Common Sense Review
Updated May 2013


Well-thought-out coding platform for real game programming
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating (1 Teacher Review) 5
  • Kids can create their own programs, actually writing code, using the provided sprites and graphics.
  • Example programs are provided, so kids can manipulate the existing code to customize it and learn how to make it do what they want.
  • When kids type certain commands, like SPRITE, a visual pop-up lets them choose the specifics, and then auto-populates the code.
  • Quick function keys at the top of the keyboard make coding quicker and easier.
  • Along with the coding editor, kids and teachers can access help tools and tutorials to learn to use Codea.
The example programs are a great scaffolding tool to allow students to change little details within the programs and learn to code in the process.
Students need to be self-motivated to learn to program in order to invest the time needed to master Codea.
Bottom Line
Codea is a professional tool that has enough help features that kids can learn programming hands-on.
Amanda Bindel
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 3

Creating a program is not easy. Kids who aren't motivated by the either the process or the end product may get frustrated with the tedious task of coding.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

Codea gives kids the chance to learn hands-on. The sample programs, help tools, and boilerplate starter text for programs give kids a rich learning environment and teaches skills that transfer into real-world application.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 4

User-submitted example programs scaffold learning for kids by giving them examples to customize. A community forum gives them the opportunity to share their work and discuss and collaborate on ideas.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

Point kids to the Getting Started section's Codea Wiki to try out the For Kids tutorial. It offers a step-by-step guide for beginners. A class could work through the tutorial together before students set off to develop on their own or with partners or small groups. Codea as a development tool itself is fabulous, according to developers, but the ease of use on the iPad along with the visual pop-ups within the code and the immediate response of code errors make it a real winner for beginners. The tool is straightforward, though, with no game-like bells and whistles, so kids will need to find some internal motivation to work through it.

As kids get comfortable with the code, they can venture into the example programs and play around with the code, learning as they do so. Many programmers get started just that way -- playing around with code from books, copying it, and then changing it up to see what happens. Since students can start with a tutorial, move into adapting existing code, and then go on to create their own original programs, Codea can reach many programmers at many levels.

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What's It Like?

Codea is a programming platform for the iPad using the Lua programming language. Students familiar with programming can pick it up and pretty quickly start writing their own programs, like games or other graphics, for the iPad. Those new to programming can alter sample programs to become more familiar with programming. Starting with a boilerplate that includes the two required functions -- set-up and draw -- that serve as the hooks into the Lua program, kids then fill in the specifics of the program. Codea is visual, so as students type in the command, for example COLOR, a pop-up appears for them to choose their color from the color wheel. Students will then see the code for the color they chose.

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Is It Good For Learning?

What's impressive about Codea is that it is a real tool for creation. Students will try to create, they'll fail, and then they'll try again until they get it right. It's hands-on learning in a real-world environment. Even students who aren't considering a career in programming will benefit from understanding how software code is written and how to tweak it to customize existing code. Students will have to think critically as they write the code. They are empowered to create whatever their mind can conceive -- games, graphics, sound effects. Codea is a professional tool that has enough help features that students can learn programming hands-on.

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