There’s a lot of excitement here in the UK (and elsewhere in the world, for that matter) about children learning to code, with numerous apps already available to teach them first programming skills.
It comes from a good source too: it’s a collaboration between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Tufts University and a technology firm called Playful Invention Company, inspired by MIT’s visual programming language Scratch, which (on computers) is used in schools around the world.
ScratchJr brings the idea to Apple’s iPad for younger children: 5-7 year-olds. The idea: they’re learning to program “interactive stories and games” using easy-to-understand blocks of code.
“By snapping together graphical programming blocks, children can make characters move, jump, dance, and sing. In the process, children learn to solve problems, design projects, and express themselves creatively on the computer,” explains its App Store listing.
“They also use math and language in a meaningful and motivating context, supporting the development of early-childhood numeracy and literacy. With ScratchJr, children don’t just learn to code, they code to learn.”
That’s important: learning to code may not make your child the next Ada Lovelace or Alan Turing (or, if you insist, the next Mark Zuckerberg). But just as learning a musical instrument like the piano develops other skills, so programming may stimulate children. And, of course, they may simply enjoy it.
Anyway, we’re excited about ScratchJr for its focus on storytelling and creativity, as well as its open-ended nature: rather than completing exercises, children are making something. That said, this may mean they want a bit more help from you when they’re getting started – in itself, that might be a great chance to learn together.
ScratchJr is a free download for iPad from Apple’s App Store: the team behind it is a non-profit body, so there are no in-app purchases or advertising involved.