Lightbot - Programming Puzzles
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Lightbot is a puzzler that teaches kids concepts used in computer programming. This programming app was developed for kids by an undergraduate student who's been coding since he was a kid himself. Brief instructions are included at the beginning of each level -- what you need to know when you need to know it. The level of challenge ramps up very quickly, making this best-suited for older kids and teens.
What kids can learn
Thinking & Reasoning
- problem solving
- thinking critically
- using and applying technology
Engagement, Approach, Support
Kids motivated by challenging puzzles will enjoy Lightbot; others may find the challenge frustrating. The design is pretty simplistic.
New programming concepts transfer well to actual coding. Completing one level unlocks the next, but the challenge escalates quickly. Kids who stick with the challenge will develop a pretty deep understanding of programming concepts.
No hints are available, but kids can replay levels as often as they want, learning in the process. Instructions are given as new concepts are introduced. Kids can restart levels from the beginning with the reset slider on the start screen.
What's it about?
Kids move a robot along a Q*bert-style maze by dragging commands into place, lighting up specified tiles as they go in LIGHTBOT. Completing one level unlocks a more challenging level that introduces new programming concepts. Kids collect stars for meeting certain requirements, such as completing the program in no more than a specified number of steps. They can collect up to 20 stars over 40 levels, working with such programming concepts as procedures, loops, conditionals, and overloading.
Is it any good?
This very challenging puzzler does a fabulous job of teaching kids programming concepts, but it's most likely to engage kids who would be drawn to programming anyway, mostly because of the quickly escalating challenge. There are no user accounts, so only one player at a time can work through the levels, but kids can erase and start over for a new player. The level of challenge ramps up very quickly, so younger kids may enjoy more programming playtime with My Robot Friend or Kodable Pro. It's easy to get stuck for a while on some levels, and no hints or clues are offered. Kids get as many chances as they need to be successful, though, and they'll learn from each failure.
Families can talk about...
Stress to kids that there's no penalty for trying and failing in Lightbot. If they want to find the best solution, they'll have to try, fail, and try again.
Talk to kids about what computer programmers create (and how it's changing the world). Share with them President Obama's encouraging words to kids about coding.