Website review by Elvina Tong, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2021

Terminal Two

Engaging games teach programming concepts from blocks to code

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Grades
4–12
Subjects & Skills
Math, Science, Critical Thinking

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Pros: It's built by educators and gamers, and kids can find the right level of challenge.

Cons: Could be frustrating for students uncomfortable with trial and error, as there are no tips or advice on correcting script syntax.

Bottom Line: These varied games are great for introducing the fundamentals and practicing but aren't sufficient as a complete curriculum.

Terminal Two is most useful as an introduction to coding and computational thinking, as an extension, or as a  supplement to a unit. It could be used in the classroom as well as during an afterschool club or activity. Check out the PDF Educator's Guide (make sure to download it to get the full version!), which has sample lesson plans, to get some ideas. Since the Quests are sequences of self-paced games, you'll need to help students find the right place to begin.

If all of your students are beginners, start with the Quest "Thinking Logically," which introduces computational thinking and other foundational concepts. "The Core of Code" would be a good Quest to tackle next. The games themselves are a good way for students to practice what they've learned and build on it, but reading the text is important, so you may need to pull those pieces out to use for direct instruction. Also, note that Terminal Two doesn't seem to work on tablets.

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Terminal Two is a collection of video games to engage students while they learn how to code. Developed by educators and video game creators, games of many levels introduce vocabulary and concepts for computational thinking. Kids may respond well to the interface and graphics, which resemble actual video games. Games are tagged by experience level: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. Teachers and students are able to self-select an entry point since completion of games and levels isn't required before progressing to the next. Each game is focused on a particular coding concept; for example, there's a gardening game to teach arrays, or a tractor game to teach  loops. Alongside games are Fun & Tips, descriptions of the concept focused on. Food for Thought asks a few thought-provoking questions, while IRL poses a few real-life challenges. Students can follow Quests, which are sequences of games, or choose individual games. The Hacker's Guide stores skills achieved and asks questions to check for understanding. The entire site is free to use, and there's nothing to download. Games are listed as safe for students 9 and older, but the privacy policy says that some games require students to be at least 13, and those are gated.

Terminal Two is structured well for students to be exposed to coding concepts and vocabulary. Because kids can go through the Quests or jump into games, it's easy for them to find the level that's right for them. Plus, the games feel fresh and unique, and the concepts are embedded pretty well into each game's structure. Overall, the graphics and look and feel of the site will likely appeal to kids and make them want to advance so that they can play the more sophisticated games. Plus, adding the instructional text, questions, and real-life applications extends the learning a bit further, beyond the games themselves. Though it's not clear that teachers need to actually download the Educator's Guide to get all of the supporting material, the PDF has a lot of alignment information and ideas.

However, the overall organization of the site could be better. There's no requirement to complete any game or level; thus, the user can self-select any game. This may be beneficial in some cases but means that teachers lose a bit of control over being able to assess a student's level. Also, within the games, there's not much dynamic feedback, so students may become frustrated if they are unable to solve a problem. And, though the text has some excellent information, there are no reading supports and no way to know if kids read the text at all. Overall, Terminal Two may be best as a launch activity or as supplemental engagement, rather than as primary curriculum, but it is a fabulous free resource.

Overall Rating

Engagement

The site's video game approach will appeal to kids, and kids can easily find the right level of challenge for them.

Pedagogy

Each game focuses on a concept, following a sequence so that students level up appropriately and spiral on earlier concepts -- great for introducing or extending coding concepts, vocabulary, and computational thinking.

Support

There's an Educator's Guide with sample lesson plans. Coding terms and concepts featured in each game are explained in depth, but there's no support for emerging readers, ELLs, or students with visual impairments.


Common Sense reviewer
Elvina Tong Computer Science and Innovation Teacher

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