Bridging the Scratch Gap: From Blocks to Text Programming

How much, compared to the amount of time you spend using a pen?Thought so.

This isn’t preparation for the future; it’s preparation for the present.

We’re not there yet, sadly.

If we truly want to smooth the transition from block-based programming to text-based, no magic application or hybrid programming language is gonna do the job.

Instead, we have to build appropriate tech literacy scaffolding in the years leading up to the big jump.

That way, when students encounter the blinking cursor with infinite possibilities, they’ll be ready.

Teach keyboarding.

Teach it well.

The rest will fall in place.

After the JumpOnce you’ve crossed the chasm to text-based programming, there’s another challenge to overcome: abstract reasoning.

We’re introducing programming earlier than students have developed all the requisite cognitive abilities for traditional intro computer science exercises.

This is why, for example, students might struggle with the concept of arrays, or with recursion.

These abstractions require something developmentally that, depending on the age group you’re teaching, isn’t yet present.

We can work around this limitation with careful planning of lessons — specifically, keeping exercises rooted in the visual space, despite using text programming, will provide context and feedback for student exploration.

How friggin’ cool is this?!My recommendation would be a graphical library like p5js or Processing.

py.

Heck, even good ol’ Turtle can be a powerful tool.

Using these libraries, not only can text-based programming still have visual context, but also, a new creative aspect arises: code can become art.

There are so many possibilities here, on the other side of the text-based programming divide.

Prepare your students to make the jump, then come on over.

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