App Name: Scratch Jr.
Developer: Scratch Foundation
Recommended Age: 5-7
Description: Scratch Jr. is an app developed by researchers at Tufts University and MIT for teaching coding and programming skills to young children. It is available in a variety of languages and was created on the premise that coding is a new literacy which should be readily available to everyone. Within the app, children use beginning programming language to create stories and games. There are a variety of background and characters available, and users can select commands to make characters move and interact in a variety of ways. There are also options to add text and sound. A parent guide is also included with more information about the app and coding, an interface guide, a paint editor guide, and a blocks guide which explains the various commands. An intro video shows how to use the app, and there is a gallery of sample projects which can also be changed and added onto.
Skills: coding, creativity, critical thinking, sequencing, storytelling, design
Curriculum connections: Math, Language Arts, Art
My thoughts: This is an impressive app, especially given the fact that it is free! There are also no ads or in-app purchase options, which is rare to find in free apps. It is visually appealing and the interface uses simple drag and drop effectively. I can see so many possibilities for learning here, but young children would definitely need some support in order to be successful using this app. There are many menus and different options, which could easily be overwhelming and confusing. However, with some practice and adult guidance, I can see this app being both fun and enjoyable for children as well as providing rich learning experiences. This is a great example of an app which encourages children to be creative thinkers and creators as opposed to consumers of technology!
Ideas for use: The creators of this app have also created an excellent website further explaining the app and including lesson plans, curriculum links, and assessment suggestions for teachers. There are some great ideas here! ScratchJr. website This app could be well used in small groups or partners, as students work on projects together. Students could create and record their own stories as well as using the commands to re-create familiar stories and situations.