Getting Started with Coding Apps for Kids

There has been growing interest in the idea of kids of all ages learning to code. This article (from CBC Parents) does an excellent job of explaining in lay terms what coding is, and why the skill of coding (aka programming) could be beneficial to every child’s intellectual development.

Many in education are calling coding ‘the next literacy’ and feel it should be introduced as part of the curriculum at all levels. Local teachers have found many ways to introduce coding into their programs, including online programs such as Code Academy, a popular global initiative called Hour of Code, and using various iPad apps.

In the WRDSB (Waterloo Region District School Board), all elementary students (K-8) have access to iPads. Last fall, the following three coding apps for kids were added to all board deployed iPads. Teachers and parents, if your kids have not explored these apps yet, it’s time to give them a try! If you’d like to add them to your own device(s), the apps are all free in the iTunes store.

Here is a little introduction to each app (from the WRDSB App Document) and some ideas to get you started.
DaisytheDinosaur - Copy
Daisy the Dino is a fun app with an easy drag and drop interface for learning basic programming concepts. Kids will intuitively grasp the basics of objects, sequencing, loops and events by solving this app’s challenges.

  • this is an excellent beginner app for young children – a great intro to coding!
  • the app has 2 levels – ‘Challenge Mode’ has mini-lessons with tutorials – this is recommended to get started as it introduces the basic commands one at a time; ‘Free Play Mode’ is just that and will be easier to use after going through the tutorials.

Hopscotch-logo-small

Hopscotch is a visual coding language app that gives students a creative way to learn the fundamentals of computer programming.

  • made by the same company as Daisy; more advanced, and includes many more options for commands.
  • children will enjoy exploring this app.  They will also enjoy creative challenges such as demonstrating geometry concepts, designing rooms or buildings, creating greeting cards, etc. – their imagination is the limit.

Scratch JrScratch Jr. is a great app which introduces  young children to programming skills as they create their own interactive stories and games.

  • the original, highly respected Scratch web application was created by MIT in 2003 to introduce young people to the concept of programming by creating their own stories, animations and games, with the option of sharing in an online community
  • the Scratch Jr. app introduces the sprites (two-dimensional animated characters) and some of the basics of programming to young children (it says made for ages 6 – 8, however, many teachers and students find that children much older find it a good challenge!)
  • the commands are far more complex than the apps above, and also includes many built in audio options as well as the ability to record your own voice

There are plenty of other coding/programming apps once you are ready for your next challenge. This article (from Edutopia) provides a brief description of 7 excellent, free coding apps which also introduce the concept of programming to kids ages 5 – 11. Give them a try and see how motivated and engaged your students/children will become with coding!

Susan Watt
recently retired ~ Technology Support Teacher, WRDSB
@susan_watt

 

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