I went to an IT conference for Primary Schools today organised by the hard working team at Wawne Primary School and discovered a lot of information about using ipads to teach children programming concepts, from early years through to upper KS2. (Thanks to Julian Coultas for a lot of this information.)

When you're looking for apps it can be really time consuming so I thought I'd put them all in one place for an easy reference to save people time and effort. Most of the apps here are only available on ipads (not MS Surface or Android) and can be used to teach programming concepts across the Primary age range (4-11 years).

Bugs and buttons (Foundation stage)

This award winning has 18 games and activities that are both entertaining and educational and costs £1.99. Designed to be self paced, each activity offers simple visual instructions. Offering two play modes, children can choose to be automatically guided or explore and play.

Bugs and Buttons develops skills in the following areas:

  • Counting
  • Fine motor skills (i.e. pinching)
  • Path finding
  • Patterns
  • Sorting
  • Tracking

Beautifully designed graphics combined with whimsical and fun music provide an engaging and intriguing experience for all of the senses. Note, that this app is also available for Android and Windows Surface.

Bee-bot app (KS1)

The Bee-Bot App from TTS Group is based on their Bee-Bot floor robot. The free app makes use of Bee-Bot's keypad functionality and enables children to improve their skills in directional language and programming through sequences of forwards, backwards, left and right 90 degree turns.

The app has been developed with 12 levels encouraging progression. Each level is timed and the faster it is completed the more stars you get! The levels are set in an engaging garden scenario and will appeal from age 4 upwards. Children can use whiteboards first to work out their moves and then debug their programs, working out what went wrong and then fixing it.

Kodable (KS1)

Kodable is a free educational iPad game, more feature rich than the Bee-bot app, offering a kid-friendly introduction to programming concepts and problem solving. The free version has 45 levels and helps the children learn lots of programming features, including:

  • Learn to solve problems in sequential steps
  • Include conditional statements like "If this, then that" to do even more
  • Add loops: commands that repeat a number of times

The paid version (£4.99 at the time of writing) also includes extra levels, helps them learn how to reuse code and teaches them debugging.

A.L.E.X. (KS1/KS2)

A.L.E.X. is a fun puzzle game and a great way to train your brain. A.L.E.X. helps you think and plan logically as you program your robot (A.L.E.X.) with a sequence of commands to get through each level from start to finish. The lower levels of the games are suitable for children as young as six and the game is enjoyable for adults too!

The free version includes 25 levels and includes feature to create your own puzzle. There is also an upgrade available which gives you 35 additional levels, more block types to create your own puzzles and 3 additional looks for A.L.E.X. the robot.

Daisy the Dinosaur (KS1/KS2)

Learn the basics of computer programming with Daisy the Dinosaur! This free, fun app has an easy drag and drop interface that kids of all ages can use to animate Daisy to dance across the screen. Kids will intuitively grasp the basics of objects, sequencing, loops and events by solving this app's challenges.

The programs that the children write can also take imput from the ipad sensor - detecting such things as screen tilting. After playing Daisy, kids can choose to download a kit to program their own computer game.

Hopscotch (KS2)

Hopscotch teaches kids to code using simple, intuitive building blocks. Kids can create games, animations and other programs in this colorful, interactive environment. Children can program their characters to move, draw, and collide with each other, and use shaking, tilting, or even shouting at the iPad to control them.

Hopscotch was inspired by MIT’s Scratch and gives kids a creative way to learn the fundamentals of computer programming.

Moving on..

If the children find the apps above too easy or need extra challenge then they can be moved onto KS3 apps such as Hakitzu Elite: Robot Hackers, an epic multiplayer robot combat game, where children learn the basics of coding while battling robots in both single and multiplayer missions. As part of their coding, the children learn Javascript which is a programming language that is used by developers to create web pages.

ipads are great for visual programming and learning the basics of software development, but when it comes to real coding then they are not really suitable and children will need to progress onto Scratch and Python (or something similar) to develop their coding skills.


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