Review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2015

Hopscotch School Edition -- Programming for kids! Make games, stories, animations and more!

Programming blocks give good balance of freedom vs. constraint

Common Sense Says:
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4-9 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Great for:
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Pros: Simple drag-and-drop coding blocks offer a powerful learning experience.

Cons: So many options and relatively little guidance may leave some kids feeling overwhelmed.

Bottom Line: With a pinch of patience and a lot of passion, this introduction to computer science and its underlying principles is highly accessible.

The Hopscotch website features seven highly flexible lesson plans that help demonstrate how computer programming principles can be relevant and easily incorporated into a broader curriculum. Teachers can take advantage of the developer's suggestions and adapt the lesson plans to fit their classroom's needs. Lessons focus on learning code and also on exploring underlying concepts that are easily applicable to other areas such as math, science, and even literature. Some specific themes that teachers can explore are logical and critical thinking, algorithms, problem-solving, symbolic understanding, clarity, or perseverance.

Look at the Hopscotch community board with kids to explore what others have made and get inspiration. Show them how to examine the code of any project they find. Create a private "crew" so kids can share and collaborate with their classmates. Encourage them to learn from one another through sharing and remixing. 

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Kids explore computer science as they drag and drop blocks of code to create mini-programs. They can browse through posted projects or templates for ideas of what's possible, or watch how-to videos that show how to make a drawing program, design a website, create a game, and more. Once they're ready, kids will get down to business choosing rules that make characters move and draw, and that determine looks and sounds. They'll experiment with computer programming concepts like abstraction, value, flow, sequencing, loops, variables, functions, and conditional logic.

Kids can share their projects with a private teacher-created community (one of the perks of the school edition) or with the Hopscotch community at large. Kids can also "remix," or view and change the code for any posted project. Look also for seven great lesson plans included with the app. 

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Programming can be difficult, sophisticated work requiring precision, planning, logic, trial and error, and lots and lots of patience. Hopscotch School Edition makes programming accessible for kids without dumbing down the underlying process. All programming options are packaged in neat drag-and-drop blocks, or they can be adjusted with simple scales. In practice, this means kids focus on higher-order critical-thinking themes like cause and effect, actions, and constructing logical sequences rather than getting lost in the details of learning a complicated programming language.

Besides some essential demonstration videos, there's very little direction in navigating the app's features or in creating projects. Kids will need time and patience to explore and learn before they can fully take advantage of the app's capabilities. More explicit guidance would help this app appeal to more kids. Overall, though, Hopscotch is an accessible entrée into the world of computer science, and it can easily serve as a platform for broader learning themes such as critical and logical thinking, planning, and more. 

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Overall Rating

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

Creating mini-programs is appealing, rewarding, and versatile enough to draw in most kids -- at least for a while. Depending on individual interest level, play can get downright addictive, while other kids will find it ho-hum.

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

The accessible pre-written programming language lets kids explore the theory and logic behind programming without getting lost in the minute details. Kids get a good sense of semantics and structure through experimentation. 

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

Tutorial videos give a basic introduction to a variety of things kids can do. Kids can keep saved projects private, or share their own and remix others' projects in private class groups or in the community at large.