Edtech Insiders

Leading the Creative Computing Revolution with Shawna Young and Mitchel Resnick of the Scratch Foundation

October 10, 2022 Alex Sarlin Season 3 Episode 19
Leading the Creative Computing Revolution with Shawna Young and Mitchel Resnick of the Scratch Foundation
Edtech Insiders
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Edtech Insiders
Leading the Creative Computing Revolution with Shawna Young and Mitchel Resnick of the Scratch Foundation
Oct 10, 2022 Season 3 Episode 19
Alex Sarlin

In this episode, we speak to Shawna Young and Mitchel Resnick of the Scratch Foundation, which runs the largest creative computing community in the world around the Scratch programming language.

Recommended Resources:

Mitch Resnick and Ken Robinson, Lifelong Kindergarten
2021 Scratch Foundation Annual Report

Shawna Young is the Executive Director of the Scratch Foundation. 

Before coming to Scratch, Young led the Duke University Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP), one of the largest academic talent searches, with over 450,000 K-12 students and over 3 million alumni. She also spearheaded the expansion of the Office of Engineering Outreach Programs (OEOP) at MIT, serving as the Executive Director for eight years.  The OEOP provides rigorous educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to K-12 students from primarily underrepresented and underserved backgrounds. Young started her career as a public high school science teacher in North Carolina, then working as a curriculum developer at the Educational Development Center.

Mitchel Resnick is the LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research and Director of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, which developed the Scratch programming software and online community, the world's leading coding platform for kids. 

His group has also collaborated for many years with the LEGO Company and the LEGO Foundation on the development of new educational ideas and products, including LEGO Mindstorms and LEGO WeDo robotics kits. Resnick co-founded the Computer Clubhouse project, an international network of 100 after-school learning centers, where youth from low-income communities learn to express themselves creatively with new technologies.


Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, we speak to Shawna Young and Mitchel Resnick of the Scratch Foundation, which runs the largest creative computing community in the world around the Scratch programming language.

Recommended Resources:

Mitch Resnick and Ken Robinson, Lifelong Kindergarten
2021 Scratch Foundation Annual Report

Shawna Young is the Executive Director of the Scratch Foundation. 

Before coming to Scratch, Young led the Duke University Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP), one of the largest academic talent searches, with over 450,000 K-12 students and over 3 million alumni. She also spearheaded the expansion of the Office of Engineering Outreach Programs (OEOP) at MIT, serving as the Executive Director for eight years.  The OEOP provides rigorous educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to K-12 students from primarily underrepresented and underserved backgrounds. Young started her career as a public high school science teacher in North Carolina, then working as a curriculum developer at the Educational Development Center.

Mitchel Resnick is the LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research and Director of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, which developed the Scratch programming software and online community, the world's leading coding platform for kids. 

His group has also collaborated for many years with the LEGO Company and the LEGO Foundation on the development of new educational ideas and products, including LEGO Mindstorms and LEGO WeDo robotics kits. Resnick co-founded the Computer Clubhouse project, an international network of 100 after-school learning centers, where youth from low-income communities learn to express themselves creatively with new technologies.


Alexander Sarlin:

Welcome to Season Two of edtech insiders, where we talk to the most interesting thought leaders, founders, entrepreneurs, educators and investors driving the future of education technology. I'm your host, Alex Sarlin, an edtech veteran with over 10 years of experience at top tech companies. On the podcast today, we have Shawna Young and Mitchel Resnick of the scratch foundation. Shawna Young is the executive director of the scratch Foundation. And before coming to scratch, she led the Duke University talent identification program, one of the largest academic talent searches with over 450,000k 12 students and over 3 million alumni. She also spearheaded the expansion of the Office of engineering outreach programs at MIT, serving as the executive director for eight years. That program provides rigorous educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to K 12 students from primarily underrepresented and underserved backgrounds. Jung started her career as a public high school science teacher in North Carolina, then worked as a curriculum developer at the Educational Development Center. Mitchel Resnick is the Lego Peppard professor of learning research and the director of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at MIT Media Lab, which developed the Scratch programming software and online community. Scratch is the world's leading, collaborative and creative coding platform for kids. His group also collaborated for many years with the Lego Company and the Lego foundation on the development of new educational ideas and products, including Lego Mindstorms, and Lego we do robotics kits. Resnik, co founded the Computer Clubhouse project, an international network of 100, after school learning centers where youth from low income communities learn to express themselves creatively with new technologies. Shawna Young and Mitch Resnick, welcome to Ed Tech insiders. It's great

Mitchel Resnick:

to be here with you, Alex.

Shawna Young:

It's so great to be with you all. So Alex,

Alexander Sarlin:

it is really an honor to have you both on the podcast today, Scratch is one of the most phenomenal edtech tools ever made. And let's start with a quick overview of what scratch actually is and how it went from an academic research project and MIT to the largest coding education community for children in the world with 18 million new learners in 2021. Alone. Tell us about Scratch. Mitchell, let's start with you.

