Visual Programming Tools To Engage Students

9627322546_68dcd87377_z

A friend of mine had just finished doing “Hour of code” on Code.org with her STEM club.   She asked me to comment upon what you might be able to do next to extend their learning experiences from code.org.    The website does an amazing job of introducing the basic ideas of code(sequencing, loops, decision making, variables) to young makers.  In this post, I’ll share a few project ideas and products that will help keep your students engaged in coding.

Scratch This visual programming environment from MIT Life Long Kindergarten has become a powerful tool to engage students to code creatively.   Students projects range from games, to mini-movies, musical instruments and art.  I recommend checking out some of the projects built by students here.  I love seeing people combine Scratch with Makey Makey.  It’s always fun!

MIT App Inventor – To help make Android App building more accessible to EVERYONE, researchers at MIT have released a wonderful tool to empower makers and students to quickly build apps using a puzzle metaphor of programming.  The MIT App Inventor enables you to test your apps in real-time using your Android device.   Additionally, you do not need to install special tools on your system since the development environment is browser based.  To learn more about this tool,  visit http://appinventor.mit.edu orAppInventor.org .  I’ve written some sample programs on this blog post here.

Learn To MOD The open world game Minecraft has high engagement factor with middle school students.   I enjoy playing the game with my kids too.   The folks at LearnToMod.com have created a comprehensive set of video lessons combined with visual programming experiences to help students learn to write their own Minecraft extensions or mods.   The system uses ScriptCraftJS which I’ve reviewed in here.

Scratch with LEGO Wedo – The Lego WeDo kit enables students to program a distance sensor, tilt sensor, and a motor that interfaces with standard Lego’s .    The “offline” versions of Scratch interface with the official Lego WeDo hardware introducing new blocks to the friendly Scratch interface.   You can learn more about the specialized Lego Wedo blocks from this resource.   You can find lesson plan ideas here.

Scratch For Arduino (S4A)  –  The Arduino has become an inexpensive platform to introduce digital electronics programming to students young and old.   While Arduino is a simple learning platform, it can also do some amazing work like 3D printing or robotics.    S4A enables students to leverage their Scratch skills to program Arduino.   To get students started on projects, I typically encourage students to figure out how to blink an LED or control a servo.

http://lab.open-roberta.org/ – This tool enables you to use block programming to control your Lego Mindstorm EV3 robot.   The website also includes a small robot simulator just in case you don’t have a Lego Mindstorm robot.  I’m looking forward to testing this website on some actual EV3 hardware soon!

 

What are some of your favorite lesson plans for getting kids to code?

 

Photo credit : https://www.flickr.com/photos/curiouslee/9627322546

 

Learning To Code

 

 

This entry was posted in creativity, game based learning, making, programming, stem, teaching, technology. Bookmark the permalink.