I am excited by the (#HourofCode) initiative happening this week as part of Computer Science Education Week (#CSEdWeek). The shear number of amazing coding tutorials now available online is almost overwhelming. To try and make the event more accessible for my teachers and students I have gone through the tutorials (very superficially I should add) and picked out the ones I think I want to try with students this week.
My criteria for a good tutorial included the following:
- It did not include too many video tutorials, which I find too passive and immediately reduce my interest level.
- An engaging interface and storyline.
- Good pacing and scaffolding of skills.
- Lightbot. I tried this one out very successfully with my 8 year old daughter. The app was made specially for the Hour of Code. I really liked the pace of the game and how the skills are scaffolded. As well as learning to program a robot to go in different directions, she learned about loops and sub-routines. For the most part she was able to figure it out for herself, but she needed some adult guidance at the start of each new level to understand the new programming principle being introduced. Lightbot was such a success that I have downloaded their full app.
- Kodable. Kodable doesn’t have an Hour of Code App like Lightbot, but they are offering their pro version for $0.99 this week. According to their website the pro version gives access to all current and future Kodable content, including the Kodable Curriculum, as well as all features available as in-app purchases in the free version of Kodable. I found the pace of Kodable a lot slower than Lightbot, which might make it more accessible for younger children. I only played a few levels and was introduced to giving directions, if-then statements and loops. I found the loop instructions rather confusing and had to play around a bit to figure it out. Students will definitely need some adult help at points.
- Scratch Holiday Card. I have to admit I haven’t put much time into this one yet but am a big fan of Scratch 2.0 and the MIT group that support it. The tutorial is set up to be very self directed with each stage of the project laid out as a list of links in the right hand sidebar that you can click in any order. Each link toggles a short video showing the student what to do next. I like this as nothing is more annoying than having to watch something you already know in order to get to the good stuff. They have also created a great Scratch Hour of Code teacher’s guide which includes a 1 page version of the tutorial.
- Livecode.org also has a nice Scratch like tutorial (I think technically they are using Blockly) I thought that this was quite a nice transition from the simple arrow like instructions of Lightbot or Kodable, into something a bit more authentic. I also liked that you can click a button to see the real code behind each block. I found the game play a bit slow and repetitious. I eventually got stuck when the game introduced loops and I couldn’t get the repeat block to accept the right number. I do think the fact that in the game you program an Angy Bird to attack a pig might motivate some students.
- Finally I was really intrigued by 3D Frogger. It was mostly set up as video tutorials but with an iterface that made it really easy to pause and hide the video when you wanted to try the skills youself, and just as easy to restart the video. It also looked like there was potential to create a really cool 3d game.
There are more tutorials coming out all the time, but these are the ones I think I will suggest students try next week. Of course if they choose to try other ones I will let them. Are there any other ‘must try’ tutorials that I have missed?