Kids must code on iPads

hopscotch flappy

An important 21st Century skill

This post is about a topic and app close to my heart. Computer programming is the engine of modern life and dream maker for tens of thousands. More and more countries are introducing the subject as compulsory schooling at surprisingly young ages. The UK is introducing a national school programme in september this year whilst also funding yearofcode.org to increase momentum. Code.org is pushing an international message with big-name endorsement. Even small countries like Estonia have their 5-year-olds taking their first steps into logical problem solving. A site I’ve used for years is codecademy.com

estonia codeWhat learning to code offers young people.

Even I was surprised at how much my students have enjoyed their first experience of coding this year. In a number of ways, coding offers a ideal learning experience. Students receive immediate feedback from any attempt and can see the results of their endeavours without the need for teacher feedback. If the challenge is set at the appropriate level, coding automatically becomes a perfect example of gameification. It naturally encourages students to ask “what can I do next?”

code club ukAccessible to anyone 

Coding is problem solving and like any puzzle, it seems to immediately engage kids as long as the puzzle pieces are easy to play with and move around. That’s where Hopscotch comes to the rescue! I have been teaching coding for 10 years and have never seen such an immediate impact on engagement than that of touch-screen draggable commands. Hopscotch is a free app that has an online community to share your coding projects with. It’s easy and intuitive to play with and is appropriate from about the age of 4 or 5. You do not have to know anything about coding to give this a go with your class and of course there are Youtube video lessons.

hopscotch screeen Quick & keen

My colleague and I had written a typical coding introduction for our 12 & 13 year olds using Hopscotch but very quickly realised that the app negated traditional approaches as it was so intuitive. The students were creating shapes, drawings and characters within 20 minutes. They just wanted to play, discover and create and our teaching unit was far to slow. Obviously, we let them go for it!

codecademy“Let’s make Flappy Birds!”

Within the first hour, a 12-year-old had already realised the the ‘world issue’ that was “the death of Flappy Birds” could be solved with Hopscotch. It was great to see the students all working together and keenly sharing their discoveries. One student realised the the Emoji keyboard allowed for 100s more characters, another worked out how to colour the background in as sky and grass. The only element I had to directly help with was keeping score.

We were also amazed to get recognised by the folks at Hopscotch!

20140323-222751.jpg

hopscotch appPersonalised learning

One benefit of coding your own apps and games is keeping it personal. Students started twisting the Flappy birds concept into fish games or car games and it was as if I’d completely disappeared from the room. When using Hopscotch, students are constantly problem solving, working collaboratively and thinking creatively.

What’s coming next?

I have watched the development of this app and can’t wait to see the next version. There are a couple of significant programming tools missing but I am sure they’re on their way in future releases.

Here is a help sheet I produced from from my classes coding and I hope it helps.

Flappy Birds and code for other games in Hopscotch

hopscotch flappy

“School work is no longer school work when it’s recognised outside school” – @iPadWells

@ipadwells & OC on Hopsctch Blog

9 comments on “Kids must code on iPads

  1. I’ve introduced my students to Hopscotch and Code Academy. They all seemed very interested in learning. However, I’m an EFL teacher and have very little coding experience. Would it be possible for me to begin simple coding lessons in my primary and elementary classes? Where would I begin?

    • I might start with drawing games. Set challenges to draw shapes and introduce the REPEAT command for quicker coding. Another idea is to allow them to find the code used in the Hopscotch community games of events they want to use in their games. In general, if the students choose a game they want to make, make it a team effort to create each element. Divide the game up into its separate items and events and ensure the kids know that you are learning as much as them. They’ll want to ‘help you out’

  2. Pingback: Kids must code on iPads |  IPAD 4 SCHOOLS | smartphone-hattansmartphone-hattan

  3. Pingback: Kids must code on iPads | Teachers Blog

  4. Pingback: Kids must code on iPads | My Other Blog

  5. I agree and want to share some follow up ways of coding once they have exhausted the possibilities of Hopscotch. Pythonista allows coding in Python on the a iPad and it is really quite impressive. It is entirely text based though, no drag and drop! Similarly I’m currently developing a scheme of work using DraftCode PHP for my Higher CompSci classes next year. It allows HTML and PHP coding on the iPad but, as yet, no link to MySQL (which would be fantastic).

    Don’t forget about utilising other devices via the iPad. I regularly use SSH to connect to my Raspberry Pi and run scripts on it from the iPad. In class I can set up a temporary link between the two on my phone but an old router with wifi would also suffice.

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