From teaching kids their ABCs to introducing simple arithmetic, choosing the right educational apps make learning fun from home or on the go. Aside from interactive story books, there is a wealth of mobile games that are specifically programmed to supplement learning in the classroom --but what about actually familiarizing little ones with programming concepts? Can coding be fun? With the use of Move the Turtle Programming for Kids, it is.
Move the Turtle Programming for Kids introduces the core concepts of programming with the use of a goal-based game. There are three chapters of varying difficulty levels. Each one has nine tasks that can be unlocked in sequence. Star ratings are given every time a task is completed, with three stars being given to precise, perfect solutions. Once a player has successfully accomplished all the tasks in a level, he is given a trophy to mark the milestone. Just like console gaming achievements, this gives hardworking kids a virtual pat on the back.
Though back end programming seems daunting even for adults, this nifty app proves that even children can grasp the basics with the right approach. Instead of making use of a conventional text editor, Move the Turtle Programming for Kids features simplified, touch programming and step by step lessons. Players need only to tap on the Compose menu to add their commands. Sliders control applicable numerical values, such as the length or iterations needed. Once a task has been accomplished, players are asked to save the program they made in order to make it available for later use. Choosing what to name this new preset procedure is left up to the player so as to make it easily distinguishable later on.
We truly commend the app for its logical lesson pacing. Not only does this make things kid-friendly, it also minimizes the frustration that comes with lagging behind. For instance, players are initially asked to do tasks in order to understand the "move", "turn" and "repeat" commands. After those concepts have been established, a later lesson involves combining the three in order to draw a square. By pressing the Play button, kids can see their commands executed. A turtle moves about demonstrating the program, with its speed controlled by pressing any of the three icons located at the bottom right corner of the screen. A diamond is used to give a clear visual marker to indicate whether or not the program meets the requirements or not. The turtle successfully passes through and captures the diamond if the commands were used properly, otherwise he misses and the task is not completed.
For those who wish to continue on and learn more advanced concepts, the app features a Compose mode which allows players to experiment with codes and create programs from scratch. There is no need to go though tasks to access this, though any syntax that was previously stored may be accessed in this mode. By the same token, any procedures saved in this section may be accessed for later use.
To demonstrate what else is possible to make with this app, the developers have included pre-written examples under the Projects section. This contains a variety of interesting procedures ranging from how to draw basic geometric shapes to fractals. Different players can enjoy the app on the same mobile device by utilizing the Accounts function.
Overall, the app does a good job of making programming accessible for children. However, one should remember that it is still a niche subject to learn about. Those with even a remote interest in coding will find the progressive lessons quite effective, while very young children with short attention spans may soon turn their attention to something less technical. The lack of flashy animations and engaging audio instructions may also be a consideration, but again, the educational applications are immense if kids are motivated to use the app.
As for the character in question - well we've seen the power of turtles before in desktop accessible games such as toss the turtle and who can of course forget the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We commend Geek Kids for their choice of character for programming - he's cute and does a good enough job of turning programming into a rather novel skill to learn for kids.
Move the Turtle app is available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch and is meant for kids aged 5+ with parents' assistance as well as tweens (ages 9 to 11) on their own.