Mitchel Resnick:

We actually started working on Scratch. 20 years ago, this is the 20th anniversary of when we first started, along with my colleague, Natalie Rusk. Here at the MIT Media Lab, we were recognizing the need that we saw as kids were using computers to express themselves, and they wanted to create their own interactive stories and games and animations. But there weren't the right tools for them to do it. So we saw a real need. Although we started working on it then was based on lots of work from over the years, we've been deeply influenced by my mentor Seymour Papert, who developed the first programming language for kids logo, and who really pioneered the idea of kids using technology to design and create and express themselves, and really saw that as an important educational approach. And we also know we built on that in our own work, we'd worked with the Lego Company, developing robotics kits like Lego Mindstorms, and experimented with programming languages for that. And with settings where young people could come to express themselves creatively, we started a network of after school learning centers, computer club houses, where young people from marginalized communities who hadn't had the opportunities, they had often been excluded from Creative Computing opportunities could come and express themselves with new technology. And by working on those projects, we saw that kids really wanted to design their own interactive stories and games. And we want to meet that need. So we started work on Scratch, we were fortunate to get National Science Foundation grant. And about five years later, in 2007, we publicly launched scratch. And not just scratch, but an online community where kids could share their projects with one another. And then ever since we've just been so excited about the growth of scratch, and to see all the creative ways that young people and educators around the world have used scratch. So kept growing and growing inside the Media Lab. And then a few years ago with sort of outgrown our space here, and we saw advantages to move it to a separate, independent nonprofit, so scratched in about three years ago, moved out of the Media Lab, into the scratch foundation to separate nonprofit. And then Shauna joined us as the executive director of the scratch foundation to move to take scratch into the next era.

Alexander Sarlin:

Yes, Shawna, give us a little bit over You have your career in ed tech and in nonprofits and what excites you most about working with the scratch foundation?

Shawna Young:

Yeah, thank you so much, Alex. I actually started as a science teacher in North Carolina and love that work. When I moved to Boston, though I found this amazing ecosystem of educational enrichment programs. I worked at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and ran programs to help increase the number of underrepresented people in biomedical research. And then I found my home at MIT running the office of engineering outreach programs, it was so remarkable and amazing to essentially go around the country and ensure that kids from all communities, especially those that have been marginalized, or underrepresented, and highly talented, know that MIT was a place where they could come in middle school and high school for enrichment and educational programs. That's actually when I first learned about Scratch. I met Mitch and some of the meetings we would have around outreach across MIT. And from there, I went on to Duke University to run the Duke talent identification program, again, looking at how we can actually open up access for gifted and talented programs, which sometimes have a storied history, in terms of access to more children around the world, and especially in the southeast part of the United States. And coming to the scratch Foundation, really, in the middle of the pandemic, it was November 2020, I was so inspired by the work that mentioned Natalie and LL K, the Lifelong Kindergarten group, as well as the scratch Foundation had already done because when I remember what scratch was accomplishing back in 2008, just to now and how much growth had happened, not just from 2018, where we had 90 million children making projects online. Now in 2021, that number doubled to over 42 million children. And so the pandemic has been a space where for children, they've been able to see scratch as a home where they can express themselves. And the one thing I will just note, I always love to share, like what really made me so excited to join the scratch family was to also be part of this movement to ensure that children have access. And as a matter of what communities they're coming from, they engage in the Scratch community and being able to have a place where they can express their ideas through their projects, really learning from Mitch and Natalie around how they think about creative learning, and coding and how scratch the platforms and Scratch Jr. are a conduit to that. But really the work is anchored in this educational movement around creative learning is always inspiring. Yeah,

Alexander Sarlin:

you know, you're mentioning scratch as a home for students during the pandemic. And I think we've heard as a theme on this podcast that for education technology, the pandemic, sadly, is obviously a terrible thing for the world. But for education, technology, it just opened people's eyes to all of the different amazing options and opportunities there are out there, people were trapped at home, they were outside of normal education systems. And it's so amazing to hear that Scratch has grown so much, even in the last couple of years. This is scratch is an idea that was really so far ahead of its time. You mentioned, Mitch that it started in 2007. That's a year before the App Store. And you know, the idea of coding education for the middle and lower grades, Community Based Learning Creative Computing, elements of sort of gaming and consumer products in an educational tool. There's so many different innovations. And and so as the founder, I'd love to hear your thoughts about coming out of the Lifelong Kindergarten group. What were some of the original insights that you had into learning that helped you design scratch? And how did the research group identified the need for a sort of fun, online social coding education platform for children?

Mitchel Resnick:

I think in our work in the Lakeland kindergarten research group at the MIT Media Lab, our goal has always been to support creative learning experiences, to provide young people from all backgrounds with opportunities to explore, experiment and express themselves. Because we see there's a greater need for that today than ever before. You know, in a fast changing world, the ability to think and act creatively is important both in your work life and in your everyday life. And also, we know that your creative expression assigns it brings joy and meaning and fulfillment to your life. So we always have been trying to see how can we support that. And over the years, we've developed four guiding principles on how to support Creative Learning. We call them the four P's of creative learning, projects, passion, peers, and play. And as we started thinking about developing scratch, it was really rooted in those core principles, because we wanted to provide young people to an opportunity to use new technologies to express themselves, but it wasn't just about learning The technical skills and learning coding concepts, who really was trying to get them thinking creatively and expressing themselves creatively. So we organized scratch around those four Ps projects, Scratch is based on kids making projects, it's not just solving a problem. Moving on to the next problem, as often happens in school assignments. Rather, working on a project where you have an idea and you carry it through to the project you can share with others, then passion, we want kids not just to work on some project that someone told them to work on. Besides that they care about, because we've seen over and over, that young people will work longer and harder and persist in the face of challenges. If they're working on things they really care about. They also make deeper connections with the ideas involved if they're working on things they really care about. So you always want to connect with young people's passions. So as we design scratch, we want to make sure that you could use it to do many different things. Because some people might want to make a certain type of maze game, but other people want to make an interactive newspaper, other people want to make a music, video and others people want to make some type of narrative story. So we want to support connect to all different young people's interests. We talked about Scratch having wide walls. My mentor Seymour Papert said that tool should have a low floor, easy to get started. and a high ceiling, you could do more and more complex things. But it's also important to have wide wall so that all kids with all interests from all backgrounds, make connection sets are connected with the passion. And then peers, we know that creative learning takes place. most effectively when you're working with and learning from other people. Too often there's been this image of kids with computers, and especially with programming of sitting by themselves in isolation. So we want to turn into a social activity, because we knew that kids would just be much more creative and learn much more if they're learning with and from others. So we we developed the Scratch programming language, we developed the online community at the same time, it was the first programming language that had an online community built right into it, because we knew the importance, the time and also worked out well for us who was right when, you know in the early 2000s is right when the internet was becoming more social. It was called Web 2.0. At the time, we were influenced by like early web sites like Flickr where people could share photographs with one another. And one of my graduate students, Andres, Manuel Hernandez said, they should be able to share Scratch projects the same way they share photos on Flickr. So we started developing this online community, which has been such an important part of Scratch, then the fourth pay of play. Sometimes that's misunderstood, because when we say play, we don't just mean you know, laughing having fun, we see play as an attitude, not just an activity. So it's an approach to engagement, where you're constantly trying new things, experimenting, testing the boundaries. So we designed scratch, where it's easy to keep trying and experimenting with a graphical building blocks of scratch, you can put them together, but it's easy to take them apart, leave some of the desktop, have some partially completed things there. So it really encourages an iterative style of constantly experimenting in this playful way. So we designed scratch and the Scratch online community to align with those four pieces of projects, passion peers and play. And I think that's a big reason why it's been so successful.

