Common Sense Review
Updated November 2013

Code Monster from Crunchzilla

Learn basic to complex programming with friendly monster guide
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Common Sense Rating 3
Teacher Rating (1 Teacher Review) 4
  • Code Monster offers simple instructions for how to play.
  • With coding on the left, and output on the right, Code Monster shows kids immediate results.
  • Drawing a tree with intricate branches; Code Monster invites kids to think creatively about why code does what it does.
  • Kids can use fractals to make a fern -- pretty cool.
  • Making animation with velocity and acceleration: you can't see it in this pic, but the circle is bouncing!
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.
Mieke VanderBorght
Common Sense Reviewer
Researcher
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 3

There are no bells or whistles here, but kids interested in programming (and even those who aren't) should enjoy these hands-on lessons. However, once they've finished all the lessons, there's no big incentive for kids to return.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 3

Kids learn by doing. With code on the left and visual output on the right, kids can immediately see the impact of their actions. More detailed explanation could help kids who are just beginning or having trouble.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 2

There's little support for those who don't find the short, simple instructions enough, although there's a brief "How to Play" section. It would also be nice if kids could save, and even share, their creations. 

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

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).

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What's It Like?

Code Monster by Crunchzilla is a website that shows kids how to code using Javascript. It's got a very simple design: The googly-eyed blue Code Monster and his speech bubble are at the top of the screen where kids read straightforward explanations, commands, and questions. Below, there are two boxes: On the right, Code Monster provides a piece of code for kids to manipulate; on the left, you see the output from the code. Fifty-nine lessons progress from simple (make a square), to complex (change its shape, color, position, make more shapes) to really complex (make complicated fern leaf patterns and animated sequences). There are also "quizzes" in which Code Monster asks kids to write their own code. Though lessons progress in order, you can go back and repeat, or choose lessons at will. You can also exit the program and return where you left off if you use the same computer (and if no one else has visited Code Monster in the meantime). 

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Is It Good For Learning?

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. 

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