Coding & composition: Youth storytelling with Scratch programming

William Quinn Burke, University of Pennsylvania


As the so-called "digital natives" of the 21st century, children's fluency with web-based technologies is often assumed to be the natural and inevitable extension of living on a "new digital frontier". However, a growing body of research is increasingly questioning this widespread assumption about children's capacity to meaningfully interact and discern information online. While some still tote Web 2.0 entirely in terms of the "wonders of technology", other educational researchers and theorists are growing increasingly cautious about children's capacity to participate meaningfully in digital realms and call for the heightened role of schools as sites in which children can not only become familiar with the technology itself but also learn to use it optimally as an acquired literacy. Using the introductory programming language Scratch (, this two-month design study explores middle school children's ability to learn the basic underlying programming concepts which support Web 2.0 technology in the process of creating their own digital stories. Couching the use of Scratch in terms of storytelling (a) offers a familiar medium through which to introduce a new skill (programming) to the children, and (b) integrates schools' traditional notion of literacy (in terms of reading and writing) with the ever-growing need to ensure children are adept at creating and communicating in the variety of visual and textual media that mark contemporary life. When it comes to composition solely with ink and paper, the one-medium user may very well be the new illiterate; however, it is also crucial to leverage the traditional literacy skills which schools offer in their language arts curricula to facilitate children's—and teachers's—abilities to be more effective creators and consumers of digital content. ^

Subject Area

Multimedia Communications|Education, Technology of|Computer Science

Recommended Citation

Burke, William Quinn, "Coding & composition: Youth storytelling with Scratch programming" (2012). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3510989.