Visual Programming Environment: LightBot
LightBot is an great free visual programming app specifically designed to introduce coding and programming to children. It is a programming puzzle game in which a mini robot must be guided with commands to reach the blue squares. LightBot allows students to gain an understanding of programming concepts such as sequencing and loops. LightBot was created in collaboration with the ‘Hour of Code’ initiative; an American computer science education program that encourages millions of students to engage in one hour of computer science and computer programming.
Differentiation: The use of LightBot is versatile; it can be used a great introductory tool to learn about coding concepts as well as a way to consolidate programming knowledge in the upper years. It is thus a great way to effectively integrate differentiation; the entire class could be playing LightBot at the same time at numerous levels of ability and at students’ own pace. I also like how there is minimal written text when engaging in the app; only symbols and pictures to guide the coding of the mini robot.
Curriculum Links: LightBot addresses many curriculum codes, from Technologies Year 2 curriculum codes such as ‘work independently, or collaboratively when required, to organise information and ideas to create and safely share sequenced steps for solutions (WATPPS15) through to Year 6 curriculum codes ‘implement and use simple visual programming environments that including branching, iteration and user input’ (ACTDIP020).
Criticisms/Limitations: Like many visual programming environments, LightBot requires explicit modeling for younger students. If, for example, Year 1 students were given the app to play with without any explanation, it would be too difficult for them. The game also becomes difficult fairly quickly as the puzzles level up, so students need to be up for the challenge. If not, they may become frustrated. Students could collaborate in pairs or small groups to solve harder puzzles. Through utilizing my professional learning network and exploring various online teacher reviews of the app, many teacher recommend student collaboration as the app’s levels become more difficult. In fact, recent studies have discussed a positive correlation between constructivist practices and effective use of technology in classrooms (Overbay, Patterson, Vasu & Grable, 2010; Gilakjani, Leong & Ismail, 2013).
Gilakjani, A. P., Leong, L. & Ismail, H. N. Teachers’ use of technology and constructivism. (2013). International Journal of Modern Education and Computer Science, 5(4), 49-63.
Overbay, A., Patterson, A. S., Vasu, E. S. & Grable, L. L. (2010). Constructivism and technology use: findings from the IMPACTing leadership project. Educational Media International, 47(2), 103-120.