With all of the excitement generated by the Hour of Code last month at Holy Trinity, we thought parents and students might enjoy exploring some of the iPad apps that teach programming skills. Here are a few options to get you started!
Free; In-app purchase to unlock all content $6.99 – iTunes
Geared towards ages 4+, the Kodable app is a great way for even young students to learn the basics of computer programming logic. The app has users help a family of brightly colored fuzzballs work their way through a series of mazes. The first unit, Smeeborg, is available in the free version. It contains 30 lessons and introduces students to basic problem solving, if/then statements, and loops. In-app purchases ($1.99 per unit, or $6.99 to unlock all content) provide access to more advanced lessons, including Functions and Debugging. The Adult mode gives parents and teachers access to additional resources including learning guides and even includes instructions for setting up Guided Access on your child’s iPad (Guided Access ensures that your child is limited to using only one app at a time.) If you are interested in getting your early childhood or primary elementary student started with programming concepts, Kodable is a great place to start.
The Bee-Bot app is based on the Bee-Bot robot, a programmable device geared towards young children. Students move the Bee-Bot through mazes of increasing complexity. You program the robot by tapping on arrows on the screen and then hitting go. This is a fun app for the little ones, but unfortunately it provides no visual indicator on the screen that shows what commands have already been entered. (I imagine this is because it is designed to duplicate the actual Bee-Bot robot interfaces.) As a result, it is difficult to program the “longer” mazes at one time. It’s not hard once you get the hang of it, but not as easy to use as some other apps. This would be a good game for parents and early childhood students to play together.
The Bee-Bot Pyramid app provides users with more complex mazes as the Bee-Bot must make its way to a treasure chest. Users must adapt their programming strategy midstream as an evil Mummy moves to block the Bee-Bot’s path. The app has only 12 levels, but provides some interesting challenges for young students who have mastered the first Bee-Bot app.
Daisy the Dinosaur
Free – iTunes
Daisy the Dinosaur introduces elementary students to the basics of coding. In the challenge mode, students figure out how to move a cartoon dinosaur by dragging and dropping commands into a program box. The commands are written words, not directional symbols, making this app more appropriate for students who can read (although younger students good do it with adult assistance). The Challenge mode is relatively limited in the commands offered and the number of challenges presented, although the free play mode gives students the opportunity to exercise their imagination. It’s a good introduction to programming, but I would prefer to see more challenge levels available.
For older elementary students through adults, Light-bot provides hours of programming engagement. In this app, the user moves a robot through a maze by dragging and dropping commands into the programming interface. The puzzles increase in difficulty pretty quickly, making it a great app for kids who enjoy puzzles, but perhaps a bit challenging for students in early primary grades. Motivated users can collect stars by completing programs in no more than a specified number of steps. This teaches kids that there are multiple ways to work through programming challenges and that some methods are more efficient than others. The lite version introduces users to procedures; the full version goes through Overloading, Loops, Conditional Statements and Challenge Levels. Adults may find themselves ditching Candy Crush for the advanced challenges presented by Light-Bot; it provides hours of engagement and fun.
Free – iTunes
Geared toward older children (starting at 9-10) this app appears deceptively simple: the goal is to move crates from one place to the next. Students drag commands into the programming space and quickly get into loops, If-then-else statements, etc. As with Light-bot, the challenges increase at a rapid pace and students earn stars for writing more efficient code. The app gets into more complicated programming concepts quickly and would be well suited for students who have done some basic programming and are looking for more challenges. Adults who enjoy puzzles will like Cargo-bot as well.
Free – iTunes
With a drag and drop interface similar to the popular, web-based Scratch (scratch.mit.edu), Hopscotch allows students to program games and animations using programming logic without having to worry about the complexities of programming syntax. Unlike some of the other apps listed here, Hopscotch is open ended, allowing kids to explore and create on their own. The app could benefit from additional tutorials, which would help students who need a bit more structure in their learning, but some adult guidance should provide these students with the confidence to start exploring. For more info, visit https://www.gethopscotch.com/
Director of Information Technology
Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy