A couple of months ago, I discovered the Hopscotch app on an elementary school iPad. At first, I wasn't sure what the app was supposed to do, but it seemed to be popular with students so I decided to check it out for myself. I was amazed to find out that the Hopscotch app was filled with lots of great kid-friendly resources for coding, and I found myself wishing that this was around when I was in elementary school. In honor of Computer Science Education Week, here is my Hopscotch coding app review. Read more about Computer Science Education Week and the Hour of Code here.
What is Hopscotch?
Hopscotch is a free iOS app that is designed to teach kids to write their own code and programs in the Hopscotch programming language. This is accomplished by teaching kids how to design their own mobile games and incorporating real-world coding concepts such as loops and conditionals. After creating a game, they can play their game and share it with others in a moderated environment. For $7.99 a month or $79.99 a year, users can also get more customization features and tutorials to create a game that is truly one of a kind, though I will only be sharing features from the free app. Download the Hopscotch app for iOS on the App Store here.
Required technology skills
Users will need the following technology skills to use the Hopscotch app:
- Ability to select items from a list
- Knowledge of gesture controls
- Track moving items on a screen
- Basic typing
This app is recommended for users with a developmental age of 9 and older.
Create an account
When users first download the app, the home screen asks if the user is an educator or parent. This is because of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act that prevents internet data from being collected on children under 13. Hopscotch can be used without an account, though users can also create a free profile by providing a username, password, and email. I chose to use the app without an account as I don't like to sign up for a bunch of accounts to use apps if I can avoid it.
The Hopscotch app features lots of rich colors and a drag-and-drop programming interface, which is very similar to the popular Scratch language. Many of the icons are picture-based, so users don't have to worry about doing a lot of reading or straining to see what an object looks like. Users can choose to have Hopscotch videos play alongside their projects in a small window so they can follow along and create code with the help of additional resources- more on that in a minute. The drag-and-drop interface reminds me of creating iOS Shortcuts- read more about the free iOS Shortcuts app on iOS 12 here.
The Hopscotch app can be used with the Zoom magnifier on iOS with ease, provided that the user knows how to move items around on the screen. I used the smaller viewfinder window to magnify items and found that this worked perfectly in ensuring the layout of the game was preserved. Unfortunately, like most mobile games, Hopscotch is not VoiceOver compatible, since users are unable to select buttons in order to insert shapes. I hope that VoiceOver compatibility will be added in the near future.
Alternatives for VoiceOver users
For students who use VoiceOver that want to create their own code, I recommend using two different free apps to learn to write code. The first app is SoloLearn, which provides free tutorials on a variety of programming languages- read more about SoloLearn here. The second app/website is the Repl.it IDE that allows users to write code in several different languages with full VoiceOver and screen reader support. Read more about Repl.it here.
Start from scratch
After opening a new project, users can select or create objects to add to the screen from a series of preloaded shapes and images, with the option to upload your own images with a paid subscription. Once a shape is selected, users can determine how they will be used in the game by choosing actions from the menu on the bottom of the screen, which is similar in layout to the emoji keyboard since it is divided into categories. Users can arrange these actions to form loops, conditionals, and similar concepts. After the desired actions have been added, users can hit the play button and see how their game looks in real time.
Get started with code
When users choose to get started with code, they can see videos played in a small, positionable vertical window on the side of their screen. Video topics include sequencing, loops, events, debugging, if statements, algorithms, and variables. As the video plays, users go through a tutorial on the different coding concepts and can try these concepts out for themselves. One of the features I liked is that the video can be sped up or slowed down by quickly tapping on the bottom left corner of the video.
Build a game
Maybe you want to go straight into building an exciting game with lots of different elements. The build a game option allows users to listen to video tutorials and build a game of their own. I had fun testing out the Hour of Code games, especially "Don't Drop Your Phone" where the user has to keep iPhones from falling in the toilet. This option would be great for students who want to learn coding without having to worry about coming up with their own ideas.
I wish that Hopscotch had VoiceOver support, since the layout is fairly simple and the buttons already have text and symbols on them anyway- read more about this on my app accessibility checklist here. However, I am glad that the Zoom magnifier is supported for users with low vision, and that the app is fairly easy to use, even for coding novices. I recommend trying out the Hopscotch app for kids and seeing if it will work well for your needs.