Scratch is great for giving kids the basics for programming; the blocks are presented in colour coded sections which just snap together and it's fairly easy to get something to happen. However, the ease of use can also be its limitation - there is no element of experimentation, no way to input your own instructions. So where next?
Programming was a strong feature of the #3mhothouse as it has been a hot topic of discussion over recent months with the removal of the Programme of Study and lots in the news about Computer Science and its role within ICT.
Python is a great free programming tool and much more powerful than Scratch. It is used by companies such as Google, Yahoo and NASA so it has real world applications and uses. You can also use it to programme a RaspberryPi. However, it's slightly more complicated than Scratch and takes some time to learn - in the time it took us to code a calculator on scratch I managed about 3 lines of code on Python!
You need to think logically through each step of the programmes you are trying to write before jumping straight in (hard for many people - me included!). It's also important to know about syntax; a stray character, space or even a capital letter where there shouldn't be one can lead to your entire code not working. This can lead to lots of frustration and confusion.
So, is there anything in between?
Two programmes that I was introduced to at the #3mhothouse which look to provide those intermediary steps are Robomind and Greenfoot. Both are free to download (always a bonus) and provide some ready made building blocks but also the element of adding your own code so you have the support but also some freedom and chance for experimentation. I can see these as being great tools for upper KS2 into KS3 and great ways to get kids and keep kids interested in coding.