MIT Media Lab, an interdisciplinary research lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has announced a partnership with Google to assist developers create high quality coding experiences for kids.
The partnership will see both organization launch a new generation of graphical programming blocks called Scratch Blocks.
Scratch Blocks, built on Google’s Blockly technology and informed by the Scratch Team’s expertise in developing creative learning tools for young people – brings together two different programming formats – vertical (text-based) and horizontal (icon-based).
Vertical is the standard Scratch format. It uses blocks to snap together vertically, much like LEGO bricks while Horizontal, used in ScratchJr Software and labelled with icons, snaps together horizontally.
The horizontal format is friendlier for budding programmers and also better suited for devices with small screens.
This prototype implementation of horizontal Scratch Blocks controls a LEGO WeDo 2.0 device over a bluetooth connection.
Scratch Blocks will support both formats, making it easier for developers to create programming experiences for a wider range of people and devices.
“We see the Scratch-Google collaboration as a perfect match, with complementary areas of expertise and a shared set of values and beliefs,” MIT Media Lab stated on its blog.
Scratch Blocks’ underlying code will be open-sourced to enable developers easily integrate the blocks into games, and toys that they are creating for kids.
The first release of Scratch Blocks will also include a new rendering engine to support sprites and graphic effects, and a new audio engine to support creation with sound and music.
“While we’re excited about our next generation of Scratch, we’re also excited to share our ideas and technologies with other developers starting with the release of Scratch Blocks,” said MIT Media Lab.
It added, “Our highest priority is for kids to have access to great learning tools, whether developed by us or by others. Through our new collaboration with Google, our designs will become available to many more people, both developers and kids, around the world.”
Scratch is a visual programming language used by students, scholars, teachers and parents to easily create animations, games et al.
It was created to empower young people to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively.
Scratch is a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab.