This collaborative project between Tufts University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is researching and developing a new version of the Scratch programming language to be called ScratchJr, designed specifically for early childhood education (K-2). The current version of Scratch, which is widely implemented, is intended for ages 8-16 and is not developmentally appropriate for young children. This work will provide research-based evidence regarding young children's abilities to use an object-oriented programming language and to study the impact this has on the children's learning of scientific concepts and procedures. The team will develop ScratchJr in an iterative cycle, testing it in both in the Devtech lab at Tufts and the Eliot Pearson lab school and with a wider network of early childhood partners. At the end of the three-year project, ScratchJr will have been tested with approximately 350 students in K-2, 40 parents, and 58 early childhood educators.
ScratchJr will have three components: 1) a developmentally appropriate interface, with both touch screen and keyboard/mouse options; 2) an embedded library of curricular modules with STEM content to meet federal and state mandates in early childhood education; and 3) an on-line resource and community for early childhood educators and parents. The research questions focus on whether ScratchJr can help these young children learn foundational knowledge structures such as sequencing, causality, classification, composition, symbols, patterns, estimation, and prediction; specific content knowledge; and problem solving skills.
This interdisciplinary proposal makes contributions to the fields of learning technologies, early childhood education and human computer interaction. ScratchJr has the potential for broad implementation in both formal and informal settings.