Scratch – An Online Community Experience #6 #cong19


Experiences from 6 years of introducing children and young teenagers to the online coding platform Scratch and its (theoretically) very active and engaging online community.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. is a great platform for introducing kids to coding.
  2. It is also a safe and engaging place to take first steps in an online community.
  3. This overall safe and friendly community is like an online playground.
  4. Not everyone will want to engage with it, but for those who do, it is super.

About Sabine McKenna:

Sabine McKenna is a digital educator and off-and-on blogger. She teaches various digital skills to mainly young people in Skerries, Co. Dublin as creative computing courses Skerries (aka cccSkerries) and also runs workshops for children and adults in libraries. This is her fifth CongRegation.

Contacting Sabine McKenna:

You can contact Sabine by email, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


By Sabine Mc Kenna

Communities are now online a lot of the time.

Just as in real life, virtual communities have explicit and implicit rules.

In order to become creative, competent, confident digital citizens, children need safe spaces where they can learn to be part of an online community.

The communities they are most likely to stumble upon on their own, those around games like Fortnite and video platforms like YouTube, can be rough and may not teach the most desirable attitudes and behaviours.

Respect for others, sharing of ideas, and constructive criticism are some of the guiding principles in the online Scratch community.
Since its launch in 2007, this online coding platform has attracted young people from about 7 to typically 18. Some have stayed on, and there are also some adults (often teachers).

The platform is managed by the Scratch team in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the community guidelines are as strictly enforced as possible.

All new participants, known as New Scratchers, have to be active on the site for a while, sharing projects and interacting with others, before they are offered to become Scratchers.

That’s all very well, but how does it work in reality?

First of all, Scratch insists (rightly so) on everyone staying as anonymous as possible while still having a personal profile. Users are discouraged from having user names that actually include their name, and from stating their exact location etc. It’s OK to say that a user is, say, ten years old and lives near Dublin. It’s not OK to say that they attend x school and live in Skerries.

It’s fine to have a drawing of yourself as your avatar. It’s not a good idea to use a photograph of yourself!

Also, all comments are meant to be positive, and all unfriendly comments should be reported and will be taken down


The good…

The good kids are the ones who interact early and much, always seeking to connect with others, to learn and to share their learning. They will follow freely, but not indiscriminately, and gather “followers” in turn, many of which will become online friends.

… the bored…

Some kids just don’t take to it. They find the place too “lame” (too friendly?), and want to move on to edgier areas of the internet. Often, the “good” become “bored” when they hit a certain age. Sometimes, kids who start very excitedly, engage in “follow for follow” activities and try to collect lots of followers, no matter who or how, become “the bored” quite soon.

… and the ugly

And then there are those who “just want to see the world burn” (now where did I get that quote from?). They create those projects that give others a jump scare (which will be taken down once reported). They post “funny” but cruel comments (which will be taken down once reported).

And what does that mean for the digital educator?

Scratch is a wonderful online playground. Like most good playgrounds, it’s mainly safe, but has some more risky areas. It allows some space for young onliners to figure out how to be part of an online community, how to share ideas and also how to collaborate (though in my experience, that does not happen all that often).

To be honest…

In my experience, what people are most likely to do on Scratch is… play other people’s games. And follow those who make the games they like best. It’s not as engaged a way of interacting with other Scratchers as I would like, but it’s the way it is.

75% of the people in my Scratch coding classes are not too interested in the online-community part of Scratch. Probably because they are in a group situation anyway, and don’t need to look outside the cccSkerries room for inspiration, praise, or constructive criticism.

But then there are the other 25%, who will indeed build up their own circle of online friends outside of class, safely and happily. And that is quite something!

Ideas and How to Hold on to Them #7 #cong18


When ideas strike while you can’t write them down, use a memory system to peg them to memory hooks for later use.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. There’s a tech-free solution to the danger of losing an idea.
  2. Using memory pegs helps remembering ideas as well as things you need to do.
  3. Creating your very own pegs makes them more efficient.
  4. Pegs can even trigger thoughts!

