussions about creative computing, the use of Scratch in and out of the classroom, and other important themes related to Brazil’s adoption of Scratch. The Scratch Foundation spoke to Leo Burd about the event.

Why did you decide to host a Scratch conference in your region?

Brazil is a large country — roughly the same size as the US, with about 200 million inhabitants — with unique characteristics in terms of infrastructure, cultural values and educational organization. It would be great to organize an event that focused on our specific needs and goals.

Although there are relatively many Scratchers in Brazil, most of the Scratch-related educational initiatives seem to be isolated and disconnected from one another. It would be great to bring the community closer together.

There are some good opportunities to expand Scratch throughout the country. The conference would help us attract new people from places we have never interacted with.

Many Brazilians adopt Scratch without necessarily knowing where it came from or the educational ideas associated with it. The conference would provide a space to talk about creative learning and interact with the MIT team.

What kind of ideas and insights from the conference do you hope Brazilian educators will carry with them in their own work?

We hope the conference helps Brazilian educators realize that Scratch has been created to foster personal expression and can be used in a wide variety of ways, and that they themselves can be seen as designers of amazing learning experiences for their students. We also want them to know that they are not alone; there are many other educators also experimenting, learning and inventing new ways to improve their own practices.

What kind of impact do you think Scratch can have in Brazil?

We hope Scratch can serve as a “trojan horse” that will bring more hands-on, relevant, and creative ideas into Brazilian schools and after-school settings. Unfortunately, the Brazilian education system is very traditional. It also lacks the technology infrastructure and the professional development opportunities that are available in North America and Europe. Scratch is one of the few “creative learning” tools that is already available in public school labs. By highlighting its possibilities, we encourage new practices and provide more opportunities for children of all ages to learn and express themselves in meaningful ways.


Scratch Conference Costa Rica: People, Projects, and Places
San José, Costa Rica | November 10–12, 2017

Scratch Conference Costa Rica united teachers, students, businesses, and leaders on a community-level, to ensure that coding and design are part of every child’s education, starting with Scratch. ScratchJr’s Marina Umaschi Bers also delivered a plenary about learning to program through playing. The Scratch Foundation spoke to Eleonora Badilla about the event.

Who attended the conference?

The conference was intergenerational — parents parents attended with preschool and school-aged children to learn together; high school and college students presented their projects and participated in a Scratch-a-thon; teachers and college faculty participated in Scratch workshops to learn more ways to foster creative learning for themselves and others.

Why did you decide to host a Scratch conference in your region?

Costa Rica is a small country with a long history of using computers in education with a constructionist approach. Logo was introduced in our public school in 1989 with the guidance of Seymour Papert, Mitchel Resnick, and others. We are still committed to creative learning using technology, so we want to create a community of Scratch users and creative learners across the country beyond classrooms and including people of all ages.

What moment during the conference was most memorable you?

Mitchel Resnick’s closing talk about fostering creative thinkers through “projects, peers, passion, and play.” It was a profound moment that gave meaning to the hands-on experiences throughout the day.

What kind of ideas and insights from the conference do you hope Costa Rican educators will carry with them in their own work?

We hope they will adopt the belief that education can be different, spaces can be organized in different and more stimulating ways, and that focusing on creative thinking is a must for all of us living on this planet.


This year’s Scratch@MIT conference, “The Next Generation,” will be held July 26–28, 2018 at the MIT Media Lab. The Scratch Team expects high attendance and participation from members of the global Scratch community. Registration for the conference opens on March 1, 2018. For more information, visit scratch.mit.edu/conference.

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