We bet your children have mastered your iPad, or may even have snaffled their own one, the lucky critters. But do they know what goes on behind the screen? Can they code? We asked Jill Hodges
, the founder and CEO of Fire Tech Camp
to guide you in encouraging the next generation about hands-on technology. Jill founded Fire Tech in 2013 in response to the realisation that the more user-friendly tech products become, the further people get from coding and understanding how tech works.
Unlike other tech education providers, Fire Tech Camp offers a range of courses for 9 - 17 year-olds in coding, creating and making, such as video game design, app design, robotics and digital music production which are designed to ensure that participants learn as much in a week as they would in a year of programmatic coursework in secondary school. Jill has chosen five Apps to give you a head start in children’s tech learning.
Hopscotch is an app that’s available on iPhone but comes into its own on the iPad. It has a visual programming language similar to scratch but is stylish and has lots of fun graphics and assets. You can make your own games, animations and even stories. There are community functions so you can play other people’s creations or remix them. Super cute and strong in computational thinking for kids as young as about 6 or 7 years old, all the way through to adults.
This is an app full of coding puzzles for the youngest techies. A fun robot sets challenges suitable for primary age kids. They do a special version for hour of code, which is a nationwide initiative to introduce students to one hour of computer science or computer programming. This is an easy and fun way to get young kids thinking like a computer!
Mho’s Resistance is a game that teaches you about circuits and resistors. I know it sounds geeky but it’s super cute. Mho is our hero and you have to set her colour bands correctly to keep her board from blowing up! Genius! And Adafruit, some of our favourite makers, make it! This one is perfect for older kids (and adults) who are interested in electronics and want to get to grips with those tiny coloured lines on the resistors. Or just those that like memory games.
Folioscope is my favourite animation maker. I can make them all day while I’m on the bus or tube. This one can be super simple or can get sophisticated, with onion skins and other elements to help you make high quality animations. And at the end, you can save it as a shareable gif. This one is probably best for kids of 10 or 11 but younger kids can have a play. If you prefer your art 8-bit I like Quixel Animate, but I haven’t found a way to share my creations on there.
Azoomee is an app that’s super safe for kids. It has kids’ shows, audiobooks, games, and more, all selected age-appropriately and with no in-app purchases. They’ve got cute tutorials and they have partnered with some well-known content so kids don’t feel like they’re not getting the real stuff. If you need to hand over your phone for the kids to have a play, but don’t want them to stray - this is it!
THE CIRCLE! CIRCLE
There’s one other product I’d highlight for parents although it’s not an app. The Circle! Circle is a little box that pairs with your wifi and then let’s you “pause the internet” for individual users or the whole family. You can set bedtimes, parental controls, time limits, and more. You can even get a subscription that lets you set limits while your kids are on their mobiles outside the home. And you can see how much time your kids are spending on key apps. It’s amazing. Warning - this is a great one to start young so that it’s just the way the internet works for your kids. (Available through https://parent.tech/ in the UK).