Showing posts with label teaching coding. Show all posts
Showing posts with label teaching coding. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Three Free iPad Apps for Learning Programming Basics

An iPad isn't the ideal device for practicing coding and programming principles. I prefer to have students use a full-size Windows or Mac computer as they can split their screens to see lessons and practice in side-by-side windows. But if an iPad is the only device your students' have to use, there are some free apps your students can use to learn programming and coding basics. Here are three that I've used in the past and still recommend.

Daisy the Dinosaur
Daisy the Dinosaur is a free iPad app designed to introduce young students to  some programming basics. The app asks students to create commands for Daisy the Dinosaur to carry out. There is a free play mode in which students can make Daisy do whatever they want. But to get started you might want to have students work through the beginner challenges mode.

PBS Kids ScratchJr
PBS Kids ScratchJr is a PBS Kids-themed version of the popular ScratchJr app. PBS Kids ScratchJr is available as a free iPad app and as a free Android app. The app is designed to help five to eight year old students learn basic programming concepts through a drag-and-drop interface. In the app students program a story or game by selecting background settings and characters for each frame of the story. Then in each frame students select the actions that they want their characters to take. Students snap programming pieces together to make characters move and talk in their stories and games.

The difference between PBS Kids ScratchJr and the regular ScratchJr app is found in the character and background choices. In the PBS Kids version students can select backgrounds and characters from some of their favorite PBS Kids programs including Nature Cat, World Girl, and Arthur.

Grasshopper
Grasshopper is a free app that teaches JavaScript coding through a series of easy-to-follow tutorials. The free app, available for iOS and Android, starts off with an introduction to the basic vocabulary of coding before moving into the coding lessons. You have to pass the vocabulary quiz before your can jump into the lessons. Each lesson has a tutorial, a practice activity, and a quiz. You have to successfully complete each lesson before progressing to the next one. If you need to stop a lesson, Grasshopper saves your place until you can resume. Grasshopper offers an optional reminder service that will encourage you to practice on a daily schedule.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Pi Day Programming Lessons

Tynker is a service that offers programming lessons for elementary school and middle school students. I published a full overview of the service a couple of days ago. You can read that overview here. For Pi Day Tynker is offering a free lesson plan in which students practice their programming skills by making art based on Pi.

Tynker's Pi Day lesson plan has students use Tynker's block programming interface (available to use in your web browser or on Tynker's iPad app) to create art and animations featuring the digits of Pi.

Applications for Education
Tynker's Pi Day lesson plan includes nine pages of step-by-step directions. Despite those detailed directions, if you have never done any programming with your students, I wouldn't make the Pi Day project your first attempt at programming with students. But if you and your students are already familiar with Tynker then the Pi Day lesson could be a fun one for you to use.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Introducing Programming to Elementary School Students

Earlier this week a reader emailed me with the following question:

How would you introduce / start coding with a Grade 2 and 3 class? Snap or Scratch?

My suggestion was to start with ScratchJr then move into Scratch. ScratchJr is available to use on iPads, on Android tablets, and on Chromebooks. ScratchJr uses the same drag and drop programming principles used in Scratch. On Scratch Jr students can program multimedia stories and games. Using ScratchJr is a great way for young students to learn the basic programming concepts that will allow them to later take advantage of all of the capabilities of Scratch.


Applications for Education
ScratchJr offers a series of nine progressively more challenging learning activities that you can do with your students. ScratchJr also provides a curriculum for using programming to reinforce literary and math standards.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Mozilla Releases an Interactive Web Literacy Map

I was recently contacted by the Mozilla Foundation with news about their recently released interactive guide to teaching web literacy. Mozilla's interactive web literacy map is based on three main components of web literacy; reading, writing, and participating. Each of those elements is linked to smaller, supporting components. Clicking on any component of Mozilla's interactive web literacy map will lead you to a definition for that component.

Mozilla's web literacy map is a handy guide to basic definitions of web literacy and the map does a nice job of showing how all of the components are connected. The real value of the web literacy map is found when you click into Mozilla's web literacy teaching activities.

Mozilla's web literacy teaching activities page contains eighteen sections offering dozens of lesson on everything from basic web literacy like protecting privacy on the web to advanced topics like writing Javascript. There is even a section of lessons designed for teaching web literacy in classrooms in which not every student has access to a computer.

Applications for Education
Mozilla's web literacy teaching activities page offers lessons suitable for use with students of all ages. Should find that the lessons are too difficult or too easy for your students go ahead and modify it to fit your needs. Mozilla offers some tools that you can use in building and sharing your own web literacy learning activities.

