SCRATCHJR: CODING AS AN INNOVATIVE APPROACH TO MULTIMODAL LITERACY

 

ScratchJr is an introductory programming language application designed for children ages 5-7 to create interactive stories and games. Both ScratchJr and its big brother, Scratch, designed for users ages 8 and up, were created by MIT Media Lab to teach coding to children. ScratchJr is a free app for both iPad and Android tablets.

In ScratchJr, users put programming character blocks together that are interactive and move, jump, dance, and sing. Users can edit voices and sounds, including adding their own voices, and they can even insert their own pictures to make the blocks come to life. The goal of ScratchJr is to make coding fun and a part of students’ literacy education.

According to the creators of ScratchJr, “Coding (or computer programming) is a new type of literacy. Just as writing helps you organize your thinking and express your ideas, the same is true for coding. In the past, coding was seen as too difficult for most people. But we think coding should be for everyone, just like writing.”

ScratchJr has an innovative approach to literacy as the goal of ScratchJr is to encourage children to create and express themselves via coding. Writing via code allows students to “write” interactive stories, games, animations, and simulations. They begin with planning, rough drafts, editing, and finally publishing as they share content they have coded. Not only do students move through the creative process, they are also given opportunities for problem solving skills, sequencing skills, and math and language skills. Students are constructing meaning through coding, and as ScratchJr states, “children aren’t just learning to code, they are coding to learn.” This multimodal approach to literacy and learning gives students the opportunity to take learning to the next level and create such things as animation, virtual tours, simulations, PSAs, multimedia projects, interactive tutorials and stories.

ScratchJr offers four projects students can work on. However, in addition to providing projects, the app also offers manipulatives, such as printable coding blocks, an animated genres curriculum, which has three modules: Collage, Story, and Game, a playground games curriculum in which students can recreate popular playground games, and activities that reinforce the Common Core standards, including upper and lower case letters and counting.

ScratchJr provides children an interactive, multimodal approach to learning coding as well as offering practice of highly transferrable literacy and learning skills.

Sources:

ScratchJr – Home. (n.d.). Retrieved September 9, 2015.

Shapiro, J. (2014, August 6). Your Five Year Old Can Learn To Code With An IPad App. Retrieved September 9, 2015.

Emily Clemons
English teacher|District Tech Staff|Speech Coach|Fusing technology with lifelong learning|EDM:EPOL,LDL:TSE|Mom to 3 techies