Must-try apps, games, and tutorials for learners of every age
“Computer science is a liberal art, it’s something that everyone should be exposed to, everybody should have a mastery of to some extent.”—Steve Jobs
As the world continues to become more and more digital, the number of computer science jobs in this country is rising three times faster than the number of computer science graduates. The problem-solving and logical reasoning skills involved computer programming, as well as the ability to think critically and algorithmically, provide a foundation for virtually every career. It’s no wonder that there has been a surge of interest in having students, particularly those in grades K through 12, learn computer science.
This has led to the development of many new and exciting programs and tools for students. For me personally, I have a few go-tos, including Code Academy and SCRATCH, but my new favorite coding tool is Pixel Press Floors.
What sets this app apart from all the other tools is that PixelPress integrates the physical world with the digital world. This iPad app allows you to use paper and pencil to draw your own video game. First sketch your game using PixelPress’s “glyph” system which uses symbols to create the different elements of your game. Next, capture your drawing, by snapping a photo, from within the app, or simply use the “Draw-In_App” tool. Once your game is digitized, you can get creative, by changing the color scheme, and adding backgrounds, characters, and audio. Finally, you get to play, test, tweak, and share, (or not). In reality, students had greater success using the “Draw-In_App” tool than drawing the game on paper, but still awesome! (A similar app, Adventure Time Game Wizard, was made available earlier this year for iOS and Android.)
Other coding resources for younger students
- Code Studio offers a 20 hour-long coding course for elementary school students.
- Scratch is a free programming language, developed at the MIT Media Lab. Scratch helps young people develop essential 21st century skills such as creative thinking, logical reasoning and collaboration, by programming and sharing interactive stories, games, and animations.
- Tynker is similar to Scratch and also recently launched an iPad app.
- CS is Fun (also includes resources for older students)
- Code Maven Offers an simple interactive tutorial, that is perfect for younger students
Other coding resources for older students
- Project GUTS: code.org and Project Growing Up Thinking Scientifically (GUTS) developed a middle school program that focuses on computer science, modeling, and simulation.
- Bootstrap offers a nine unit course that teaches math concepts through computer programming.
- Make School, formerly Make Games with Us is always a favorite; the beginner tutorial is free.
- Touch Develop is an app creator, as is App Inventor
- Exploring Computer Science: “A K-12 university partnership committed to democratizing computer science.”
- Code Avengers: Students can learn to build web sites, apps, and games
- Game Maker offers a game maker studio for novice and professional game developers
- Amplify is a free College Board-approved AP Computer Science massive open online course (MOOC).
Kelly Maher is a mathematics and technology teacher and technology coordinator at Patrick F. Taylor Science and Technology Academy, near New Orleans. Previously, she’s written about teaching students the right way to Google for eSchool News.
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