Review by James Denby, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2019
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Coding Galaxy

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Conventional puzzle app best integrated with unplugged lessons

Subjects & skills
Subjects
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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.
K–3
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Pros: Offers a complete set of paid lesson plans to accompany the app.

Cons: The app by itself isn't likely to take students very far; pricing information for lesson plans lacks transparency.

Bottom Line: If you combine the free app with the paid lesson plans, you'll be able to offer a good introduction to key coding concepts.

By itself, the Coding Galaxy app isn't likely to build a strong foundation for programming or computational thinking skills. The familiar format may appeal to students initially, but many will lose interest after completing a few of the missions. Combined with the teacher-led lessons, however, Coding Galaxy has much more potential. These lessons are best as a mini-unit in which each session includes in-class, unplugged activities involving discussion and small group work and then short chunks of time with the app.

One potential use of Coding Galaxy is as a warm-up unit to build conceptual skills (around things like decomposition, for example) before moving on to coding original projects with Scratch.

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Coding Galaxy is an app for students in K-3 designed to teach basic elements of coding through 20 independent and five collaborative learning missions. There's also a competitive esports option available. The app follows the familiar pattern of many other learn-to-code puzzle apps: Students have to put together a string of code blocks (e.g., turn left, jump, etc.) to navigate through to an end goal. The app can be used by itself, or teachers can register and create an online classroom through the teacher dashboard to monitor student progress. 

Coding Galaxy stands out a bit from the many other puzzle-based coding apps because of the (paid) computational thinking curriculum available to teachers who sign up. The handouts that go with each lesson plan include role-plays, discussions, and hands-on physical activities to help students develop a deeper understanding of key concepts in computational thinking without the app. These unplugged (offline) activities focus on concepts such as sequencing, decomposition, loops, pattern recognition (abstraction), parallelism, and collaboration. Lessons are designed to meet standards from the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) in computational thinking and computing practice and programming. Teachers who sign up for a free 14-day trial can get access to the first three lessons from the curriculum.

As far as the app goes, Coding Galaxy is pretty typical of many of the other learn-to-code apps out there. Students put code blocks together to make a character collect rewards and reach an end goal. For many students, this type of activity quickly loses its appeal, so the learning is limited. 

The Coding Galaxy curriculum, however, offers a broader range of activities that support the teaching and learning of important concepts in computational thinking. Lessons mix unplugged activities that allow for discussion, reflection, and skill-building with time working in the Coding Galaxy app. Rather than just doing one puzzle after another in the app, this lays a foundation for deeper learning. Each of the available sample lessons is approximately 60 minutes long and is easy for teachers with little or no coding experience to implement.

Overall Rating

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

Students may quickly get bored with the puzzles in the app. The lesson plans, which include discussions and hands-on physical activities, are more likely to hold their interest.

 

 

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

The app offers very familiar coding puzzles: Students put code blocks together to collect rewards and reach an end goal. Paid lessons include reflection and skill-building activities that promote deeper learning.

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

The lesson plans are good guides for teachers interested in computational thinking. In-app support is fairly clear.


Common Sense Reviewer
James Denby Educator/Curriculum Developer

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