Scratch (version 3.0) is the latest iteration of the block-based coding language created by MIT's Lifelong Kindergarten Group. It can be used online or downloaded and used without an internet connection. Like its predecessors, Scratch allows students to learn and put to use all the essential elements of coding and computer science. From creating variables to building functions, students snap drag-and-drop blocks of code together to create programs for animation, digital storytelling, art, math -- you name it. With Scratch, students can also program a variety of peripheral devices (like the micro:bit) for robotics, science, and engineering learning. This latest version of Scratch isn't much different from previous versions, so users won't have trouble getting used to it. Instead, it's another iteration of a very powerful learning tool. In addition to the new look and layout, Scratch programmers have new extensions that allow them to include text-to-speech and language translation. For teachers, the most important upgrade in 3.0 is that Scratch now runs on tablets, too.
The Scratch screen is divided into three sections: the stage on the right side (where you see the results of your code in action), the workspace in the center (where you put the code together), and the blocks palette on the left (where you find all the code blocks). Students code the actions of multiple sprites (the different characters) or screen elements and can also add sounds, images, and textual elements to build almost anything.
Itch is like a learning management system (LMS) for Scratch, the block-based coding platform. It brings the Scratch universe of projects, sharing capabilities, and commenting tools into a virtual classroom environment. There are some major advantages for teachers and schools that want to make coding a key part of learning. First, all those projects your students make are in one place: the online Scratch/Itch classroom environment you create. No more looking around for someone's project or asking students to send you a link. With Itch you can log in, select your class, and see an individual student's work. You can assign projects (your own or those developed by Itch) and check progress. You can even assess projects using rubrics created by Itch. It's a one-stop shop.
For schools concerned about privacy and the commenting features that Scratch offers, Itch puts all of it in your own virtual classroom. Students can still comment on friend's creations, participate in discussion boards, and share projects, but it's within the parameters of your school or classroom. The Scratch world is generally a friendly one, but Itch makes it even safer.
Evo by Ozobot
Evo by Ozobot is a miniature robot with lights, sound, sensors, and wheels. It's designed to teach children how to code. Evo can be controlled with a joystick (in-app) or programmed with OzoBlockly, a web-based visual programming editor. Evo can also follow colored lines on white paper, where different color combinations give the robot specific commands such as U-turn, go fast/slow, or spin in a circle. Like its predecessor, Bit, Evo can be programmed without the mobile app. With the app, you can also drive Evo with Drive Mode, play interactive games, and earn experience points to unlock additional features. You can control multiple Evos simultaneously from the app, but only one user can be connected to an individual robot at a time. Users need an Evo account to access all app features. There's also a social feature enabling you to connect and chat with friends (with special protections for children under 13). The Evo Experience Pack with starter activities and stickers can be ordered separately for free from the Ozobot website.
Codesters provides authentic coding experiences within a well-designed platform. As with most other coding websites, students follow scaffolded tutorials to learn coding basics. What makes Codesters stand out is its focus on learning to code in Python, a professional programming language. The workspace is centered on a text-based code editor. Students learn to read, modify, and write their own code using a combination of drag-and-drop tools and typing directly into the Python code. Each lesson includes three phases: build, modify, and create. These phases move students from step-by-step instructions to a blank slate for creating their own projects.
Codesters includes a class page where work is shared between classmates for review and remixing. Both the student and teacher dashboards provide clear data; students can track their progress through each step of the lesson, and teachers can drill down into student data. Codesters also makes it easy to preview each lesson. Detailed written lessons plans are provided for teachers and include standards alignment, learning targets, differentiation ideas, and more.
Cork the Volcano – Puzzlets
Cork the Volcano – Puzzlets is a hands-on programming game that works with your phone or tablet. One of Puzzlets' mantras is "plan, program, play." Elementary students make a plan to help Rus the Dinosaur and his friends stop an erupting volcano from destroying Pear Island. They build a program out of real Puzzlets pieces in the Play Tray and then play, or run the program, to see what happens on their device.
Levels are carefully scaffolded; students learn how to use the different program tiles as they complete each task. Students see their progress by how far they have moved along the map after each level. They receive feedback about how many tiles they used and how long it took to complete each task. At each level, students can adjust their tiles and replay the game to get faster times or collect more prizes.