Review by Seth Guttenplan, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2018
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Box Island for Schools

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Animated block coding app can be overwhelming for young learners

Subjects & skills

  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Uses block programming and animated boxes, includes options for an Hour of Code or a full curriculum.

Cons: Full curriculum is too long for young learners, lacks a story and built-in lessons.

Bottom Line: Great block coding app for Hour of Code, but the large number of challenges in the main curriculum make it hard to implement in the classroom.

Box Island for Schools is a block programming app where students complete various coding challenges. The app includes two options: Hour of Code and Box Island. The first option may be used during Computer Science Education Week when many students are completing an Hour of Code. The age of each student may be chosen when entering the Hour of Code section. The second option includes over 180 block programming challenges for students to complete, which may be overwhelming for younger students. Teachers can assign a number of challenges to complete in class, leaving the remaining ones for homework. However, depending on school policy, students may not be able to bring home the same device used in the classroom.

Box Island for Schools doesn't have built-in lessons. Therefore, teachers should provide instruction on each topic -- algorithms, pattern recognition, sequencing, loops, conditional statements, and more -- before students try to complete challenges related to the lesson.

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Box Island for Schools is a block-based coding app that teaches the fundamentals of computer programming in a fun and engaging way. Its animated features make it just fun enough for elementary-age students. Learners may choose between Hour of Code and Box Island, each with a different number of challenges to complete. Students drag and drop blocks into the workspace, instructing the animated box where to go to earn three stars for each challenge. As the student moves through the challenges, new blocks are introduced to teach more complex concepts such as loops and conditional statements.

The Hour of Code option is manageable for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, but the Box Island section requires a great deal of time to complete -- perhaps more time than most teachers have for classroom instruction.

The best part of Box Island for Schools is the block programming that allows students to learn the basics of coding without using difficult text-based languages. For those as young as kindergarten age, students can learn about algorithms, pattern recognition, sequencing, loops, and conditional statements in a fun way. It can be helpful for young students especially, as they have a visual of an animated box that travels around an island. However, since there are no lessons instructing the students about the aforementioned topics, additional lessons are required by the teacher.

Box Island for Schools is recommended to use for the Hour of Code, but the full curriculum may be overwhelming for students. It won't be easy to implement in the classroom unless your class is entirely devoted to coding or your school has implemented a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) system.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Students may be interested in the animated boxes while coding, but the full curriculum lacks a story and there are too many challenges for such young learners.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Box Island for Schools includes many coding challenges where students learn about sequencing, loops, and conditional statements. However, there are no explanations or lessons teaching these concepts. 

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

There's an icon on the main screen that provides curriculum information, solutions, the ability to set player progression, and more. The curriculum and solutions can be accessed through the app or website.

Common Sense Reviewer
Seth Guttenplan Technology coordinator

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