Sunday, 9 July 2017

Coding in Star Classroom iPad ideas

I'm very nervous of putting much out about Coding as we try really hard to explain to colleagues that "eLearning is not Computing." There is a lot that eLearning can add to help teach computing (and computational thinking) but we don't want to have that become too much a focus. That said, we do get asked a lot - so we will put out a few posts of ideas and help for colleagues looking to develop coding.

For the first installment here are some ideas for the iPad. All the Apps listed below are either already in the Self-Service or Meraki system for our academies, or can be in a matter of minutes - just ask your friends in IT Support. The iPad is perhaps trickier than the things we'll look at in the next post because it doesn't have Scratch, which has become by default "the thing you need to know about to teach coding in a primary school" (not true but certainly getting your head around Scratch, and code.org is a good place to start).

Episode 39 of the awesome Canvas Podcast is probably the best place to start in terms of ideas for coding with an iPad in school or at home - Fraser Speirs goes through the best options and explains them from the perspective of a teacher.

Some of the apps he highlights that we'd strongly support include:

Hopscotch
Hopscotch is not "Scratch for the iPad" but it hits all the same areas of learning and has a quite gentle learning curve for getting started. It excels for helping students build games, and the way the student can learn to package up some code they have written into a "behaviour" and then re-use that code in other places gets them thinking in terms of modules that will stand them in good stead when they move to more advanced languages.

Swift Playgrounds
Swift Playgrounds is probably the main claim Apple can have to say the iPad isn't just good enough to learn to code on, it is actually better. There are a wealth of eBooks that work alongside Swift Playgrounds that a student can work through, and instead of coding by dragging blocks, the students gets the experience of keying in code.

Scratch Jr 
Although it is nowhere near a full version of Scratch, Jr is really easy to use and ideal for 5-7 year olds - it makes no compromises in being a "proper iPad app" rather than some kind of half-baked version of Scratch itself, and the commands available are much more limited - but anything the student learns with Jr they will quickly be able to apply to the full version on the web.



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