Friday, September 28, 2012

Book Review: Super Scratch Programming Adventure!

Have you heard about CoderDojo, a movement to get more kids involved in programming? There's been some talk about CoderDojo and programming in general in libraries recently, and I like the whole idea of getting children and teens interested in and knowledgeable about programming--especially since so much of their world is now supported by behind-the-scenes programming. Thus I was interested when No Starch Press offered to send me a copy of their book Super Scratch Programming Adventure! to peruse and review.

Super Scratch Programming Adventure! by the LEAD Project introduces readers to computer programming in the form of Scratch, a programming language created by a group at MIT. Scratch is downloadable for free, and its design is graphic in nature--it should help programmers of any age visually see the way programs are written and the logic behind them. The book is a combination of two parts: a framing story in graphic novel format; and individual stages, or exercises, in learning to program with Scratch. Each exercise encourages the programmer to create a real, playable game. While these games are simple, they are dynamic and will make their creators proud.

The style of instruction is straightforward and accessible, and the games that the reader creates as exercises provide plenty of opportunities for experimenting with Scratch. Everything is very bright and visual--both the book and Scratch itself--which may make programming much easier to learn for visual thinkers. The book is not a stand-alone resource; access to a computer with the capability to run Scratch 1.4, which is available to download for free, is necessary. Thus this book is not a stand-alone resource, but it has the potential to be a great tool for teaching and engaging kids in computer programming.

For most children, Super Scratch Programming Adventure! will likely be most successful when used under the guidance of a regular instructor, i.e., in a classroom setting, where they can ask questions of someone with computer programming experience. That said, children who are motivated to understand the logic and mechanics behind the videogames they play will find the book and its exercises engaging on their own. I can also see this book and Scratch being useful to scouting groups who are working toward a computer badge. Libraries with computers specifically for children or with CoderDojo-style programs will likely find this book a useful resource as well.

Super Scratch Programming Adventure! is available as both print book and downloadable ebook; the print copy comes with the ebook included. The print copy I reviewed was supplied to me by the publisher.

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