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Great apps for computer coding

Published on 22/03/17

David Hewlett, Head of Digital Learning, shares his favourite apps for coding.

When the government released the new and improved Computing Programme of Study it included four main aims, two of which have a direct link to computer coding:

  1. Can understand and apply the fundamental principles and concepts of computer science
  2. Can analyse problems in computational terms, and have repeated practical experience of writing computer programs in order to solve such problems.

For some schools this has caused a quick catch up, one truly marvellous aspect of which is the emergency of a number of very useful resources. Most of these resources cost a few pounds at most (many are free) and our children have easy access to them: but are they using them?

I have experience in using a number of the current coding apps and devices including:

Scratch - a website developed by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). This is classic jigsaw drag and drop block coding. It has a free to download app and an extensive online community sharing some amazing games and projects. Sadly Scratch isn't available on the iPad (although you can use a Flash browser app to get at it). The app, Scratch Junior, is a simplified version of Scratch suitable for KS1 children 3-7.

Sketch Nation - this is a super fun app that develops game development. You can turn your drawings into a retro style arcade game.

Hopscotch is an excellent app on IOS and Android. Again, this is drag and drop jigsaw coding and provides an excellent experience developing the children's ideas and understanding. There is a huge support community and excellent 'in app' video tutorials.

Tickle - a super app that allows you to take over some of your remote controlled gadgets. There's nothing cooler than creating your own code to control a drone!

Sphero - If you haven't heard of Sphero, where have you been? You may be more familiar with its brother, the BB8, which shot to fame after the release of The Force Awakens. Sphero comes with a host of affiliated apps which explore many good functions including augmented reality. I love Sphero because of the written code aspect. There are jigsaw-type apps, but pairing up an app called Orb Basic with the Sphero allows you to programme the Sphere with written code. Proper coding with a physical output.

BBC Micro:bit - A scheme devised by the BBC to put a coding tool into the hands of every Year 7 child in the land. These are now available to buy, and for only a few pounds you get to programme a simple computer in written code or jigsaw drag and drop code. It has an excellent supporting website with many excellent ideas to try.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are many excellent websites and there has been a recent release by Apple called Swift Playground which is a beautiful coding app: also well worth getting your hands on. It's never too late to learn, and learning at the same time as your children is an excellent form of support and provides a good positive message for them.

Happy coding!