ICT in many schools is treated as an independent part of the curriculum with pupils trained in a computer lab to use computer applications as an office worker might use computer software as part of their daily routine. Many topics that form part of the curriculum are suitable for teaching as part of a computer programming course but are usually taught with simplified applications that stick to the minimum required by the curriculum and leave little scope for creativity or stretching a child’s knowledge.
Scratch offers an opportunity to teach children as young as seven years old how to program a computer and create powerful multimedia applications and games. The thought processes involved in collaborating in the planning, design, creation, and fixing, of a computer application can bring out and improve communication skills in many children. Using Scratch in a variety of ways to improve digital literacy as well as computer programming skills empowers pupils to learn how to control the computer and break free from the limitations of the simplified applications currently used to satisfy the minimum requirements of the curriculum.
Scratch offers the teacher the opportunity to embed the computer into everyday school activities by getting the class to develop skills in digital literacy related to a variety of topics in the curriculum. Sounds, pictures, photos, and data can be combined in a Scratch application for many topics in the curriculum and used to create a class showcase for parents and other children in the school to see.
Teachers and educational establishments need access to the resources and training required to give teachers the experience and confidence to incorporate Scratch into their lesson plans for ICT as well as other topics on the curriculum.
Scratch was released in 2007 and has made little impact in schools in the UK over the past two years. The task now is to motivate local authorities to provide the budget and resources to expose teachers to Scratch and give them the opportunity to incorporate computer programming and digital literacy into the curriculum. The adoption might be incremental at first and geared around satisfying the ICT curriculum, but Scratch may have the potential to help begin the process of embedding the computer into everyday classroom activities as part of an overall approach to teaching digital literacy.