Scratchy notes from #ScratchMIT2016

…notes literally scratched on-the-run during the 2016 conference in MIT, Boston early in August…the Twitter #ScratchMIT2016 timeline is worth a look for a detailed, if backward, summary of the 3 day event. The programme schedule is here.

you know you’ve arrived when you’re on the welcome wall at MIT Media Lab

The welcoming event – a first look inside the stone and glass MIT Media Lab. Surprisingly sterile in atmosphere, apart from the giant riotous triptych of Marvin Minsky’s living room that hangs in the atrium. The “add yourself to the Scratch world map” was a fun way to start a conference. The everlasting finger food was oooh-la-la, as was meeting up with Scratchers from all over, and reuniting with those we’d got to know at previous gatherings. It was great to see others representing Ireland – presenters Stephen Howell, Mary Brown, Giustina Mizzoni.


OPENING KEYNOTE – quite emotional – Mitch Resnick celebrating Seymour Papert RIP, godfather to the community. Mitch also introduced us to a pretty amazing teenager from South Africa called Taryn, a self-confessed ‘shy extrovert’ – better known as Bubble103 on Scratch – anyone educating for equality, inclusion, as well as some really clear coding lessons, should check out Taryn’s work here.


WORKSHOPS – I was really looking forward to attending Josh Burker workshop, and it did not disappoint. I had to attempt some with bilocation at both it and the beautiful Beetleblocks expo, as both were on at the same time. Josh is the perfect teacher – minimum fuss explanation of the task in hand, and maximum freedom to us, his ‘students’, to get to grips with building a marble machine. (This involved writing the only 6 lines of Scratch code I met over the three days. Ironically, but not surprisingly, the Scratch conference is really about almost everything else). This session was fun fun fun and the time just went too fast. And here we are with the finished-just-as-the-bell-went (phew!) marvellous contraption.


POSTERS –  in the late afternoon each day had some pretty high stuff on show – among my favourites were Brian Harvey’s Leap Motion ‘dragon’ and Dan Garcia’s mini Turing machine. I’d have loved if either or both of these had been a workshop so we could have explored and learned more. To be continued, hopefully…

PANELS – I was delighted to partake in Derek Breen ‘tower of Babel’ panel, which gave rise to the most fabulous conversations – I think we had 14 countries in the room sharing ideas. Best of all was meeting the inspiring Educreativos from Mexico – coding grandmas united!

IGNITE – These were, as with the last two Scratch conferences I’ve been to, a central highlight of the conference. Fast and furious stories from passionate educators, like a TeachMeet on speed. Genevieve Smith-Nunes from Ready Salted Code in Brighton UK, Clause Terosier from Magicmakers in Paris, Linda Lerardi from Coderdojo Bologna, Aaron Morris from PBS Kids USA, and (thanks to his sponsor Auntie Teresa!) Frank Sabaté from Barcelona all shone for me.


FINAL KEYNOTE – kudos to Karen Brennan for curating and chairing a riveting final conversation, centred on inclusion. This was way way bigger than just Scratch – it was relevant to every education scenario. Inclusion, inclusion, inclusion. Watch it online here.

Each of the panellists gave us a single central piece of advice to take away…

Many thanks to all the lovely folk of the Scratch Fellowship ( from Ireland, Italy, Spain, UK, Austria, Russia, France and The Netherlands) for your company at the conference, staying at the Hostel in Chinatown, riding the T around Boston, and having fun.

Last five standing after conference: mise with Stephen Howell, Andy Bruce, Derek Breen and Joek Van Montfort. 

Post conference resolution – check out Turtlestich ideas from Andrea Maier, then try mashing up with Beetleblocks a la Laurel Pollard:


Can’t wait to hear where Scratch 2017 will be. Until then, I’ll leave you with  the legend that is Cynthia Solomon, calmly watching over events from the MIT balcony…










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