Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Move the Turtle: Programming for Kids

Move the Turtle: Programming for Kids

Fall 2012 Mobile Apps
Ages: 5 & Up
Contributions From: Agata Kozak
Director: Krzysztof Szatynski
Developer: Next is Great
Download Price: $2.99
Platform: iPad

Those who remember playing with early personal computers in the 1970s and 1980s may recall a beginning programming environment called Logo. Users propelled a cursor called a "turtle" around the screen using computer commands, leaving trails of line drawings. As the language could become quite complex, the drawings were often very elaborate. Move the Turtle by Geek Kids is a modern version of Logo with updated graphics and a turtle that actually looks like a turtle-the line drawings left behind are the tracings of his tail. The language is greatly simplified, with menu-driven customizable commands and limited storage for data, but as it allows sections of code to be saved and repeated (through global variables, procedures, loops, and conditionals, for those familiar with programming) it still can result in fairly complex illustrations.

The game offers a series of tutorial challenges, beginning with simple actions to move the turtle and draw a line (in one of four colors) and building up to creating procedures for mathematical factorials and using library functions to draw flowers. My 12-year-old and I were able to fly through the tutorials and were only sorry to run out of challenges so quickly; the only point that gave us pause was that the syntax for returning a value from a procedure was not clearly explained, but the game provides full solutions for every level, allowing us to learn at a glance what we needed to know. My 10-year-old was able to work more slowly through the programs, but the advanced programs were out of reach for a 7-year-old.

The game also allows for extensive free play and provides a large library of pre-built functionality. We would love to see an online list of programming assignments for kids to keep using the app for advanced challenges, or to see even more levels included in game play. However, for as much as it contains, and the genuinely useful challenges it offers as an introduction to real computer programming, the $2.99 price tag is a bargain.

Emily Crawford   ©2012 Parents' Choice
Emily holds a BSE in electrical engineering and computer science from Duke University and a Master's in computer engineering from Georgia Tech. She is a homeschooling parent and lives with her husband, three children, five cats, and thousands of LEGOs in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Look for this product at:
Next is Great
Available on iTunes

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