Computer programming might seem difficult and tedious to learn. This doesn’t have to be the case. Learning to code can be fun and entertaining. Several mobile apps help you learn basic computer programming logic by playing games or solving puzzles through a series of challenges. When introducing these games to students, I first discuss the essential components of a programming interface.
- Commands library (reference materials)
- Code editor (where code is written or dragged and dropped)
- Preview stage / run screen (where the result of the code is shown)
As students progress in the apps, we discuss the various computer programming concepts that we discover. Here are a couple ideas we discuss:
There are lots of these “learn code by playing games” apps to choose from. You might want to use all of the apps or just a couple of them depending on the device you will be using (iOS, Android, Windows, web) and the features you’re looking for.
Learn Code by Playing Games with These Apps…
1. Lightbot (iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, Amazon) $2.99
Lightbot has a few apps to choose from. I recommend trying out the free Hour of Code app to see if you enjoy it. If you are using a Windows tablet, then your options for coding apps may be limited. Lightbot might be your answer.
2. Kodable (iOS, Web) Free (In-app/school purchase)
I consider Kodable to be a must-have app, especially for your youngest coders. The feature that stands out about this app is that teachers can manage and track their students’ progress with the online dashboard, and educators can access many resources on Kodable’s website. Note: @Kodable facilitates #KidsCanCode Twitter chat (Tuesdays)
3. Cargo-Bot (iOS) Free
Cargobot is the first game programmed entirely on the iPad (with an app called Codea). This app is pretty challenging and is completely free. Another must-have app for your iPad.
4. Cato’s Hike (iOS) $4.99
Cato’s Hike has a RPG (role playing game) interface that is very attractive. It can be played on the iPad or iPhone. There’s a lite version of the app if you want to try it out before deciding whether or not it’s worth the $4.99 to explore all the levels.
5. Robot School / Move the Turtle (iOS, Android, Mac) $2.99
The company Next is Great has two programming apps. Robot School is has a cool 3D looking interface that resembles LEGOs. The other programming app is called Move the Turtle. Move the Turtle includes a free-play mode where users can program the turtle draw unique designs with the code they learn in the app.
6. Code Blast (iOS) $0.99
This app is similar to many of the other apps mentioned above. It’s features are really basic and it’s $0.99.
7. Daisy the Dinosaur (iOS) Free
Like Move the Turtle, Daisy the Dinosaur has both challenge mode and free-play mode. Challenge mode only has a few levels. In free-play mode, users can program Daisy to move, jump, spin and other miscellaneous tricks. This app is very simple and can be mastered by young children in just a few minutes. The good thing about it is that it’s free!
8. Tynker (iOS, Android, Web) Free (In-app/school purchase)
Tynker also has both “Create” mode and “Play” mode. Play mode takes users through a series of challenges and teaches block coding that resembles Blockly code used by many web-based visual programming sites. The first course is free (Codey’s Quest), and additional courses can be purchased starting at $2.99. Like Kodable, Tynker has a teacher dashboard where student progress can be monitored. Students can sign in with Google, which can save teachers time setting up student accounts. If you plan on using the more robust and open “Create” side of Tynker, it might be worth purchasing some of the courses to help you get the hang of using the Blockly style programming language.
If you are a teacher and want to manage student progress, Kodable and Tynker are your best options. If you have younger students, I recommend Kodable for iOS and web. For older students where you plan on assigning open, creative coding projects at some point, purchasing some courses on Tynker is a good option for iOS, Android and the web. If you’re not a teacher and/or just want to learn to code by solving puzzles, then I recommend the free Cargo-Bot app for iOS. If you’re not using an iOS device, then you can’t go wrong with Lightbot if you’re willing to spend about $3. Go for it! Learn code by playing games!
Written by +MattHurst