As homebound students and teachers looked for online resources during the pandemic, many turned to Scratch, a free coding system for kids developed by the MIT Media Lab.
Scratch was already a popular option. It’s been around since 2007 as a way to make animations and simple video games by combining Lego-like icons representing different coding functions. But in the 12 months beginning in March 2020—as schools across the country went remote for health reasons—usage spiked, and the number of projects shared on the service rose to 23 million, roughly double the amount from the previous year.
Meanwhile the service has been going through some big changes behind the scenes. Starting in 2019, leaders have been moving the project out of the Media Lab to spin it off as its own nonprofit, called the Scratch Foundation, with new digs just across the Charles River in Boston. And there’s a new focus on supporting better teaching practices around using Scratch rather than just doing software updates. (A new refresh of the Scratch system had just been released in January 2019.)
As part of that push, the group is holding its first online conference for educators next week. In the past, Scratch had held events at the Media Lab for teachers, but those were always limited to a few hundred participants and required a registration fee. This year the event is free, and there’s no cap on attendees—already more than 4,000 people from about 120 countries have signed up.
EdSurge connected this week with the MIT professor whose research group developed Scratch, Mitch Resnick, to hear what’s next for the coding tool and what he learned from remote learning during the pandemic. The interview has been lightly edited for grammar and readability.