Alexander Sarlin:

Those principles are so enlightening. And it's really interesting. They tie into a lot of instructional design philosophies, we obviously have project based learning, game based learning and you know, play based learning playful learning with iteration, peer based learning, and interest based learning or sometimes called Passion based learning. So clearly, there's these four principles of projects, play peers and passion sort of tap into many different instructional design concepts, which are even now still being explored. New products are still trying to figure out peer based learning and community based learning. So it's really interesting to hear, Shanna, you think about the future of scratch, and how to continue to build on the largest coding community in the world for children. What elements of the existing product, the existing community, maybe these four principles are serving as the springboard for future growth and evolution? What does the future scratch look like?

Shawna Young:

That's a great question, Alex. I would say one of the things that really stands out to us is that we know millions of children are using Scratch, but we want to ensure that they align with what Mitch has talked about the learning philosophy, the creative learning philosophy, behind scratch, which is all about creative learning, passion peers, projects in play, as well as low floors, high ceilings, why walls and so we're more than just a platform for coding. And that means that we're building up Hassey to have conversations and connect with our partners around the world. This includes building out a scratch Education Collaborative, which was actually seed funded by google.org. And also supported by the Lego foundation to ensure that we're actually partnering with organizations in communities around the world who are working with children, and using Scratch and other tools to really help them understand what creative learning is. and creative coding is. And it's really exciting to see. And so when I think about the future of Scratch, it's of course, we want more children to use Scratch, we can we have over 42 million children who made were active last year, that means they made at least one project on Scratch, we have over 90 million users or user accounts. And last year, over 114 projects were made by children. With that said, how are they learning? How are they creating? How do they see meaning and what they're able to do on Scratch is really at the heart of who we are as an organization and the heart of our educational movement. And so that is what I would say that we want as an organization to ensure is that we're actually building partnerships. Were increasing not just access Mitch and Natalie, we'll talk about this a lot that access is not enough. We want you engagement within Creative Learning. We look at how often children not just make one project, but how often do they make more than one project? How often do they share a project? And another thing we've been working on is localization. Right now, Scratch has been translated into over 74 languages around the world. What does that mean? Localization for us is more than just translation. That means even for our tools, and our tutorials, having those translated into languages. So again, that children can, in their own native language, understand how to build projects, and a creative learning philosophy way. And so that's one thing, we're also doing a lot of work around. When you come to the scratch platform, and you're coming from different cultural backgrounds. Do you see sprites? Do you see backdrops? Are you able to really bring your culture into the products you make within scratch? So it's exciting, there's more we know we want to do we want to think about and look at, what does it mean to be truly mobile for children who may not have access to a tablet or a certain computer, they may have literally a low cost foam? How does that relate to being able to use Scratch to build projects and share them with a broader community. So I can talk a lot about this, I get really excited. There's a lot of work that we're doing. As Michelle said, we're building our team as part of the foundation that includes our product team, our design team, our tech team, our team that does engagement and evaluation impact, just so many aspects of really building out an organization that's now centered on again, expanding access and engagement to creative learning around the world.

Alexander Sarlin:

Yeah, that's a really exciting vision. I mean, I've been amazed at how many different access and equity initiatives already exists within scratch the 74 languages you mentioned, there's all sorts of amazing things. And I'll dig into this later, because I think it's just so it's really mind blowing. And I think it's instructive for the entire field. But what I'm hearing you say is, you know, beyond just creating projects, to engagement to maybe measuring learning outcomes and gains, with your assessment team, really thinking about how to make scratch as impactful as possible, and as accessible as possible in all sorts of ways of defining access. That's a really exciting vision for the future, especially when it comes to coding education, which is something that has been traditionally not as equitable in a lot of different ways. And, you know, I wanted to ask you, Shana about this as well. So in the last certainly 20 years, but even the last few years coding education, especially for primary and secondary school kids has become a really major movement I'm scratch was way ahead of this, but organizations like code.org Hour of Code, Computer Science for All movement, you have that in New York, and Texas and California, all sorts of traction in the idea of coding as a core literacy or coding as a major part of the curriculum. For younger to students. Scratch has been involved in most, if not all of these movements. And Shawn, I'd love to ask you sort of how you see a world in which coding actually crosses over to become a sort of core literacy in K 12. schooling, what does that look like? And how has scratch collaborated with organizations like code.org to help this become real?

