Common Sense Review
Updated October 2016

Code.org

Popular games, big names get kids and teachers pumped to program
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Common Sense Rating 5
  • Using lines of code, students move the Angry Birds character to the Bad Piggie.
  • Hour of Code helps students choose from a variety of levels and kinds of programming challenges.
  • Curriculum includes off-screen, or unplugged, activities.
  • Code.org has designed coding courses for all age groups.
  • Kids create real projects they can share with others.
Pros
Focused and engaging activities allow students to work at their own pace and stay challenged.
Cons
Though there are tons of teacher resources, it'll take some time to figure out how to weave them into your class.
Bottom Line
A well-planned, -produced, and -curated set of free resources bound to get kids hooked on learning to code.
Amanda Bindel
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 5
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 5

Minecraft, Star Wars, and Angry Birds serve as touchstones for a colorful, game-based learning experience. Students will find these beginner coding lessons and the curricula incredibly engaging.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 5

Whether for a teacher or student, Code.org has what users need: scaffolded curriculum, motivating videos, and engaging pop culture-inspired games. Students advance through instruction at their own pace but work on related ideas.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 4

Helpful videos and tutorials introduce the programming concepts, giving teachers confidence to introduce students to concepts they can learn together. Students can share their creations.

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

Code.org works best if all students have their own computers, along with individual headphones, though it's feasible for students to work in pairs. Some students will naturally zip through the lessons, while others might need more time to figure out all the puzzles; advanced lessons help to meet kids at higher levels. Encourage students to talk to each other when they hit a roadblock and even employ the more-capable-peer strategy in partnering students. Though coding itself is an individual learning experience, it works best when coders are free to collaborate and share. Nevertheless, if two students must share one computer, use care to ensure that one student doesn't dominate. Videos on the site demonstrate how to successfully program in pairs.

Teachers can get their own training on-site, too, as well as a very useful dashboard, where teachers can list their classes and students and keep track of all progress. 

If you're interested in diving into coding but don't know where to start, check out the Teaching Strategies module Get Started With Coding in Your Classroom.

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What's It Like?

Code.org's website is full of programming instruction for students, and everyone should be able to find an activity that matches their interests, such as drawing, designing games, or creating stories. The site is geared toward increasing diversity in computer science, reaching classrooms around the world, preparing new and continuing computer science teachers, adding computer science to school curricula, and helping to set up policies that support computer science. There is a thorough Computer Science Fundamentals curriculum that teaches kids from K through 12 the basics of computer programming, using cartoon characters. The curriculum addresses concepts both offline and online and leads students through progressively more difficult lessons.

In addition, the site includes tutorials to pique students' interest in programming in one class period. As part of the Hour of Code initiative, the site -- among others -- aims to get millions of students to try out programming, if only for one hour. Code.org includes video instructions from a few famous men (Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Chris Bosh), as well as some younger female programmers. After the videos, students use blocks of code to program mini-games with some familiar characters from Minecraft, Frozen, and Plants vs. Zombies. Continuing through the lessons and activities requires a login, which may raise privacy issues for some school districts; the site does not collect any data for those using only the Hour of Code activities.

Editor's note: In the past, Common Sense Education has partnered with Code.org. However, Common Sense Education's reviews maintain editorial integrity and independence.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Code.org is a one-stop shop for coding in schools. Kids can experience an hour of code with high-interest, safe activities to introduce the concepts of programming. Well-produced videos get kids excited about programming and help them understand its significance in the world today. Students can work at their own pace and eventually create their own games and art.

Since there is a ton of content, students let loose on the site may become overwhelmed or lose focus; teachers will find it best to narrow down the options for students ahead of time. Teachers can monitor student progress and facilitate off-screen, "unplugged" activities to demonstrate coding concepts if computers aren't available. Teachers from elementary to middle to high school can find curriculum, online communities, and helpful resources to challenge and inspire their students on Code.org. 

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