Computer lab sessions during school in the late 90’s were synonymous with one thing – Logo. This environment/programming language, call it what you may, had been the mainstay of computer lectures in nearly all schools across the country. Kids from the 3rd to 6th grade could be found carefully punching out the commands to solve the exercise and watch the ‘turtle’ zoom around doing their bidding. Behind the seemingly benign facade, Logo explored some of the very intricate aspects of functional programming and provided kids with an easy and an interactive way to pick up computer programming.
The only problem with Logo is that it’s too bland, no one let alone kids, likes to stare at a blank screen with a small triangle drawing squiggly lines everywhere. Enter Scratch – a brainchild of the excellent people over at the MIT Media Lab, the same people who came up with the revolutionary augmented reality technology called the Sixth Sense, a couple of years back. Imagine Logo with a colorful new interface, a Lego-like way of building your program from blocks, an online repository where you can share and discover new projects (a la Github) and above all the ability to replace the boring old triangular turtle with any graphic of your choice, and the end result is Scratch. The program and the interface are quite explanatory (the least you can expect from a programming language learning environment for kids). This workshop will cover everything from the setup to some programming fundamentals.
Head over to the Scratch download page and grab the latest version of the application for your operating system. The minimum requirements are Windows 2000 or later, Mac OS X 10.4 or later, Ubuntu Linux 9.04 or later. The installation method will change if you’re running Linux. On Ubuntu, just type in sudo apt-get install scratch in the terminal or look for Scratch in the Software Center. If you’re running Fedora, you can grab an RPM from goo.gl/zXFBX. On other Linux distributions you’ll have to manually build the project from the source code which can be found here goo.gl/BKX0E.
The Scratch team has also released a network installation executable so you can easily install and manage Scratch on multiple computers. Follow the instructions to install Scratch remotely on multiple machines. This can be especially helpful, if you plan to install it in the entire lab.
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