7 Programming Teaching Tools.

This is an excerpt from the 2021-22 version of the Practical Ad Tech Handbook. Two weeks ago a copy was sent to everyone who subscribed to my Practical Ad Tech newsletter. If you haven’t subscribed, you can. For some of us of a certain age, the logo was our introduction to computers and programming 30+ years ago. The logo is still accessible today. Dr. Gary Stager has repeatedly said that this is still the best way to introduce students to programming. Logos are the basis of many other sites and apps that teachers can use to help students learn programs. Here are some great options for teaching and learning programming.

When the conversation between teachers turns to programming, Scratch is often the first thing that comes to mind. Scratch allows students to program animations, games and videos through the visual interface. Students create their own programs by dragging blocks representing movements and functions on their screens. Blocks come together to help students see how the “if, then” logic of programming works. Watch the video here to learn more about Scratch. And check out the Scratch Aid team curriculum to teach with Scratch.

Scratch Jr. is based on the aforementioned online scratch program. For iPad and Android, Scratch Jr. uses the same drag and drop programming principles as Scratch. Junior students can program multimedia stories and games on Scratch. To program a story or game on Scratch Junior, students select background settings for each frame of the story. Then in each frame the students choose the steps they want to play. Students pull together programming pieces to move and talk characters in their stories and games.

Suddenly! There is a drag and drop programming interface designed to help students learn the program. Suddenly! Uses a visual interface that works on your laptop as well as your iPad in your browser. To design a program in Snap! Drag commands in a sequence in the script panel. Orders are represented by labeled jigsaw puzzle pieces that come together to create a program. You can try running your program at any time to see how it works. After previewing your program, you can go back and add or delete pieces. Suddenly! Reminds some people of scratch. That’s because Snap! The developers call their program “an extended re-implementation of Scratch.” The potential benefit of Snap! The over-scratch is that teachers with a mix of iPads, Android tablets and laptops in their classrooms can use the same programming interface for all their students.

The MIT App Inventor enables students to create and publish their own Android applications. The MIT App Inventor works in your web browser (Chrome is recommended). App Inventor 2 requires only one download, which is an optional emulator. The emulator allows people who do not have Android devices to text their apps on their desktop. If you have an Android device, you don’t need an emulator and you don’t have to worry about installing it. The MIT App provides excellent support documents and curriculum for classroom use for new Inventor users. A detailed tutorial on how to create an Android app with MIT App Inventor can be seen here.

Thinkable is a platform for designing, testing and publishing your own Android apps and iOS apps. Thunkable lets you build your own apps, even if you don’t know how to write code. This is possible because the thinker uses a drag and drop design framework. This framework, based on the MIT App Inventor, shows you jigsaw-like pieces with command labels. Your job is to put the pieces together to make your apps work. Thunkable offers detailed writing tutorials and video tutorials.

Daisy Dinosaur is a free iPad app designed to introduce young students to some of the basics of programming. The app asks students to create a command for Daisy Dinosaurs. Here is a free play mode in which students can do whatever Daisy wants. But to get started, you will want students to work through the initial challenge mode. Daisy Dinosaur asks students to enter commands in the correct order so that Daisy can complete tasks correctly. Daisy dinosaurs can be used with kindergarten students.

Blackbird is a platform launched in early 2021 to help teachers teach programming to middle school and high school students. Blackbird presents itself as a platform that bridges the gap between using a blockchain service such as scratch and writing code in an IDE. Blackbird does not use blocks and does not offer any blocks. Instead, Blackbird offers a series of interactive lessons in which students write JavaScript. Blackbird lessons are organized into progressive units. From the first lesson students are creating a game they can customize to their heart’s content. When they finish all the lessons, students can go to a “workshop” where they can work on independent projects that you can see from your teacher’s dashboard in Blackbird.

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