Platform: iOS 7 or later/compatible with iPad
OK, I know some of you are saying, "Wait, I thought this was the YALSAblog for those working with teens. What's up with a review of an app that's for really young kids?" It seems crazy that the YALSAblog App of the week would review something like ScratchJr, but I have to say, there's a lot to make it worth recommending to staff working with teens and to teens themselves.
- ScratchJr is a perfect way for any adult - library staff member, parent, teacher, etc. - to start learning about why all of this talk about teaching young people how to code is important, to begin to understand what block-based coding is all about, and to be able to gain some skills so to be better prepared for STEM-based programs that might be rolled out that integrate critical thinking, problem-solving, etc. within a coding environment.
- Any library that is giving teens the chance to work with younger children on coding projects will want to know about ScratchJr. It's a perfect app for teens to use with kids to get the younger kids started on learning how coding works and on STEM-based activities that integrate critical thinking and problem-solving. If the teens you work with are working on this kind of project, it's also a perfect opportunity for teens to have a chance to talk and think about how to present the information to children, how to plan and implement a program of this kind, and so on. It will take a lot of critical thinking and problem-solving on a teen's part to put together a ScratchJr program for younger children, and that's great.
When you get started with ScratchJr you'll need to start a new project. As with all Scratch software and apps, the new project starts with a cat as the main character of the story, or game, or activity you are going to program. And, as with all Scratch programs you can change that character and/or add more characters to the project you work on.
What ScratchJr and other programs of the same type is all about is learning how to program by creating a process that tells the cat - or other character that you use - to move in a certain way, say something, stop and pause for a period of time, and so on. The focus is on learning how the commands you put together have an impact on what's going on on the screen.
ScratchJr doesn't have as many commands to work with as it's parent product Scratch, but it has plenty to get started with for those who are learning how to program in this way. Users can move characters in all directions, have the character speak, record narration, hide and show characters and more. Users can also add backgrounds and change the look of a character using some simple character editing tools.
Any adult that is wondering what this coding thing that people are talking about as a part of learning for children and teens is all about, should try out ScratchJr as a first step in their own learning. Teens working to help younger kids will do well learning ScratchJr as well. It's worth the time to take a look and think about how ScratchJr does have an impact on the teens and the families that you work with.