How I Use It
Before using Tynker with my 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students, we did a lot of coding practice using Espresso Coding (a few lessons at each level are free until 10/31/2014) and the Code.org Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies games. I am glad that I organized the lessons this way because the Tynker lessons are fun and educational, but do not offer much in terms of support or introductions to concepts in each module. If students don't already know how to use a repeat loop, if statements, and the syntax of coding, Tynker games may be frustrating to them. I did a quick preview of two games, Lost in Space and Sketch Racer with the whole class, then allowed the students to freely explore all the games offered during our work period. Some students lost interest because they couldn't understand what to do and how to do it. I had to offer a lot of individual assistance to compensate for the lack of built-in support. Teachers can sign-up and create classes, but this isn't required.
Tynker offers some really engaging coding games, but they would be much better if the user experience were improved. The instructions for each module are partially hidden behind the bubbles that show your progress. The coding buttons cover the puzzles, so students have to click on an arrow to hide and reveal the code, then remember the steps. This is really hard for kids to do! I don't understand why they didn't make two panes with the puzzle on one side and the workspace with blocks and buttons in the other. The hints and suggestions offered are unhelpful and do nothing to help the students problem solve. Some of the games require reading through each step and may be challenging for ELL students. Despite these problems, I liked using Tynker and will use it again next year, but only with sufficient practice beforehand with more intuitive coding programs from other sources. I do appreciate that I am not required to sign-up for anything on Tynker or create classes with log-ins for all my students. This is an option, but it is not necessary.