Great beginning programming app with high functionality

Submitted 9 years ago
Jenni I.
Jenni I.
Instructional Coach
My Rating

My Take

This is a quality app that is providing good updates; the company also responds to tech support questions. In my opinion, all students need to learn the type of thinking that programming develops, and this app worked great for my students in grades 3-5. It was also very successful with my special needs students (ELL and special ed) since the reading requirement was minimal and equally successful with my gifted students. I would like to see more support from the app developers on how to use this tool beyond drawing with it like an Etch-a-Sketch. I have programming background, but without this, I'm not sure how teachers will see how to use this as the great tool it is. Definitely kids will figure it out on their own, but teachers will want to design lessons to understand and develop the strong thinking skills students can get from this experience.

How I Use It

I used this app as an elective class with 3rd-5th graders. It worked well to demonstrate a project that featured a few of the programming blocks at one time and then let the students build on the program demonstrated or use their new knowledge of the programming commands to create something new. Once students get the hang of scripting, they get very creative and innovative. My next plan is to use this with 4th and 5th graders when they study geometry - the rotations & lines will complement their study of symmetry, angles, and shapes.

Here is an example of one of the first lessons I modeled to teach students about the app. It didn't take much effort before the kids could try new things on their own.

Featured Project: The Race

Programming commands
• Starting position
• Move
• Rotate
• Random
• Play
• Save
• Browse

1) Play Simon Says
• Simon says: Move forward.
o What happens if my directions are unclear? Programming rule #1: The iPad does exactly what you tell it to do. If it doesn’t do what you expect it to do, then you didn’t tell it the right way.
• Simon says: Go back to your starting position. Move forward 5 steps.
• Simon says: Rotate.
o What are other names for rotate? Programming rule #2: You have to use only the words that the iPad understands.
o Show circle divided into 90-degree increments. Practice Simon says for rotating 90, 180, 270, and 360 degrees.
• Simon says: Go back to your starting position. Move forward a random amount.
o What does “random” mean?
o Simon says: Move forward a random number of steps between 1 and 10.

2) How Far Can a Creature Go?
• Pick your creature.
• Drag the Move block into the script.
• Press Play.
• Close the program.
• Change the move command so that the creature goes 1.
• How far can a creature go? What is the largest number we can program that a creature can move across the screen? Demonstrate that I can put in a million, but that is way beyond how far the creature can really go. What is the highest number a creature can go without going over the end? (1000)
o Rotate 90. What is the largest number the creature can go to get to the top of the screen.? (800)

3) Make a Race
• Pick creature.
• Scroll up to pick the starting place. Make sure all creatures start at the 100 line.
• Drag Move block over. How can we make him move a different amount each time? Random 1 to 900.
• Add a new creature. Pick starting place. Drag Move and Random blocks over.
• Play. Programming rule #3: Check your programming often, even if you aren’t done.
• Save. Programming rule #4: Save your work often.
• Finish creating your race with at least two other creatures. Save. Play your program with your buddy.
• If you have time, create a New program and experiment with other blocks.

My students love programming "games" with Hopscotch. One area of trouble I didn't expect was that my 8-10 year olds couldn't use the drawing tools very well until I explained how angles/rotation worked. But after teaching them how those blocks worked, they were willing to experiment and had more control over how they were moving/drawing with their characters.