After talking with the kids at East Vincent Elementary School a few weeks ago, my head has been in the coding world. I’ve been playing around with different coding websites and apps to see what’s available to help kids and adults learn to code. To be honest, I was blown away by the number of apps, tutorials and sites for coding and gaming. This week, I thought I’d share a bunch of them.
Gamestar Mechanic: Gamestar Mechanic follows the apprenticeship of a new game designer, Addison who learns despite the presence of a rogue programmer who attempts to take over the world. Presented as a comic book adventure where students can play as a male or female Addison, Gamestar Mechanic slowly scaffolds players through basic game design and functionality. My seven-year-old son LOVES it. He gets to play a few games that teach new game functions and then gets to fix games that were sabotaged by the rogue programmer. Gamestar Mechanic is free at the onset but parents will have to pay after the first 5 levels. The cost ($20) isn’t too prohibitive when you place it alongside XBox games which typically run $50 or more.
Lightbot: Lightbot is another favorite at our house. In this game, players learn how to write programs by solving puzzles where a small robot walks around and lights up squares on a maze. The controls are simple to use but teach some pretty complicated stuff. My son is currently working through a level on subroutines but later stages will have him learning about loops and conditions. The Lite version is available for free online but the full version was only $2.99.
Hopscotch: Hopscotch is a little more open-ended than Lightbot, but no less powerful. Users get a series of commands that they can use to program cartoon avatars on a screen. The commands can collect input information or run a simple script that changes the size, position and appearance of the avatar. The Hopscotch community is what makes this app so powerful. Individual designers can share their programs with the community which allows students to learn from one another’s creations. Hopscotch is free in the App Store.
Kodable: Designed for younger programmers, Kodable introduces primary grade students to functions, loops, logic and sequencing. Children write short programs to direct fuzzballs through mazes and collect coins. With age-appropriate music and narration, younger students will love Kodable, which is available for free on the App Store. If you’re working with younger students, you may also want to consider Move the Turtle, Daisy the Dinosaur or Cargo-Bot.
Tynker: Tynker is a web-based app that bills itself as “a complete learning system with online courses that teach programming and computational thinking to kids of all ages, whether or not they have prior experience.” The site offers leveled instruction so students at any grade level can participate. Basic accounts are free for schools and premium accounts are available with the cost dependent on the size of institution.
Scratch: Scratch was developed at the MIT Media Lab to teach younger students to code. Offered through a visual programming interface, students design programs and games by connecting blocks that control the motion, position and interaction of sprites. Scratch is similar in some ways to Hopscotch and Tynker, but offers a lot more functionality. While the app used to be a free download, Scratch now offers an online editor that can be used through Internet browsers. There’s also an offline version available for free. While the site could be used by students of all ages, Scratch is probably best suited for students in middle level grades or older.
GamePress: This free app offers a powerful game creation platform where users can mix sound effects, images and interactive components to build games from their own imaginations and creativity. The site offers a quick tutorial to get you started and then you’re off building your own games. After you’re done, you can share your finished games with others on the GamePress Arcade.