Scratch and Harry Potter

Faye, my oldest daughter (7), loves often run deep. She’s currently immersed in the arts and takes acting, technique, and piano classes. She also loves all things reading and writing. A Christmas gift from her grandfather was the newly published illustrated version of the first three Harry Potter books, which is unabridged but lowers the interest age by providing beautiful illustrations.

Another gift this year was her Nintendo Switch, which she acquired via Santa Claus. As she has aged, her taste for games has matured as well from basic puzzle games to games such as Minecraft. I still don’t quite understand the appeal of Minecraft, but she has picked up with relative ease regardless. She’s felt comfortable with a PC for some time now as well, as early on we got her a subscription to For whatever reason, at the time, it was very important to me that she know how to use an actual mouse.

Recently, we were having a conversation about careers. She mentioned “video game designer” as a possibility. I told her this sounded like a great idea for her to explore (to extend that any seven year old can) since it combines story design and problem solving, and that I could find some coding tutorials with which she could play around.

In grad school, I had been turned on Scratch, a block-based coding language designed by the Lifelong Kindergarten group in MIT Media Lab, which is purposely designed to be an introduction for kids into coding. It also has a very open ethos as all projects are licensed under CC BY-SA allowing users to easily remix others’ creations.

Faye decided that for Mother’s Day, she wanted to make Katie a Harry Potter-related game since they is a shared affinity. She designed the story below, for which she screencaptured a walkthrough:

As I mentioned, you can remix any project, by checking out the code source, labeled “see inside.” Here’s what the code looks like for one of the sprites Faye used:

It’s so neat to see the extent in which she creatively found solutions for how to create dialogue and scene changes. Though she might not have a language to describe it, things she programmed included:

  • Text input
  • Scale changes
  • Showing and hiding objects
  • Rotating objects
  • Follow the mouse

Pretty crazy. What’s also crazy is that one of the first websites that I designed was also Harry Potter-related, though I was much older than Faye is now. The year was 2001 and the books were heavily popular with teens. I made a fan site that, to my astonishment, is still partially live:

Project Potter

It had all the trappings of a turn-of-the-century website. Frames, an animated background, a custom wand trailing mouse, and a plethora of animated gifs. This was also my first foray into image-manipulation software, although I also remember hand drawing the “buttons” that served as the navigation in MS Paint. One of my favorite pages is one that captured a handful of rumors of future book plot lines. Two interesting ones were “Snape might fall in love” in Book 7, which is interesting given Snape’s arc, and that the last word of Book 7 would be “scar”, which was supposedly the case for a long time, until she changed it at the last second:

J. K. Rowling, the best-selling author, said that at the 11th hour she changed the last word of the final book in the Harry Potter series, the BBC reported. Ms. Rowling acknowledged that the word “scar” had “for ages” been the last word in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” 

A Last Word, Revised, on Harry Potter, NYTimes

For those curious, the last sentence ended up being:

The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.

Recently, has Faye became interested in Harry Potter, she bought a toy wand at the store. To go along with the wand, I printed off the spell list from my website, along with a more legible updated list which you can download here. Who knew my little fan project would be still be so helpful nearly 20 years later?

Adam’s OG spell dictionary
Harry Potter Spells List

Much of what I studied in grad school was about Connected Learning–particularly about how to integrate interest-oriented, openly-networked learning into higher ed coursework. Interestingly, multiple Harry Potter online communities are cited as examples including the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA):

The Harry Potter Alliance (HPA) is a nonprofit organization, established in 2005 by activist Andrew Slack. Inspired by the student activist organization “Dumbledore’s Army” in the Harry Potter narratives, the HPA uses parallels from the fictional content world as an impetus for civic action. It mobilizes young people across the U.S. around issues of literacy, equality, and human rights, and in support of charitable causes.

Connected Learning Research and Design Agenda

as well as a Harry Potter interest group on Ravelry:

Hogwarts at Ravelry has 1100 members and is one of the larger groups for fans of Harry Potter on Ravelry. Its members are predominantly women who range in age from 11 to their mid-60s and have varying degrees of expertise in fiber arts. Some members are just learning to knit or crochet while others are working on publishing a knitting book. It is a group founded on the two shared interests of Harry Potter and fiber crafts. Together, these interests drive their shared purposes of crafting and creating a fictional universe through narrative and those crafts.

Knitting Up Hogwarts: A Harry Potter Fiber Craft Community

So many interesting intersections between learning and HP. A big thank you to Harry Potter and the online community that has affected and continues to affect multiple generations of my family.