Elementary School, Middle School

Five iPad Apps That Help Students Learn Programming Basics

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 9.23.48 AMEven if your students are never going to become professional app developers, learning the fundamentals of programming can be helpful in understanding how software works. Learning programming basics also helps students develop a better understanding of “if, then” logic which can be applied to a wide variety of academic areas. Here are five iPad apps that can help students learn some programming basics.

The Tynker iPad app features stories that students animate by completing a series of programming challenges. The programming happens by organizing a series of blocks that represent commands. In that way it is similar to apps like Daisy the Dinosaur and MIT’s App Inventor. The Tynker iPad app provides the first story / programming challenge for free. The subsequent challenges require in-app purchases. The first story contains twenty challenges for students. The Tynker iPad app could be a good one for elementary school students to use to begin to learn about the logic that is used in programming. Students older than ten or eleven may find the challenges too simple.

Daisy the Dinosaur is a free iPad app designed to introduce young students to some programming basics. The app asks students to create commands for Daisy the Dinosaur to carry out. There is a free play mode in which students can make Daisy do whatever they want. But to get started you might want to have students work through the beginner challenges mode. Daisy the Dinosaur could be used with students as young as Kindergarten age. For older students older than eight or nine, try one of the following two apps.

Hopscotch is a free iPad app that introduces students to programming logic. In Hopscotch students put command boxes into order to make cartoon avatars move and draw lines. Students can program one or all of the cartoon avatars to move and follow commands based on touch or on the movement of their iPads. Hopscotch was developed by the same people who developed Daisy the Dinosaur. Daisy the Dinosaur teaches kids under nine some basic programming logic. Using Hopscotch is a logical next step after completing the challenges in Daisy the Dinosaur.

Cargo Bot is a fun and challenging game that students can play to learn some principles of logic and programming. The object of the game is to program a robot to complete increasingly complex sequences of tasks. Students start out by programming the robot to move one box from point A to point B. After successfully programming the robot students are advanced to programming more complex tasks like a repeating loop of movements and staggered movements.

 Kodable is an iPad app that introduces children to logic and programming through a simple visual interface. The app present students with a series of mazes through which they have to guide the “Fuzz” character. To guide Fuzz through the mazes students have to drag and drop boxes into place. On the beginning levels students can move one block at a time and see the results quickly. As the levels get more difficult students have to start to think a few moves ahead.

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