Monday, June 6, 2016

A Mysterious New Coding App

As I get ready for coding camp later this month, I am previewing coding apps and tools to curate the list of things we will use. The kind folks at Her Interactive gifted me a copy of the iOS app Nancy Drew Codes and Clues so I could check out the latest chapter of our favorite sleuth. 

Aimed at girls 6-8, Codes and Clues is really three different games in one that wrap around the mystery of who is sabotaging the projects at the tech fair. First, the girls need disguises to fit in the different areas they investigate. That means that the player gets to choose outfits for Nancy and BFFs Bess and George. Girls in the targeted age range would get a kick out of choosing the disguises. Then the girls interview people and search for clues in a hidden object game. In early levels, the player sees the exact image she is looking for. In later levels, we see only shadow images and have to match the real image to the shadow. Here are pictures of both types of levels.

At the end of each chapter in the app, there is a puzzle to code so that Nancy's robot puppy can accomplish a task. Nancy gives us a quick tutorial and then we use the drag and drop blocks to move the pup. Move, jump, kick, push, back, turnaround, and loops are all introduced in different places in the app.

What I liked: The app has excellent graphics and a good storyline. I like the idea of three different tasks wrapped into one app. It's all nicely chunked so that girls 6-8 will be appropriately challenged. The app includes good written text that can be listened to or read (if the sound is turned down) so it will appeal to strong and emerging readers. It's hard to argue with Nancy Drew as a model for girls - smart and plucky. Of course, she is programming a robot dog! The app has no shortage of role model girls who are hanging out at a tech fair!

What I am hoping for in updates: There are a lot of hidden pictures and not as much coding. I'd like to see them more equally represented. I'd love to see the addition of robot puppy "lab" so we could complete more coding challenges or create some of our own - try out the work that Nancy presumably did in order to enter that pup in the tech fair! Also, the app crashed my tired iPad mini 1 over and over again. I don't see evidence of this in the reviews, so I am guessing that this doesn't happen on later iPad models. The crash always came at the end of a sequence, so the mystery part of the story got a little lost on me. Still, each time I restarted, none of my progress had been lost, so it was a nuisance more than anything else. Here's hoping, too, that updates will bring more mysteries!

Both of my kids (12 year old boy, 10 year old girl - not the target audience) entered the room while I was playing and had the same reaction, "Hey, what is that?" and tried to take the iPad from me. Nancy Drew: Codes and Clues will appeal to kids. It has 31 ratings in the iOS store and 23 in the android store, most of them with 4 or 5 stars. If you have or work with kids in the 6-8 year old range, this one is worth checking out. 

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