ScratchJr Review

ScratchJr is a collaboration between the Developmental Technologies (DevTech) Research Group at Tufts University (led by Marina Umaschi Bers) and the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab (led by Mitchel Resnick). It is on mobile platform (iPad and Android Tablet) that is specifically designed for young learners to express themselves creatively by creating collages, interactive stories, or even games through the concept of programming. Targeting K-2 (5-7 years old), ScratchJr teaches learners as young as kindergarten simple logic and age appropriate programming by using a finger to tap, drag, and drop in a manner that Scratch could not offer. Similar to Scratch, the software offers programming blocks for the young learners to snap together and create commands to bring the characters and scenes to life. It also offers various default characters and backgrounds for learners to use, modify, or even paint or take photos of their original ones.

Similar to Scratch, ScratchJr also fosters a constructionist design paradigm. Constructionism incorporates two types of construction: “construction of knowledge in the context of building personally meaningful artifacts” (Kafai & Resnick, 1996). ScartchJr encourages young users to plan and set a goal (Resnick et. al, 2009) while creating a meaningful game, narrative, or collage of things that they care about through simple programming blocks. Within the process, the software provides a tinkering space for young users to learn and experiment. They can try snapping multiple blocks to see how the program reacts right away. Moreover, there is no wrong way to play with the software. Moreover, there is no wrong way to play with the software. The design of the software supports“low floor” and “high ceiling” that is easy for young users to get started while still providing opportunities for the creation of more complicated projects over time (Resnick et. al, 2009). Unlike early programming software, where syntax is too difficult for young users to master, ScratchJr offers a more kid-friendly interface with bright and whimsical design, where the programmable actions can be inviting and meaningful to young users (Flannery, Silverman, Kazakoff, Bers, Bontá, & Resnick, 2013). Children become intellectually engaged when they work on personally meaningful activities and project (Kafai & Resnick, 1996). Some of the functions in the software like Paint Editor is designed to help the user’s art work be more precise, colorful, and personal so that the young users feel that they are making valuable creations. Although ScartchJr cannot be shared to a greater Scartch community because of the privacy issue, it can still have their own community of learners. Using iPad in the classroom context, the young learners can work on their individual projects while showing their unfinished projects to their peer and ask for feedback or build on top each other’s ideas.

For full review, click HERE

 

A Critique: Thomas and Friends

Thomas and Friends has been building an early foundation for the young viewers’ success for more than three decades. It supports children’s socio-emotional interactions, self-efficacy, and problem solving skills (HIT Entertainments & WNET, 2014) using cognitive theories like Social Cognitive Theory (Bandura, 2002) and Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (Mayer, 2001) to ensure effective learning. Inspiring children to be “really useful,” Thomas and Friends fosters children to take initiative and responsibility on their assignments. However, the animated series should not overlook the significance of playfulness that will extensively help children expand their learning moments.

For full critique, click HERE

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