Shawna Young:

Yeah, really a great question. We have to first recognize it's already happening with our kids. I have a daughter who's 16. This is their language, right? And so what I will share with that is that we're already a community, a lot of the organizations you shared our partners with us. Each of us have a unique approach to how we're thinking about the work but we know that we want children around the world to be be literate when it comes to computational thinking when it comes to using technology and uniquely positioned for scratches. How do we think about aligning that with creative learning and creative coding and we're part of our code. I just spent time with the Kudo team out in Seattle, which was great. So we've met with folks who are part of tills, and we're building partnerships with other ed tech organizations around the world. And it's really exciting, because it's not conversations about why it's like, how do we do it? It's time? And how do we do it in an equitable way? Because it's the only way to do it, right? Like, how do we use all the experiences impacts heaviness of this global pandemic, to be a call to action for all of us, as organizations, educators, leaders around the world. And what's so exciting about it is that our children are expecting it. They're expecting us to work collaboratively. And in many ways, we see so many exciting ideas on our platform, within our online community. We're inspired on a daily basis based on what we see children around the world, not just asking us to do but expecting us to do. So clearly, I get excited, because I can talk a lot about it's been heartwarming to work with all your patients you shared, many of them are partners of ours at organizational level, many of our of our scratch Education Collaborative organizations that are in their second cohort. And so we're continuing to work together to build capacity to share learnings. And to also ensure like, there's so many things we can do, we don't have to be redundant, but there in some cases, we need to like really beat the drum louder. And we're also willing to do that.

Alexander Sarlin:

Yeah, you mentioned the TEALS program, which is a Microsoft program for coding in schools. And google.org, which is one of the sponsors of scratcher funders of Scratch, I should say, I also noticed that, you know, Apple just unveiled a whole new suite of resources for elementary school coding and inclusive app design just in the end of 2021. So scratch Foundation is a nonprofit, several of the other organizations we just mentioned, are nonprofits. But some of these really big tech companies with lots of deep pockets are also starting to sort of get into coding education. And for various reasons, I'd love to hear you talk about how the nonprofit space and the world of big tech, the Googles, the Apples, the Microsoft's the India's, you know, might work together to create an incredible world of coding education for the future generations.

Shawna Young:

Yeah, it's a great question, Alex. In many ways, we already are not just the scratch foundation. But when you look at the partners, or nations that are working with our partners, you see them working hand in hand. And my statement will always be we can always do more. When you think you've done enough, do more. That's just where we are spend time in any school, and communities around the world. And you will see that there's need and that more collaboration, more partnership can only increase our impact for children. And impact is not just like this number we're seeking. It's genuinely impacting the lives of children and communities. And so we're excited about the partners who are working with us, we're in conversations with many folks that you also listed, and some are already deep partners with the scratch Foundation. And again, I get excited because when we begin these discussions, it's not like why everyone gets it. It's really about the how it's about alignment of the way we approach creative learning and creative coding, and how the other organizations or companies align with their mission and what they want to see in the world based on how they want to make investments and how we overall making investments. So I'm excited to see more and more companies make investments in K 12 education. And the more that we can partner together, I think the more impactful it will be for children. I don't know if you want to add to that, Mitch,

Mitchel Resnick:

again. Yeah, I think that, you know, we've been so excited about the way that Scratch has grown around the world, and through different partnerships has really been supported that growth around the world. I think the thing that's more challenging is helping to spread the educational ideas, that it's easier to spread some technology than to spread educational ideas. And again, we see lots of great uses of Scratch, very well aligned with our creative learning philosophy. But we see many places where it's not used that way. So I do think one of the important challenges for us is how we can make sure to spread not just the technology, but also the educational ideas. So I think as we work with these different partners, that's a big part of what we try to do is not just to support the spread of the programming language, but also to help people understand to put the creative learning ideas into practice. And we do see that happening all over the world. But as Sean has said, it's an all ongoing process of continuing to work at that, to make sure it happens. Actually, last year, my longtime collaborator, Natalie Rusk, and I wrote a paper called coding at a crossroads, where we talked about the incredible growth of the coding in schools movement over the last decade, we talked about as a crossroads, because if it's just ends up being about coding, it won't live up to his potential. And the fact that there could be a backlash, even there's a lot of excitement. Now, there's a risk of it not living up to his potential, it only focuses on learning a set of technical skills, and computing concepts. So for to really live up to its potential, we need to take this path of not just the technology, but also the educational ideas, the supporting young people to develop as creative thinkers and collaborators.

Alexander Sarlin:

So putting together what I'm hearing, you both say, there's this feeling of, maybe we're over the hill of the why it's important for children to learn technology skills, and computing, computational thinking, it feels like that's becoming more and more accepted. But as we get into the how, that involves not just giving people access to amazing tools, but also to training and educational philosophy so that the implementation actually makes sense, and gets students to a place where they can use this type of literacy in a way that improves their lives. And it's not just about memorizing concepts, who are not just about anything, that doesn't really make an impact on their ability to move forward in this changing world. You mentioned scratch being popular all over the world. And I think it's hard to understate how much Scratch is all over the world, the number of partners I mean, there's South Africa, Mexico, of Rwanda, Brazil, Uganda, you know, this collaborative, it's happening absolutely everywhere. And I wanted to ask, you know, when you talk about, some people sort of are using it in a way that feels really, really informed, others are not others maybe are a little behind and maybe in maybe some regions are even behind in the why they're not quite accepting that. I'm curious how you see the sort of global landscape and are there countries or regions that really are absolutely amazing at putting scratch into the curriculum, or putting coding into the curriculum, and are there others that are still sort of struggling with updating their curriculum to include this type of technology?

