Review by James Denby, Common Sense Education | Updated July 2018
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No games, just clear tasks for learning to code in Swift

Subjects & skills

  • Critical Thinking
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Pros: Students work with real Swift code, and there's a range of activity types to master concepts and syntax.

Cons: Can't stop mid-lesson and save progress; not enough support for younger students.

Bottom Line: Like an interactive textbook, TapCoding wastes no time to get older students programming.

TapCoding is for individual students who want to learn how to program using Swift. It's possible to have students collaborate using an iPad, but this app is really best suited to individual learners. For students who are learning any coding language (but especially Swift), it's an ideal option for those who want to accelerate their learning or who just need additional practice. One drawback to the app is the inability to work on part of a lesson without losing progress. Stopping before finishing a lesson means having to start all over, so students need to set aside 10-20 minutes to complete all activities.

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TapCoding is an iOS app for learning Apple's Swift programming language. The app takes students through coding basics like variables, strings, and operators before moving into things like functions, objects, and the use of data. Each level is a mix of clear explanations, short quizzes, code block activities, and actually typing code. Unlike other block-based coding tools, TapCoding blocks are actually blocks of Swift code that students have to move around. Typing real code (guided by the app) encourages mastery of the syntax that discourages many novice programmers.  

TapCoding isn't really gamified in any way. Other than encouraging users to build a streak of consecutive coding days, the app really just focuses on building coding skills. When solving coding problems, TapCoding gives a couple of opportunities to correct errors and then supplies the correct answer. Though there's no section for hints, the different activities help ensure that concepts are pretty clear. Repeating lessons is always an option to ensure understanding.

TapCoding stands out from a lot of the other coding apps available. Instead of moving symbolic code blocks around to play games and navigate mazes, users are actually working with real Swift code from the moment they start. It's a great tool for either developing or reinforcing programming skills, and it doesn't mess around. The app's mix of activities means students will get practice reading code, arranging code blocks, and debugging. It's not game-based and there's no particular element designed to entertain learners. Instead, it introduces coding basics one at a time and then gives students multiple opportunities to put those coding essentials to use. For older students with a desire to learn Swift (or Swift learners who want more practice), this app is ideal. 

For younger students, the language in the text-based explanations is too complicated. The same is likely true for most English-language learners (ELLs). For students who are just starting to explore code, TapCoding could be too dry as it's not meant to be "played." On the other hand, for some students, the app could be exactly what they want: no games, just straightforward learning. 

Overall Rating

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

For students who are ready to start working with actual code, TapCoding offers an engaging mix of learning activities.

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

TapCoding's decision to offer a range of activities (reading, code blocks, typing code, and quizzes) provides good practice. 

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

TapCoding's explanations are clear, but there's no ability to save progress mid-lesson, and there aren't a lot of options -- like hints -- for additional support. 

Common Sense Reviewer
James Denby Educator/Curriculum Developer

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