STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books

The Official ScratchJr Book

Because I’ve shown an interest in coding in the past, No Starch Press was kind enough to offer me a review copy of The Official ScratchJr Book by Marina Umaschi Bers and Mitchel Resnick. (2015)

Sadly, I don’t have an iPad or Android-based tablet, so I was unable to download the ScratchJr app to test it, but judging by the book and my experience with Scratch, I’m sure it’s a wonderful tool for inspiring creativity and logical thinking.

Here’s what I like about The Official ScratchJr. Book:

  • It targets a very young audience – ages 5 and up
  • It can be useful for parents and teachers and librarians – especially those who might find coding to be intimidating
  • Unlike the Hour of Code (which I love and have used as a resource for library programming), The Official ScratchJr Book focuses more on inspiring creativity than learning the nuts and bolts of logical thinking
  • The above statement notwithstanding, it still can be used to learn the nuts and bolts of simple coding and logical thinking

If at first there was a great rush to teach kids to code, there is now a push in the opposite direction. Just Google “Should kids learn to code?” and you will find a wealth of opinion on either side. Personally, I liken the “argument” to car repair.  In days gone by, many people knew how to do most repairs on their automobiles.  Now, cars’ systems are so intricate, that most people have trouble doing anything other than the simplest of repairs.  Most people have cars.  Should we know how to repair them?  No, I don’t think so.  There will also be a need for an auto mechanic. But, knowing how to change a flat tire sure comes in handy!  If working on cars appeals to you, become a mechanic.  The same is true of coding.  Give it a try.  If your kids are looking for a follow up to the Frozen Hour of Code project, “Code with Anna and Elsa,” The Official ScratchJr Book is probably a good place to start (if you have a tablet that can run the ScratchJr app).

I’m going to pass my copy along to my school district’s media specialist.  The kids have Chromebooks and should be able to make good use of it.

(See all of my reviews at Shelf-employed)

 Copyright © 2016 L.Taylor at Shelf-employed. All Rights Reserved.

It’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)



Do you know Scratch?

If you don’t know Scratch, you don’t know what you’re missing!  Developed at the MIT Media Lab, with financial support from the National Science Foundation, Microsoft, Intel Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Google, Iomega and MIT Media Lab research consortia, Scratch is an easy, open source  programming language that can be used to program almost anything the imagination can conjure!

To give you an example — several years ago, without any help from me, my son drew a picture on MS Paint, and used Scratch to animate it.  The picture is below. If you click on it, you can view the image in Scratch and watch the man take a bite of the hamburger, chew, swallow, drink soda, swallow, and return to smiling.

Scratch Project

Click to view the project on Scratch, then click the green flag to animate it!

Fast food

The colored lines in the left frames are the lines of code required to animate the drawing.

My son created this by himself while in elementary school.  Imagine what he could have created if the following book had been available!

Super Scratch Programming Adventure! Learn to Program by Making Cool Games!  LEAD Project, 2012, No Starch Press.

Super Scratch Programming Adventure! is part instruction manual and part graphic novel. Mitch and Scratchy are trapped in a battle with the Dark Wizard and his Minions. You, the reader, can extradite them from predicaments using Scratch.  The story may not be engrossing, but it is a novel and entertaining way to introduce step-by-step coding instructions.  The reader is simultaneously creating video games and inhabiting one.  By the end of each of the book’s ten chapters, the reader will have a fully functioning game created from scratch (both literally and figuratively), with each chapter building upon knowledge from previous chapters.

The game I was creating with Super Scratch Programming Adventure! is lost to a pre-Superstorm Sandy computer, however, I can attest to the fact that it was fun, easy and satisfying.

The book is available in print or ebook (PDF) format.

Click here for a sample chapter from Super Scratch Programming Adventure!

Classroom teachers may not have the available time to devote to programming with Scratch, but they should certainly become familiar with it. Computer club advisers, homeschoolers, scouting groups, and parents of young “tech geeks” should not waste a minute in checking out Scratch’s infinite possibilities.  Suggested for ages 8 and up.

A sample of the games that can be created using Super Scratch Programming Adventure!

From the Scratch website:

“Scratch is a programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art — and share your creations on the web. As young people create and share Scratch projects, they learn important mathematical and computational ideas, while also learning to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively.”

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