Mitchel Resnick:

Well, maybe I'll start with one example, where we see some really great things happening. And that's in Brazil. And it's probably because there's a great organization there called the Brazilian Creative Learning Network. And again, they're really focused on this idea of supporting creative learning. So they've been very supportive of Scratch developing resources and materials to support scratch in Brazil is trying to set not just translate to Portuguese, but coming up with activities that are really well aligned with the local culture. So like a few years ago, when we had in person scratch days, where families would come together, in order to work on Scratch projects together, there's maybe 1500 of them around the world, and about 500 were in Brazil, because there's just something to this grassroots enthusiasm for. And it started in a very grassroots way of connecting with educators and parents who really were aligned with this idea of Creative Learning. But then it caught the attention of the policymakers. So remember, a couple of years ago, the Education Minister for the state of San Paulo, in Brazil, came and visited us and said he had seen that his teacher was really becoming engaged with these creative learning activities. They'd had these festivals of creativity and invention through outside the school system. So he said, I want to embrace this in the school system. So now with support of the Lego Foundation, there's this whole creative Schools project in Brazil, it's building on the grassroots efforts with Scratch around Brazil, but making sure that creative learning opportunities are integrated into the school into schools themselves.

Alexander Sarlin:

That's amazing. I don't want to call out any region or make anybody feel bad. But I am really curious if there are parts of the world where you feel like maybe they haven't fully grasped for agreed that sort of coating in the lower grades is a priority? And if so, are you doing anything to work with them?

Shawna Young:

I'm happy to debate I'm not sure if I have the answer to that yet, Alex. But what I will say is, with the scratch Education Collaborative, I think we'll get a better sense of that. But for now, with this collaborative, what we're doing is essentially an all call outs or around the world who are working have an interest with working with us and being part of this group, essentially a collective group of organizations. And well over time, maybe they aren't using Scratch, but they're excited about creative learning. They're seeing that there's a dearth of that in their community and they want to partner with us because this experience is not just bring or is it Together say, Oh, you use Scratch, they actually go through a series of workshops and collaboration and chats. There's also seed funding over the course of two years, it's really building up that capacity and understanding that Mitch is talking about. And we're excited because we started focusing on specific regions. And now with expanded funding and resources, we've been able to really be a global network of getting over 500 organizations apply for a second cohort, designated another 90 organizations to be part of the scratch Education Collaborative. So on that list, you see, it's Cohort Two in our website, but we actually have 130 organizations that are on all continents, or six of the seven continents. And excited about that work. I would say to that it's, we think about evaluation and impact. Part of the reason we've taken more time. And you know, as a former high school science teacher, I completely understand the need to assess and understand learning. At the heart of Scratch, kids have fun, they enjoy sharing their voice. And we want to ensure that as we think about evaluation of impact, that we're not putting measures in place that are just about, you know, you added this block in this way. So now, you know this one tool or task and so it's also exciting to be part of that be part of a different ways in which we think about evaluation. And I think also being able to share that broadly over time, because you'll see models out there even sort of taking the platform of scratch and saying, we just want to measure what a kid knows or doesn't know. And what we're saying is that we want to engage children in learning in a way that's so meaningful, that it's not just about quantitatively what boxes they checked off or did not check off, that they engage in learning so much that their skills do increase. And it comes to computational thinking. But it's not in a way that's only about measurement. And so I'm sure Mitch, would love to jump in on this conversation. But you know, it's like a great question, challenge to think through as organization and to be at the seat when others are thinking about it. But it's not just like, checking off, you now know this task, because you did this, you added this block here.

Mitchel Resnick:

And I'll share one story. It's not to single out a particular place around the world. But I think this happens in many places. But I'll tell you a story for when I visited Singapore a number of years ago, and a visit there because the government had recognized the importance of Creative Learning. Local businesses had been complaining that the graduates from the high schools weren't really prepared for the workplace, because they knew how to do some particular things they learned at school. But when some new thing arose, they didn't know how to address it. So they needed to have a greater focus on creative learning. So the government invited me there, because they really want to support this. And they took me to an elementary school and I saw some of the things they were doing that I was really impressed with the examples that I saw that talk to the teacher and I said, I'm curious, how are you integrating this into the curriculum, and she looked at me like I was crazy. She said, this was for after school during the school, they must draw on their exercises. For me, it's a story that shows they had an understanding of there was a need for change. But it's still not easy to implement change. You know, Singapore has been very successful in having high scores and international exams, again, to Shawn's point. But those assessments aren't necessarily the ones that are most meaningful in today's world, and a doozy we see this happening all around the world, there's a greater recognition of a need for transforming education, and a need to support more creative, collaborative project based interest based approaches to learning. But it's not easy to put it into practice. So there's a lot of work that still needs to be done.

