MakerSpace: Learning to Code in Scratch

We set out with several goals in mind when created the Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County in Ohio. One of those goals was to engage our teens in learning how to code. We created a bank of iPad stations to help facilitate this goal and pre-loaded it with […]

We set out with several goals in mind when created the Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County in Ohio. One of those goals was to engage our teens in learning how to code. We created a bank of iPad stations to help facilitate this goal and pre-loaded it with some coding apps. But if we are going to be honest, we are not reaching this goal. Part of the reason, I am sure, is because that the three of us, myself and two maker space assistants, don’t know the first thing about coding. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

A couple of weeks ago someone from Dorling Kindersley reached out to me and asked if I wanted to take a look at a couple of the coding books that they offer and I enthusiastically said yes. I need all the help I can get in this area. They sent me two books: Coding Games in Scratch

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and Coding in Scratch: Games Workbook

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My first question was: what is Scratch? Scratch is a programming language that is designed to be easy to learn. It more teaches you the concepts and ideas of coding then an actual code language. Using Scratch, you code using pre-made blocks. These blocks are called scripts and you can add and rearrange your scripts to make your program do whatever it is you want it to do.

This is page 16 and 17 of the Workbook. Those blocks of code you see on the left are scripts.

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These two books focus on coding games as an entry into the world of coding. They give some specific challenges for you to try to help guide your learning process and then they tell you how to achieve this goal so that you can be successful.

In comparison, one of the coding apps we downloaded onto our iPad stations is an app called GameForger. It also is an app that allows you to code and design a game. I tried using this app and could never really even get started. I found some information on a Reddit subforum, but I still couldn’t successfully use the app. One of our security guards also tried using this app and although he had much more success than I did, he too found it difficult to figure out and use.

But Scratch I could use successfully. You do have to download the Scratch application to use the program, but it is free. As I mentioned, there are specific lessons that you can follow in the book to get you started. And along the way there is a ton of helpful information including definitions, expert tips, and extrapolations to the larger world of coding. For example, after you program an “or”, “and” and “not” chain, there is an insert that explains to you that these are called logical blocks and how they are used in the wider world of programming. I thought it was an easy to understand entry into the idea of coding.

I still feel way in over my head when it comes to coding. I mean, I’m pretty impressed with myself when I go in and add a line break code to the HTML for this website. But I do feel like we can do a better job at my library of trying to introduce our teens to coding by providing these materials and a time to just work through some of the game design projects. Recommended.

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