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Train - Code Visually

App review by
Keri Wilmot, Common Sense Media
Train - Code Visually App Poster Image
Good concept but needs tutorial and on-screen guide.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

There are many problem solving challenges provided in the app, as well as an open-ended free play space to design different styles of train sets but it will take a lot of persistence and trial and error in order to gain educational value from the app. Kids will likely need help to get started.

Ease of Play

This app takes an exceptional amount of trial and error to figure out, even for adults, because there are not any clues, hints or a tutorials in the app. This may lead to frustration for users. 

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Train - Code Visually aims to teach kids how to learn basic concepts of coding through the process of designing a virtual train set. There are structured activities to complete in a step-by-step format that go from simple to complex with the goal of each sequence to help the train complete the loop without crashing. There's a free play section for kids to create their own train set designs using different features and variables, too. There are a lot of problem-solving opportunities in this app, but it will take a significant amount of persistence and trial and error to use by both children and adults. For parents who are tech savvy, this could be a fun activity for parents and kids to do together. Read the developer's privacy policy for details on how your (or your kids') information is collected, used, and shared and any choices you may have in the matter, and note that privacy policies and terms of service frequently change.

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What's it about?

TRAIN - CODE VISUALLY is designed to teach kids about some principles of coding and programming by letting them design a working, virtual train set. Kids use their finger to draw shapes on the screen and wooden train tracks will appear based upon their actions. There are two modes of play in the app. The first is a step-by-step section, that starts with eight tasks under beginner level A, then progresses to over 80 challenges in total, through level H. Kids need to find the problem in the track, select the correct icon in the menu, use their fingers to draw a track to design a solution, then push play on the program when they think they are finished to see if the train can successfully complete the loop without crashing. Successfully solving the problem results in showing "Success!!!" with 3 yellow stars, a score of 1000, and a high score with a 1000 points notification. However, it doesn't seem that the points are really attributed to a specific user and tracked over time. The free-play mode offers an opportunity to add features to an existing train track or to design a simple or even an elaborate track from scratch with different train cars, teddy bears, and more. It's possible to use a thumb and index finger to make the designs bigger and smaller, so kids can design more elaborate tracks. After tapping the settings button in the app, there is an option to increase the difficulty, which adds a whole new row of choices and features for even more advanced users.

Is it any good?

While the concept of teaching coding by drawing train tracks then watching them perform tasks is a great idea, this app is challenging even for adults to figure out, nevermind young children. Train - Code Visually states the kinds of coding skills the app is teaching, but it's hard to make the assumption that by using this app, kids would be able to transfer what they've learned. At the very least, there's a ton of exceptional problem-solving challenges within the app, but it will take a lot of adult assistance or persistence from the child to understand how to make it all work since there's not any tutorial or help to learn what option does what. Once kids get a grasp on the tools, there may be many more "A-ha" type moments, but in the beginning, adults may want to use this as an activity to complete with their kids, because most likely very young children will need some help to persist through the challenges to feel successful and build their confidence. In the end a step-by-step tutorial and on-screen prompts to lay out the goals and walk users through the tools and process would make this unique concept more accessible.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Train - Code Visually can help kids learn to solve problems, in a step-by-step format, by using the strategy of starting from something easy, building on their knowledge, then moving towards more challenging activities as they feel more confident. 

  • Sometimes apps can be challenging and they could lead to frustration when a solution can't be found. What are some self-regulation strategies you can use when you're are frustrated? Does taking deep breaths help? Maybe you can some time aside to take a break and return to the activity later.

App details

  • Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
  • Subjects: Math: patterns, sequences
  • Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: analyzing evidence, applying information, decision-making, logic, making conclusions, prediction, problem solving, solving puzzles, spatial reasoning, thinking critically
    Creativity: developing novel solutions
    Self-Direction: academic development, achieving goals, goal-setting, work to achieve goals
    Emotional Development: moving beyond obstacles, persevering
    Tech Skills: coding
  • Price: Free
  • Pricing structure: Free
  • Release date: October 24, 2018
  • Category: Kids' Games
  • Topics: Trains
  • Size: 687.10 MB
  • Publisher: Sean Megason
  • Version: 1.0.3
  • Minimum software requirements: iOS 9.0 or later

Themes & Topics

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