Alexander Sarlin:

It's really fascinating. And, you know, it reminds me of a couple of different things. One is that, you know, the AP for computer science, it has been a sort of considered a benchmark as a quantitative assessment for sort of computer science education for a while. And we have seen the numbers go up in terms of the number of high school students taking the AP, they introduced a sort of different version of the AP that expanded further. And that's sort of one way to look at the outcomes, you know, how many people can pass AP Computer Science and get college credit? Another which seems like it's much more in sort of scratches. worldview is, you know, how many grassroots movements like what you see in the Brazilian creative learning network, how many kids can sort of get that fire lit through Creative Computing start to you know, really love this type of literacy. And I think balancing that type of qualitative and quantitative measurements and figuring out what assessment looks like in that world is, it's going to be really, really interesting. I want to talk about At some of the equity issues, the equitable coding sort of initiatives that scratches them, because they're just so interesting. One of the legacies of scratch and I think it was baked in from the very beginning is sort of a commitment to try to level the playing field in coding education and increase access for underrepresented groups defined in a lot of different ways. I want to just vote something that I thought was so interesting from the 2021 annual report from scratch, that I'm sure one or both of you wrote, which is, you know, it's all about building an educational movement, inclusive of people from diverse backgrounds. So we can reach children around the world who have been excluded from creative coding opportunities. And there's a commitment to educational justice and prioritizing equity, across all aspects of the work with a particular focus on initiatives and approaches that support children, families and educators who have been excluded from Creative Computing. You know, we're in this moment where equity and access is on a lot of people's minds. But I think Scratch has gone sort of beyond what I've even imagined, from other, you know, part corners of the EdTech world, it's showing, I'd love to just pass this to you. Because I mean, there are so many different access initiatives that scratch is doing, tell us about some of them and how the scratch foundation sees itself as a pioneer and is a pioneer in making this type of creative coding and coding accessible to underrepresented groups.

Shawna Young:

I'm happy to jump in here too. And I'm sure that Mitch would love to share his thoughts. Also, I feel you, you have to start with free, you have to eliminate the barrier of cost. It's not all the barriers, but it's the starting barrier. And being in this work, access and inclusion work for when it comes to educational enrichment programs and opportunities for very long time, almost 20 years, I think it's, that's where there's often a gap, like children must pay, or someone must pay a certain amount. So they have some skin in the game, where we do this, it's like, what I really appreciate about Scratch is that we start at free of charge for educators and children to use the tools. That's not enough. But that's not a barrier. And when we look at this explosion of platforms around coding, I think it's fantastic. My encouragement would be how we do that in a way that's free of charge and equitable. And then how do you build out capacity so that when children from all communities come to scratch, scratch, Jr, other platforms, they see themselves as a in the tools themselves, they are able to share their culture, they're able to share their stories, and they're able to share it all. What's also uniquely positioned Scratch is that we have our online community, which allows her to be sharing of projects. And so I think that's one thing that's unique to scratch, in terms of how now you really continue this work around equity is to ensure that we actually build out capacity, so that we're able to partner with organizations able to partner with educators, and share our thoughts around the creative learning philosophy. So we're more than a platform, we're an educational movement to be an educational movement, we have to have educators within our organization that can partner with others to help and talk about and learn from, we also are changing even our approach really having an approach where we're creating an ecosystem, so that we're learning as much as others that learning from us, we're learning from them. And it's really been exciting to do that at this moment. I would also share that, as I shared before localization, spinning the time, the resources to ensure that children and can learn and use Scratch in their native language makes a huge difference. We're doing work also around accessibility. So diverse learners actually being able to use Scratch, based on differences in how they learn is a whole body of work that's exciting to us that we want to we're continuing to do. And so I think that it's at the heart and core of Scratch, can we do more always, but I think everyone can always do more. It's just what do we focus on right now. So that we can, as we look at this year, as we look at next year, continue to move the needle and ensuring that children have access and engagement and creative learning. I'll pause there, I don't know if you want to add anything that's to what I've shared.

Mitchel Resnick:

I would just sort of agree with all the things that Shawn has said and, and especially from the very beginning, we had this commitment, this craft should always be free. And we want to keep you know when would scratch start here at MIT Media Lab. There are a lot of things do spin out of MIT to for profit organizations. But we were committed to keeping scratch and a nonprofit organization because we didn't want the decisions to be dreary. given by a profit motive, because think with a lot of things in the education space, you know, if decisions are driven by what's going to maximize your profits, it doesn't always lead to what's best for the learner. So we always want to keep that at the forefront. And from the beginning, we always had this sort of deep commitment to make sure that it was very child centered, what was going to connect with children's interests and needs. And especially as Shauna was saying, connected with those children who come from marginalized communities have often been excluded from these types of creative computing opportunities. And we really felt that that could be best accomplished through a nonprofit effort. And also by creating an ecosystem of other organizations that are joining together to help support those types of possibilities for children around the world.

Alexander Sarlin:

You know, I hear you're both talking about the sort of ecosystem and you know, Scratch has a movement, and it really feels very inspiring. I think it's something that other edtech companies can really learn a lot from, you know, one example that jumped out to me that I just thought was so amazing is that you know, in the scratch Education Collaborative, some of the groups you work with in different countries are for Deaf coders. Their group specifically for Deaf coders and scratch has actually introduced you know, ASL translations, video based ASL translations that are totally amazing to be able to work alongside organizations like this and in partnership with them. And you see that, you know, 74 languages, low internet connectivity options, like what Khan Academy has done, to some extent, Scratch has diversity and accessibility committees inside the foundation. There's just so many different concurrent movements to grow, access. But I love the point of starting with free. And you know, Mitchell, I wonder, ask a follow up about this. I think you've already said a couple of things relevant to this, but it was it's so interesting to me. You know, there have been a number of really influential edtech innovations that started at universities, especially top universities, and then became widespread in schools. You mentioned, Seymour Papert, its logo, computing language, which was from MIT, we've seen a lot of initiatives from Carnegie Mellon, like Carnegie learning, we've seen assessments, which is, you know, a really, really powerful math learning platform Open Stax from Rice University, we talked to David Harris on this podcast, I would even include the internet as a tech innovation. And that came out of you know, California universities, the Stanford UCLA, I believe, Berkeley. So, you know, you just mentioned that one of the core decisions you've made as the founder of Scratch is to keep it as a nonprofit, make sure it's always stays free and open, and build these huge ecosystem of different types of partners, delivery partners, funding partners, distribution partners, all sorts of things. Tell us a little bit more about what you see as the sort of role of innovations that come out of the nonprofit and university space. And the advantages they have over, you know, VC funded startups, which we see in so many different areas of the EdTech space. And many of the people we talk to on this podcast come from that world, what are the sort of advantages maybe and disadvantages of that type of core philosophy and academic roots.

