I’m one backer on Kickstarter of a project to bring the programming language Scratch to 5-7 year olds. Called ScratchJr, it’s already showing great promise on iPads in schools in Massachussetts. The project has already surpassed it’s original $25,000 goal to finish it’s development for the iPad, and last week made it over the $55,000 stretch goal to release an Android version too. With two weeks to go, we are some $15,000 short of the last remaining stretch target ($80,000) needed to fund associated curriculum and teaching notes.
The one danger of tablets is that they tend to be used in “lean back” applications, primarily as a media consumer delivery devices. Hence a fear amongst some teachers that we’re facing a “Disneyfication” of use, almost like teaching people to read, but not to write. ScratchJr will give young students their first exposure to the joy of programming; not only useful for a future in IT, but also providing logic and design skills useful for many other fields that may stimulate their interest. I thought the 7-year old kids in this video were brilliant and authoritative on what they’d achieved to date:
I opted to pledge $45 to contribute and to buy a branded project t-shirt for my 2 year old granddaughter; there are a range of other funding options:
- $5 for an email from the ScratchJr Cat
- $10 for your name in the credits
- $20 for a ScratchJr Colouring Book
- $35 for some ScratchJr Stickers
- $40 (+$5 for outside USA delivery) ScratchJr T-Shirt (Kid or Adult sizes)
- $50 for an invite to a post launch webinar
- $100 for a pre-launch webinar with the 2 project leaders
- $300 to receive a beta version ahead of the public launch
- $500 for a post-launch workshop in the Boston, Mass area
- $1000+ for a pre-launch workshop in the Boston, Mass area
- $2000+ to be named as a Platinum Sponsor in the Credits
- $5000+ for lunch for up to 4 people with the 2 Project Leaders
I once had a project earlier in my career where we managed to get branded teaching materials (about “The Internet”) professionally produced and used in over 95% of UK secondary schools for an investment of £50,000 – plus a further £10,000 to pay for individual and school prizes. In that context, the price of this program is an absolute steal, and I feel well worth every penny. Being able to use this across the full spectrum of Primary Schools in the UK would be fantastic if teachers here could take full advantage of this great work.
So, why not join the backers? Deadline for pledges is 30th April, so please be quick! If you’d like to do so, contributions can be pledged here on Kickstarter.
Footnote: a TED video that covers Project Leaders Mitch Resnick’s earlier work on Scratch (taught to slightly older kids) lasts 15 minutes and can be found here. Scratch is also available for the Raspberry Pi; for a 10 minute course on how to code in it, i’d recommend this from Miles Berry of Roehampton University.