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Apps for Learning - Coding



As the world progresses, education has to keep up. Maths, languages, literacy, history and other academic subjects will always be essential, but the advancement of society tends to make that list lengthen and fluctuate. Mandarin, for instance, is fast becoming one of the prevalent languages learnt at GCSE level in the UK, which even 5 or 10 years ago was virtually unheard of.

Coding is fast becoming one of the most popular new skills that people want to learn. It's not really enough to just study I.T. anymore, it's too general, whereas coding has a specific use, but also imbues people with an underlying understanding of web programming that can be applied to many different situations. Whether it's a professional necessity or a personal curiosity, it's a valuable pursuit. App-based learning might not seem the most obvious method, being that there are plenty of desktop sites and programs which enable you to learn on the very platform that you'll be doing most of your coding on anyway, but surprisingly, the app approach is often more imaginative. Here are 6 of the best ones.


LightBot

iTunes
Being that there are many different coding languages and processes which they apply to, it's a good idea to tackle the rudiments before going into any further detail. One common thread you'll notice among a few of the apps on this list is that they're designed to play like games

That's no coincidence, the command-gesture problem solving format that most games follow is distinctly similar to coding, so that's a good mindset to be in when you're learning how to do it. LightBot has you controlling a little robot and light up tiles by entering command prompts. These prompts will teach you about control flow concepts which are essential for coding, without bombarding you with jargon.


Codecademy: Code Hour

commonsensemedia.com
When you start asking about the best platform to learn coding on, Codecademy is the name you'll start hearing early and often. The site itself offers free, comprehensive step by step tutorials on HTML, CSS, Python, JavaScript and Ruby. This app isn't quite so broad, but it will teach you a lot of coding fundamentals in a very short space of it time

It splits your phone/tablet screen in half horizontally, on the top half is a task you have to complete and on the bottom is an example of the line of code you're learning, which you can manipulate according to the task at hand. It works in such a way that you're able to gain an understanding of coding language while also getting a feel for the kind of tasks and prompts you'll need to deal with when you're doing it for real.


L2Code HTML

iTunes
If you're specifically interested in learning how to use HTML code (say, for a blog), this is the one you need. Like most of the other coding apps it works on a step-by-step basis, but it also has a built in text editor which allows you to see your code in action in real time

The learning itself is all broken up into lesson blocks which you can recap and go back over as many times as you need to make it stick, and you can even upload email files from the app directly to your website, or vice versa. In this way, L2 extends its shelf life into something which can act as a companion when you actually start doing the coding on your website.


Pythonista

iTunes
Equally, if you're after a coding language that's more complex, but more broadly applicable, you need to be learning Python. Knowing the rudiments of several different kinds of code will make it easier to master one in particular, but knowing Python will give you a strong underlying knowledge of all of them

Pythonista once again operates on a prompt and execute basis, but it approaches a very daunting type of coding in a very accessible way. It features an extended keyboard to support all the symbols you'll need to use, syntax highlighting, code completion and a whole host of mods for when you want to look into anything more specific. The short, bite-sized lesson style means that it's easy to learn on the go, and the lookup directory means that if you ever get stuck or want to look into something in a bit more detail, all it takes is a few taps.


Hakitzu Elite: Robot Hackers

iTunes
As I said, gaming and coding kind of go hand in hand, and this app demonstrates perhaps the best marriage of coding education and fun you'll find anywhere. Hakitzu is a multiplayer game which has you fighting other robots, using coding prompts to tell your one how to behave

There are 25 single player missions which enable you to learn the basics in a comfortable environment before moving on play against real people. You can either fight against randoms or Facebook friends and points scored enable you to customise your bots. There are also in-app purchases, which, y'know, yuck, but they're not essential and those who use them won't get too massive of a leg up. It's a well balanced game even without the coding taken into consideration, but the fact that you can learn JavaScript as you play? Fantastic.


Codea

iTunes
It would be remiss of me to make a list of the best apps for learning coding without mentioning the one that teaches you how to code on mobile platforms. Using Lua, the iOS coding language, Codea allows you to actually program visual apps and games almost as you learn. It comes kitted out with example programs to work from and uses auto-complete to give you a leg-up when you need it. 

As far as the actual designing goes, it has full 2D and 3D rendering, enables you to import material from Dropbox (images, music, etc), a working physics engine, a library of retro-game sound effects and once a project is done, you can directly export it to Xcode and all of sudden, you have a real app with your name on it. Crate Bot, the first game to be entirely designed on Codea, has enjoyed a great deal of success.



Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF


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Apps for Learning - Coding Reviewed by Callum Davies on Friday, November 13, 2015 Rating: 5

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