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March 17th, 2017

Growing Young FOSS Programmers With Help of Scratch and Al Sweigart

If your young child is showing an interest in learning computers, an introduction to Scratch and these instructional videos by Al Sweigart might be in order.

The Screening Room

Scratch Cat

Scratch Cat, the programming language’s mascot.

Talented book author Al Sweigart is a name familiar to many in the FOSS community. He writes books for kids and for adults — including the recently released Scratch Playground. Scratch is a free visual programming language developed at MIT Media Lab as an introduction to computer programming.

His zeal and talent for explaining is remarkable. I’ve been enjoying the “60 Second Scratch” screencasts (explanatory videos) he has been uploading to YouTube in the past two weeks. For example, check out this little gem:

So smart of Sweigart to break up the learning into little chunks like this. You could learn some Scratch while waiting for your little brother to put on his jacket for school. You could zip up your learning around the same time he finishes zipping up his jacket.

A middle school young woman I mentor is learning Python at school. I’m encouraging her to teach herself some Scratch so she can help grow younger programmers. “You can be the Scratch Programming Babysitter,” I explained — giving parents double value for their money. I’ll be telling her about Al’s videos and books.

Who do you think is going to be Al’s 20,000th YouTube subscriber? Nudge him towards that milestone, won’t ya? It’s one way we say thanks in the FOSS community.

For the past 10 years, Phil has been working at a public library in the Washington D.C.-area, helping youth and adults use the 28 public Linux stations the library offers seven days a week. He also writes for MAKE magazine, and TechSoup Libraries. Suggest videos by contacting Phil on Twitter or at

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