Happy Friday everyone! After an insane week like this one, it’s always nice to end on a positive note and share a resource. Starting with the next cycle of library classes, I’m expanding the Puzzle App Center to include another option — learning to code.
Admittedly, the official Hour of Code Week was in early December. Our school participated, but I don’t believe the PR hype that learning to code is a required skill for 21st century life and employment. Am I the only tech geek that thinks this way?
Yes, it’s true that some students will discover that they really enjoy coding and/or that they are good at it. Some might eventually want to make a career of programming. For other students, learning to code is just one means of building creativity and problem-solving skills. And it’s certainly not the only means to that end.
For still others, programming won’t be remotely interesting, and that’s okay too. That’s why I think it’s so important that students have as many choices, opportunities, and experiences as possible when they are in elementary school. Sometimes you have to try a lot of things before you find what you like, how you learn, and what you’re really good at. After all, isn’t that one of education’s core purposes?
At the “Learning to Code” library center, students will have a choice to use the Scratch™ web-based block programming language, or the ScratchJr app, or the Lightbot™ coding puzzles. Scratch™ has long been recognized as an exemplary and accessible way for children (and adults) to learn and write programs. Students can create videos, stories, games, and much more within the Scratch™ programming environment, and save their work from week to week by creating an account.
More recently, the FREE ScratchJr iPad app was released, and the Android app is due to be released by the end of March for devices running Android KitKat (4.4) and up. Tablets running Android JellyBean (4.3) will be compatible later in 2015. I know I’m “counting my chickens before they hatch” by starting the center before the ScratchJr app is released, but after looking at the website FAQ, I’m confident they’ll deliver.
UPDATE April 2015 – The ScratchJr Android app is now available, and running on our Nexus tablets!
Finally, the Hour of Code version of the Lightbot™ app is FREE for Apple and Android devices. I haven’t tried the either of the paid versions yet, but once students finish all of the Lightbot™ challenges, then I might buy one or both.
UPDATE June 2019 – There’s no need to buy the paid Lightbot™ apps, honestly. The free version is just fine for the students that use them, and in my experience, student move onto Scratch because it’s much more flexible and has more features to do more.
If you’d like to try out the FREE Learning to Code center in your library, makerspace, or classroom, sign up for my Makerspace Resources email newsletter.
I’d love to hear what you think of the center in the comments! Do you teach computer programming and/or coding skills in your curriculum? What resources and tools do you use?