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Introduction to Scratch

What is Scratch?

Scratch is a graphical programming language, developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Children can drag and combine code blocks to make a range of programs, including animations, stories, musical instruments and games. It’s a bit like the programming equivalent of LEGO!

Scratch editor
Scratch editor

Scratch allows children to learn coding concepts and create interactive projects without needing to learn a text-based programming language. This means they won’t be slowed down by their keyboard skills or the ability to remember complex code.

If children have a Scratch user account then projects can also be shared online with the Scratch community, giving children a real audience for their creations.

Scratch is used in many schools as part of the curriculum. Scratch is free to use and children can use it at home as well as during Code Club.

When children are ready they can try text-based languages such as HTML & CSS or Python, but there’s plenty of opportunity to develop useful skills in Scratch first.

Using Scratch

Online vs Offline

Scratch can either be used online in a web browser, or downloaded and used offline. There are advantages and disadvantages to either approach.

Using the online editor doesn’t require any software to be installed on the school’s network and means that children will always be using the latest version. It also means that children can access Code Club starter projects by clicking on a link rather than having to download starter projects and then open them.

Children with Scratch Accounts can also share their work and participate in the Scratch Community when using the online editor.

The online editor does require a constant Internet connection for saving work, and the offline editor may be a better choice if this is likely to be a problem.

Online Scratch Editor

Children can access the online Scratch editor at https://scratch.mit.edu or create a new Scratch project using http://jumpto.cc/scratch-new.

The online editor uses Flash so check that children will have access to a browser with a Flash plugin.

The Scratch Online editor can be used with or without Scratch Accounts.

Using Project Resources

Some Code Club projects have a starter project containing resources. When working with the online editor children use a short url to load a starter project in Scratch. If viewing the instructions online then they can simply click on the link in the document.

Children using a user account can click ‘Remix’ to get their own copy of the project. Children without accounts will be able to download their modified copy of the project.

Saving and Loading

When using online Scratch with user accounts children will save their work online.

It’s also possible to use online Scratch without user accounts provided children are able to save their work to the local network or a USB Flash drive.

Children use File → Download to your computer to save their work and File → Upload from your computer to continue working on a project.

Tip: It’s worth taking a copy of projects each week in case children accidentally download instead of upload.

Offline Scratch Editor

The Scratch offline editor must be downloaded and installed locally. Children must have access to local storage to save their work.

If you do have internet access then projects can be shared online from the offline editor if children have an account.

Using Project Resources

When working with the offline editor children use a short url to download the starter project to their Downloads directory and then open the project in Scratch.

If the children will not have internet access then the volunteer will need to download the starter project in advance and tell the children where to find it.

Saving and Loading

When using the Scratch offline editor children use Save (or Save As) to save a copy of a project and Open to load in a project to continue working on it.

Children will need to be able to save to a local network or a USB Flash drive.