Review by Kim Alessi, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2017

Tynker

Cute, colorful coding platform caters to strong independent readers

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Math

Skills
  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
3–8
Great for:
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (10 Reviews)

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Pros: Engaging, customizable, and integrates with popular platforms (Minecraft, Lego WeDo) to make coding fun and relatable.

Cons: Instructions are mainly text-based; lessons would reach more learners through a more multimodal delivery.

Bottom Line: Students will be empowered by custom-coding creations for a variety of platforms, but may need some reading support to complete lessons.

Tynker is great to guide kids through a variety of visual programming languages, allowing them to code robots and drones, build apps and games, and explore STEAM activities. Use it in class, in an after-school enrichment program, or in a camp setting. Tynker's lessons are text-heavy, and most lack voice-over instruction and how-to videos, so it's best for strong readers. Consider letting kids work together, with more capable readers supporting classmates.

Tynker is a programming option for Minecraft: Education Edition, Lego WeDo 2.0, and Parrot Mambo Drones, so lots of custom-created excitement can be had with these platforms, too. Tynker projects can be accessed from both web and mobile versions, but the two platforms are not yet 100% compatible. Since it's fully integrated with Google Classroom, Clever Sync, and Microsoft Single Sign-On, you can connect student information systems with Tynker without requiring individual student logins or manually setting accounts.

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Tynker is a visual coding tool (HTML5-based website and a mobile app) that teaches kids to program with blocks of code. Kids can start coding right away in Tynker's Play section. Free six-hour coding lessons and Hour of Code activities offer beginner experiences through short coding puzzles. Paid courses offer deeper, more creative experiences through JavaScript and Python.

Kids can create their own projects, collaborate with others, and share with the online Tynker community. An Admin Dashboard lets teachers manage rosters and assignments with a single Google or Tynker login. Clever integration with platforms like Minecraft, Lego WeDo, and Parrot Mambo drones makes Tynker even more relevant to kids.

As with other popular coding tools, Tynker's drag-and-drop command blocks help kids visually sequence code. But instructions are text-heavy. Strong readers who excel at following directions step by step will take to Tynker quickly, while struggling, impatient readers may skip instructions and miss out on learning. Some video tutorials are dotted throughout the lessons, but more would be helpful.

Diversity in both prefab and customizable characters has nudged up a bit, yet there's still an overall lack of diversity, and a few gender and ethnic stereotypes pop up in the character customizer. Then there's the price point: Free lessons are available, but the deep dive is only available through Tynker's paid coursework, which is an added expense.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Fun, colorful coding blocks hook kids into programming. Relatable topics include customizing avatars, Minecraft Mods, and programming Lego WeDos; games and courses build upon skill sets and require solid reading skills.

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

Great for scaffolding coding and robotics and is a good starter for scaling up coding languages. Human avatars lack a broad scope of diversity, and a few gender/ethnic 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?

Some visual, mostly text-based instruction. There are options for teacher webinars, online forums, and video tutorials, as well as Blue Ribbon Training for educators who make coding a priority.


Common Sense Reviewer
Kim Alessi Educational Technology Specialist

Teacher Reviews

(See all 10 reviews) (10 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Martin F. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
An updated and powerful graphical programming language
I am a big fan of Tynker, and my students really like it as well as an introduction. The "actors" available for student use, even with the free version, provide plenty of engagement and inspiration for my students. There are plenty of backgrounds to choose from as well. One of the things that I really liked about Tynker was that they really give you a fully functioning product to use for free. I can set up my own classrooms, monitor student progress, see their work from my screen, and even push out tutorials that I have created to my class. The thing you need to know about Tynker is that, like Scratch, it is a "sandbox" type of learning environment. Unless you want to pay, the curricular activities are locked and you need to create your own. For me, this was a plus, as I wanted to create my own activities (and, frankly, wasn't really impressed with the ones that I personally paid for and tested at home on my own). On the other hand, if you are uncomfortable with this content or with creating activities for computer science, you may find using Tynker a bit daunting. That said, there are plenty of activity books out there for Scratch and those activities can be easily modified for use with Tynker if you need a jump start.
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