This is Part 2 of my rundown on Coding with Your Kids on an iPad. Part 1 highlighted iPad apps that teach younger children the concepts behind programming. The following apps take these concepts further and introduce different elements to learning how to code. These apps are suitable for children aged 10-18 (or beyond!).
Free + in-app purchases
As you progress through Hakitzu, you can gain points which you can use to upgrade your robots with different weaponry and costumes.
Codea is a serious coding app. So serious in fact that you can code iPad apps in it. The app, Cargo Bot (which itself is a good app for practicing your coding skills) was made entirely in Codea.
The app runs on a coding engine called Lua, which is a little like Python. Instead of having a graphical interface, this app actually has a code compiler interface where you have to write, or copy in the code yourself. The developers have used some nice gesture based tricks to make code entry easier for the touch screen, like changing numerical values by swiping, and having a very solid autocomplete engine.
Codea also packs a few demo programs in which allow you to dip into the code and alter it rather than having to write everything out yourself. There is also a blog that has a lot of tutorials which will help you to get started. Codea is an impressive program, and currently is probably the most sophisticated app available to write code with on your iPad.
This is officially an iPhone app, but runs fine on the iPad. Also note the spelling of ‘Codecademy‘ NOT ‘Codeacademy’ if you are searching for it online or in the App Store.
Codecademy is an excellent app for doing bite size snippets of coding. The app guides you through step by step and teaches the fundamentals of coding. Much like Codea, you are actually writing code directly into this app, although this is more of a gentle introduction to coding. The app presents you with lots of little challenges and as you progress through, things get harder.
The app teaches you about Variables, Data Types and If/Else statements all in a very accessible way.
Hopscotch is a great app which bridges the gap between the types of coding apps for younger children, and apps like Codea. Hopscotch has an intuitive graphical editor to code programs and you can drag your blocks into your program to make things happen. If you are familiar with MIT’s outstanding (and free) ‘Scratch’ program, you will understand how Hopscotch works.
The programming blocks in Hopscotch are all colour coded, making it easy to see what section does what, and often values can be edited in each block depending on how many times you want to rotate, move, draw and so on. The strength of this app is you can be completely creative. You are not limited by the app, and I’ve seen some fantastic applications of Hopscotch, like students creating automated drawings. You can also add interactive elements which take advantage of the iPad’s motion sensors. You can for example, recreate an Etch-a-sketch on your iPad by using the tilt and draw commands in Hopscotch.
Going back to the 1980s, and my careful input of lines of code into my Acorn Electron to draw a line on the screen, what I really wanted to do was create awesome games like Rick Dangerous, and Dizzy. Clearly, this was way beyond me. However, 25 years later, enter Gamepress. This is exactly what I needed in the 80s.
Gamepress is a remarkable app which balances the simplicity of Kodable, with the flexibility of Codea. You can use the graphical user interface to create all sorts of different games, from platformers to shoot-em-ups and I can’t imagine a better environment to put some of your children’s creative ideas into action.
There is an excellent tutorial which gets you straight into making a platform game and a huge variety of coding options which you can apply to your main game character or the enemies or power ups in it. Gamepress has a community of gamers built into the app too where you can access videos of other people’s games as well as forums.
All of these apps offer differing degrees of immersion into the world of coding and the pick up and play nature of the iPad makes it a great device to start introducing your children of any age to the concepts of programming.
If you know of any other apps which inspire your children, or you, to get coding, please add them in the comments, or contact me on twitter @BGSICT.
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