Use Scratch to not only teach coding skills, but also the importance of digital citizenship. Scratch is an online platform that uses blocks of code to build scripts. Children can design animations, games, artwork, and more! By creating an account, they join the Scratch community.
When a student has a Scratch account, they become a Scratcher. This means they can sign in and save their coding projects. Their creations might include arcade games similar to those found in TechnoArcade. Or they could be stories or mazes like those in TechnoCode. No matter what students create, membership offers more than just programming tools. Instead, students can share their work with fellow Scratchers. This allows them to interact with others. By the way…if you want free digital citizenship resources go to the bottom of this blog post!
5 Ways to Engage in the Scratch Community
Here are five ways to engage in the Scratch Community:
- Share a Link: Anyone with the Internet can play a shared Scratch project. This is because every creation has its own unique URL. By copying the link and posting it elsewhere, family members and friends can play games, watch stories, and more – all without having a Scratch account.
- Remix: Scratch has a collaborative feature that allows members to transform an existing project into their own unique creation. This is done using the Remix button. This tool creates a copy of another person’s game or animation and places it into the user’s Scratch account. Now they can edit or remix the code to expand on the work. However, the original creator is identified in the remixed version.
- Favorite Projects: Scratchers can let others know they like their work by clicking the Like or Favorite icon below a project. Not only does this send positive feedback to others, but this form of engagement also provides a bookmarking system. Each Scratch account has a profile area that stores Favorites. This makes returning to other’s Scratch projects fast and easy.
- Post Comments: Scratch provides members with a moderated commenting system. Each Scratch project and Studio has a feature that controls whether comments are permitted. If turned on, fellow Scratchers can communicate with one another by posting feedback. This appears as a feed below the project, with a Scratcher’s nickname and avatar beside their post.
- Curate a Studio: Scratchers can organize their coding projects using a Studio. A Studio is a collection of Scratch projects. Each Studio has a unique URL. Student can share the Studio link, allowing others to play the Scratch games, animations, and stories. In addition, they can also invite Curators, which are fellow Scratchers, to include their own work into the same Studio. This is an excellent way to encourage collaboration.
Responsible Digital Citizenship
All these collaborative features in Scratch come with responsibilities. Your students must learn how to be responsible digital citizens. A digital citizen is defined as a person who develops the skills and knowledge to effectively use the internet and other digital technology, especially to participate responsibly in social and civic activities.
Any time students are online, they need to:
- demonstrate responsible digital citizenship
- display safe and ethical Internet use
- apply courteous communication skills
- follow conventional norms of netiquette
That is a lot to expect from young people. Educators should make these best practices an essential part of technology curriculum. Explicitly teach your students to be respectful, thoughtful, and safe. As a result, they can then become, in the words of Google, ‘internet awesome‘.
Keeping the Scratch Community Safe for Kids
To protect the privacy of children online, Scratch limits the personal information they collect and what they make public. As well, there is a built-in moderation system. However, to promote responsible digital citizenship below are a few suggestions to ensure safety for both students and teachers.
Tips for students:
- Profile – Students can share some information about themselves in the About me and What I’m working on boxes. However, encourage them to keep their profiles generic. They should never tell their actual name, phone number, school, or any details about where they live.
- Security – Every Scratch member has their own unique username and password. If a password becomes known to others, reset it using the Account Settings. As well, remind students to always sign out when finished working with Scratch.
- Avatar – Scratch members have a cat avatar by default as their profile picture. It’s fun to change the image to make it unique. Students should not use their own photo. Instead, they should pick something that represents an area of personal interest such as a favorite sport, hobby, or pet. Scratch Tip: Search the Internet using interest icon 500×500 to find suitable avatars.
- Commenting – Scratch is built on a foundation of sharing and learning collaboratively. However, students are in control. Demonstrate how to turn on and off comments to permit or restrict posts.
Tips for teachers:
As a teacher, it is important to create a safe learning community. One way to do this is to request a Scratch Teacher Account. Once approved, you get many bonus features that give you more control over how students interact when online:
- Student Accounts – Create or add students, either individually or using a csv file to upload multiple student accounts.
- Studios – Make separate class studios for each theme or set of projects.
- Moderate – Remove comments or unshare projects.
- Multiple class accounts – For teachers who have more than one class, make separate class accounts.
Introduce the Scratch Community Guidelines
Scratch provides members with advice to keep all communication and sharing of projects supportive, welcoming, and friendly. Discuss the Scratch Community Guidelines with your class before having students share their creations. Then they will be well prepared to learn from each other in a helpful, productive environment.
- Treat everyone with respect.
- Be safe: keep personal and contact information private.
- Give helpful feedback.
- Embrace remix culture.
- Be honest.
- Keep the site friendly.
6 Digital Citizenship Activities Before Using Scratch
Whether you plan to teach Scratch coding or not, digital citizenship is an important topic to teach explicitly. Even if your students never become Scratchers they can still practice being responsible digital citizens. Below are six ideas:
- Together with your students, devise a list of rules for working on the internet.
- Discuss possible awkward online scenarios and what to do when each is encountered.
- Provide a list of commenting samples or comment starters to act as a model.
- List ways to disagree politely with others if they have different opinions.
- Consider that feelings are not obvious in text messages, for example, sarcasm or jokes may be misunderstood.
- Discuss digital footprints. A digital footprint is the ‘trail’ of all of the information online about a person, either posted intentionally or unintentionally, as a result of online activity. For example, any of the following may leave permanent ‘footprints’: email, messages, posting photos, filling out a form, leaving a comment, updating status, checking into a location, and much more. It can also be referred to as a digital shadow. This analogy emphasizes the permanent nature of this record, as well as the inability of the owner to remove it. Use these bulletin board Digital Footprints to stress the value of leaving a positive digital reputation.