Amazon is passionate about teaching new skills and providing children access to digital tools from an early age. In order to offer a free course that adapts to different age groups, Amazon has partnered up with several stakeholders to set up an introductory course in computer programming: from block-based programming in primary schools, to using Python in high schools. Among the workshops on offer was “Start from Scratch” aimed at children between the ages of 8 and 9 years old. With the help of an online teacher, the children learn programming with Scratch, an educational piece of software developed by the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that allows you to program interactive stories, create games, animations, 3D simulations or even films. “I stumbled upon this training programe during the lockdown whilst browsing the Amazon website,” explains Thomas. “I thought it was an interesting approach. It was a healthy activity to keep my son occupied during his free time. I signed him up for it.”

A highly enriching educational experience

Start From Scratch

Thomas, a primary school teacher, loves technology, but he’s not an expert. “I got into computers when I was four years old thanks to my dad’s PC,” he says. “I began ‘tinkering’ with computers in secondary school and haven’t stopped since. I’m kind of the family’s computer specialist, the one they come to when they have a problem.” Following in his dad’s footsteps, Michaël (eight years old) is interested in computing and was introduced to programming thanks to his LEGO robot before taking part in the “Start from Scratch” workshop. He attended the online course, two hours a day for two weeks, and found it both “fun and difficult. I learnt to make characters move and speak.” He even began creating a short film whilst attending the workshop and continues to work on it with his mum. “It’s a story about a wizard who feels lonely, so he gathers animals and turns them into humans to not be alone anymore.”

“My wife isn’t passionate about computers and only uses hers for work. As she’s interested in what our son does, Michaël thought it would be fun to play the part of the ‘instructor’ to pass on what he had learnt to his mum,” says Thomas. Very proud of his “student”, Michaël points out that she “learnt fast. She can already program characters!” Michaël then also took the opportunity to share his programming experience with his friends via the videoconferencing tool his dad installed during the lockdown.

A necessity to better grasp the world we live in

Start From Scratch

In Michaël’s family, even though computers haven’t been the main focus, his dad has always tried to show him the importance of digital tools: “It’s essential in order to better grasp the world we live in, allowing him to understand the advantages and dangers of the tools he comes in contact with”. The primary school teacher in him also stresses the fact that “computing is an excellent educational tool that teaches children that it’s alright to make mistakes. Corrective action in coding is fun and fast: you rectify the piece of code that is causing the problem and move on to the next challenge.” Thomas also sees coding as a way of learning a new language: “It allows you to open your mind, discover a new way of thinking, a new logic and to ultimately learn to play with a new set of rules. Mastering the basics of coding also allows you to be ready for tomorrow’s job requirements.”

Delighted with this first workshop, Michaël would like to do it again to “learn even more.It was great, the instructor was good at explaining.I would like to learn how to make games like Mario or even 3D games.You can do that with Scratch.” In the meantime, Michaël’s dream is to become a judo teacher, but he isn’t ruling out the idea of also becoming a video game programmer... with his friends.