We found Scratch at the Makers Fair in Kansas City. I haven’t spent a much time as I’d like to with my kid on it - but she enjoyed it. I showed it to the computer teacher of her school and she fell in love with it and has made it part of her curriculum.
If you’ve learned Scratch and want to move onto making more complex games, you could try using Stencyl. It uses the same programming interface with a bunch more features. It’s sadly not open-sourced but it does let you target e.g. iOS and they’re working on proper native support and Android.
I always enjoyed Scratch. Here’s a quick “game” I made where you can draw your own race track (after clicking the “2” at the top) and a little crab will try to race to the end. The total program is about 20 lines long.
I also took the idea and built some very simple physical programming blocks, where a kid can put blocks together to play a tune or make something happen. I think I’ll go back and try to extend that some day.
In high school I learned Basic and Visual Basic, but in college my first CS class actually started with a Scratch project (before switching to C). Then when I was in grad school, I once spent an afternoon at a magnet school teaching sixth graders programming in Scratch. Lowering the barrier to entry is a wonderful thing.
Professional environments which put so much effort into coding standards, code checkers, code reviews, etc would be better off if they just used a development environment like Scratch. Its what they really want, surely, but for some reason they can’t drag themselves away from plain text.
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