Website review by James Denby, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2021

Thunkable

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

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Grades
6–12
Subjects & Skills
Creativity, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Allows students to learn and apply programming in all-in-one environment.

Cons: There aren't any classroom supports, and without some front loading, students might be overwhelmed.

Bottom Line: Fun, practical way to get kids programming, though teachers will need a clear plan to support them in the process.

Use a design-thinking model to conceive of and develop an app using Thunkable. Familiarize yourself with the platform and its possibilities, and then frame up the assignment for students. Let them know what's possible in the platform ahead of time, and select the tutorials that will be most useful before beginning. Unlike with Scratch, you're not coding the actions of a cute little character, so it's not easy to just start playing around. Instead, you need a bit of a plan, or you can make use of the tutorials. Make sure they understand the basic principles of the coding blocks. Once they've decided on the purpose of their app and its basic design, let them try out the tool and begin iterating! For students who are already comfortable with Thunkable, it provides them with an amazing medium for demonstrating their learning through the creation of multimedia projects.

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Thunkable is the next iteration of MIT App Inventor, combining a block-based coding language similar to Scratch with the ability to design an app screen by screen. If you're a previous App Inventor Android user, know that the Thunkable interface is more or less the same. To start, you must choose Android or iOS. Then, in design mode, you add elements to a cell phone-sized screen. Users can add buttons, text, images, and even map functionality to create a fully functional app. Once each element is added, you can code its function by switching to Blocks and adding interlocking code blocks.

Thunkable has video and text-based tutorials that provide a good start in both understanding what the site is capable of and getting you initiated to building apps. As you build your app, you can actually live test it. You can build a real app that will run on a device and can be published (and sold if it's good) on Google Play or the Apple App Store (though there's a fee for that).

For most teachers and students, Thunkable will likely need to further develop its tutorials (especially for iOS) before it can be a really viable learning tool. They've made their tutorials engaging and fun, but the average teacher will likely want more of them to support students. That said, there's a ton to learn through Thunkable, and the potential is incredible; it's just not an easy starting point for many.

Classes that stick with Thunkable will have the opportunity to work with all aspects of coding and app design. From the layout and screen flow to all the coding elements, it's a unique way to put computational thinking (decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction, and algorithms) into practice. This is real-life, hands-on learning with the potential for a truly authentic audience. And the most exciting part of Thunkable: You can build a real app that will actually run on a device and can be published.

Overall Rating

Engagement

Thunkable demystifies simple app creation and lets them apply skills immediately, which gets students involved and excited about programming. 

Pedagogy

Thunkable's has video-based and text-based tutorials; accessing from within the Help Center in the creation space makes the learning process more interactive.

Support

There are tons of tutorials and pop-up help, but there aren't any classroom-based support materials or extensions. Users can access the site in Engish and Traditional Chinese.


Common Sense reviewer
James Denby Educator/Curriculum Developer

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