March 28, 2016

‘Sketch Nation’ Mobile App Uses Games to Teach Computer Coding Concepts

By Rob Klindt, Contributing Writer | Literacy Resources

More than $3 billion from the nation’s 2016 budget has been set aside to help K-12 schools develop and expand science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs. These programs help students acquire skills they need to compete in an increasingly tech-oriented global workforce.

"Sketch Nation" helps students understand the basics of computer coding.Computer coding is one of the most popular disciplines in STEM programs. Popular classroom tech tools for teaching coding include whiteboards, computer programs and digital tablets.

Teachers looking to add a versatile and fun basic coding app to their classroom tech toolbox should check out “Sketch Nation Create,” a tablet app from Sketch Nation.

The game-based app introduces students to the fundamentals of basic coding, app design and computer graphics by letting them plan, create and play computer games. It targets students in upper elementary grades through high school.

Each game-building exercise gives students a mental-gymnastics workout by stretching their minds and jogging their memories as they assemble the parts of a working computer game. The app may also help students boost other learning and study skills, including:

  • Cognitive development
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Logic
  • Problem solving
  • Storytelling and creativity

Content in the app supports STEM lesson plans in most schools.

How it works

To get started, students tap the “create a game” button at the top of the “Sketch Nation Create” homepage. A series of setup prompts lets students choose a game genre and challenge mode.

Next, students use their finger onscreen to draw a game background, player and an obstacle using built-in tools to provide color, size and position. Finally, they type a name for their game and add a short description for it into text fields, then tap the save button.

To see the game in action, students tap the “Play” button in the upper-right corner and follow the prompts. Game scores are automatically recorded and high scores appear on a leaderboard.

If something isn’t right, or students want to update any part of the game, they can tap the “Edit” button in the upper-left corner to make as many adjustments as they like.

Tapping the “Play More Games” tab brings back the homepage, where students can scroll through and play dozens of prebuilt games in nine genres of various challenge levels.

The app boasts a multitude of dynamic features that help students add custom features to their computer games. The most helpful include:

  • Automatic game scoring
  • Colorful animation tools
  • Fun coding tools
  • Lively sound effects
  • Quick search tool

A battery-saving mode kicks in when there is no activity on the app. It’s helpful when students are planning their games but aren’t ready to build them.

What’s included

All tools needed to create games will work without an Internet connection after the “Sketch Nation Create” app is downloaded into a device. Registration is not required.

However, extra benefits are available to students who register and use the app with an Internet connection. They include the ability to store games they create online, edit them on multiple devices and share them with other registered users. Students also have access to a treasure trove of regularly updated and featured prebuilt games to play.

There are no advertisements or in-app purchases, and registration is free.

Download details

The “Sketch Nation Create” app is free. It can be downloaded through Google Play, Amazon Appstore and iTunes. It’s compatible with smartphones and tablets running the Android operating system 4.0 or later. Apple users can play the app on iPhone and iPad tablets running iOS version 6.0 or later.

For students who don’t have a digital tablet or prefer to use a desktop computer connected to the Internet, an online version of the app is available at the Sketch Nation website.

Rob Klindt’s “App Reviews” combine his passion for writing with an ever-growing interest in educational technology. His simple, straightforward approach to reviewing educational apps help educators and parents leverage new tools for students in and out of the classroom.

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