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What Primary Computing Apps Should I Get First?


You’re beginning your new role as Computing Lead, how can you make a quick impact? What apps and writing software should you be looking to bring in to engage and propel your curriculum forwards?


Importantly, can you do this on a tight budget (even NO budget!) It IS possible.


We’ve taken what we know and have seen over the years, to work out some great starting points for any Primary Computing educator. Each one is suitable for use throughout both key stages and offer a great creative element to extend those more able and develop skills.


Let’s dive in!


Pyonkee

A totally free, no sign-up app, that really packs a punch.


Based on Scratch, Pyonkee allows the user to create their own games and stories, using the building blocks of the Scratch software. The program has an exceptional creative mode, guiding children to utilise computing language into broader contexts.


It has received a comparably solid 4.3 rating on the App Store https://www.apple.com/app-store/


The latest version works perfectly on touch-screen technology, no need for keyboards, making it perfect for the busy classroom. You can even use cloud storage for your projects and Air-drop to interactive boards - instant feedback and peer assessment opportunity!


The support for pedagogy and student engagement this software brings, alongside the stretch and support of students themselves, makes it worthy of the first mention on the list.



Lightbot

Another ‘No Sign-Up’ app (as are all on this list) that any Primary Computing Lead should strongly consider. It is the only suggestion in this list that has a clear paid option available but worthy of being in a top 5.


Lightbox have cleverly developed a version around the Hour of Code initiative, designed to introduce children to coding and demystify the process of programming. This feeds perfectly into the actual full version, which has been developed with first time coders in mind.


Users play games and develop the skills for coding, getting to know more of computer science. Having the learning hidden within a game mode-style app, certainly reaps benefits. Children will be highly engaged and focussed, helping secure essential knowledge and skills.

Lightbot is simple with easy-to-follow instructions, clearly defining itself as one of the most accessible pieces of writing software from the youngest to oldest, across both key stages. Worth a look.



Move the Turtle

An incredibly creative and engaging app for young programmers. It is worth noting, very young users may need help reading instructions. From the end of Key Stage 2 onwards, though, this app really does perform.

Move The Turtle is great for inspiring children to learn coding, by completing tasks using complex and intuitive commands. Read the instructions, then work out the action required, children instantly see if their work was a success.



It also has an incredible function for the children to create their own programs, even including sounds, graphics, and spatial orientation. For scaffolding and modelling, it has in-app examples of pre-written programs, perfect for self-assessment for children and a resource for teacher CPD (for those less confident!) A definite advantage.


For something that seems for the younger programmers out there, this app has a lot more to offer than meets the eye. Worthy of a top 5 place.



A.L.E.X

Designed with children in mind, this app is accessible for many. Simple instructions, planning and logical thinking are very clear to see in this simple to understand premise of a software game.


Your mission… to move ALEX through the board safely to the exit point, avoiding falling into the eternal abyss of space. Basically, program the humanoid to move around the board, avoiding hazards, arriving safely on the exit square.


The instruction icons are simple, helpful for when you write a sequence of commands. The app has the advantage of no sign-up and can be used across many devices. For the classroom it can be downloaded easily to i-pads.

The free version has 25 levels of increasing challenge, whilst the creative mode allows children to create their own challenges for their friends to work out.

For a free app, this is an excellent starter for Key Stage 1 and something older children will return to.



Scratch and Scratch Jnr

It feels like it’s been around forever, but Scratch remains one of the most loved teaching tools out there.


Simple colour-coded sections for each instruction groups and easy to read algorithms when put together, helps this platform stand the test of time.


This also makes it perfect for Computer Science tasks such as debugging, as commands within the algorithms are easily seen. The colour-coding means any sequencing errors are easier to spot.


Scratch has many facets but mainly, due to its interactivity, it fosters systematic thinking and methodical working, creativity, and collaboration – essential skills for the modern workplace.


Children can create animations using the sprites, develop conversations between characters, even develop settings and backgrounds to tell stories.


Students can also create their own sprite (character) and place these into their projects.

The fact that other apps have taken the ‘speech’ of Scratch and implemented it into their coding language, is the biggest testament you could give this staple, educational resource.


With the Junior version feeding nicely into the main version, this is a tool widely used across the primary key stages for good reason.




For those at the beginnings of subject leadership, or those who have been charged with developing the subject, these provide you with some food for thought.


This list shows the best of free apps out there that can really engage learners of all ages throughout primary education.


For more information on curriculum content you can access the government website but above all, you know there are programs out there to help move your whole school curriculum on… without breaking the bank!


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