Daisy the Dinosaur - iPad programming app

5 best iPad apps to teach programming

While Scratch continues to be my favorite gateway-drug to computer programming, my current students don’t have ready access to desktop or laptop computers. We do, however, have iPads so I’ve been looking at apps to introduce the concepts of branches, loops and conditional statements. Here are my top 5 favorites so far:

Daisy the Dinosaur

Price: Free
Difficulty: Beginner
iTunes link: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/daisy-the-dinosaur/id490514278?mt=8

Daisy the Dinosaur is a simple drag-and-drop introduction to programming. The app includes a super-cute protagonist, a few tutorials, and a free-play interface. The app has a limited set of simple commands but also includes a when conditional that allows the user to interact with Daisy by touching the screen or shaking the iPad. 

Daisy the Dinosaur - iPad programming app


Price: Free
Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate
iTunes link: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/cargo-bot/id519690804?mt=8

Like many of the best puzzles, Cargo-Bot has a simple objective with an infinite number of solutions. The limited functions actually turn into a catalyst for creativity. The learning process has been gamified, with 36 different levels. A perfect introduction to nested scripts – your favorite solutions can be recorded as a movie and exported to the Photo Library from within the program. Bonus points to the developers: this game was created entirely on an iPad, using Codea.

Cargo-Bot iPad programming app

Move the Turtle

Price: $2.991
Difficulty: Beginner to Advanced
iTunes link: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/move-turtle.-programming-for/id509013878?mt=8

Move the Turtle seems simple on the surface but is packed full of programming goodness: variables, procedures, conditionals, position awareness and more. The learning process has been gamified, with 27 different levels. Move the Turtle also includes a composition area where you can develop your own scripts and save projects in a library to be referenced later. The developer has included the ability to save and access multiple accounts – great for shared iPad environments.

Move the Turtle - iPad programming app


Price: $1.99
Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced
iTunes link:  http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/i-logo/id435280247?mt=8

i-Logo stars every old programmers’ favorite turtle. This app uses the keyboard for textual input and includes documentation that introduces Logo – a programming language that has been around for over 50 years. 

i-Logo programming app for ipad


Price: $1.99
Difficulty: Advanced
iTunes link: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/simduino/id526927905?mt=8

Simduino is a virtual Arduino processor. This is a great step for someone ready to get into a programming language, rather than the drag-and-drop apps above. Simduino is a cool proof-of-concept app, but the beauty of Arduino boards is the tactile experience.

Simduino - virtual Arduino programming for iPad

  1. editor note: Next is Great (Move the Turtle developers) gave me a free license for review []

ISTE BINGO & edtech buzzwords

Having trouble solidifying your ISTE schedule? With over 1000 events in 4 days, narrowing down choices can be tricky. If this is your indoctrination into the world of edtech, try playing ISTE BINGO to ensure exposure to a range of current pedagogical philosophies. If you are an ISTE veteran, see if you can score BINGO in a single session by keeping an ear out for buzzwords. It may be possible to black-out your entire card over the course of the conference.

For the ultimate win, try and find a vendor with a tagline that scores a BINGO.


Bonus: ISTE Ignite BINGO

For those attending the rapid-fire ISTE Ignite sessions on Monday @ 8am and Tuesday @ 3:45, see if your presenters can hit the jackpot and score BINGO with this special ISTE Ignite 2012 BINGO card!



What to do at ISTE besides learn

San Diego ISTEThere is so much to do at ISTE that many teachers won’t venture beyond the convention center grounds for 3 full days. For those of you who are interested in learning a little about the city of San Diego, here are some tips from an ex-local:

Sun-worshippers will find no shortage of incredible beaches to choose from: Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach – each offers its own vibe. Each of these beaches have fire-pits and you can see the 9:50pm Sea World fireworks display from the beach.

In-n-Out is a California tradition, there are two locations fairly close to the Convention Center. The menu is super-limited, but if you know the insider language you can take advantage of a number of secret items. For adventurous eaters, San Diego has a growing food truck scene.

Traveling with family? If you are considering any indoor activity at all, The New Children’s Museum is a must-see. Educators will appreciate the guided activities – separate lesson plans broken up by age range. Sunday will be the final day of Princess Phoebe’s Birthday Present, playing at the Balboa Park Puppet Theater.

As far as animals on display for human amusement, the San Diego Zoo is one of the most spacious, respectful places you could hope for. If you have a car, consider the Wild Animal Park for an amazing safari experience. To see animals actually in the wild, consider heading to La Jolla to visit the seals at The Casa Beach.

Do vacations bring out the consumer in you? Beautiful weather means beautiful outdoor shopping spaces – check out Horton Plaza to make your credit card company happy.

How can technology make us more human?

Seattle-based Internet-celebrity and all-around-awesome-person Matt once again reminds us that technology’s greatest potential is more than skill proficiency. Technology is most successful when it allows us to become more human…when it enhances our ability to connect and communicate:

Creating interactive YouTube videos for the classroom

On a flight home from an incredible couple of days of professional development at the Flipped Conference in Chicago (#flipcon12). Highlights included meeting some of my virtual mentors face-to-face, meeting the Ted-Ed team, and Brian Bennett’s keynote (@bennettscience).

Resources from my presentation on “YouTube Interactive are posted below (rss readers may need to jump to the website) – feel free to use, share, improve: (more…)

ISTE Ignite sessions

The ISTE conference in San Diego will have over 1000 official events (lecutures, keynotes, workshops, meetups) over 4 days. One of my favorite additions to this year’s schedule is Ignite sessions, 5 minute presentations supported with 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds.

Ignite sessions, started in Seattle by Bre Pettis (MakerBot fame) and Brady Forrest, are typically high-energy and inspiring. ISTE will have 2 sessions – one on Monday the 25th at 8am and the other on Tuesday the 26th at 3:45.

I’m honored to have been selected to present an Ignite session on Tuesday. I thought it would be fun to take screenshots of my presentation as I built it and turn them into a time-lapse video. The result is below for your enjoyment:

Hope to see you on June 26th at 3:45 in room 6A for ISTE Ignite!

iPad end-of-year turn-in process

Our school year (and first year as a 1-to-1 iPad program) is coming to a close. Going through the intake process for the first time, it seemed like it would make sense to share our process and the support documentation we’ve created:

Teacher prep

  • Intake form for teachers – (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AnI8jre2u7V2dExXZ0ZKYjdwZEtBWTROYjFlMmtoOGc) – we used this to document what had been received. Google Docs was used so that our changes would remain synchronized as teachers worked to log each interaction.
  • Turn in form for families (.pdf | .pages | .doc) – we provided and explained this document to parents and students at end-of-year conferences. Parents and students checked the devices out at the beginning of the year, it was only fitting to have both check iPads back in.
  • Screen cleaner
  • Computer wipes
  • Tub/box for accessories
  • Syncing computer with enough HD space to backup all devices


Student prep

For 2012/13, students will be issued the same iPads they used this year. In order to clear space for new apps and reduce back-up times, students were asked to organize the content they wanted and delete the multimedia that was consuming drive space. We provided time at school for cleaning up the iPad hard drives and had teachers on hand to help out with decision-making or procedural questions:

  • Organize files
    • Confirm that all files are named in a way such that you know what is inside before opening it
    • Group Pages, Keynote, Numbers, Photos, Video & Garageband projects by subject/grade or some other system
    • Delete any rough drafts of assignments that aren’t needed now that you’ve got a final version
  • Visit Settings>General>Usage and take a screenshot of how much hard drive space is free/used
    • iMovie
      • Export completed projects to your camera roll
      • Once that is complete, you can delete the iMovie project (which takes up lots of space)
      • Head into the Photo Library and delete all the rough snippets used to create your master Movie, which is safely exported in its entirety to the Photo Library
    • Other video
      • Access the camera app
      • Click on the little button in the bottom left that takes you to your photo library
      • Use the top menu to show ONLY videos
      • Delete any videos that are not needed any more AND were not final assignments
      • Visit ShowMe & ScreenChomp to delete any files you don’t need any more
    • Garageband – delete any practice tracks. Keep the stuff you love, dump the stuff you don’t.
    • Photo Library – we typically take 100 photos at a time and get 2 decent shots. Delete the other 98
  • Take another screenshot of Settings>General>Usage. Email both screenshots together in a single email to technology teacher


Intake process

  • Students remove iPads from cases and cleaned them
  • Teacher & student compare iPad to the signed turn-in form and agree on any damage
  • Student reports any outstanding software or hardware issues (volume button doesn’t work, won’t hold charge, etc)
  • Teacher logs the form and iPad turn-in on the iPad intake form
  • Student turns in accessories – teacher notes on iPad intake form
  • Teacher backs up all devices to laptop
  • Teacher charges/drains all devices to 50% before powering down
  • Proceed with warranty or Applecare claims on necessary iPads
  • Secure functional devices until August prep