Common Sense Review
Updated September 2014


Drag-and-drop programming is an effective intro for budding programmers
Common Sense Rating 4
  • Build a multimedia scene with the editor.
  • Play back scenes full-screen on the iPad.
  • Kids create their own scenes.
  • Select from several example scenes to play with and reprogram.
Well-designed professional interface and powerful tools provide a fun and effective intro to programming.
The app can be hard for new users to learn without some teacher guidance.
Bottom Line
With a little adult help, this is a great platform for getting kids into programming.
David Thomas
Common Sense Reviewer
Director of academic technology
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

Hand an iPad to a younger learner and you have their interest. Show them how simply dragging and dropping colorful icons can create on-screen action and you have their attention. 

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

Based on the popular Scratch visual programming platform, ScratchJr borrows the snap-together programming block and real-time building model that made the original a great learning tool. 

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

This relatively new program offers few -- but quite promising -- activities, lessons, and assessments to support teachers in the classroom. 

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

ScratchJr will work best when kids have lots of guided practice through structured exercises and hands-on support. Although the interface is designed to appeal to younger kids, the program still features a lot of things to click and drag around. So confusion is likely, and getting stuck is easy. But with carefully prepared lessons that walk students step by step through the activities, in an hour or two, they should be able to modify stock programs and even start building their own interactive scenes.

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What's It Like?

By dragging and dropping graphic sprites across the iPad screen, little programmers can bring simple -- and lightly interactive -- scenes to life. The LEGO-like, snap-together commands make the basic programs easy to create. For example, drag a cartoon cat onto a beach scene, and drag a small icon into the programming window to add a movement command. Then just add a "start when touched" command and snap a repeat element onto the move icon, and a tap on the cat sends the cartoon skittering across the screen.

Taking advantage of the iPad's tactile interface, everything in the program is a tap or swipe away. The entire interface is well-designed to look like toys and art supplies carefully arranged on a desk, so it's easy to engage the title's 5- to 7-year-old target age range. And, although kids left alone can easily get lost in the various options, with a little guidance, they can design, build and enjoy their very own iPad presentations.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Computer programming can be hard to learn. For younger kids, the idea of writing code is far too much to imagine when they're just beginning to learn to read and write. So this icon-driven interface is a good fit when the goal is introducing kids to programming concepts without all the complex programming. The multiple trays, editors, and input screens take some getting used to, so it's not as simple as handing the program to a classroom of kids. But include a little teacher guidance and ScratchJr offers a rich and challenging environment for very young programmers. At its best, ScratchJr may be most important for teaching a love of digital creation. 

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