Coding is an extremely useful skill for everyone to learn at school. However, if you haven’t programmed before you may be wondering where to start. A lot of people talk about scratch and Python so which one is easier and requires less effort to learn?
Of the two programming languages, scratch is definitely much easier to learn than python and much more engaging for children who are being introduced to code for the first time. The reason for this is that scratch uses block coding which allows someone to be introduced to the concepts commonly used in coding without having to worry too much about the specific commands and syntax required to run the code.
As a result of this scratch is often used within schools as an entry point into coding and is typically introduced to teach your children for the first time during elementary school. It is not uncommon to have students that are 8 to 12 years of age using scratch to create projects such as games and stories.
Whereas python is significantly more complex and is generally only introduced in high schools when kids reach the ages of 14 or 15 and even at those ages they find the concept of coding with python relatively difficult in most cases.
What Is Block Coding?
For those unfamiliar with scratch and the concept of block coding, you may be wondering what actually is. Block coding refers to programs where commands are placed in blocks into a coding area. In the case of scratch, the type of command is color-coded depending upon the type of command which makes it even easier for students to understand how the code is structured. An example of block coding and scratch is shown in the image below.
This type of coding makes it far more accessible for even young students because it is very easy to insert commands and create characters and backdrops which can be manipulated relatively easily.
An example of this is the way that movement commands operate within scratch which are in blue. When a character, known as a Sprite in scratch, is moved to a position on the screen all of the commands on the side that the user can select for movement are automatically adjusted to match that position which means that it is very easy to structure how sprite moves. It also allows children to easily visualize how the code is working and what it is doing.
What Is More Difficult About Python?
The more challenging thing about Python and any coding language for that matter is that it has many more commands and requires the commands to be applied in a specific way which means that the Syntax needs to be correct.
The most challenging part that students find when learning a coding language is the capacity to debug the code which requires systematic problem-solving skills to solve the issue. In my year 9 classes teaching programming it is common to see that more than 50% of the students typically struggle with this specific skill which often holds them back.
Are There Any Limitations With Scratch?
Due to the simplicity of scratch, there are several significant limitations to using the program. The program is designed to teach coding in an entertaining and engaging way making it accessible to a range of ages. As a result of this, it is extremely user-friendly when it comes to creating games and graphics however there are several limitations.
The first is that coding can only be completed within the scratch environment and it is not able to control any other applications. Additionally, it is not able to handle text or numbers in any significant way which means it is really only designed to produce games and nothing more.
Is Scratch A Better Start To Programming Or Python?
If you are going to learn to program, scratch is essentially just an introductory program that only provides a very limited overview of the kinds of processes you might use such as loops and variables. As a result of the simplicity of scratch, it has limited value in terms of educating a person about programming skills unless they are relatively young.
You are much better off, if you want to develop programming skills, to just go straight to python or even another language such as VBA which is useful for using in Excel. It can be used to program games and also analyze data.
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