Review by James Denby, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2018
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Human Resource Machine EDU

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Challenging puzzles will grab the imagination of any coding enthusiast

Subjects & skills
Subjects
N/A

Skills
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
4–10
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Pros: Game design puts conceptual understanding of coding to work; challenges are interesting and fun.

Cons: Support for teachers and students is weak; doesn't use coding terminology.

Bottom Line: For teachers with some coding background, this is a great game-based tool for learning to code.

Human Resource Machine EDU can be used with a wide variety of learners -- from beginners to experts. However, most teachers using the game will need some understanding of coding to make this a truly useful learning tool. There's very little support for students who have difficulty with different levels of the game, and very little support material for teachers on how to teach the concepts that are inherent parts of each challenge. Teachers will have to compensate for the lack of hints, examples, and actual instructions.

The teacher dashboard is an effective tool for pinpointing students' strengths/weaknesses and designing targeted instructional support. As some of the levels can be quite challenging, most students will eventually run into roadblocks. Teachers without some experience with coding concepts may find it difficult to help these students (undermining the potential of this well-designed game).

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Human Resource Machine EDU is a puzzle game designed to teach essential elements of coding. Each level presents players with new challenges and new code blocks that must be arranged correctly to complete the puzzle. As puzzles increase in complexity with each new level, students employ logic (e.g., boolean operators, conditionals, loops), implement algorithms, optimize code, and demonstrate an understanding of mathematical operations. Many puzzles can be solved in more than one way (just as with real coding tasks), and players are sometimes given the option to find not just a solution, but the simplest or fastest solution. 

Teachers have the option of creating a class and tracking student work. Not only can you see which tasks they've completed but also which skills they've demonstrated. As the tasks and skills become more complex, this dashboard provides a window into student needs for reteaching and concept development. 

Human Resource Machine EDU presents almost any student -- from the novice coder to those with experience -- with intriguing learning challenges. The game design is engaging, and the progression of skills is very well thought out. There are two weaknesses to the game, however. First, while it incorporates coding concepts that are universal to every coding project, it doesn't use the language or terminology of programming. Rather than using "loop," for example, the game gives students the option of using "jump" blocks. This limits transferability. Also, the game lacks instruction and support, either for teachers or within the game itself. As it is, it's a great way for students to apply what they've already learned about code, but it's not the best way to learn about code from scratch. 

Overall Rating

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

Every student will find a level of challenge within the game. The puzzles may leave students stumped at first, but they'll return with new strategies and ideas. 

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

The structure and progression of the game facilitate student understanding of increasingly complex concepts while presenting engaging puzzles and problems. 

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

Human Resource Machine EDU doesn't include many tips, suggestions, or instructions within the game. Support materials for teachers are also limited.


Common Sense Reviewer
James Denby Educator/Curriculum Developer

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