Logo and DIY Programming Tools

Every year I hear from people who are transitioning into new positions as a tech coach, tech integrator, STEM integrator, and other similar roles. Last week I answered two such emails.

What those readers always ask about are ideas and tools for teaching programming beyond obvious resources like Code.org. That’s why this week I’m sharing some resources for learning to program and teaching programming. These are resources that can be accessed by anyone even if you don’t have any prior programming experience.


Logo is a programming language that was developed for students back in 1967. It’s the language that provided my introduction to programming when I was in elementary school. Logo still exists today and is the basis for many other tools you may have heard of including Scratch and Snap.

Last week I wrote a short blog post highlighting Gary Stager’s collection of modern Logo resources for teachers. Head there to find lots of recommendations for reading about how to use Logo as a teaching tool. You may also want to grab a free copy of the Turtle Art Tiles Project Guide.

Blackbird Code

Blackbird is a free platform designed to introduce students to coding principles even if you don’t have any prior experience teaching coding. I gave it a try with my students at the end of the 2020-21 school year and we liked it.

Blackbird teaches students how to write JavaScript. There are five thematic pathways that you can use to guide your students in Blackbird. Regardless of which one you pick, the approach and student process are the same. Students start with a simple activity that makes a point or line appear on the screen. Students then see a split screen lesson that shows them some brief instructions on the left side of the screen and a code editor on the right side of the screen. It’s in the split screen environment that students write their first lines of code.

Blackbird makes it easy for you as a teacher to try all of the lessons that your students will do. All you have to do is sign into your teacher then click “learn” to see what your students will see. You can complete any and all of the lessons yourself and use all of the help tools like “show me” that your students have access to when they’re signed into Blackbird.

Video overviews of Blackbird can be seen here and here.

MIT App Inventor

If you want to create a fully functional Android app, the MIT App Inventor is the place to start. The MIT App Inventor works in your web browser (Chrome is recommended). The only download that is required for App Inventor 2 is the optional emulator. The emulator allows people who don’t have Android devices to text their apps on their desktops. If you have an Android device then the emulator is not required and you don’t need to worry about installing it. MIT provides excellent support documentation and curriculum for new users. Here’s my tutorial on how to use the MIT App Inventor.

For the Youngest Students

Daisy the Dinosaur is a free iPad app designed to introduce young students to some programming basics. The app asks students to create commands for Daisy the Dinosaur to carry out. There is a free play mode in which students can make Daisy do whatever they want. But to get started you might want to have students work through the beginner challenges mode. Daisy the Dinosaur asks students to enter commands in the correct sequence in order to make Daisy complete tasks correctly. Daisy the Dinosaur can be used with students as young as Kindergarten age.

ScratchJr is based on the Scratch program which has its roots in Logo. ScratchJr uses a drag-and-drop block programming interface. On ScratchJr students can program multimedia stories and games. To program a story or game on ScratchJr students select background settings for each frame of the story. Then in each frame students select the actions that they want their characters to take. Students snap programming pieces together to make characters move and talk in their stories and games. Head to the teaching page on the ScratchJr site for ideas on how to use ScratchJr in your classroom.

This is a screenshot of the Google Street View of the outside of where I attended the sixth grade (Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer topped the charts that year) and was introduced to Logo. The building is still there but it is no longer used as a schoolIs the building where you went to elementary/ primary school still standing?

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