Mitchel Resnick:

I think it's not necessarily just anything from academia, it needs a certain approach within academia. And like the same way that I talked about in the Scratch online community, we want to support projects, passion peers, and play. In our own research group here at the Media Lab, we also want to support the graduate students and the undergraduates in projects passion appears in play. And I think that's what leads to such a creative environment. And unfortunately, a lot of VC backed startups don't have those same core principles. And I think we're able to, but, you know, here in our own work to make sure that we sort of leverage the creativity of all the researchers and students here to work on projects based on their passions and collaboration with others in a playful spirit that leads to such creative innovation, but doesn't happen automatically, just because throughout the universe, right? It really does require a certain stance and an approach to certain way. And it doesn't have to just be the university. We then tried to have that same type of culture at scratch foundation as a nonprofit. And I think other nonprofit organizations can adopt that same type of building a culture that supports that type of creativity and innovation.

Shawna Young:

I will add that it's tremendous to be part of making scratch and Scratch Jr. These tools that are part of MIT Media Lab, Lifelong Kindergarten group as well as was scratched Jr. The Deaf tech group that's at Boston College now and Marina bears being part of a movement that's making them available and accessible around the world is huge for I'm from Fayetteville, North Carolina, for the work that we do, and knowing that a little child and Fayetteville, North Carolina military town can go now and learn how to code on Scratch tool from him, it is tremendous it is. And so I didn't have that when I grew up, right. So to know that a child in some part of South America or in a rural area, when Australia or wherever has access to scratch, and not just the coding platform, but the approach to learning that will really be meaningful for them, is the heart of what we do. I've said that before. And so I think that is what is unique about being part of scratch the foundation, being part of the larger community of Creative Learning. And creative coding is something that I get excited about personally. But I know our team also gets excited about being part of this.

Alexander Sarlin:

Yeah, I love that idea of sort of baking the culture you want in the product into the organization. And then having these core core principles that you build everything on like access, like free and open, if that was in Scratch in the beginning, free open community based. And no matter how big it gets, when you have 40 million users still going to be free, open and community based, those, those can't be changed. And that allows I think, the product to grow and keep its real DNA, I have one more topic I really wanted to touch on because I think it's another really amazing innovation that scratch really popularized, which is, you know, scratch you mentioned, and that's was being researched in the early 2000s sort of came out in 2007. And had this idea of sort of a remixable community culture where, you know, students could take work that others had made and remix it and customize it and make it their own and take it in their own directions. You mentioned the idea of these wide walls, right, you can go in sort of any direction based on your interests. And here in 2022, we've seen that happen in so many different areas of children's lives, we've seen Roblox and Minecraft and Mario Maker these game Remix in communities where students create their own game levels, and then share them with each other and build on top of them. We've seen remix communities and social media like Tiktok, and Instagram and YouTube where you know, we're learners take something and take make it a meme and then grow it and make it their own. So I'd love to hear each of you just talk about the idea of this remix ability, this project based remix ability, and community in Scratch, how you came up with it, how you built it, and how other edtech organizations might bring some of that remix communal energy to their projects, you've done an incredible job with it for 15 years.

Mitchel Resnick:

I do think design did was important to us from the beginning that we knew that the most creative activity would happen when people could build on each other's work, we see that everywhere you want to open source committees and academic committees, people are always building on each other's work, people don't just do things isolated by themselves. So we wanted to make sure that young people could build on and learn from one another's work, the summer that is in the design of the tools we put out there. That was scratch from the beginning, if you try out someone else's program, you can see the code and not just see the code, you can start experimenting with the current. So so many other products you can't look inside. So from the beginning, we want to make sure you could see inside and start manipulating and then make your own versions of it. So we designed the tool and the online community, it was easy to build on each other's work. But it's not just about the design of the tool. It's also building a culture that supports remix ability. Because what often happens in the Scratch community, someone new to the community might make a project and they see somebody else remix it, and they start saying they stole my ideas, right? And then we have to say, Well, no, you know, we can all learn if we build on each other's work. But we have to do a lot, both talking about the value of being able to be open to having your things Max, but then also supporting it that we sort of would highlight peoples whose projects got remixed a lot on the homepage of Scratch. In the first couple of years, we added an extra row that said these are the projects that are most remixed, so became a source of pride, not a source of concern. If your project was remixed, and we say of course, if someone remixes your project, they should give you credit. And we have some automatic attribution, but also it's important to individually give credit. Then also we want to sort of highlight people whose projects really are being influencing the community. So we do a lot both to try to create a culture where people feel proud not upset if other people are building on their work. Super insightful.

Alexander Sarlin:

Shawn, I'd love to hear you talk about remix ability. And also think about how scratch and Lego which is another re mixing master have worked together.

