codeSpark Academy is best used to let students practice concepts they've learned in other contexts and situations. Because there's no specific instructional element to the app, students may not recognize that what they're doing is putting coding concepts to work to solve problems. If students use the app before or after more direct instruction about, for example, what loops do and how they work in code, they'll be much more likely to see what they're doing with codeSpark Academy as actual coding. If teachers don't help students make that connection, a lot of the important learning may be missed. Teacher instructional materials include lesson plans as well as a solutions guide that gives students prompts to complete all of the levels.Continue reading Show less
codeSpark Academy is a simple game-based app for learning about coding concepts. Kids drag and drop commands -- represented by visual blocks of code from the Scratch programming language -- into the correct order to animate a personalized character to collect coins or rescue lost pets by navigating around obstacles. Kids must complete one level to advance to the next, and they receive one, two, or three stars based on how efficiently they use the commands; levels can be replayed for a higher score. Important coding concepts like loops, conditionals, sequences, and events are introduced with multiple challenges that build in complexity. In the Create/Design and Code section, challenges are more open-ended, with students combining the concepts they learned in more original ways.
For teachers, codeSpark Academy allows for the creation of classes and the tracking of student progress in key coding skill areas. Once a class is created, teachers can set up the app on classroom devices so that students can play the game without any complicated login procedures or passwords.
codeSpark Academy is a fun game for young students to see loops, conditionals, events, and so forth in action, and can easily be integrated into an elementary classroom. Kids won't actually see any of the language of programming or write actual code, but they'll drag and drop commands into place to control the game, giving them a picture of what's involved behind the scenes, so to speak, in the video games they play. Since there's no in-app help or directions by design (which does make it accessible to more students), kids have to figure out what to do and how to do it on their own. A solutions guide is available, and it's really essential since some levels involve trickier solutions requiring multiple characters.
Deep understanding of the concepts, however, will come from a social learning environment. codeSpark Academy doesn't offer that; it offers a way to practice. For teachers who understand basic coding principles, the concepts in codeSpark Academy can be taught more effectively unplugged (without a device) than with the app. It would be far better to have students involved in cooperative game-based classroom activities that provide ample opportunity for discussion and reflection. Once students have that foundation, they'll truly appreciate the coding concepts in codeSpark Academy.