An open-source programming platform for kids called Scratch, developed in the Lifelong Kindergarten Group of the MIT Media Lab, is part of a nationwide push to get coding into the skillset of American schoolchildren. MIT researcher Natalie Rusk is quoted in a recent New York Times article questioning whether this push is doing enough to include girls, who constitute an extremely small percentage of those studying computer science in high school and college and entering the tech workforce.

“One of the key reasons to broaden participation is to get more diversity of who is designing these technologies,” Rusk told the Times. “It’s being presented as, ‘Learn how to program,’ but not, ‘What do you want to program? What’s your idea?’”

Scratch allows kids to do just that—pursue their own ideas. They can create games and animation, and share their ideas and knowledge with others. Its website currently boasts more than 5.6 million projects shared. May 17 was celebrated as “Scratch Day” in locations all over the world. While Scratch is aimed primarily at kids ages eight to sixteen, an introductory programming language for the five-to-seven set, called ScratchJr, has spun off from the project and is slated for an iPad release this summer.

Read “How to Get Girls Into Coding” in the New York Times.

Learn more about Scratch from MIT News.

And register for the Scratch@MIT conference for educators and researchers coming up at the MIT Media Lab Aug. 6–9, 2014.

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