My focus with the iPads is predominantly their use to support learning across the curriculum, but specific ICT (soon to be Computing) skills still need to be taught. According to the draft new National Curriculum, programming is about to become a much bigger focus in primary schools than it ever has been.
I’ve tried out a few control based apps now, including Beebot and Kodable, but have decided to first review Daisy the Dinosaur and Hopscotch. These 2 are made by the same developer and were both created with the aim of being girl-friendly. This they absolutely achieve, without being overtly ‘girly’. Boys and girls were both excited to use the apps and test out their capabilities.
Daisy the Dinosaur has a distinctly Key Stage 1 feel to it, but was ideal to introduce my Year 4s to the basic concepts of coding. Beginning with ‘Challenge Mode’, children are encouraged (although never shown how) to make Daisy move around the screen. She can move, jump, spin, shrink and grow. The repeat function can be used, as can the ‘when’ (ie when I shake/touch the iPad) command, all through a simple drag and drop interface. Children can then move onto ‘free play’ mode, although once the small range of skills involved have been mastered, they will definitely be ready to move onto something a fair bit more challenging.
This is where Hopscotch comes in. Inspired by the very popular ‘Scratch’ program, this is an easy to use programming language with a lot more features than Daisy. Children can include a variety of colourful and engaging characters on their ‘stage’, and program them to move/rotate to set distances/angles, again using a drag and drop interface. There are also a wider variety of ‘when’ commands available (eg when I tilt the ipad down). Within half an hour of using the 2 programs, children were drawing squares, amending their programs to be more efficient etc. There is also the inbuilt feature of saving/sharing programs included in Hopscotch. This now leaves me with a challenge – how do I as a teacher with little experience/knowledge of this area of ICT, move my children’s learning forward? Ideas and comments would be much appreciated!
Coming soon: another programming app – Cato’s Hike
– both apps are free (chargeable features coming in future updates)
– engaging graphics
– encourages problem solving
– share/save facility
What could be better
– inbuilt challenges in Hopscotch
– Further challenges in Daisy
– option to import backgrounds/characters in Hopscotch