Shawna Young:

Yeah, and I know Mitch can add a lot more of a Lego relationship. I'm not sure if there's much more to add. It's up to share with you that it is truly embedded in the culture of scratch and our online community. And I've seen several projects that have been remixed, you see the excitement, we all, as Mitch talked about, sometimes there's concern attention, but we work with our online moderators community, which I will say, just a phenomenon to give a shout out to them their phenomenal group of folk who really ensure that our online community stays safe, but also engages with our Scratchers, in sharing about their projects, telling them outside of they are to see their projects to highlight some of their projects. And so, you know, we're a full community and family all this happens together. And we have a team who really ensures that how we even think about studios, children being able to share their ideas and a common theme. Sometimes we create the studios, but a lot of them are created by our Scratchers because they have something they care about, they want to see other projects, they curate those projects together in their studios. So there's a lot of elements to our online community that build upon the culture that we want to see within scratch. I don't know if you want to add any more there, Mitch,

Mitchel Resnick:

I think that captures it well. But we were surprised that beginning, actually, this number might be out of date by now a few years ago, I looked. And it was more than a quarter of the projects on Scratch were remixes of other projects. So it's just a lot of projects for people going and seeing and people who see other project, they get inspiration from seeing what others have done and use it as a starting point for getting started. And then also see the committee has an audience that they're proud of, you know, that other people have tried out. And then they get inspiration when other people do in extending their projects.

Alexander Sarlin:

It's really inspiring. And I you know, I think the third line of this conversation has been really about culture building and, you know, hearing you talk about the teams that support all of the, you know, 40 million wide community of scratcher kids around the world, all these, you know, partners in the educational collaborative, building a culture inside scratch itself that encourages experimentation. And you know, having a grad student come up with the idea of, hey, maybe it could be like a Flickr for, for coding projects. And that becomes a absolute core piece to this remix ability. It feels like a, you know, even the idea of academic culture being so open to people building on each other's work. It's really an interesting throughline. It's not one I maybe didn't expect. But it makes a lot of sense for global massive community like Scratch, you build basic principles in inclusivity, access, sharing, you know, don't be upset if someone builds off your work. That's good for everybody, let's actually feature you because somebody's built off of your work. And if you build those sort of cultural principles into the platform, you know, the sort of the sky's the limit, I think that's a really interesting takeaway for some of the tech entrepreneurs, investors and enthusiast and educators that listen to the podcast. So we always end the podcast with two questions. And I'll ask you in turn, the first is, Shauna, what is the most exciting trend you see right now in the Ed Tech landscape that you think our listeners should keep an eye on?

Shawna Young:

You know, I thought about that. And I know sometimes people talk about a book or podcast, I think, and I don't want to call it a trend, because it shouldn't be a trend. We have to hire and build teams, of folks coming from diverse backgrounds that are representative of the communities we want to serve. And that's a statement that has a lot of work behind it. And I'm really excited that the scratch Foundation has been doing that work, we just hit the mark of more people of color in our organization, which is really exciting. Next to that is in how do we collaboratively work together so that we can really see that help inform our tools, our platforms, our learnings, and really, truly be that global organization that's impacting kids around the world. And so besides that, I would always suggest that you read Mitch his book, as well as Marina Barris new book because that gives you a lot of the content around the way we think about creative coding and creative party. Yeah,

Alexander Sarlin:

makes sense. I love that direction of representational hiring. We can call it you know, hiring to represent the communities you want to serve. Amazing, Mitch, how about you?

Mitchel Resnick:

I think one thing that we learned from the pandemic was the importance of creating and supporting caring, collaborative communities. If you look at schools and the ways they handled the pandemic, and it was a huge challenge for schools, schools that tried to just keep the same way of just delivering instruction online rather than in the classroom and just kept it the same approach of delivering instruction without thinking about building a caring community, oftentimes are very unsuccessful, and had led to lots of problems where schools that really put a lot of effort into building caring communities were able to support, you know, manage their way through the challenging time. Now, as schools start to come back and person, I hope we remember those lessons. Sometimes people don't they think, Oh, we've had all this loss, we better just sort of focus even more on the new delivering instruction. It is not just during the pandemic for all time, the value of developing supportive, caring, welcoming communities of learners, is so important. And technology can play a role in that too much technology has been used just to deliver instruction. So I think the shift away from using technology to deliver to using technology to support people in a caring community where people are sharing with one another, I think, is one of the most important trends. But I think it's still hanging in the balance. It's not a foregone conclusion that we'll end up there, we have to make an active effort to make sure that our learning environments to move in that direction.

Alexander Sarlin:

Yeah, it's a really great point. And I think that, you know, we have seen this sort of at least a temporary increase in the idea of, you know, what mental well being social emotional learning tools really starting to do think about more than academic delivery when we think about the role of technology and the role of schools. But I love the idea that you know, we should make sure not to snap back and and overcorrect or you know, are swinging the pendulum the other way and say, Oh, we have all this learning loss. Now we have to double down on the intensity of our homework and the number of hours you know, spent on on drill and kill platforms. Instead, this could be a really transformative moment where we think about the role of educators and school communities as transforming to being much more holistic, I had to share your hope. And I think Scratch has done an incredible job of building an approachable, welcoming community that obviously can be accessed by millions of learners in hundreds of countries all over the world. It's really been an honor to speak to both of you today. We will put links in the show notes to everything we talked about. That includes Mitch Resnick book as well as the scratch 2021 annual report and the scratch Foundation website. And thank you so much Shauna and Mitch,

Mitchel Resnick:

thanks so much, Alex.

Shawna Young:

Thank you.

Alexander Sarlin:

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