Hopscotch, Programming Designed for Everyone: coding for kids
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Hopscotch HD is a drag and drop programming app for kids to write their own programs. Kids need to be independent readers in order to follow the instructions and commands and "write" their code, but there is no objectionable content in the app. Kids are empowered to create programs that control characters and can add text to their programs. While Hopscotch HD will appeal to all kids, the character-based design may be especially appealing to girls (or boys) who may not be as drawn to the industrial-looking designs of programming apps like Cargo-Bot. Kids can view programs created by other kids in or upload their own programs to the community. Kids are instructed not to use their real names. Postings appear immediately with no moderation.
What kids can learn
Thinking & Reasoning
- combining knowledge
- producing new content
- digital creation
Engagement, Approach, Support
The characters and colors are fun and vibrant, and the app empowers kids to create open-ended options.
Hopscotch HD is a good example of scaffolded learning. Kids get the support they need to create programs and build confidence before they encounter the intricacies of coding.
More tutorials or sample programs would help kids grasp the concepts more quickly, but the interface is intuitive and each control is defined in the help section.
What's it about?
Kids create games and animations with HOPSCOTCH HD by dragging and dropping commands and instructions into a script. Kids choose characters -- colorful monsters or animals -- and customize commands to make the characters move where they want or do what they want. Kids are empowered to determine specifics -- like how far their character moves, the color and size of trail it leaves, creating a line or shape, changing its size and costume, etc. Kids can share their programs with others via a link or on the Hopscotch community board in-app.
Is it any good?
Hopscotch HD is a great introduction to hands-on visual programming. Kids don't have to worry about missing intricate details like a closing parenthesis just yet, but they can see how each command is carried out and the importance of each step and its placement. Unlike the few other early programming apps currently available, Hopscotch is open-ended, so kids can create what they want rather than writing the code to make a character do what they are told to have it do. This option may be paralyzing to some kids at first, but they'll just need some encouragement to take some risks and have some fun. The app only offers one tutorial example, though, and then kids have to create the actions on their own. More examples or even some step-by-step guided programs that kids could copy would enrich the learning value of the app. The community features some great examples of what kids can create, along with some not-so-stellar examples, as everything uploaded appears instantly with no moderation. Many posts feature kids begging for "stars," the say to show appreciation for a program. At the time of review, there were was objectionable content in the programs, but that is certainly a possibility in an unmoderated community.
Families can talk about...
Once kids have mastered Hopscotch HD, steer them to MIT's online application development tool, Scratch.
Talk to kids about the growing STEM fields and the evolution of computers, programming, and mobile devices. As digital natives, they are often unaware of just how new mobile technology is.