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What’s the best first coding platform for young coders? Code.org vs. Scratch

Code.org and Scratch are the 2 most popular platforms for young coders learning to code for the first time. They both focus on logic and computational thinking and are free to use. 

Kids tend to prefer Scratch, teachers tend to prefer Code.org. We love both, and we’ll explain why here. 

Both Code.org and Scratch are browser-based software platforms enabling any student with a Chromebook or other computer to use and save projects in the cloud. Much more user friendly and dynamic than textbooks! (Code.org also works great on tablets, Scratch doesn’t, but has a simplified Scratch Jr. app instead). 

Each platform has a different teaching approach-- we recommend using multiple platforms, similar to how you’d teach a foreign language using multiple techniques (flashcards, conversation practice, watching videos, worksheets). It helps to reinforce concepts in different ways. 

Here’s what we like about Code.org:

  • Has a developed Learning Management System. Their teacher dashboard makes it really easy for teachers to set up student accounts, monitor student progress, and assign classes to certain curriculum levels. We can tell they’ve worked directly with teachers to make this easy.
  • Partners with Disney and other brands so that the characters that kids love are incorporated in the platform (Frozen, Moana, Minecraft, etc.). A lot of kids will say “I want to play the Minecraft one!” and get super excited from the get-go.
  • There’s a clear scope and sequence to the Code.org puzzles. They’ve thoughtfully built it out so that lessons build on each other and so that key concepts are reviewed. Students move forward when they pass each level-- this is especially great for kids who like the constant positive reinforcement of passing.
  • Students can see the corresponding JavaScript code (in theory at least-- they have to press an additional button). Code.org is building out more curriculum with real code.
  • Teachers get an answer key-- so even teachers with no background in coding feel like they always have that to rely on.

The main con is that kids, especially older ones, may get bored. There’s not a ton of freedom to experiment and build what you imagine.

Here’s what we like about Scratch:

  • Scratch is an open-ended platform which makes it accessible for early learners but also offers a lot of opportunity for complex projects. Check out how someone re-created Super Mario Brothers.
  • Kids tend to love the freedom and creative options. From the get-go, you’re able to use the full range of coding blocks. There’s something for everyone-- you can build a multi player game with a point system, a chat bot, an animated story, etc.
  • You can import and edit images, so you can fully design an avatar/Sprite and use it in your game.
  • They just created some Teacher/Admin capabilities recently which have been a huge time save, though it’s still pretty basic (bulk user account creation, etc.)

Scratch can be overwhelming for new teachers because there’s few built in tutorials and the open-ended nature of it means there’s not an “answer key” (which actually mirrors real life coding better). While Scratch doesn’t transition into real code with syntax, the functionality is so expansive you can teach all the major computational thinking concepts through it.

 

At CodeSpeak Labs, we’ll often start off the basics with Code.org and then transition to Scratch.

 

Do you have anything to add? Let me know jen(at)codespeaklabs.com.

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