Kodable: Kodable is an app for the iPad. There is a free version which gives you access to the first of three levels which contains 30 different challenges. Kodable is recommended for grades K-2 because it requires no reading skills. That said, it can still be challenging even for 4th and 5th graders. The app contains a teaching guide which helps you understand the coding vocabulary built into it and will soon offer progress tracking. It has been fascinating to see how quickly the students have adopted the new vocabulary as they play. "You set that sequence to loop three times, but it needs to loop four times." "We defined our function this way but it didn't work because that sequence doesn't repeat." Students love finding the solution to each challenge though they do experience mild levels of frustration which is an indicator that critical thinking is taking place.
Tip: “Like” Kodable on Facebook; they post some of the best tech articles I have read.
Hopscotch: Unlike Kodable, this app is not solution-oriented. This free iPad app allows students to apply coding commands to create an animation, thus students are engaged in both critical thinking and creativity (two 21st century skills). There is a very short and basic tutorial that teaches you how to organize the code within the environment along with some sample projects that show the potential of what can be created. The sample projects are what motivate the students to explore it some more and create their own animation. Mathematical principles such as distance, degrees of rotation and scale are incorporated. It is recommended for grades 3-5.
Tynker: Don't have iPads? Start with Tynker. This program is free to educators (parents pay $50/student). From the website: "Tynker's curriculum is filled with age-appropriate activities such as animating characters, building comics and stories,designing and building games, making animated slide shows, programing original music, and creating computer art." Tynker is recommended for grades 4-8 and is ideal for teachers who are coding novices because it has self-paced guided lessons that you assign to students. Their progress is tracked for you through the site.
As the movement toward reintroducing students to computational thinking through coding grows, more apps and programs will emerge. Others that have not been explored in this blog but you may want to look into are Scratch (PC-based), Move the Turtle (iOS) and CargoBot (iPad). There are even more resources listed on the code.org website. Whatever coding environment you choose, students will be engaging in critical thinking, logic, problem-solving, collaboration and creativity. As Steve Jobs said, "Everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think."
Pam Lilley is a National Board Certified Media Specialist at Cornelius Elementary. As a 7th grade student, she gave up her lunch period so she could take a computer elective where she learned to write code in BASIC. She is keenly interested in the authentic integration of technology in education and stays abreast of new trends, ideas and devices by following others who share this interest on Twitter and other social media.