On May 16, two years from the day of its initial launch, the Media Lab-developed programming language Scratch is being celebrated with events in more than 100 locations in 41 countries around the world, says its creator, Mitchel Resnick.
Resnick, the LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research at the Media Lab and head of the Lifelong Kindergarten group, led the team that created Scratch as a way of enabling kids to create their own interactive stories, games and animations -- and to help them learn to think creatively, reason systematically and work collaboratively. Programs can be constructed, using the free downloadable software, simply by snapping together colorful little modules that look, and function, much like LEGO bricks.
The resulting programs, games, interactive stories and so on can then be uploaded to the Scratch site, where other users anywhere in the world can see, play with and modify them. Scratch is currently available in more than 50 languages, making it easy for users around the world to collaborate and build on one another's projects.
Every month, the Scratch web site has been getting a half-million unique visitors. More than 275,000 people have registered to be able to upload their projects to the site, and almost one million have downloaded the Scratch software to their computers. About one project per minute (1,500 per day) gets uploaded to the site. The software download, and access to all the projects that have been uploaded, are available at http://scratch.mit.edu.
Even the "Scratch Day" events, except for the one at the Media Lab, are entirely initiated and run by the worldwide community of users, with very little promotion by the Scratch team. In addition to dozens of local gatherings in the United States, there will be events around the world, from Europe and South America to China, India and even Iran. "We didn't promote it, hardly at all," says Resnick, who was delighted to see how it took off as a grassroots movement. "It's an indicator of the interest in Scratch around the world."
In Cambridge, the afternoon events (already closed, having reached the maximum number of registrations) will consist of a set of four parallel workshops. The event is aimed both at students who use the software and parents and teachers who work with them.
Within the next few months, the Scratch team will be launching a new web site aimed specifically at educators who work with the language, providing resources and suggestions. They will also be holding a workshop this summer for teachers.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 13, 2009 (download PDF).