MIT’s Scratch programming language is a great way for kids (and adults) to learn computer science. Because it’s so popular with educators, MIT has created a set of tools for educators looking to use Scratch in their classrooms. After creating a teacher account, Scratch allows you to create classes, manage student accounts/passwords, and create class-specific studios. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how how to get started with a teacher account and set up your classroom.
What can a teacher account do? Do I need one?
With a teacher account, you can create and manage classes, student accounts, and studios on Scratch. Student accounts are associated with a specific class and make it easier for teachers to keep track of and manage these accounts. Some benefits of student accounts include:
- Teachers can create many accounts at once
- Optionally, students can choose their own username and password
- Teachers can reset passwords if students forget them
- Students accounts do not need an email address
- When the class is over, teachers can disable student accounts (shared projects still remain online)
- Student accounts can do anything a normal account can do
What happens next year?
There are a few things to consider for the future. Student accounts can only be associated with one class. If your students will work with another teacher in the future, they’ll need to create a new account. Additionally, they will not be able to sign into their class accounts once you “end” the class. However, any projects they’ve created and shared will still be publicly visible. If students want to continue to work on projects, they can remix their shared class projects from a personal account.
Creating a teacher account
To begin, you’ll need to register for an educator account. Your students will see your username the first time they sign into their accounts, so choose something they’ll recognize. In addition to the normal account details, they’ll ask you to confirm your identity as an educator by providing details about your place of work. The Scratch team will verify your education status in 1-2 days. Until then, you’ll only be able to use the normal Scratch account features.
Creating a class
Once you’ve received an email from Scratch confirming your educator account, you can create your first class.
Go to the Scratch homepage and you’ll see a new set of tools for educators near the top of the screen. Click “My classes”.
Click “New class”
Fill out the class name and description and then click “Add class”
Adding students to a class
Return to “My classes” from the Scratch homepage.
Click “Students” under the class to which you wish to add students.
From here, you have several options for adding students.
Option 1: Import a list of usernames and passwords
This is a good option if you’re working with younger kids because you’ll have a list of all usernames and passwords. You’ll need to create a CSV file with two columns. The left column contains usernames and the right column contains passwords:
The easiest way to do this is with Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. If you don’t have a list of usernames and passwords, check out my tutorial on quickly generating usernames and passwords in Google Sheets. Once you have a CSV file, you can upload it.
From the “Students” tab on your class page, click “CSV Upload”.
Add the CSV file from your computer and click “Upload”.
Option 2: Students create their own accounts
If you want students to be able to create their own accounts associated with your class, you can create a sign up link for them. Even with student-created accounts, you can still reset passwords if necessary. Keep in mind that student-created accounts are permanently tied to your class, which may not be ideal for personal use outside of school.
On the “Students” page within your class, click “Student Sign-up Link”.
Click “generate” to create a sign up link for students.
Copy this link and share it with students (e.g. send it through email, post it in Google Classroom, shorten it with bit.ly, etc.)
Students will see a form that prompts them to join your class. Remind students of good practices when choosing a username, such as not including any personal information.
Option 3: Add a single student
If you have a small class or have already created a class but need to add a new student, you can add a single student to the class. When you add a single student, you choose the username. The password is automatically set to the username of the teacher account and the student will be asked to change it the first time they sign in.
In the “Students” tab of your class page, click “+ New Student”.
Choose a username for the student and click “Add Student”.
The first time students sign in, they will be prompted to provide basic demographic information (regardless of how the account is created). According to the sign up form, this information is used “for verification and to aggregate usage statistics”. This information will not be published anywhere visible on the website. Students are asked to provide a birth month and year, gender, and country.
From time to time, students may forget their passwords. Luckily, Scratch class accounts are easy to reset.
Return to the “Students” tab of your class page and click “Account Settings” under the student whose password you’d like to reset.
Click the option for the method you’d like to use to change the password. “Prompt Student” changes the password to the teacher’s username and asks the student to change their password the next time they sign in. “Manually Change” allows you to set a specific password which the student is NOT asked to change the next time they sign in.
Once you have your Scratch class set up, the possibilities are endless! For ideas to start using Scratch with your students, check out Scratch’s Educator Resources, Harvard’s Creative Computing Curriculum, Scratch in Practice, and the Teaching with Scratch Facebook Group. If you’re looking to incorporate Scratch into ELA, check out my post Coding a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story with Scratch. Happy Scratching!