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Code Monster from Crunchzilla
Pros: With the immediate visual output, kids can play around with code and see the result right away.
Cons: Kids can't save or share work, and there's little help for those who may have trouble understanding.
Bottom Line: Even though presentation and instruction are very simple, the hands-on, cause-and-effect approach can be an effective intro to coding for kids.
This is a great tool to use in the computer lab to demonstrate how programming works. You may want to do some lessons on a projector to show the whole class, then set kids free to do the lessons and play around with the code on their own. Kids who are motivated and interested might not need much intervention, but for kids who have trouble, teachers can play an important role in filling in the missing pieces and helping kids who don't fully understand Code Monster's brief instructions and explanations. Since some mathematical and physics concepts get introduced, teachers can bridge to units on geometry, fractals, velocity, or acceleration, for example. You can also give kids a final project to complete that shows off the coding they learned with Code Monster (e.g., create a particular animation).
Code Monster is simple but most effective as a self-led journey of programming discovery. The hands-on manipulation and immediate feedback can give kids satisfaction and joy in discovering how what they're writing changes what they're seeing. It should also help them understand how the different pieces of code work. This can be a fun exercise, even for kids who wouldn’t normally be excited about computer programming.
Yet, Code Monster teaches almost exclusively through example rather than explanation, and there's little to no help for kids having trouble. When kids can't come up with right code (e.g., in a quiz), Code Monster moves ahead regardless (which may discourage kids from trying to get through a tough coding challenge). More hints or code analysis could help kids who can't figure out where they're going wrong. An option allowing kids to save what they've created would also be a nice addition.