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Learning Programming from Scratch

Jun 6, 2012

Learning Programming from Scratch

Thursday 24th May saw 150 Transition Year students from around Kerry participate in the first IT Tralee Scratch Day. ‘Scratch’ is a programming language that makes it easy to create interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art, and to share these creations on the web. As young people create and share Scratch projects, they learn important computer programming principles, while also learning to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively. Learning programming from Scratch in Transition Year is easy and opens the door to the world of computing in time for students to make informed course and career choices. Programming lies behind all the technology that we are increasingly using and depending on in our lives.

The Department of Computing at IT Tralee launched its Scratch initiative in January aimed at encouraging students in Kerry to discover and learn about programming and software development. Paul Collins and Therese Enright of the Department of Computing visited schools over several weeks bringing Scratch to Transition Year students.

‘Scratch teaches computational thinking and problem solving using a simple-to-use, yet powerful, building block approach to software development. Scratch takes the mystery out of programming explains Paul. ‘What you learn from Scratch is applicable to computer programming in any language. If you like Scratch then you probably would be suited to a career in computing’

The IT Tralee Scratch Day was the culmination of the initiative giving students an opportunity to visit the campus and participate in the IT Tralee Scratch Challenge as well as exploring the many facets that computing has to offer in terms of a career choice.

Speakers during the day included Michael Hall, Registrar of the Institute, Clare McInerney, of LERO (the Irish Software Engineering Research Centre at the University of Limerick) and James Whelton, CoderDojo Co-founder, and Web'preneur', Hacker and Social Media Connoisseur. James, just back from the Far East, ‘skyped’ in his keynote message that the programmers of the future are sitting in our schools today. He is an example of someone that is using technology to build a career and a business.

Michael O’Connell, one of the Scratch Challenge judges, works for JRI-America, a technology enterprise based in the Kerry Technology Park. The Technology sector is finding it difficult to recruit graduates for thousands of jobs many of which are for programmers and software developers. He feels that while ECDL type programmes assist in developing computer literacy it is vital that second level students have an opportunity to discover what careers in computing are really about. ‘It is clear from the projects we’ve been judging that lots of students have what it takes to take on courses and careers in programming.’ Scratch makes it easy to discover this talent at an early age.

Schools that participated in the Scratch initiative this year:

  1. St. Brendans College, Killarney
  2. Pobalscoil Inbhear Scéine, Kenmare
  3. Presentation College, Milltown
  4. Colaiste ne Sceilige, Cahirciveen
  5. Presentation Secondary School, Tralee
  6. Intermediate School Killorglin
  7. Gaelcholáiste Chiarraí, Tobar Mhaigh Dor
  8. Mercy Secondary School, Mounthawk

The ITT Scratch Challenge 2012 results were:

Winners: Gaelcholáiste Chiarraí, Tralee

Team: Séamus Ó Dálaigh, Cathal Ó Síocháin, Peadar Ó Muircheartaigh

Runners Up: Presentation Secondary School, Tralee

Team: Aileen Murphy, Doireann O'Carroll, Laura O'Shea