App review by James Denby, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2018
CodeSpark Academy
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CodeSpark Academy

Drag and drop visual code blocks, guide monsters through obstacles

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Learning rating
Editorial review by Common Sense Education
Community rating
Based on 26 reviews
Privacy rating
79%| Warning Expert evaluation by Common Sense
Grades
K–3 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.
Subjects & Skills
Critical Thinking

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Pros: Game-like style is well designed, allows young students to put coding concepts into practice.

Cons: Doesn't promote deep conceptual understanding; teachers will need to compensate for lack of in-game help.

Bottom Line: With strong teacher instructional support, a fun option for basic coding practice.

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.  

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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.

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

The story-based game with whimsical characters is fun for younger kids, and the increasing challenge of each level will keep kids motivated. For those beyond grade three, the design and music will feel very young.

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

Visual blocks of code make important coding concepts accessible for young kids, including loops, variables, events, etc. No feedback is offered, though, on how to improve solutions, and conceptual understanding is limited.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

There's an intuitive interface, and simple animation serves as effective instructions, but there's no help for kids in-app. A curriculum and solutions guide is available for teachers.


Common Sense reviewer
James Denby Educator/Curriculum Developer

Community Rating

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Featured review by
Katie S. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Great for Early Learners
I love this! The students are highly engaged and learning. The website offers lots of teacher supports and materials. The only concern is the interface with Clever can be complicated so I don't recommend building your classes through Clever. Take the time to do it manually so you can make changes if necessary. Overall, this is a wonderful and engaging teaching tool for coding. I highly recommend it.
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Data Safety
How safe is this product?
Users can interact with trusted users and/or students.
Personal information is displayed publicly.
User-created content is not filtered for personal information before being made publicly visible.
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Users can create or upload content.
Processes to access and review user data are available.
Processes to modify inaccurate data are available.
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Data are shared for third-party advertising and/or marketing.
Traditional or contextual advertisements are not displayed.
Behavioral or targeted advertising is not displayed.

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