Additional web literacy resources that I have reviewed for elementary school settings.  
Additional resources for teaching web literacy to middle school and high school students. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

11 Apps and Sites for Learning to Code

If you have spent any time looking at Twitter, Pinterest, or the Edublog-o-sphere in the last week you've probably seen plenty of references to Hour of Code. Over the weekend at the Ed Tech Teacher Google Jamboree Justin Reich and I made references to Logo Writer. For people of a certain age, Logo Writer was our introduction to coding. Today we have many more ways to introduce students to programming and coding. Here are some good resources that you can use to introduce students to programming and coding.

When the conversation amongst educators turns to programming, Scratch is often the first resource that is mentioned. Scratch allows students to program animations, games, and videos through a visual interface. Students create their programs by dragging together blocks that represent movements and functions on their screens. The blocks snap together to help students see how the "if, then" logic of programming works. If you haven't seen Scratch before, watch the short overview in the video below.


Scratch Overview from ScratchEd on Vimeo.

Scratch Jr. is based on the aforementioned online Scratch program. Scratch Jr for iPad and for Android uses the same drag and drop programming principles used in Scratch. On Scratch Jr students can program multimedia stories and games. To program a story or game on Scratch Jr. students select background settings for each frame of the story. Then in each frame students select the actions that they want their characters to take. Students snap programming pieces together to make characters move and talk in their stories and games.

Snap! is a drag-and-drop programming interface designed to help students learn to program. Snap! uses a visual interface that works in your browser on your laptop as well as on your iPad. To design a program in Snap! drag commands into a sequence in the scripts panel. The commands are represented by labeled jigsaw puzzle pieces that snap together to create a program. You can try to run your program at any time to see how it will be executed. After previewing your program you can go back and add or delete pieces as you see fit. Snap! may remind some people of Scratch. That is because the Snap! developers call their program "an extended re-implementation of Scratch." The potential benefit of Snap! over Scratch is that teachers who have a mix of iPads, Android tablets, and laptops in their classrooms can have all of their students use the same programming interface.

The MIT App Inventor allows students to create and publish their own Android applications. The MIT App Inventor works in your web browser (Chrome is recommended). The only download that is required for App Inventor 2 is the optional emulator. The emulator allows people who don't have Android devices to text their apps on their desktops. If you have an Android device then the emulator is not required and you don't need to worry about installing it. MIT provides excellent support documentation and curriculum for classroom use for new users of App Inventor. Click here to read about a great app developed by students using the MIT App Inventor.

Google Blockly's interface will remind you of the MIT App Inventor and Scratch. Google Blockly, like Scratch and 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 five working demonstrations of Blockly that you can try right now. 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.

Crunchzilla is a service that students can use to learn to write Javascript programs. There are two versions of Crunchzilla; Code Maven and Code Monster. Code Monster is designed for students of middle school age. Code Monster contains 58 short lessons that take students from the very basics of things like resizing and repositioning objects to complex creation of animations. Students can work through the lessons in sequence or jump directly to any of the lessons. Students receive instant feedback on each lesson because the code that they write and the results of the code are displayed side by side.

Code Maven offers 59 lessons for students to work through at their own pace to learn programming fundamentals. After completing the Code Maven tutorials students are ready to move on to Game Maven where they can work through 37 lessons in which they will create three simple online games.

TouchDevelop is a great platform through which students can learn to program simple animations and games. On TouchDevelop students program a series of actions by entering sequences of commands such as "move forward" and "turn right" that are carried out on the screen by a chosen figure such as a turtle. In addition to the direction commands students program the distances covered on screen, the colors, the animations, and the images to appear on screen. All commands have to be entered into correct sequences of "if, then" logic in order for everything to display as intended. TouchDevelop works on most modern web browsers including Chrome for iPad. Students completed programs can be saved online and or exported for use as Windows apps or HTML5 applications.



CodeMonkey received its own post over the weekend. I am including it in this list for folks who want to compare it with tools that are similar to it. CodeMonkey is a fun game through which students learn some basic programming skills. In the game students have to help a monkey get his bananas. The game presents students with a series of thirty progressively more difficult challenges in which they have to help a monkey reach his bananas. Students help the monkey get his bananas by correctly programming the movements of the monkey. CodeMonkey provides little tutorials for to help students through the challenges.

Mozilla Thimble App is a free tool that allows you to write and test HTML and instantly see how your new code will look on the web. On one side of your screen you will see your code and on the other side you will see how your code looks on the web. When you're ready to share your new code with the world just click "publish" to have a web address created for your page.

Daisy the Dinosaur is a free iPad app designed to introduce young students to  some programming basics. The app asks students to create commands for Daisy the Dinosaur to carry out. There is a free play mode in which students can make Daisy do whatever they want. But to get started you might want to have students work through the beginner challenges mode. Daisy the Dinosaur asks students to enter commands in the correct sequence in order to make Daisy complete tasks correctly. Daisy the Dinosaur could be used with students as young as Kindergarten age.