MIT, UCLA develop programming language for kids

Designed for kids 8 and older, Scratch allows them to create games and animations that can be shared online.

Kids now have their own computer programming language, thanks to researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab and at UCLA.

MIT on Tuesday introduced a programming language called Scratch, which is designed for kids age 8 and up to create interactive Web stories, games and animations that can be shared online. Kids have already used the language to write a story about a polar bear school and to create an outer-space attack game.

MIT compared the programming language, which lets kids snap together graphical blocks to build a Web site, to the simplicity of Lego "bricks." (The same group at MIT developed the "programmable bricks" that inspired the Lego Mindstorms' robotics kits.) Scratch lets kids put together graphics, photos, music and sounds--much the way a DJ might "scratch" vinyl, according to MIT.

"As kids work on Scratch projects, they learn to think creatively and solve problems systematically--skills that are critical to success in the 21st century," Mitchel Resnick, professor of learning research at the MIT Media Lab and head of the Scratch development team, said in a statement.

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The MIT Media Lab is collaborating with the likes of Intel, Microsoft, Samsung, Motorola, the Lego Group and One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) to develop other versions of Scratch. One application might be a version for the cell phone.

Scratch can be downloaded free from MIT's Web site; it runs on PCs and Macs. The project was funded with donations from the National Science Foundation and the Intel Foundation.

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