11 apps for coding: From beginners to masters

Coding, the hottest skill coming down the education pipeline, is also a mobile app star

coding-apps-educationAs students begin to not only use technology, but create it’s functionality, a recent explosion in coding resources have hit the web, providing coding apps ranging from introductions for beginners and middle-schoolers to more technical resources aimed at the tech-savvy.

From learning the basics of coding by making a dinosaur dance to more intermediate coding that requires working knowledge of HTML, and from a multiplayer robot combat game to app design, these programming apps provide an array of options for students, teachers and parents to become acquainted with one of the hottest subjects making the education rounds.

And be sure to check out the last page for our bonus: 4 web-based coding resources and games.

This is just a sampling of available coding apps. Do you use an app that isn’t on the list? Make sure to mention it in the comments section below.

[Editor’s note: Prices are current as of press time. Please note that app prices may fluctuate. Apps listed in alphabetical order.]

1. Codecademy: Hour of Code, iPhone/iPad/iPod, Free

Learn how to build things online by programming with Codecademy. This coding app gets users started by introducing them to the basic concepts behind the apps on their phone and the websites they visit. Users will learn to understand the basic structure of code when they see it.

(Next page: Apps 2-8)

2. Codea, iPad, $9.99

Codea lets users create games and simulations—or just about any visual idea conceived. Turn thoughts into interactive creations that make use of iPad features like Multi-Touch and the accelerometer. Codea is also designed to let users touch their code. Want to change a number? Just tap and drag it. How about a color or an image? Tapping will bring up visual editors that let users choose exactly what they want. Codea is built on the Lua programming language: A simple, elegant language that doesn’t rely too much on symbols.

3. Cargo-bot, iPad, Free

A game that allows kids to learn the basics of programming, Cargo-bot is the first game programmed entirely on iPad using Codea. A puzzle game where users teach a robot how to move crates, this app provides  high-quality retina graphic, and recordable solutions users can share on YouTube.

4. Cato’s Hike: A Programming and Logic Odyssey, iPhone/iPad/iPod, $4.99 [Lite version is Free]

This coding app, designed for children, centers around Cato—a little boy who goes through a portal to another world. This world, unlike his own, doesn’t follow the same rules and Cato needs to write a program for himself to overcome all obstacles. Features include: A simple programming interface using cards with pictures; a visual manual to help guide parents; 60 levels and 12 tutorials; puzzles ranging from easy to hard to teach different programming concepts without trying to force them; and much more.

5. Daisy the Dinosaur, iPad, Free

Learn the basics of computer programming in this coding app that has an easy drag-and-drop interface that kids of all ages can use to animate Daisy to dance across the screen. Kids will intuitively grasp the basics of objects, sequencing, loops and events by solving this app’s challenges. After playing Daisy, kids can choose to download a kit to program their own computer game.

6. Hakitzu Elite & Robot Hackers, iPhone/iPad/iPod, Android, Free

Hakitzu Elite helps students learn the basics of JavaScript. No previous coding knowledge is required as the game—a multiplayer robot combat games—takes users from beginner, to coder, to hacker in both the single player mode and on the battlefield. The more students code by hand, the more points they receive to unlock ultimate weapons for a “battle royale” in the gaming arena. New in-game leaderboards rank users against their friends, taking rivalry to a new level. As seen on Mashable, Gamezebo, The Guardian, VentureBeat, WIRED and more.

7. Hopscotch, iPad, Free

Hopscotch teaches kids to code using simple, intuitive building blocks. Kids can create games, animations and other programs in this colorful, interactive environment. Students can program characters to move, draw and collide with each other, and use shaking, tilting, or even shouting at the iPad to control them. Hopscotch was inspired by MIT’s Scratch. 2013 Parents’ Choice Gold Award winner, 2014 Children’s Technology Review: Best Educational Technology, and Featured by Apple in Education and Best for 9-12.

8. Kodable, iPad, $6.99 [non-pro version is Free]

Kodable is a game offering a kid-friendly introduction to programming concepts and problem solving. For kids ages 5 and up, and tools for adults as well. Kodable Pro provides access to all current and future Kodable content, including the Kodable Curriculum, as well as all features available as in-app purchases in the free version of Kodable. Beautifully designed with young children in mind, Kodable Pro comes with 3 worlds and 90 levels of programmable fun.

(Next page: Apps 9-11; Bonus resources)

9. L2 Code CSS, iPhone/iPad/iPod, $2.99

Are your students CSS ready? Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is the next step from basic HTML. If more advances students want more control over the look and formatting of a webpage, then the L2Code CSS app will help them easily learn how. It provides step-by-step instructions and practice tutorials to help them master layout, colors, and fonts.

10. Light-bot, iPhone/iPad/iPod, Android, $2.99 [Lite version is Free]

This coding app is a programming puzzle game: a puzzle game that uses game mechanics that are firmly rooted in programming concepts. Light-bot lets players gain a practical understanding of basic control-flow concepts like procedures, loops, and conditionals, just by guiding a robot with commands to light up tiles and solve levels. Light-bot features 40 levels and 20 challenge stars to collect.

11. Move The Turtle, iPhone/iPad/iPod, $2.99

Move The Turtle teaches children the basics of creating computer programs, using intuitive graphic commands. A friendly Turtle will introduce children, step-by-step, to the basic concepts of programming by completing tasks, one after another. Kids can learn: How to plan complex activities composed of simple elements; how to reuse previously completed work; and how to use graphics, spatial orientation and sound in programming. Users will also become familiar with the notions of loops, procedures, variables and conditional instructions. Winner of a Parents’ Choice Gold Award, and featured by Apple in the “New & Noteworthy” / Education section of the iTunes App Store.

Bonus: Four web-based resources to learn coding:

1. AppInventor

App Inventor provides the fastest way to build apps for Android phones and tablets. Even with no prior experience, users can learn to build apps within hours. Here, learn from USF Professor David Wolber, who has been teaching beginners programming with App Inventor since its inception in 2009. With step-by-step video screencasts, Wolber starts with the basics, then leads users through the development of successively more complex apps, teaching programming concepts along the way.

2. GameStar Mechanic

Gamestar Mechanic uses game-based quests and courses to help users learn game design and make their own video games. Go on Quests that power-up game design skills, take game design courses with professional instructors and get feedback from game industry pros, make original games, and publish created games in a community of over 250K designers.

3. Scratch

Scratch is an educational programming language and multimedia authoring tool that can be used by students, scholars, teachers, and parents for a range of educational and entertainment constructivist projects from math and science projects, including simulations and visualizations of experiments, recording lectures with animated presentations, to social sciences animated stories, and interactive art and music. Simple games can be made with it, as well. Playing with the existing projects available on the Scratch website, or modifying and testing any modification without saving it requires no online registration.

4. Tynker

Tynker, a course designed for children in grades 4-8, includes 16 self-paced lessons filled with guided instruction, puzzles, tutorials, quizzes, challenge missions and training videos. This introductory course covers basic programming concepts including creating scenes, playing sounds, moving characters, conditionals and repetition, animation, handling keyboard and mouse events, pen drawing, collision detection, keeping score and more. Students are introduced to concepts in an interactive framework with narration, videos, guided tutorials, and projects. They are also encouraged to innovate and build their own projects, and are assessed when they solve coding puzzles and take quizzes throughout the course.

Sign up for our K-12 newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Meris Stansbury

Want to share a great resource? Let us know at

Comments are closed.

eSchool News uses cookies to improve your experience. Visit our Privacy Policy for more information.