In the past, I have posted about some options for kids that are available to help them learn about programming: Codecademy and the iOS apps Cargo-Bot and Daisy the Dinosaur. I also briefly mentioned Gamestar Mechanic in one of my posts. Many of my 5th graders have been using Gamestar Mechanic, which you can find here, during their Genius Hour time. Another option would be programming robots, such as in the Lego Mindstorms program.
Since October, I have co-sponsored a “Code Academy” after school club, using the after-school program from Codecademy that I had read about earlier that year. It has definitely had its ups and downs. The Pros are: it is a very in-depth program that teaches web design and Java, it keeps track of your progress, and it offers badges when you reach certain benchmarks. The Cons are: it is not compatible with Internet Explorer (which keeps becoming the default browser on our lab computers despite all of my attempts to change it to Chrome), it sometimes does not explain a lesson well, students must provide an e-mail to create an account, and some of the lessons are very wordy (we have 3rd-5th graders in the club, and some of it is a bit difficult for the 3rd graders to comprehend).
For today’s meeting, I gave the students the option of continuing with Codecademy, or to try a new site called Code Monster that I had learned about from Richard Byrne’s blog. Once the students heard the word, “Monster”, I think they were sold. By the end of our club meeting, nearly every student in the club had switched to Code Monster.
Here are the Pros of Code Monster: visually attractive to kids, minimal words to teach each lesson, no login or email necessary. The Cons are: no tracking of progress and it also seems to be incompatible with IE (at least the version on our computers). The good news is that if you use the same computer each time you open Code Monster, you will return to the lesson where you stopped. You can also click on the link for “Lesson Sections” at the bottom of the page to choose a new lesson. I would emphasize to the students that they need to go in order, however, as the lessons build upon each other.
Code Monster seemed to work pretty well for our 3rd-5th graders. Crunchzilla also has a site called Code Maven, which is for teens and adults. I have not tried that one, yet.
I have embedded a TED video below, which is called “Let’s Teach Kids to Code.” Mitch Resnick is the speaker, and he is one of the creators of Scratch, another great (and free) option for learning how to program.
Kids learn so much from programming: logic, problem-solving, and persistence. It seems like there are more resources available every day – and you will find that the students are more than willing to try them.