Engage Their Minds
If you are interested in integrating some computer programming into your curriculum, you may want to take a look at Tynker. Earlier this year, I mentioned Tynker in a post about programming for kids, but I hadn’t had the chance to try it. It looked promising, so I decided to offer it as a free class for students to take online this summer.
You may have read yesterday’s post about Gamestar Mechanic, another site that teaches programming to kids. Tynker is similar to Gamestar Mechanic in that it offers a free version and a premium version. However, Tynker’s free version has a lot of features – including the ability to add classes and projects. It includes a basic curriculum for elementary and middle school that already has lesson plans with projects. Or, as a teacher, you can create your own. Another thing that I like about Tynker is that my students were able to use their Google I.D.’s to register, and did not need e-mail addresses.
Tynker is similar to Scratch. In fact, you can import lessons and projects from Scratch. I, however, am a beginner. So, I stuck with Tynker’s package of lessons, and studiously watched the provided videos before I assigned each week’s lesson. (Tynker allows you to choose “Student View” so you can see what the students will see when they get each lesson.)
It is web-based, but the site states that there will be a mobile version available in the future.
When students complete a project, they can submit it, and you can approve it or send it back. You can quickly see, by glancing at each lesson in the “Grading” tab, who has submitted and completed each project. The students can send you messages through Tynker if they have questions or comments. There is also a Class Showcase area where you can approve exemplary projects to be shared with everyone in the class. This is all FREE!
There were a couple of glitches in the Tynker lessons. For example the “Driving Lesson” appeared to already have the code done in it before the students even had a chance to do the project. At one point, I got locked out of assigning lessons with the note that they were now “Premium”, but Tynker’s excellent Customer Service quickly fixed that.
I spoke to a Tynker rep at ISTE, and he mentioned that they will soon be offering “puzzles” where the students will have to rearrange the code to achieve certain goals. I look forward to that, and hope it will also be in the free version.
I definitely plan to use Tynker again – probably as a “Level Up” motivator in my Genius Hour. Now that I am more familiar with it, I might create some of my own projects and lessons to “jazz” things up a bit.