At schools across the nation, computer coding is one of the fastest-growing disciplines under the umbrella of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Schools are stepping up coding instruction to prepare students for an increasingly tech-oriented workforce.
For teachers, educational apps offer a great tool for introducing students to coding concepts. When used to supplement classroom lectures, these apps give students hands-on practice creating codes and seeing how they work.
A good introductory app to add to the classroom-tech toolbox is “Lightbot: Code Hour” by LightBot Inc. It uses educational gaming technology to guide students through the concepts of using computer programming and coding to solve animated puzzles.
Designed for children from kindergarten through middle school, the app aligns with the popular Code.org, a nonprofit that boosts student participation in computer science programs at K-12 schools nationwide. During its annual Computer Science Education Week, the organization helps educators set up “Hour of Code” sessions at school to introduce students to the basics of computer science and coding.
The next nationwide Computer Science Education Week is Dec. 5-11, 2016.
What the app does
Each self-paced exercise in the “Lightbot: Code Hour” app gives students hands-on experience creating and testing basic computer coding commands. The exercises help students learn basic coding while boosting cognitive thinking skills. Activities include:
- Creating loops
- Problem solving
The puzzle exercises align with most state educational standards.
How it works
The app launches with a collection of intuitive arrows and icons that students tap or drag their finger across to set preferences and start the first puzzle.
An animated robot mascot is at the center of each puzzle. The goal is to code a program of commands that will make the robot hop across a labyrinth of tile pathways that twist and turn in all directions.
Coding tools are represented by icons students tap to build a string of commands to make the robot move. When the robot reaches the end of the path, the last tile lights up and a dialog box appears offering congratulations and a chance to move to the next challenge level puzzle.
Students must complete each challenge level before they can move to a higher one. The puzzles are self-paced, and students can take as long as they like to finish. There are also on-screen icons students can tap to save their puzzles.
The “Lightbot: Code Hour” app uses a host of dynamic features to keep students engaged while they’re guided through each puzzle. They include:
- 20 challenge levels
- Automatic scoring
- Rich and colorful puzzle interface
- Sound effects
Tapping the flag icon in the top right corner of the start page lets users view the app content in 28 languages.
Content in the “Lightbot: Code Hour” app is all-inclusive and is compatible with most smartphones and digital tablets. Once it’s been downloaded to a device, all functions and features, including animation, tap commands, guide prompts, scoring, music and sound effects, will work without an internet connection.
There are no add-on purchases, and registration is not required.
The “Lightbot: Code Hour” app is free. It can be downloaded from iTunes and is compatible with iPad tablets running iOS version 5.1.1 or later. It’s also available on Google Play and is compatible with digital tablets running the Android operating system 2.3 or later.