Thursday, October 14, 2021

Blackbird - Coding as a Conduit

Last spring I trialed a new learn-to-code platform called Blackbird. As I wrote in May, I liked it and most of my students liked it. This fall Blackbird introduced an updated user interface and a new slogan of "Coding as a Conduit." The mission of Blackbird remains the same as before. That mission being to help teachers introduce coding to their students. 

How it Works
Blackbird is a platform that is trying to bridge the gap between using block editors like Scratch and making students jump into a full-fledged IDE without any built-in support resources. Blackbird teaches students how to write code (specifically, JavaScript) through a series of short, guided lessons before challenging them with some "workshop projects." Along the way there are plenty of easily accessible help resources for students to use without having to leave the code that they're currently writing.

What's New This Fall
Last spring I made this short video about how to use Blackbird. The concepts are the same as when I made the video, but the user interface has changed to make it easier for students to find the lessons and for teachers to view their students' progress. Blackbird released a new video that shows how the current user interface looks. That video is embedded below.

Blackbird Product Tour - Fall 2021 from Blackbird on Vimeo.

Applications for Education
If you have lots of experience teaching coding and programming, Blackbird might be too simple for you. But if you're new to teaching coding and programming, Blackbird is a great choice because it will walk you through all of the activities and lessons before your students do the lessons.
Another update from when I used Blackbird last spring is an improved integration with Google Classroom that makes it easy to import your Google Classroom rosters and view your students' progress through the lessons.