App review by
Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Media
Codea App Poster Image
Innovative tool for programming on the iPad.

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The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn to develop computer programs that run on the iPad using the Lua software language. Even kids who aren't considering a career in programming will benefit from understanding how software code is written and how to tweak it to customize existing code. Kids will have to think critically as they write the code. They are empowered to create whatever their mind can conceive -- games, graphics, sound effects. Codea is a professional tool that has enough help features that kids can learn programming hands-on.

Ease of Play

Programming, and especially learning to program, is challenging, so this is not an easy, pick-it-up-and-go app. It will require focus and attention to detail to master, but the Lua language and the app are both well-designed.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Codea is not a game, rather it is a software development tool that includes resources to teach kids to program in the Lua programming language. The free game Cargo-Bot was developed using Codea. Tweens and teens familiar with programming can pick it up and pretty quickly start writing their own programs, like games or other graphics, for the iPad. Those new to programming can alter sample programs to become more familiar with programming.

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What's it about?

Starting with a boilerplate that includes the two required functions -- set-up and draw -- that serve as the hooks into the Lua program, kids then fill in the specifics of the program. CODEA is visual, so as kids type in the command, for example COLOR, a pop-up appears for them to choose their color from the color wheel. Kids will then see the code for the color they chose.

Is it any good?

Point kids to the GETTING STARTED section's Codea Wiki to try out the FOR KIDS tutorial. It offers a step-by-step guide for beginners. Codea as a development tool itself is fabulous, but the ease of use on the iPad along with the visual pop-ups within the code and the immediate response of code errors make it a winner for beginners. The tools and resources are easily accessible on the iPad, so the app is touch-screen generation friendly.

User-friendly, though, does not mean easy. Programming is challenging, and kids should not expect to pick this up for a few minutes and whip up their own featured app. Learning to program takes time, patience, and focus. The tool is straightforward, though, with no game-like bells and whistles, so kids will need to find some internal motivation to work through it. But for those who are motivated, Codea puts the resources kids need to learn and practice programing on the iPad.


Talk to your kids about ...

  • Point kids to the GETTING STARTED section's Codea Wiki to try out the FOR KIDS tutorial. It offers a step-by-step guide for beginners.

  • Parents can work together with younger kids to alter an existing program to the kids' specifications.

App details

  • Device: iPad
  • Subjects: Math: functions
  • Skills: Creativity: producing new content
    Tech Skills: digital creation
  • Pricing structure: Paid ($14.99)
  • Release date: April 19, 2013
  • Category: Productivity
  • Topics: STEM
  • Size: 35.60 MB
  • Publisher: Two Lives Left
  • Version: 1.5.2
  • Minimum software requirements: iOS 5.0 or later
  • Last updated: November 11, 2020

Our editors recommend

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