MakeOffices Member Spotlight: At Scratch Foundation, Helping over 200 Million Kids Express Their Ideas Through Code

Posted May 3, 2018 by Manu Aggarwal

If you’re a parent, screen time is a topic of constant debate. How much screen time is good for my kids? Are some types of screen time better than others? What if your child could imagine, create, and animate while in front of a screen?

Enter Scratch, the free coding language and online community where you can create your own interactive stories, games, and animations. Meet Lisa O’Brien, Executive Director of the Scratch Foundation, whose mission is to make sure Scratch is available for free, for everyone, so kids can express their ideas through coding. In 2017 alone, over 200 million children made a project with Scratch.

We sat down with Lisa to discuss the Foundation, some of the amazing projects kids have made on the platform, why MakeOffices was a great fit for her, and some exciting new developments.

Tell us about yourselves and your backgrounds:

Lisa: My background is in education, art, and technology. I used to be a classroom teacher, and have a Master’s degree in education. I’ve been in the field for many years working to bring technology into classrooms in creative ways.

How did Scratch Foundation come to be?

Lisa: Scratch (scratch.mit.edu) was developed at the MIT Media Lab and it’s been around for more than 10 years. Over time, Scratch has grown into the world’s largest coding platform for kids. We needed a way to support the continued growth and to help the project continue to scale, so the Scratch Foundation was established in 2013 as an independent 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Scratch is available for free, so finding ways to support its growth is really important.

The Scratch platform was originally developed as a way to help kids bring their ideas to life with a variety of digital media (music, sound, images). It launched in 2007 as a downloadable desktop application. Kids could create their own stories, games, and animations, and then share them with the broader Scratch community by uploading them to the Scratch website. Growth really took off in 2012 when with the release of Scratch 2.0, which brought Scratch to the web.

How did you get involved in Scratch Foundation?

Lisa: I used to work at Discovery Communications in its education vertical. Given my background in teaching, I wanted to bring more engaging content to the classroom beyond video, which I felt was a passive learning experience for kids. With Scratch, kids are actively participating with technology and creating things together, so the mission was a good fit. We also have an incredible team, so the people I with day-to-day are great too.

Tell us about a time you were inspired by the work you were doing?

Lisa: A lot of my inspiration comes from looking at the projects kids create, which range from animations and platformer games to interactive stories and art. In some cases, kids work together on projects. One child made a project with 40 other kids he met through the Scratch online community and they created a project that pays tribute to the Orlando nightclub shooting.  Other kids develop their drawing and animations skills. Games are also very popular.

What has been the biggest hurdle so far?

Lisa: Raising enough money and building a sustainable revenue stream of support for the project. However, we are very optimistic!

Why the move to MakeOffices?

Lisa: I was working from home and needed office space, I knew we were going to hire and grow, but I also wanted a professional community. Working from home was very isolating.

We’ve been members at MakeOffices Bethesda for four years, and the space is ideal. I thought it would be temporary, but it’s been a great fit for what we do. It’s managed well, and the community is nice.

Why did you choose MakeOffices?

Lisa: I looked at a couple of other places. I choose MakeOffices because of the location, and I got a great vibe from it.

What’s your favorite part of being a member at MakeOffices?

Lisa: I like how it’s managed. All the Community Managers are professional and nice, and they care about the community and work that’s being done here. I also like the Lunch and Learns that member companies host.

Do you have a morning routine?

Lisa: Show up, get coffee, and start working.

What’s on the playlist right now?

Lisa: Pearl Jam. I’m stuck in the 90s!

What’s next for Scratch Foundation?

Lisa: A lot of growth. A technical overhaul for the platform is on the horizon, and we’re launching a big fundraising campaign as well

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