Review by David Thomas, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2014
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KineScript: Visual Programming

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Drag-and-drop coding environment is too complex, lacks support

Subjects & skills
  • Math

  • Creativity
  • 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.
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Pros: Lots of examples enhance the powerful programming features.

Cons: Not enough documentation to explain the confusing interface.

Bottom Line: With lots of learn-to-program options on the market, learning on the iPad is not ideal.

For a classroom teacher looking to use iPads in an intro to programming class, KineScript might fit this niche. Complex enough to require a teacher -- or a very dedicated student -- to master it, the system lacks many of the supports of other learn-to-program tools. And while it's possible to email projects off the iPad, it's not clear how to go about loading them someplace else. As a result, the app would be best used as an activity for students running it on a dedicated machine.

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KineScript: Visual Programming provides learners with an empty stage, temping them to drag cartoon actors onto the screen, link them to behaviors and scripted logic, and enjoy the results. The point-and-click interface rarely requires typing and sends would-be programmers sliding from screen to screen to access images, animations, sounds, and code blocks. String it all together, and the result is a simple multimedia program like a basic game, drawing activity, or interactive point-and-click scene.

Downloadable examples allow the newcomer to jump right in. A quick click loads one of the seven pre-fab programs, and another click sets them in motion. A slide to the right and players turn into programmers, with full access to the drag-and-drop code to see how it's all put together and to modify as the player sees fit.

Based on the same LEGO-like code blocks made famous by the Scratch programming environment, KineScript presents a friendly face to the student interested in multimedia code. But what looks simple at first turns into all manner of hidden and nested option screens. Often, tapping on the on-screen elements opens up additional configuration screens, inspectors, and input interfaces. The end result is a surprising level of difficultly from an app that looked so simple at the start.

Overall Rating

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

The mismatch between the kiddie graphics and the sophisticated programming environment will attract the wrong age group and will prove too complex for even older students.

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

Deeply saturated in a learn-by-doing ethos, the app has its heart in the right place, even if the execution isn't quite there.

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

If a student gets stuck, they are on their own. And that's the wrong place for someone learning programming to be.

Common Sense Reviewer
David Thomas Director of academic technology

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