3-5, 5-8, Apps, Computer Science, Education, Games, Parenting, Student Products, Teaching Tools

Bitsbox Subscriptions

“Are we going to do Share Time today?”




5 minutes later…

“When can I share?”

This 5th grader was super-excited, and completely determined to make sure I didn’t forget to give him his 5-minute sharing opportunity.  In my GT classroom, students can earn different privileges for certain achievements, and this was a privilege for which this student had worked particularly hard.

Finally, it was time.

The student came to the front of the room with a box in his hand.  It turned out the box was his first package from Bitsbox.  It included cards, a magazine, stickers, and a surprise toy.

image from Bitsbox
image from Bitsbox

I last posted about Bitsbox in December.  The site is free, and allows students to learn how to code programs.  Once the students log in online, students can write and test programs on a virtual tablet. When users create something they like, it can actually be shared and played on mobile devices.  You can access the Teacher Guide here.

My student’s parents had gone one step further, and gotten a Bitsbox subscription.  Depending on the subscription level that is chosen, either a PDF or an actual box is delivered to subscribers monthly. My student obviously received the box, and he could not wait to share its contents with the class. The students were in awe as he demonstrated how you could actually write a program online, and then play it on your mobile device.

I was thrilled to receive my own Bitsbox in the mail for review.  So was my 12-year-old daughter, especially when she saw the “surprise toy” – a Slinky.

The current Bitsbox magazine is great quality (nice paper, color pages), has 22 apps to try, and includes an inventory of some of the songs, stamps, fills, and sounds that you can use to “remix” the apps. It also has a link to a Grownup Guide – one of the best features in my opinion – which allows you to type in a code number for any of the programs. Parents then have access to a helpful “translation” of the programming involved, as well as extension suggestions.  LOVE!

My daughter enjoyed the “Who’s My BFF?” code, which randomly chooses a friend’s name from the ones that you input.  My students like things that explode, so “Fido’s Lunch” (one of the included programming cards) made quite an impression.

The difficulty of the apps varies.  Some are very short and simple. Others have quite a few lines of code, but obviously allow for more fun when playing the completed games. Content-wise, the target ages seem to be about 7-12 years old, though I must admit that I certainly enjoyed trying them out even though I’m nowhere near that age bracket 😉

So, the big question is, “Is a Bitsbox subscription worth it?”  One thing you should do to help yourself make this decision is try the website activities first.  If your child enjoys those – to the point that he or she is modifying them and begging for more – then you should consider a subscription.  My 5th grader obviously did!  Personally, I think the $20 PDF would not be that exciting.  Kids like to get packages.  That being said, I’m not sure the $40 month-to-month is a very good value.  I think I would try the $35/month for 3 months or the $30/month for 12.  My advice to Bitsbox would be to offer 6 months for $30 each, and the 12 months for $25/month.  I think that would be ideal.


3-12, Apps, Computer Science, Education, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Websites


With this week’s Hour of Code very much in my mind,  an article in my Flipboard technology magazine this weekend immediately caught my attention.  TechCrunch described a new site called, “Bitsbox” that helps children to learn how to write code.

The site is one of the featured lessons in this year’s Hour of Code list of activities.  I took a little time last night to check out how Bitsbox might differ from other programming apps and games.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 7.37.01 PM

The interface of Bitsbox is very simple, and simulates a tablet for which you are designing apps. (Bitsbox is browser-based, however – not an app.)  According to Scott Lininger, one of the company’s co-founders, he wanted to get away from some of the popular block-programming languages that are popular with children.  Although those (such as Scratch, Blockly, and Tynker) have value, Lininger was interested in showing children how to actually type code, not just drag and drop.

Bitsbox does teach simple text commands (so your child will need to be a good reader to work on it independently).  However, if you are lazy like me, you may find yourself doing a lot of copying and pasting. I’m not sure if that’s quite as informative as typing the text myself, but I’m not the only one who figures out that shortcut pretty quickly.

Bitsbox is free, and even provides a very helpful Teacher’s Guide. Here is the link to their Hour of Code site. Bitsbox is about to launch a Kickstarter campaign for a subscription program that will include a box delivered to your door each month with new programs to try out. You can visit their website for more information.

For more ideas on Programming for Kids, check out my Pinterest Board!