Informatics, TU Vienna

Scratch & Snap! Easy programming for the young generation

The Faculty of Informatics hosts the third conference on Constructionism and Creativity in August 2014. Keynote speakers are well-known scientists and developers such as Mitchel Resnick, inventor of the programming environment “Scratch”, Brian Harvey, inventor of “SNAP!” and Wolfgang Slany, who won the Austrian Innovation Award for the mobile programming tool “Catrobat”.

Informatics, Constructionism, and Creativity

“Constructionism” is the name coined by Seymour Papert to describe an approach to education centered on having learners construct physical artifacts that can be shared with others as a way to construct meaning. Based on this approach Papert developed in the late 1960ies the computer programming language for learners “Logo”.

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Mitchel Resnick followed the approach of Seymour Papert and developed the computer programming language for children and teenagers called “Scratch”. Now he directs the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the Media Laboratory at the MIT and develops with his colleagues new technologies to engage people (particularly children) in creative learning experiences.

Brian Harvey (University of Berkeley) later extended Resnick’s development by the language “SNAP!”. Both, Resnick and Harvey will give insights in their current scientific activities and how to use creative learning strategies. Gerald Futschek, local conference chair, is looking forward to the conference in Vienna: “The Constructionism and Creativity is the single conference worldwide, which is dealing with Constructionism.”

The future is object-oriented and parallel

Basically, the idea of those programming languages is to allow children to get in touch with computers and programming in a very easy way. The languages “Logo”, “Scratch“ and “SNAP!” follow the principals of object-oriented programming and parallel programming. Especially the second characteristic is interesting for today’s computer science: computers where always thought and programmed as machines which process the tasks in a sequential way. In fact, due to multi-processors parallel computing could lead to utilization of capacity of computers.

The same approach used Wolfgang Slany (TU Graz) and developed a programming tool for mobiles: At the conference he will present the application “Catrobat”, which is inspired by Resnick’s Scratch but independently developed and entirely running on smartphones and tablets. Wolfgang Slany, who studied at the Faculty of Informatics, TU Vienna, won in 2013 the Austrian Innovation Award in Multimedia and E-Business.

Constructivism or Constructionism?

The idea that learners construct meaning, of course, is the Constructivism of Jean Piaget. Constructivism talks about the invisible construction of ideas, and relations among ideas, within the mind of the learner. Constructionism adds to that the idea that external construction of real artifacts is a powerful means to achieve Piaget's internal construction of understanding.

If knowledge is constructed by each learner, then creativity is a constant requirement. It's easy to underestimate the creative energy that every learner must put into the task of learning even seemingly simple matters of fact. This year's Constructionism conference takes learner creativity as its central theme.

About the Conference

The conference Constructionism and Creativity addresses computer scientists who are active in education as well as educators in various fields. The conference in 2014 will be the third conference under that name, but building on the 27-year tradition of biennial Eurologo conferences established by the European Logo community.

This conference is organized by the Institute of Software Technology & Interactive Systems and the Austrian Computer Society (OCG).