Roamer® is Part of the Scratch Extension Showcase
Around the World, over 7 million students use the Scratch Program to learn coding. Scratch is a free visual programming language developed at MIT. It provides students (Scratchers) aged 8 to 16 with tools to create stories, games and animations, which they can then share with one another. Now the MIT Scratch Team has launched Scratch Extensions (ScratchX). This allows Scratchers to connect with external hardware. MIT chose the popular educational robot Roamer and Roamer ScratchX as one of the projects to showcase their innovation. Both products evolved from Logo software and the ideas of Seymour Papert. Bringing them together is a natural advance, which will help overcome some of the issues schools face when trying to develop coding and computational thinking skills.
Roamer® is a direct descendant of Logo Turtles. Over the last 30 years, many teachers have learned to use this technology. In England, using Roamer has been in the mathematics curriculum since 1989. It comes under the phrase “using programmable toys”. In Design Technology, teachers use Roamer to introduce control. Computer Specialist at the Pioneer Academy in South East London, Deniece Graham, explains how this helps her:
Most of the recent curriculum changes in subjects like mathematics simply modified what went before. However, the computing curriculum is a radical change and requires major upgrading of teacher skills. Those teachers familiar with Roamer unknowingly meet many of the requirements of the new computing curriculum. Children as young as five can program Roamer. When older students program using Roamer ScratchX, they already know the instruction set. They can concentrate on how Scratch works. They then become acquainted with regular Scratch commands. Finally, they can use the power of Scratch to enhance what they do with Roamer.
It is important to learn coding in a way that captures the student’s interest and creativity, while developing their computational thinking skills. Roamer helps students to understand complex ideas through practical experience. Like Scratch, Roamer ScratchX is free and it provides more opportunities to create that type of participation.