Review by James Denby, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2018
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Grasshopper: Learn to Code

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First-class free app for learning to code with JavaScript

Subjects & skills

  • Critical Thinking
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Pros: Clear learning progression, interesting challenges; teaches concepts as well as a specific coding language.

Cons: Focused just on JavaScript; designed for individual users (not classroom use).

Bottom Line: This app will no doubt help individual, motivated learners see how coding works using real code.

Grasshopper is designed for individual learning rather than classroom implementation, so there's no dashboard or central place to monitor student progress. This makes it better suited for students to learn and practice at their own pace with teacher support. Teachers with some coding experience can advise and coach students as they encounter complex problems, while teachers without much coding experience can encourage students to work collaboratively and/or use the available help in the app. For classes using unplugged activities to teach coding concepts, Grasshopper is a great way to let students start putting that knowledge to use on an individualized basis. 

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Grasshopper is an app for learning to code with JavaScript that's available for both Android and iOS users. It was created by one of Google's experimental projects teams. New users can choose to start as complete beginners or to skip ahead a bit if they have some experience. Once they start, students work with blocks of JavaScript code (instead of graphical blocks like many other learn-to-code apps) to complete challenges. 

The app is divided into four courses: What Is Code? (the one you can skip if you have some experience), Fundamentals (where you learn about things like variables, arrays, and loops), and two different sections called Animations. Challenges are clearly laid out with examples and hints. Moving through the levels, students take short quizzes to reinforce knowledge and understanding of how code works.  

Grasshopper is one of the best learn-to-code apps out there. Rather than playing games that involve coding concepts or code-like blocks, students will work with blocks of real JavaScript code (with the real syntax, punctuation, etc.) to solve clearly designed and interesting challenges. Quizzes along the way reinforce and highlight a conceptual understanding of items like variables, loops, and arrays. Unlike with many apps, students using Grasshopper won't just learn about these concepts but will get to see them in use with real code. Grasshopper is also quite extensive and will take students quite far in their understanding of how JavaScript works. 

Grasshopper is excellent for beginners, but it will work best for students who already have some computer science conceptual understanding (say, from unplugged activities) and who are ready to start working with the real application of code. It's not necessary, but it will make for a smoother start. The app would reach even more learners if it was available in more languages than English. 

Overall Rating

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

Grasshopper's easy-to-use interface and clear progression of skills are definitely appealing to anyone interested in learning to code. 

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

Grasshopper expertly builds conceptual understanding as well as concrete skills in using JavaScript as a coding language. 

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 hints and instructions built into Grasshopper support learners effectively as they explore increasingly complex skills. 

Common Sense Reviewer
James Denby Educator/Curriculum Developer

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