Website review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2020

Tynker

Approachable, powerful coding curriculum covers much ground, provides support

Learning rating
Community rating
Based on 14 reviews
Privacy rating
Not yet rated Expert evaluation by Common Sense
Grades
K–12
Subjects & Skills
Math, Creativity, Character & SEL, Critical Thinking, College & Career Prep

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Pros: Engaging and varied content, customizable assignments, and integration with popular platforms (Minecraft, Lego WeDo) make coding fun and relatable.

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

Bottom Line: Tynker empowers students of all ages and experience levels to create custom coding projects for a variety of platforms.

Tynker is a great option for introducing K–12 students to computer science (CS) concepts, from basic block coding to AP computer science content. It's also great for non-CS classes with its cross-curricular options, as well as in after-school activities, coding camps, and Hour of Code pushes. There are several subscription options, depending on grade level. 

For CS classes or units, it'll be easy to either assign courses or let students pick and choose their pursuits. Using the remix feature, students could build on one another's creations, tapping into collaboration. Because there are so many things kids can create, Tynker could be a great choice for kids to show what they know through a game or coded presentation. The drawing and animations tools and ability to add music and sound effects allow for creativity beyond typical block coding, so kids can even use Tynker to express themselves in more open-ended ways. And while younger users and students who struggle with reading may need more one-on-one support, it's definitely possible to use Tynker from a distance, using the streaming feature to present lessons asynchronously. Teachers can also assign courses to students within the Tynker app, where they can work offline without internet on an iPad.

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Tynker is a powerful visual coding tool (HTML5-based website and mobile app) and curriculum that teaches students to program, either with blocks of code or with text-based languages. It's all available through the web interface with nothing to install, and some features are available in the app. The sandbox area and some of the courses are freely available, but the meat of Tynker content is through paid courses and subscriptions.

Courses for the youngest students, through audio instruction, include logic problems, creating simple apps, and a focus on coding basics. For the middle grades, courses cover block coding, building apps and games, a variety of STEAM subjects, and designing Minecraft mods. High school students dive into real-world coding with JavaScript, Java, Python, HTML/CSS, data structures, and even AP Computer Science prep. Many interests are covered in the material, such as drawing and animation, music, storytelling, game design (platformers, RPGs, and physics), Minecraft mods, robotics/AR (including Lego WeDo), and web design. The site also has a level editor and character builder for game design with plenty of media assets, or you can design your own. Diversity in both prefab and customizable characters is decent, but a few gender and ethnic stereotypes pop up in the character builder. Students can create their own projects, collaborate with others, remix others' projects, and share with the online Tynker community.

A useful teacher dashboard allows teachers to create classes, keep an eye on students, and get involved with their progress. Most of Tynker's lessons are text-heavy, but the courses aimed at the youngest students have voice-over instructions, and many courses have Spanish options as well. It's integrated with Clever, Microsoft Azure logins, Google Classroom, and Apple Schoolworks API, and the teacher dashboard provides a robust tool for teachers to create class rosters, assign courses, post to asynchronous feeds for their students (who can comment on the posts), see student progress and grades, and access plenty of guidance including quick-start guides. There's also extra guidance and options for distance learning, lesson plans, classroom slides, answer keys, get started tips, activities, and previews for all the courses. Each lesson has both online and offline activities, and content is aligned to national standards.

Tynker has something to offer students of all grades and experience levels. Young students gain experience in logical and sequential thinking, while middle-grade students work on breaking down tasks into small steps, visually sequencing code, and learning through drag-and-drop block coding, including learning commands, commenting, loops, variables, expressions, input/output, conditional logic, and game design. Older students can apply these same lessons while learning real-life programming languages. Instructions for all but the early grades is text-heavy, so students who aren't strong readers may need some extra help.

The interactive learning modules, mini-games, coding projects, puzzles, and even competitions will keep students' interest and motivate them to keep going, and the built-in tutorials and how-to videos help them become independent learners and make Tynker compatible with distance learning. Students can move up in difficulty as they work through the lessons, even making the jump from block coding to JavaScript in the Sky Pirates course, which links block code on one side of the screen with the text code on the other. The Interactive Notebook configuration allows students to try out pieces of code within the context of the instructions, without having to go to another window or install anything on their computer. Students can also collaborate on projects, opening up discussion to other students and the teacher.

Courses are organized by a number of criteria, including difficulty level, grade level, programming language, and topic of interest, so it's easy to find courses that'll work for your students. The cross-curricular options add extra appeal for those who resist the more CS-oriented lessons. After students finish courses, they can use what they learned to create new projects in the sandbox portion of the site, creating any kind of project from scratch or from a template. Truly, with all of its features -- for both students and teachers -- Tynker takes coding way beyond the basic into real creation, collaboration, and application where kids can see their learning come to life.

Overall Rating

Engagement

Fun, colorful coding blocks hook young students while text coding will appeal to older students. Relatable topics include customizing avatars, Minecraft mods, and Lego WeDo.

Pedagogy

A scaffold for coding and STEM study, it's a good place to start for any programming level while leaving room for open-ended personal projects. Self-guided learning, collaboration, and teacher support combine, leading to student success.

Support

Mostly text-based instruction with some visual and audio support. Allows for self-led learning for independent students. Teachers have extensive help resources: video tutorials, online forums, lesson plans, and professional development.


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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 ...
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