Saturday, June 2, 2012

Google Blockly - A Visual Programming Language

Thanks to Tweets by Doug Peterson and Jen Deyenberg, this morning I learned about a visual programming tool called Google Blockly. Google Blockly is a graphical tool for designing and testing simple web applications.

Google Blockly's interface reminds me a lot of the MIT App Inventor which is based on code originally released by Google. Google Blockly, like the MIT App Inventor, uses jigsaw pieces containing commands that you can snap together to create an application. The blocks can be dragged, dropped, and rearranged as many times as you like. Google has three working demonstrations of Blockly that you can try right now. There are not any instructions that go along with the demonstrations. One thing that I quickly figured out is that in the demonstrations you need to click on "maze," "control," and "logic" in order to find the jigsaw pieces that you need.
My incomplete maze on Google Blockly. 

Applications for Education
Google Blockly could be a good tool for students to use to play with logic commands in a relatively easy to understand environment. Blockly doesn't require any typing, just clicking, dragging, and dropping with a mouse or on a touch screen.

Blockly is not nearly as robust as something like Scratch or LOGO, but it could be a good introduction to using if-then logic to develop and solve problems.

If you're ambitious and you have the skills, you can grab the open source Blockly code and create your own demonstrations to use with students. Or better yet, have students use the code to develop demonstrations for each other.