Common Sense Review
Updated April 2014


Cute, colorful coding platform caters to strong independent readers
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Common Sense Rating 4
  • An example lesson screen with instructions on the right.
  • The free version includes this Puppy Adventure lesson.
  • At the end of each lesson students take a quiz.
  • Students can customize characters, which helps build engagement.
  • The teacher dashboard gives lots of valuable feedback.
The engaging, colorful design, as well as the background stories, encourage students to hop into programming.
The site's directions seem overly text-heavy, and they're often necessary to get through the lessons.
Bottom Line
Students will love seeing their coding skills come to life, but some may need reading support to navigate the lessons.
Amy Cox
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

Students will enjoy programming with the colorful coding blocks; they'll design and code their own customized characters. An overarching storyline adds extra interest, though with so much reading involved this interest may wane for some.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

From the start, and throughout the lessons, students learn by actively designing and sharing their coding projects. Unfortunately, character options offer almost no minorities, and a few gender stereotypes slip in.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

Support starts strong with guidance through each mouse click. But before long, directions come mostly in text form. There are some tutorial videos scattered throughout, but the experience may frustrate struggling readers.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

Before assigning a lesson to students, teachers should go through and try it themselves. This way they'll be able to better support students, especially when it comes to identifying students who might get lost or confused during class. If using the site with students of varying reading ability consider creating some supplemental support options for kids to use in class. While partner work won't always be ideal here, for some kids, working with a more-capable peer -- even just during certain lessons -- could help them manage some of the more text-heavy material.

Students need to have their own computers and headphones, though they should be allowed to speak with and assist their neighbors. As coding is just as much a collaborative endeavor as it's an individual one, encourage your students to share and collaborate as much as possible.

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What's It Like?

Tynker offers engaging, online coding lessons using a visual, block-based programming platform (via website and Chrome app). For teachers and students learning to code here there are both free and paid options. The free lessons contain short coding puzzles, while the paid courses are much more extensive and allow students to employ more creativity. Lessons hook students quickly with stories and customizable characters. Before long, students can start creating their own programs which they can share with classmates as well as with the greater online community.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Tynker's concept is top notch, and lot of students are bound to find it a fun and engaging way to learn coding skills. As with a number of other popular coding tutorials for beginners, Tynker's colorful coding blocks help students visualize what they're creating. Also, the ability to design and code customized characters helps ensure that kids' learning is baked right in to the experience. Unfortunately, within both the pre-made and customizable character options, there's a noticeable lack of diversity; a few gender stereotypes pop up in the customizer as well.

Nevertheless, strong readers who are skilled in following directions will take to Tynker quickly. Though they won't see what their code actually looks like as text (kids only see the blocks) they'll nonetheless learn a multitude of programming skills. Be aware though, that struggling (or impatient) readers might click through without reading, using only the hints to complete lessons. This being the case, a student might not fare well on the quiz -- it's possible that teachers might not know this until it's happened. There are some helpful video tutorials sprinkled throughout, but these might not be engaging enough for those who are already be frustrated. Because of this, it would be nice to see Tynker include some smaller checks for understanding throughout the lessons, followed by more targeted support.

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