If you have a child in elementary school, you may have heard her talk about something called Hopscotch. You may have assumed it was some sort of learning game, something she played on her school iPad.
Well, you'd be partially correct.
Hopscotch is an iPad/iPhone app for students that lets them create their own games. It teaches basic programming logic and tech principles while your children program their own fun onscreen games. Kids think they're having fun (and they are!), while they're really learning how programming works. It's a great app, and one increasingly used in elementary school technology programs.
Introducing Hopscotch -- Fun Game Programming for Kids
Hopscotch is an iPad/iPhone app that teaches elementary school students basic programming skills. It's designed for classroom use, although your kids can use it at home, too.
Hopscotch lets students create their own basic animated games by dragging and dropping all necessary onscreen elements. Students learn how to program, step-by-step, with the help of video tutorials and predesigned projects. Then, when their games are complete, they can play them -- just like other mobile games.
Figure 1 A simple Frogger-like game created with Hopscotch.
The Hopscotch website promises that the app helps kids "learn to program by making awesome things." I agree, as do many others. Hopscotch was the 2013 Parent's Choice Gold Award winner, and was named Best Educational Technology App by the 2014 Children's Technology Review. More important, it's being widely adapted by schools across the country.
Hopscotch is designed for use by children aged 9-11, although kids younger and older will probably enjoy it. As an example, my eight year-old grandson's uses Hopscotch in his second-grade technology class. It's not too hard for him.
What makes Hopscotch so easy for kids to learn is that they have to do very little if any typing. The programming is done by dragging and dropping programming blocks on the screen. There are blocks for characters and objects, and blocks that include instructions for the given item -- to set initial position, move forward or backward, or even fire projectiles. It's both easy and fun to do, and the results play like real mobile games. And, because it's all drag-and-drop, you don't have to worry about typing in something wrong or using the wrong syntax. Everything just works.
What kinds of games can your children design with Hopscotch? They're not overly complex, to be sure, but are easy to learn and fun to play. Think simple Frogger-like actions and graphics, and you're in the ballpark. Kids can save and modify the games they create, and even share them with other students.
Hopscotch is a free app, available for both the iPad and iPhone. (But not for Android devices, sorry.) It's compatible with devices running iOS 7 or later, and you can download it from http://www.gethopscotch.com. If you're a teacher, go to http://www.gethopscotch.com/parents-and-educators to download digital lesson plans and presentations for your class.