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Hopscotch-Programming for Kids
Pros: Simple controls and whimsical characters will reel kids in, and it's empowering to create, share, and remix their creations.
Cons: Adults will need to manage kids' expectations about what is (and isn't) possible with a basic coding app. Some kids might hesitate to share their creations publicly.
Bottom Line: A great tablet-based tool for introducing kids to coding, best used with some guidance from adults.
After creating a free teacher account in Hopscotch-Programming for Kids, teachers gain access to a collection of free, highly adaptable lesson plans for using it in the classroom. They can also create free accounts for their students and download a quick-start spreadsheet that creates random usernames and passwords that students can use to log in and start using the app. Lessons focus on learning code and also on exploring underlying concepts that are easily applicable to a range of subjects, including math, science, and ELA. Some specific themes that teachers can explore are logical and critical thinking, algorithms, problem-solving, symbolic understanding, clarity, and perseverance.
Look at the Hopscotch community board with kids to explore what others have made and get inspiration. Show them how to examine the code of any project they find. Talk with kids about what it means to share their creations -- and that sharing on Hopscotch means that other people can both play and edit or "remix" their creations to make something new. Set good ground rules for your students in advance for sharing and remixing, and then encourage them to learn from one another and offer constructive feedback.
Hopscotch's block-based coding approach is similar to MIT's programming tool Scratch. If your students are past Scratch Jr. users or aspiring Scratch users, check out the Hopscotch website for information on helping kids transition to using those other tools.
Hopscotch-Programming for Kids is a drag-and-drop coding app that enables kids to create and share their own programs. Kids choose characters -- including colorful monsters and animals -- and customize commands to make the characters move where they want or do what they want. Kids are empowered to determine specifics -- like how far their character moves, the color and size of trail it leaves, creating a line or shape, changing its size and costume, and more. They can easily experiment with what different commands do and revise their script as needed.
Students can also share their creations within their class (if their account is associated with their teacher) or share them publicly with the Hopscotch community; in both cases, users can play, remix, and comment on other users' creations. The app is free to use, but a monthly subscription unlocks features including the option to add your own images, customize profiles, and access more templates and tutorials. To register, kids set a username and password and give an email address (a parent's email for kids under 13).
Hopscotch-Programming for Kids is a great way to introduce kids to coding and computational thinking. Using visual blocks that represent programming concepts, students create their program, including elements like games, animations, and fun messages. Kids are exposed to the fundamental concepts of computer programming without worrying about the minute details of more sophisticated programming languages just yet. They'll think like programmers, from coming up with their own idea to implementing it and troubleshooting it.
While it's a good starting point for learning about computer programming, kids may get frustrated with the limits of the app and their abilities. This tool won't help them create the next Minecraft, so you may want to set realistic expectations and show some examples of what kids can do. Overall, this app is a great choice for introducing iPad and iPhone users to the world of coding, and it works best with thoughtful guidance and scaffolding from teachers.