App review by David Thomas, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2014
Tynker: Coding Games For Kids
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Tynker: Coding Games For Kids

Fun coding puzzler for the basics, less robust than companion website

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Learning rating
Editorial review by Common Sense Education
Community rating
Based on 8 reviews
Privacy rating
82%| Warning Expert evaluation by Common Sense
Grades
3–7 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.
Subjects & Skills
Math, Character & SEL, Critical Thinking
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Pros: Colorful puzzles focus on specific skills.

Cons: The difficulty of puzzles ramps up quickly.

Bottom Line: This innovative, bite-size approach gives kids an intro to some of the basics of programming.

The Tynker app works best as an introduction to procedural thinking, more than programming. While the challenge in programming starts with seeing how a complex problem breaks down into smaller steps, this puzzler focuses on playing with small bits of code to solve a very specific problem.

Teachers will find that the app works best when used in conjunction with the Tynker website and curriculum. Connected to the more complete Tynker world, the app makes for a perfectly portable set of practice exercises for students already engaged in the much more complete Tynker website.

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Tynker fits into a growing category of LEGO-like programming tools, where kids snap together code blocks to create operational computer programs. The approach, made popular in education circles through MIT's free Scratch platform, encourages learning through exploration as opposed to memorization of arcane programming formulas and formats.

Players encounter new programming concepts a step at a time as they attempt to solve mini programming puzzles. A typical puzzle offers the player a few simple code blocks like jump, walk, and repeat. When blocks are assembled into the right sequence, a colorful cartoon character ambles across the screen, hopping over obstacles and reaching a reward on the other side. A variety of challenges take the player into outer space, solving puzzles on locked doors using programming code, and even a set of levels where programs cause a small robot to draw shapes on the screen. Feedback after every level rewards stars for good answers and offers tips when the program fails to solve the assigned task.

The Tynker iPad app borrows puzzles, content, and structure from the Tynker website. As a result, the game draws kids in with an overall polish in sound, graphics, and design. Unfortunately, this approach strips away most of the Tynker website's streamlined visual programming interface, leaving only a few parts that players need to solve each puzzle. Once kids have played with the app for a while, unlocking and completing all of the levels, they still might be wondering how it all fits together.

 

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

The series of increasingly challenging puzzles keeps players motivated as they advance through the levels.

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

Teaching programming as a string of puzzles works, but leaves the learner lacking a comprehensive understanding of how to program.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

If used as a stand-alone app, there's not much support. But if it's combined with the Tynker website, teachers have access to lots of tools and help.


Common Sense reviewer
David Thomas Director of academic technology

Community Rating

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Featured review by
Robert L. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Spring Hill Junior High School
Akron, United States
A great app to teach students to code.
Tynker is a great app. Because it has different components it really can be used by a wide range of students. The app says from ages 9-11, but I can see a much younger student student completing some of the easier sections in the "Play" area. The "Create" section was engaging for my 12-13 year olds in my class. So it is more versatile than suggested. In my opinion the "Create" section has a lot to offer if you are willing to put time and effort into teaching students how to use Blockly to animate the ...
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Data Safety
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Users can interact with trusted users and/or students.
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Users can create or upload content.
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Data are shared for third-party advertising and/or marketing.
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