To date we have used Scratch in our school to develop children’s coding skills. However, while this is a fantastic application, it is more suited to the older primary school pupil. We recently looked at a range of free, web based applications that can help to develop coding and programming skills throughout the primary school but that are particularly useful for the younger student. The following 5 applications have proved very popular with our pupils.
Lightbot (http://lightbot.com/flash.html) is an educational game for children that introduces several principles of programming. Children will practice concepts like sequence, conditions, and loops without typing any code. They simply use problem solving skills to complete the puzzles. Lightbot encourages children to explore programming concepts by commanding the robot to navigate a maze and light up all the blue squares. Players drag and arrange symbols on the screen to command the robot to walk, turn, jump, switch on a light and so on. The maze and the list of symbols become more complicated as the lessons progress. Lightbot was created as an initiative to get children worldwide immersed in computer science. The Lightbot game gives children over 20 puzzle levels to work through using instruction sequencing, procedures, loops, and other coding basics. There is minimal reading and no inappropriate content, making Lightbot appropriate for children as young as 5.
Lightbot teaches the following specific coding constructs,:
- Sequential Control Flow: Commands get executed one after the other.
- Procedures: Blocks of code for taking advantage of re-usable patterns.
- Loops: Blocks of code specifically used for patterns that repeat, or ‘loop’.
- Debugging: Running and re-running a program, testing solutions, fixing mistakes.
JIT Turtle (https://www.j2e.com/jit5#turtle) introduces pupils to the concept of moving and turning an on-screen character, creating a virtual journey by entering instructions. On starting Turtle, there are a number of templates to choose from, each providing a number of ‘destinations’ and a suitable character ‘sprite’ (e.g. the space template has a rocket, the town template has a walking man).
Surrounding the character sprite are command buttons to move it forwards and backwards, turn it left and right through 90° and lower and raise a pen to mark out the route taken. Each click/tap on these buttons adds a command to the sequence panel on the left of the screen and visually moves the sprite across the template. When the journey is completed, the commands can be played back by selecting the play button at the bottom-left of the screen.
In the default Simple mode, when a command is made and added to the command panel, the sprite also moves on the screen. In Advanced mode, when the command buttons are selected, the commands are added to the command panel as before, but the sprite doesn’t move on screen Therefore, in Advanced mode, pupils will have to work out the commands required to get the sprite to a particular destination. Each command in the panel can be individually deleted if incorrect commands were selected.
Code.org is a non-profit organization and website led by Hadi Partovi that aims to encourage people, particularly school students in the United States and worldwide, to learn computer science and coding. The website includes free coding lessons and the initiative also targets schools in an attempt to encourage them to include more computer science classes in the curriculum.
Over 5 million students had learned to code using Code.org‘s courses in classrooms worldwide.
The primary school section of the website can be accessed at https://code.org/educate/curriculum/elementary-school This contains six units or courses.
Course A: https://studio.code.org/s/coursea
Course B: https://studio.code.org/s/courseb
Course C: https://studio.code.org/s/coursedc
Course D: https://studio.code.org/s/coursed
Course E: https://studio.code.org/s/coursee
Course F: https://studio.code.org/s/coursef
RapidRouter (Code For Life)
Code For Life is a non-profit initiative that delivers free, open-source games that help all students learn computing. The application Rapid Router (https://www.codeforlife.education/rapidrouter/) has been created to teach the first principles of computer programming to primary school pupils.
Rapid Router is a fun and engaging education resource which includes a coding game that helps teach children the basic principles of programming. Built on ‘Blockly’, an easy-to-use visual programming language that’s similar to Scratch, Rapid Router enables teachers to monitor and manage individual pupil progress and identify where more support is required.
Inspired by the growing need for kids to learn computer programming, a small group of software developers decided to design an app that would help players develop the logic and spatial reasoning skills they’d eventually need to learn to code. Out of this BotLogic (http://botlogic.us/play) was created as a fun and challenging logic/coding application. BotLogic.us is an educational puzzle game that challenges kids to tackle complex logic problems while teaching valuable programming concepts. Using simple commands (and eventually code), players program their bots to navigate through progressively challenging mazes. As their skills improve, players earn rewards by using the fewest number of commands.