- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 12, 2015

VALPARAISO, Ind. (AP) - Ben Franklin seventh-grader Logan Ozdyk has wanted to be a computer programmer since he was in third grade.

He says anyone can learn the basics of computer coding with an easy computer programming language called Scratch.

The Valparaiso Community Schools took part in Scratch Day 2015 on Saturday at Benjamin Franklin Middle School. Scratch Day is a global network of events that celebrates Scratch, a computer language that helps young people with simple programming to create interactive stories, games, animation and musical projects.

Olga Granat and Cynthia Svilar are the technology integration specialists in the Valparaiso schools who organized the event. They work with teachers and students to introduce technology in the district.

Granat told The Times in Munster (https://bit.ly/1E2sMjQ ) that Scratch is an educational programming language from Massachusetts Institute of Technology aimed at third grade and older.

“The programming language is easy to use and a lot of fun, but can also go very deep with computational thinking and in fact is used in courses at the university level,” she said. “There is also ScratchJr, which is a tablet app, aimed at grades K-2. Scratch has strong ties to LOGO, another programming language out of MIT, that was very popular a few years back.”

Granat said she became familiar with Scratch about five or six years ago, and it is free for anyone to use.

“I introduce it to students, can walk away, and when I come back, they are ‘teaching’ me things,” Granat said. “Students, regardless of their academic backgrounds, pick up the language quickly. … It can truly equalize the playing field for many students,” she said.

Ozdyk was one of three students who led workshops on Scratch. Using the classic Atari 2600 console game, he taught parents, students and teachers pointers on creating a game using the Scratch language.

“Scratch is very easy to pick up,” Ozdyk said. “Sometimes, I’ll create a little game when I’m bored. Sometimes, I’ll create a program to do math and make the problem easier to work or I’ll use it to find the circumference.”

Hayes Leonard fourth-grader Wolfgang Saavedra heard about Scratch from his mother, June Saavedra, and participated in a structured program at the elementary school honing his programming and presentation skills. The youngster conducted a beginner’s session for people teaching them how to create a maze game using the Scratch language.

Valparaiso High School junior Kennedy Pony, one of several assistants during Scratch Day, said she honed her Scratch skills during a summer program at Indiana University Bloomington last year.

“I loved it,” she said.

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Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com

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