Surely I'm not the only parent that worries about my kids' media consumption. But what if you can coax your conspicuous media consumer (a.k.a computer addict) into becoming a media producer? Like... program their own games, make their own animated shorts or express their ideas with self-made media collages? I'd be okay with that.
The folks over at the MIT Lifelong Kindergarten Research Group believe it's actually more than okay. Their blurb is: "We develop new technologies that, in the spirit of the blocks and finger paint of kindergarten, expand the range of what people can design, create and learn."
So they came up with Scratch - a programming language that makes it possible for kids to make their own stories, interactive games, animation, music and art. They can also share their creations on the web. In a you-tube like environment, Scratch kids from all over the world can comment - even collaborate - on one another's work.
You can download Scratch for free. Yes FREE. It works for Mac OSX and Windows. Developed for kids 8 to 18 years of age. Although, it was suggested younger kids may take to using the programming language with some adult supervision.
A little anecdote from Mitchel Resnick who heads MIT Lifelong Kindergarten: While visiting an after school center, I met a student who was creating an interactive game in Scratch. He didn't know how to keep score in the game, and asked me for help. I showed him how to create a variable in Scratch, and he immediately saw how he could use a variable for keeping score. He jumped up and shook my hand, saying thank you, thank you, thank you! I wondered how many eighth grade algebra teachers get thanked by their students for teaching them about variables?
Where was Mr. Resnick when we were in grade school? Good thing our kids can benefit from their work....