What is Scratch? The visual programming language for kids

With the graphical programming language, children and teenagers learn to program in a fun way without needing any previous knowledge of programming. Instead of difficult-to-understand text code snippets, this project uses visual blocks and a drag-and-drop feature instead. We explain what Scratch is and how to join the platform.

What is Scratch?

When thinking about web programming languages, many people think of complicated, hard-to-understand text-based coding and source code. However, programming can also be simple. This is proven by simplified programming solutions such as scripting languages, visual programming and WYSIWYG editors. With the Scratch platform and its visual programming language, coding for kids is easier than ever

Unlike traditional programming languages such as Java and C++, Scratch uses a graphical user interface. This means that creative ideas from games and animations to interactive stories can be implemented quickly. To do this, graphical blocks are used in place of text-based coding. The graphical blocks can be easily pushed together to form stacks that syntactically match each other. Since only compatible blocks and data types can be combined, mistakes are easy to avoid. This is why Scratch is considered building-block programming. Our article ‘Learn to program with Scratch’ explains how children and teenagers can use Scratch and also provides step-by-step instructions for a simple Scratch project.

How long has Scratch been around?

Scratch originated from an open-source project, led by U.S. professor Mitchel Resnick and his Lifelong Kindergarten Group, a research team at the MIT Media Laboratory in Cambridge. The Lifelong Kindergarten Group handles Scratch’s development and support. Much of the funding comes from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and volunteer donors. The first version, which included an exclusive development environment based on Squeak, was released in 2007.

What makes Scratch so special?

Scratch aims to make it as easy as possible for children and teenagers (and adults who are starting to learn to code) to enter the world of programming. Since digital competencies and programming skills are among the key competencies of the future, Scratch shows what can be done with programming even if you don’t have prior experience with coding. Instead of investing lots of time and learning intensively, the focus is placed on flexibility, creativity and curiosity. The intuitive, block-based system which has a drag-and-drop feature lets users combine elements and engage in storytelling in a playful way.

Another advantage of Scratch is that it is currently used in over 150 countries and there are tutorials in over 40 languages. In addition to being used privately, it is also used in IT classes in schools. Finished projects as well as those still in progress can be published and shared on the Scratch platform, allowing the large community to help each other out and give each other advice. Scratch is free of charge, making it accessible to as many users as possible.

How do you register to use Scratch?

If you want to use Scratch, you don’t need to register or have an account. You can start programming your own projects right away by simply choosing your favourite browser and visiting the Scratch platform. To get started with a project, simply click on Start Creating. However, if you want to use the full range of Scratch features, a free Scratch account is required. With your own account you can save your animations, videos, games and interactive stories to the platform online or on your computer. In addition, you can choose which of your projects you want to share with the Scratch community.

How to become a Scratcher

To create a scratch account, complete the following steps:

  • Step 1: Click on Join.
  • Step 2: Enter a username in the designated field and then create a secure password. Then click on Next.
  • Step 3: Now enter your personal information such as your location and your date of birth.
  • Step 4: Enter a valid email address and confirm with Create Your Account.
  • Step 5: The registration will now take place automatically. You will also receive an activation link via email to activate your account. You can now use all the features available on the platform such as saving, commenting on and publishing Scratch projects.

Scratch for teachers

Scratch provides a special user account for teachers that allows you to create classes as well as individual accounts for students. You can request a teacher account from Scratch. The Scratch team will manually review each teacher account request. The review is usually carried out within 24 hours.

What are the benefits of using Scratch?

Scratch is suitable for anyone who wants to learn programming without spending a lot of time learning text-based code. The visual programming language’s strengths include:

  • Ease of use: Scratch is based on a graphical user interface and doesn’t contain complex code syntax. Functions and commands are graphically represented as blocks, which you move and assemble with drag-and-drop. Only syntactically compatible blocks fit together, which prevents errors from occurring. It is possible to change block stacks at any time.
  • Free usage: all Scratch features are free of charge in order to make the world of programming with Scratch accessible to as many users as possible.
  • Large community: Scratch is used worldwide both for personal use and by educational institutions. Since your own ideas and projects can be published and commented on via the Scratch platform, you have the opportunity to become part of a large, helpful community.
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