All reviews are my personal opinions. Variety refers to different genres of programming. For example Kodu is mainly used for designing 3D games so would score low on the variety scale. Lots of the robots and turtles score low on variety as primarily they are about movement and possibly sensing. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy them as they make a wonderful suppliment to more open ended screen based programming languagues but I wouldn’t base all your programming round them. Age ranges are based around what I think is the optimum age range for the tool or programming language, not the manufacturers recommended ages.
Repetition, selection, variables
Not included or hard to use at primary level
Very limited range of programming types
Included but harder to use than other primary tools
A range of programming types with some limitations
3d game design. Can stimulate lots of extra interest especially among pupils who like gaming. Designed for use with games controller so can take some getting used to with a mouse and a key board. Very old computers can struggle with graphics. My tip Great as an extra half term module in upper KS2
A fantastic all round block programming tool that can be accessed online (needs flash) or via two downloadable versions. Pupils can also have their own accounts on the Scratch Community. Great for encouraging independence and self study after initial skills are learnt. Well designed with computational thinking in mind. Lots of planning ideas here. My tip Start with the older version in primary which gives you something to move onto later or leave to KS3
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WindowsThere are many other logo versions designed for younger pupils.
The original programming language designed to help children and adults experiment with computational ideas. It is a fully functioning text based programming language although harder elements such as variables and selection are more complex than in other languages. A short module designed for lower KS2 is here. My Tip A useful tool to dip into occasionally for a half term module or a few lessons. Many older teachers may have some experience using this program.
One of the best primary club tools for upper KS2. Wonderful for open robot design and play projects where pupils have learnt basic computational principles using easier programming tools first. On balance more of a gifted and talented KS2 tool than mainstream. My Tip A great fund raising project for parent school associations
A great introductory programmable robot for reception or Year 1. The small range of buttons keeps pupils choices to a minimum. My Tip You may need a more complex floor robot to stretch your more able pupils in Y2.
In my opinion this is probably the best primary robot because it has removable interfaces which enable pupils to access complexity as and when it is needed. If you are starting from nothing this would be your best buy. My Tip Combine these with some non logo type programming and you have the basis of an exciting curriculum
A budget option as the mini big trak can be bought at a very good price. They do go through batteries very quickly. The interface is a little less clear than some other robots which makes it less suitable for lower KS1. It doesn’t use degrees for turning, using minutes on a clock instead so 90 degrees is 15, 180 degrees is 30 etc. It has a limit of 16 sets of commands. You can save one programme into memory. My Tip Draw a clockface to help with the turns. If you can afford them buy a more fully functioning floor robot.
Only repeat a section of code x times once in the program
Hard wearing and durable but still a mainstay in many schools. If yours still work why not dust them off and give them a spin. Despite their age these are still an excellent design classic and there is lots of good work you can do with them. My Tip Reinforced shelves as they weigh a ton!
Great for control programming. Can plug into lots of control boxes. Good for introducing basic flow charting and loops within flow charts. Good for understanding inputs and outputs and linking to design and technology projects. My Tip Invest is some real control boxes not just the mimics for real wow value
Python is a great text based industry standard real programming language that I have taught successfully at three schools in Year 6. It does need greater teacher training than block based programming languages. For some Year 6 modules click here. My Tip Start with a block based language and embed that first before stretching your pupils in the future
Small Basic is a easier interface cut down version of basic which is a real text based programming language. It does need greater teacher training than block based programming languages. Most planning that I have seen has been for KS3. My Tip Might be one to leave until KS3.
A wonderful text based programming tool that works really well on ipads iphones PCs and android mobile devices. The tutorials are excellent and enable you to code some interesting projects very quickly. Gets harder once you leave the safety of the tutorial. Still early days but one of the best Microsoft introductory coding projects I have seen. My Tip Gets you coding on the move. Links really well with a Google Domain
One motor, a tilt sensor and a distance sensor with a surprising flexible amount of lego come in each educational box. The software that comes with this is awful but it works really well with Scratch 1.4. I have used it with open ended design projects in Year 5 & 6 such as designing a toilet fan and pupils have loved it. My Tip A great addition if you choose scratch as your main programming language in KS2
Two of a new range of products designed to deal with the ‘coding problem’. More of a block based code it by numbers than open ended programming environments. Some teachers have reported success using it to introduce coding before moving onto something more open ended and challenging. In my opinion you are selling your pupils short if these are all you use in KS2. My Tip Useful as a supplement or a dip into tool
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I think this is the best open ended primary programming experience on the ipad. It has steadily got better and better. It is great to use tilt technology to control your characters as well. Not as much choice as Scratch but steadily improving. A good introduction to block based programming. My Tip One to watch
Free online puzzle solving resource. It uses a block based system similar to Scratch for the early levels and Python text coding for the later levels. It is well designed and gives feedback to pupils on their progress. A great resource to encourage home use. My Tip Set up accounts for your pupils, run short introductory sessions then dip in through out the year. Certificates to reward progress encourage home use. Use alongside open ended programming languages.