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Best Coding Tools for High School Students

Coding is an invaluable literacy applicable to virtually any future career or field of study. These high school-level tools will help students build this essential 21st-century literacy by learning how code works and how to write code themselves. Once they're up to snuff, coding will give your students a new way to demonstrate knowledge and express themselves. And teachers, take note: There are tools here for those brand new to code as well as those looking for more of a challenge, so make sure to pick and choose to give every student a window into the world of programming.

If you're looking to begin coding lessons in your classroom, check out our Teaching Strategies for how to Get Started With Coding in Your Classroom.

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Block-Based Programming

Code.org

Popular games, big names get kids and teachers pumped to program

Bottom Line: A well-planned, -produced, and -curated set of free resources bound to get kids hooked on learning to code.

Scratch

Jump-start future programmers with adaptive sandbox tool

Bottom Line: With plenty of time and support, Scratch can help kids of all ages learn essential programming concepts.

Itch

Full-featured tool makes teaching with Scratch easier than ever

Bottom Line: Here you'll find resources for teaching with Scratch and a complete management tool to support student learning.

Kodu Game Lab

Open-ended game design and programming tool for visual thinkers

Bottom Line: The 3D game-making environment and fun, visual logic will definitely grab some students, but others will need support the game just doesn't provide.

Made with Code

Enticing projects and inspiring videos offer anyone an intro to coding

Bottom Line: Solid intro to coding with diverse projects geared toward tween/teen girls; sets foundation to explore deeper level coding and logic activities.

LearnToMod

Effective springboard to coding for dedicated Minecraft fans

Bottom Line: For students who already know and love Minecraft, this is a valuable way to hook students into coding.

Cargo-Bot

Challenging game helps kids learn to think like programmers

Bottom Line: Cargo-Bot is a simple concept that packs a challenging punch and teaches valuable programming skills.

Appinventor.org

Great mobile app creation site has solid teacher resources

Bottom Line: A fantastic and complete introduction to Android app programming concepts and methods.

Human Resource Machine

Addictive, unique way to supplement coding instruction

Bottom Line: A novel way to learn programming that will require student collaboration and extra adult support.

Lightbot : Programming Puzzles

Simple design, but challenging fun for budding programmers

Bottom Line: Challenging programming game best for motivated learners.

Thunkable

Build a working iOS or Android app, even without coding experience

Bottom Line: A great way to help motivated students create real apps, though others will need more support.

GameSalad

Great interface, flexible publishing options make game-making a snap

Bottom Line: Engaging interface and tutorials will empower budding game designers, but the price tag could be a deal-breaker for tight school budgets.

Text-Based Programming

CodeCombat

Dungeon-crawling adventure where code is king

Bottom Line: While not the first to blend coding with play, CodeCombat offers a stable, engaging, and accessible model.

CodeMonkey

Puzzler's use of real code fills niche in crowded learn-to-code genre

Bottom Line: A great intro to coding, with solid teacher support, gets kids using a real programming language and digging into some meatier concepts than other early coding tools.

CoSpaces Edu

VR design tool sparks creativity for those with the coding chops

Bottom Line: This is a well-designed VR playground for experienced coders.

Mozilla Thimble

Inspiring platform teaches coding through remixing

Bottom Line: Thimble is an excellent, free resource for teaching students to code through experimentation.

Swift Playgrounds

Fun, intuitive iOS-coding app great for newbies or pros

Bottom Line: If iPads are available, this is an inspired choice for learning how to create and tweak code.

Mozilla X-Ray Goggles

Remix tool reveals code, can strengthen kids' understanding of the web

Bottom Line: It's a blast to use and an easy way to get experimentation and prototyping going with plenty of student choice -- kids are really in the driver's seat!

Code Avengers

Challenging puzzles teach with real code; best for more advanced kids

Bottom Line: A superb programming tutor, well worth the effort to keep students going.

CodeHS

Computer science curriculum offers great feedback, fun challenges

Bottom Line: Effective tools and clear lessons teach real programming, but you'll have to spend some cash to help kids master it.

Hack 'n' Slash

Zelda-inspired puzzler lets players peek behind the code curtain

Bottom Line: A great intro to variables and how algorithms work, this game would shine as a supplement to a larger unit on programming.

Codecademy

Terrific hands-on coding practice with live feedback

Bottom Line: In this excellent coding application, in-game practice and real-time guidance crack open the world of programming and turn your students into whiz kids.

Construct 2

Standout, pro-caliber game-dev tool still great for novices

Bottom Line: Robust enough for commercial games yet simple enough for a classroom with proper support, this is a stellar tool for game creation that lowers the barrier of entry without sacrificing depth.

Codea

Well-thought-out coding platform for real game programming

Bottom Line: Codea is a professional tool that has enough help features that kids can learn programming hands-on.

Vidcode

Cool coding tool tuned to teen girls' passions aids creativity

Bottom Line: Learn-to-code programs for youths often too narrowly define what can be done with code; Vidcode expands the options, helping girls see code's value in culture and express themselves.

Code School

Awesome interactive coding lessons can make anyone a programmer

Bottom Line: These lessons will keep learners engaged as they grow from novices to beginner programmers, ready to tackle small projects in only a few days.

Treehouse

Fun, self-paced web development and coding lessons offer high value

Bottom Line: A solid learning solution for self-starting students who want to grasp the wide array of programming topics.

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