codeSpark Academy with The Foos
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codeSpark Academy with The Foos

As the makers of this delightful and highly effective free app well know, becoming a skilled programmer isn't so much about learning code as it is about developing a way of thinking that enhances problem-solving in any context. The Foos are tiny, adorable characters, each of whom has a range of abilities, some shared, some unique. The games are entirely non-verbal. By manipulating graphics, kids issue a series of commands to various Foos (walk, jump, throw, eat, . . .) aimed at accomplishing a specific end task. These can be given and executed one at a time, or more importantly, arranged in a sequence that the Foo, once activated, will follow. Players learn to break problems and their solutions into simple, clear-cut steps and to combine and apply control structures such as loop equivalents as a means of streamlining their tasks. The consistency of quality and originality on display, from the cleverly engaging animated characters to the educational efficacy and exuberant fun of the gameplay, is quite remarkable.