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April 30, 2020

Scratch in Quarantine

Grandchildren to the Rescue

We can’t touch our grandkids physically now, but we are in touch with them more than ever while they have no school and we can’t socialize otherwise. Usually we Skype but with a purpose. Mary reads books online with granddaughter P and does sewing projects with granddaughters M and L.

I Scratch. Scratch is a very graphic programming language invented at MIT and an excellent tool for teaching programming (except when it isn’t. complaints below.). 10-year-old granddaughter M is planning on being an astronaut and is assiduously preparing for her career. We’re working on multiplication tables and “scratch cards”, which she’s coded so that she and other home bounds can practice the times tables online. Her scratch cards are shared at https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/387802724/ in case your grandkids might enjoy them.


Along with the rules of if, else, when etc., I use Scratch to teach the programming ethic of sharing tips and code. We grownups use sites like stackoverflow to share; but Scratch has its own simplified sharing mechanism and its own wiki to consult for hints on hard-to-figure out things. With Scratch you either share or you don’t. I’d prefer more selective ways to collaborate, but the designers and overseers of Scratch consistently opt for simplicity.

Grandson J, 12, is an accomplished artist. He drew the quarantine mask on my avatar. He also loves games. So no surprise that he likes to use Scratch to build games with Anime-like characters. He’s become particularly adept at using the signaling and sensing structure of Scratch (its best features IMO). Two of his games are shared at https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/377539440/ and https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/377243754/.


Scratch is always open source; that means that you can see and learn from and copy the code from any shared project. You are asked to credit projects you learned from. Comments are open for all these projects and I hope we get some constructive comments.

Granddaughter L, 10, and I have always enjoyed exchanging riddles. She excels at logic puzzles and math. She and I have been working on formal Boolean logic, but Scratch is not particularly good for that. It has the logic operators AND, OR, XOR and NOT; but you can only assign the value “True” by assigning 1=1 or some other tautology. Complex mathematical and logical statements are almost impossible to read. L and I are going to move on to Python soon and I look forward to showing you what she does with that.

 See: An Old Dog, Scratch, and Python

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