About Sabine McKenna:

Sabine McKenna is a digital educator and off-and-on blogger. She teaches various digital skills to mainly young people in Skerries, Co. Dublin as creative computing courses Skerries (aka cccSkerries) and also runs workshops for children and adults in libraries. This is her fourth CongRegation.

Contacting Sabine McKenna:

You can contact Sabine by email, follow her on Twitter and her website.

By Sabine McKenna

Sometimes, your best ideas come when you’re out and about, hiking, biking, running, walking or maybe on a train or driving. But what if you can’t just act on them immediately, or even write them down?
Here’s a hook you can peg those ideas to, no matter where you are! Or rather, twelve hooks…:
Sun. Shoe. Tree. Shore. Knife. Bricks. Raven. Plate. Wine. Hen. Heaven. Apostles.
You see, they rhyme with the numbers from one to eleven. (And then the twelve apostles – as seated for the Last Supper as painted by Leonardo da Vinci – make up the dozen for me.)
Let’s say you’re out on a walk, thinking of nothing in particular, when thoughts start coming. Your first idea is that you should start a new business selling candles. (Don’t ask, just go with it. Let’s just suppose.) Imagine a huge church candle with a giant sun on it. Really think of that candle. Where it is, how big it is, what shade of yellow the sun is. There, stored in your mind! On you walk.
When another idea comes up (you could sell candles to families before Christmas, with printed personalised messages on them), you peg it to the shoe. In your mind, you cram loads of candles into your walking boots, and you can clearly make out the writing “Happy Christmas, Eveline” on the top one.
The method can be used for reminders, too. You remember the company that sells the wicks you want to use hasn’t come back to you, and you really need follow up with them…. The palm tree in your neighbour’s front garden (be as specific as possible!) has lots of wicks hanging down, which makes it look really strange (strange is good, you’ll remember this more easily).
And so it continues! You add more images to your pegs…
4. You sit at the shore of an ink lake (you need to order printer ink).
5. A knife blade reflects the shine of 1000 candles burning (you want to find an image like that for use on your website).
6. A Christmas tree made of Lego bricks reminds you to sort those Christmas presents for your children.
7. The worm the raven is pulling out of your back garden’s lawn is yellow and glows mysteriously. It reminds you to pay the gas bill. This might not make sense to anyone else, but to you it does (the glow is like that of the gas fire in your living room.) The reminders are highly personal, nobody else needs to understand them!
8. Your ornamental plate which lives on your living-room mantelpiece is filled with lemons, like the ones you saw on your holidays in Spain last year. Time to book next year’s holiday, but you’ve been forgetting about the need to find the best dates with your husband and son. Not any more!
9. In a glass of wine, you see a hair swimming. Ugh. You need to book an appointment with the hairdresser. Why do you always think of these things when out walking?!
10. Two hens are fighting over a tasty worm (What, another worm? Ah well, you’re not going to analyse yourself.) One chicken is dressed in Kerry colours, the other in Mayo. You’ve been meaning to get that new hurley for your daughter!
11. The words “Mama Mia” are printed in huge letters across the sky. Heavenly! You’ll order the Mama Mia 2 movie for your best friend for Christmas. It’ll be great as a stand-by for your next girls’ get-together around New Year’s.
12. Speaking of which… apostles, 12, often reminds you of the need to arrange a get-together with your friends. (Pegs can trigger ideas, too!) So let’s not wait until after Christmas, let’s do something soon!
As you’re a careful person who knows that the mind can’t hold on to information unless you repeat it, you go through those pegs in your mind a few times after adding each new idea. (Candle with sun on it? Check. Boots with candles with writing inside? Check. Tree with wick leaves? Check. You’re on fire! And very happy that you took the time to memorise those twelve ideas you had.
So when you’re out and about and those ideas pop through your mind, you don’t let them get away.
You peg them to your memory hooks! Not the ones I am using – make up your own!
(See Tony Buzan’s books for more on memory techniques.)