Seriously now! Just how many drag and drop programming languages/environments do we really need? Differences between them are small. The list I have (Drag and drop programming languages) is getting longer all the time. As I write this there are 23 entries on the list. How many do we really need?
There is a lot of overlap and while there are differences they are often small and hardly seem to justify the need for a new tool. I’m getting tired of looking at new platforms that seem like clones of what is already available. I’ve looked at most of those examples. Many of them are designed for younger students than I teach and so I haven’t gotten very deep into many of them.
Most of the ones for younger children are cute and fun but very limited. That’s probably fine for elementary school but I teach high school. Many people are having success with Alice, Scratch, App Inventor and Snap! at the high school level. And they are fine tools in their way.
I have chosen not to use them though for a number of reasons. I’ve been using TouchDevelop instead. One reason is that there is a clear path from block based languages to text based languages in TouchDevelop. In the same IDE one can move from colorful simple blocks to more traditional looking syntax. That can be helpful.
Moving on to phone apps. TouchDevelop lets users create apps for a variety of phones. Windows Phones, Android phones and even iPhones and iPads. That means that no matter what smart phone a student has they can run their apps on it. Or even develop their apps. I’ve had students all pull out their own devices to learn how to code when the computer lab systems were having issues.
It’s more than just phones though. TouchDevelop is one of the development platforms for the BBC MicroBit for example. TouchDevelop lets students write programs for embedded devices such as the Arduino, ARM embed boards, or node.js running on Raspberry Pi. That’s a lot of options with one simple programming language.
Last but not least I love being able to demonstrate my app and my development environment in random places. I’ve worked on my apps or showed them off on buses, in cars, on the train, sitting on line for various things and occasionally at a restaurant talking with friends. I think that is an advantage for students as well. I like that they can show off their apps on their phones or other devices.