Scratch and Scratch Jr.

Origin of name

“Scratching” in the language of computer science means to recycle code that can be beneficial and effectively used for other purposes and easily combined, shared and adapt to new scenario, which is a key feature in Scratch – “remix”, in which users can download and build up on public projects uploaded by other users. It also gives credit to the participant who built on the original work and to the participant who created the original program The name was derived from the turntablism's technique of scratching (i.e. mixing sounds), relating the ease of mixing sounds to the ease of mixing projects made with Scratch. (Wikipedia)


Scratch was developed as a networked, media-rich programming environment, designed specifically to enhance the development of technological fluency at after-school centers in economically disadvantaged communities, grounded in the practices and social dynamics of the Computer Clubhouse, a network of after-school centers where youth (ages 10–18) from low-income communities learn to express themselves with new technologies. The researchers studied how Clubhouse youth learned to use Scratch to design and program new types of digital-arts projects, such as sensor-controlled music compositions, special-effects videos created with programmable image-processing filters, robotic puppets with embedded controllers and animated characters. Scratch's networking infrastructure, coupled with its multilingual capabilities, enabled youth to share their digital-arts creations with other youth across geographic, language, and cultural boundaries. (Wikipedia)

Jordan Shapiro ContributorFollow Following Unfollow

       I am full-time father of two little boys. I teach in Temple University's Intellectual Heritage Department. I write regularly for Forbes, Mindshift KQED, HuffPo, and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. I speak internationally about edTech, game based learning, and 21st Century parenting. I hold a PhD in Depth Psychology, specializing in Jungian/archetypal psychology and phenomenology/Heideggerian philosophy. In particular, I study the ways video games (and other new forms of interactive storytelling) teach us to make sense of the world. My most recent book is: "FREEPLAY: A Video Game Guide to Maximum Euphoric Bliss." Email:

                         The MIT Media Lab recently released ScratchJr, a free iPad app that helps children 5-8 learn how to code. The app is a collaboration between the MIT Media Lab, Tufts University, and Playful Invention Company (PICO).

The original Scratch programming language is already used by millions of older kids, but it was too complicated for younger kids. The Scratch team redesigned the interface, simplifying it in order to make it more accessible to younger kids.

I downloaded ScratchJr and then handed the iPad to my six year old. He was instantly engaged. While he was playing–creating stories through an interface that teaches the basics of coding–I shot an email to Mitchel Resnick, one of the creators of Scratch. I wanted to learn a little more about the thinking behind ScratchJr.

The following is the conversation between Mitchel and me. We cover scratch, literacy, play, expression, and early childhood creativity.

Jordan Shapiro: Scratch and ScratchJr are digital apps that introduce children to basic coding through a simple drag and drop interface. I’ve seen some young people create pretty amazing things with the original Scratch: building their own games, making short films, even creating really engaging animated presentations. It is great because it is simultaneously silly and serious. ScratchJr is a brand new iPad app aimed at younger kids.

Can you explain how and why you created Scratch in the first place? Also, tell us about specifically about ScratchJr How is it different? Why is it important?

Mitchel Resnick: My research group at the MIT Media Lab spends a lot of time working with young people. We saw that many young people wanted to create their own interactive stories, games, and animations, but traditional programming languages were not designed with kids in mind. There was clearly a need for a new type of programming language. At the same time, we knew that learning to program would be a rich learning experience for young people. So we developed Scratch to meet a need — but also to provide new learning opportunities.

We developed Scratch for ages 8 and up. But we believed that younger children would also enjoy (and benefit from) learning to program. So we decided to develop ScratchJr for children ages 5 to 7. We teamed up with Marina Bers, a professor of child development at Tufts University, and we redesigned the Scratch interface and programming language to make them developmentally appropriate for younger children, carefully designing features to match young children’s cognitive, personal, social, and emotional development.

JS: You lead the MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten Research Group. I’ve always loved the name. I’m guessing that most people hear “kindergarten,” think about finger painting and body tracings, and imagine it is all about childish irreverence. In fact, kindergarten, done well, is really way more structured than that; play is the rigorous work of young people. Kindergarten should offer playful ways for kids to experientially learn the building blocks of rational thinking and meaningful articulation. ScratchJr introduces algorithmic thinking to young kids in a creative way. Children go through the basic motions of coding even though they don’t necessarily realize it. You’ve said that Scratch and Scratch Jr. are not only about “learning to code,” but also about “coding to learn.” Can you briefly explain what you mean by that? What are some of the critical non-STEM skills that children can learn from Scratch and ScratchJr?

MR: As children code with Scratch and ScratchJr, they learn strategies for solving problems, designing projects, and communicating ideas. They learn how to divide complex problems into simpler parts, how to iteratively refine and improve their work, how to remix and build on the work of others, how to persevere in the face of challenges. These skills are important for everyone, not just people who will grow up to become scientists, engineers, or computer scientists.