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5 ways to support creative coding

By Natalie Rusk 12/7/2016

How can you help students learn to express their ideas through coding?

Our team at the MIT Media Lab developed Scratch so that students could create projects based on their ideas and imagination. Every day, young people around the world use the Scratch programming language to create and share thousands of dynamic projects on the Scratch website.

Yet many students aren’t sure how to get started coding their own projects.  

To address this, our team has launched a new set of free resources to help students learn to create with code. The Things to Try page offers a variety of project ideas, such as creating an animated story, making a pong game or designing a virtual pet. For each theme, students can use step-by-step tutorials or printable activity cards. In addition, the site offers educator guides you can use to organize a class or workshop based on the theme.

We’re excited that the activity cards are now available in a boxed set that are ideal for use in classrooms and other learning environments. The Scratch Coding Cards is a collection of 75 colorful cards with 10 project themes. The front of each card illustrates an activity students can do with Scratch, such as animating a character or keeping score in a game. The back of the card shows how to snap together blocks of code to make their projects come to life.  

These resources are designed to let students learn at their own pace and personalize their projects. Students can work individually or pair up to make projects together.

Here are five tips to help you support students in creating their own interactive projects.

1. Connect to interests: To engage students with diverse interests, focus on what young people can create with coding, such as making an animation, programming music or designing a game.

2.  Spark imagination: To help students envision the possibilities, begin by looking at a couple of examples and then invite them to brainstorm what they might like to make.

3.  Support collaboration: Arrange for students to work together on projects, exchange ideas and learn from one another.

4.  Encourage experimentation: To help students develop confidence in their problem-solving skills, encourage them to experiment and play with their code.

5. Celebrate sharing: To motivate communication and reflection, provide time for students to share their creations with friends and family, as well as on the Scratch online community.

Through the process of imagining, experimenting, coding and sharing their creations, students develop skills to become creative communicators, computational thinkers empowered learners, key skills highlighted in the 2016 ISTE Standards for Students.

Natalie Rusk, Ph.D., is a research scientist in the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab. She is one of the creators of Scratch and is the author of the Scratch Coding Cards.

It’s Computer Science Education week. Find great activities on the Scratch for Educators page or search for Scratch activities on Code.org.  

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