Saturday, November 29, 2014

Fix the factory

Another super little app for early programming. Like ALEX this will appeal to my year 2 children because it involves robots. There are some great things about this free app too. Firstly, you have to complete the first levels before you can unlock and access the harder ones. There are 24 levels altogether- pretty good for a freebie!

The game starts off simply, the same as ALEX, but becomes more challenging very quickly. By level 3 you are learning to grab and drop, then by level 4 your computational thinking is being challenged (well mine was!) with turns, grabs and drops.

The thing I really like about this app is how it scaffolds your learning. When I went wrong on level 4 ( yes, that early on!) it let me know exactly where I went wrong by putting a cross (or kiss as I like to think of it!) onto the command that was incorrect. The commands in your procedure light up as the robot performs them, so you can see exactly where you are. Perfect! I know that the point of computing is that you learn to debug, but for year two children it's nice that they are given a hint. 
The notion of 'if at first you don't succeed...' is great, but I don't want children to switch off - and this has happened with the Beebot app. The fact that they don't have to rewrite the whole procedure is also good. I'm not ashamed to show how many attempts on made at level 6 (it's11pm- that's my excuse!)

The fact that I didn't have to rewrite the whole procedure each time meant that I didn't give up. I'm still debugging my code in the same way I would if I was using a written programming language.

 So, well done Lego-it's a brilliant app and I will definitely be using this in school. I might have to finish all the levels first though. Only 18 more to go...


This is a very brief post as I have only had a brief play with Tynker. It uses blocks for coding in the same way as scratch, hour of code activities and Hopscotch. This app allows children to explore their creativity and therefore goes beyond the linear games such as ALEX, Beebot and Fix the Factory. That said, I might have found it easier to have an aim when I started. It doesn't have the same creative freedom as Kodu (now wouldn't a Kodu app be incredible?!) and I quickly became frustrated that I wasn't doing anything purposeful with it. I do however recognise that children will master it much more quickly and find ways of getting the characters to interact more.

There are a few different 'worlds' you can choose from to create and play and the app has a game that you can play at the start (this does provide a model of what you can achieve, but it was quite a simple game.) 

The create and play element of it is useful in that you can tweak your characters if they don't quite do what you want - so debugging becomes simple for children.

When I start my code club next year I will be interested to see what the children think of it. 

Two apps for EYFS/early computing

 I have been playing with a couple of new apps this week that, in my view, lend themselves nicely to early computing.  In old money they fit in well with modelling and simulations, in the new curriculum children will be using logical reasoning to predict the behaviour of simple programs.

The first one I have looked at is Toca Robot lab - it's another lovely app to add to the Toca family. First you select different parts and build your robot.


Then you take your robot on a test flight. There are lots of things to move and crash into and three stars to collect on the way, before you hit the big magnet. This takes you out of the area you have been whizzing round and gives you the opportunity to change your robot. You get a lab test report at the end showing how many stars you collected.  

I would love to see this app being developed a bit further so that maybe they use on screen controls to move their robots, or maybe some areas that they have to learn to avoid etc, to provide a bit more challenge for our able children. A nice little app tho - I'll try and get an opinion from a wee one about it!

The second app is a great little builder app called Build and Play 3D, by Croco studio. There are 15 classic toys for children to build and you can't go wrong assembling them because the model rotates and the parts snap into place. 

Once you have built your toy, you take it out and test it!

Using simple controls on the screen you can simulate a real life situation (in terms of EYFS of course!) I think it's a great little app!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Little Fox Music Box

I love this app for EYFS and ks1 because it introduces children to composing their own music. It covers part of the new computing curriculum: use technology purposefully to create, store, manipulate and retrieve digital content.

Let's start with singing. There are three songs that you can listen to, sing along in a karaoke style or record your own. The background scene is interactive and humorous. It allows little fingers to explore and control. Delightful! 

The lullaby has quite tricky words, but the version of Old Macdonald is gorgeous. It allows you to change the seasons, stack chicks and give the pig a shower amongst other things.

Changing the seasons allows you to grow different plants. Did I mention this app is delightful?!

But by far the most useful part of this app is the fox composing studio. 

Once inside there is an array of different objects that make different sounds. Click the pink dukebox for your beat (choice of three-the fox dances accordingly) and you are away. It is very amusing! 

If you scroll left and right there are more sounds available.

You can sing along and of course all of this is recordable. I have had this on my iPad for a while, but hadn't got around to playing it. When I finally did last half term, I realised the potential for our children. In my opinion It's an EYFS/infant version of GarageBand or Rockmate. We have purchased it for our iPads at school - it's a quality resource for learning.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Light bot

Another computing post that has been a long time coming. Light bot is a great little program, available as an iPad/android app or on the web, that teaches early coding skills. Children can progress through levels, using symbols as the programming language. 

The aim is to light up all the blue squares. New symbols and challenges are quickly introduced.

The next challenge is to light more than one square, using up to 12 commands.

After this, you learn to write procedures that can be repeated.

The next step is to use loops. 

There are two iPad apps available, for ages 4-8 and 9-12, at £1.99 each. The latter introduces variables and although it doesn't allow children to explore programming creativity, it does get them to use logical thinking skills. A nice little app.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Perfect captions

A quick pointer to Perfect Captions - a nice little early writing app for KS1 and children with SEN. It does what it says on the tin - allows you to add captions and labels to photographs that you have taken. There are many others available, but this is one that I have used in class and the children have enjoyed using it. You can create albums and also share work through social networking. 

You can find more great educational iPad apps on my iPads in primary site.