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The Scratch Community

The Scratch Community

Written by Laura Beth Fay
August 23, 2010

The programming language known as Scratch is a tool that has been used by students and educators throughout the world as a means of expression, collaboration, creative thinking development, and often just plain fun. The website is designed to be a worldwide hub for sharing, discussing, and learning about this tool and is an excellent resource for educators as well as students. The program is described on the site’s About page:

Scratch is a programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art—and share your creations on the web. As young people create and share Scratch projects, they learn important mathematical and computational ideas, while also learning to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively.

The front page of the site offers an array of resources both for those looking to get started in Scratch as well as returning “scratchers” who want to stay involved in the immense online community. For example, beginners can download the free software, view tutorials on the programming language, participate in a challenge from the design studio, or take a tour of the site. Educators will find a link to the ScratchEd site where they can share experiences and ideas.

Returning members will most likely head directly for the various featured sections where projects are highlighted based on what has been liked or viewed by the community most often, or even on the Scratch Curator’s favorite picks. This is where one of the most valuable features of the Scratch website lies. In sharing projects, students experience the joys of authentic publication of their work. Other community members give feedback on projects, which, in this community, is almost always positive in nature. One featured project received the following comments, “Hey really awesome project. Could you check out my project and its my first so can you tell me what to do better. Thanks.” “holy cow! i appreciate how hard it is to make decent animations on scratch, and this is incredible! excellent job!” The creator of the project responded to the overwhelming hits she received, “OH MY GOSH! Wow! I just logged on after being away for most of the summer and had over a hundred notifications! 😀 Thank you so, so much to all you kind people! I can’t believe my project was featured!” The site’s developers have managed to create an environment in which children and adults feel safe in communicating their ideas to one another.

The Projects and Galleries tabs offer a way for both students and teachers to find projects and ideas that suit their needs. There are an endless number of genres available and remixing projects is encouraged and well supported throughout the Scratch community. The idea of remixing often sparks meaningful discussion among community members about the importance of giving credit to another person’s ideas while at the same time recognizing the value of learning by expanding upon the work of others. The following is part of a conversation that took place during August 2010:

Flippers777: Someone stole my dinotopia project. They remixed and all they did was change the music, and they didn’t give me credit. Should i flag it?

JeanTheFox: Yes. If they did not give proper credit, it should be flagged 🙂

Gettysburg11: Agreed. Ripping off someone’s project is something that really isn’t tolerated around here.

Sabgames: Yes—I agree. Simply [copying] the project and making a minor change WITHOUT crediting you is pretty bad. If they credited you and changed the project a lot then, far do’s.

Paddle2See (Scratch Team): Remixing is encouraged…but claiming credit for somebody else’s work is not okay. It sounds like there might have been a mistake made in your case. You might want to send a message to the Scratch Team using the Contact Us form. Please include a link to your project and to the copied project.

Under the heading of Support, educators can find all of the information necessary to make using Scratch in a classroom environment fun as well as easy. There are reference materials such as a getting started guide, which includes color photos and step-by-step instructions for first-time users. There are also Scratch Cards for creating various types of effects in the Lego style programming language, like making a character follow the mouse pointer or keeping score in a game. For the most intense Scratch fans there are even links to buy Scratch-related merchandise.

Finally, but certainly of no less importance, is the Forums section. I find this one of the most interesting resources for my classroom. It is here that I find answers to any question that I might have about how to use Scratch. Moderated by members of the Scratch community, the Forums allow an opportunity for discussion on one of any number of topics. For example, under the topic Announcements, I found the newest released feature of the site, the Experimental Viewer, which allows users to see the code for a project while the projects plays. In another very meaningful conversation started in February of 2010, a teacher sparks a debate over projects that use violence and whether or not his 3rd through 5th grade students should be exposed to them.

The Scratch community is a dynamic environment that not only gives access to a fun resource but also provides a safe place where every student has a voice and every opinion is valued. In this age of social computing that can often be harsh and unwelcoming, the Scratch site is different. Because education and growth are at the heart of the site’s creation, the experience is unique and meaningful. It is a place where students can explore creatively, interact meaningfully, investigate inquisitively, remix respectfully, and share proudly. Happy Scratching.

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