The Foos is a kid’s coding app originally produced for The Hour of Code. codeSpark, the company behind The Foos is steadily releasing new content and challenges that expand upon their original puzzles and turn kids as young as five into digital creators, say Joe Shochet and Grant Hosford, the creators and original Mayors of Footville. They have generously put forth a free, yes that is a free program for both desktop and tablet play (iOS, Android, and Amazon Kindle) that teaches coding in a playful way and is appealing to both girls and boys. There is also a lite version for all browsers, including Google Chrome.
And who exactly are the Foos, you ask? They are little creatures that live inside computers, just waiting to be given direction for what to do in regards to solving problems and overcoming that dastardly character, “The Glitch”. There are both structured and open play areas in which to explore and experiment. In the structured section, kids learn about basic sequencing and how to set up commands. They are awarded 1-3 stars for accomplishing the presented task for each level. The stars serve as feedback that there may be another solution that is more efficient. When given a 1-2 star rating, kids learn to persist in order achieve the coveted the 3 stars by trying alternate solutions. And this is what flexible thinking is all about.
Accompanied by the parent/teacher section is an educator’s guide that details lesson plans and guides for all levels of experience. Both on screen and off screen activities are given, making this an awe-inspiring body of work that will help reinforce carryover of organizational and executive functioning skills into daily life.
codeSpark has taken a difficult subject and managed to organize it down into manageable chunks so that kids (and adults) truly understand the fundamentals. Players can then build upon that knowledge through open play and creation via Foo Studio and the playgrounds. In Foo, Studio kids are able to make their own games by employing what they have learned from this innovative and crazy-fun app by learning what works and what doesn’t as well as collaborate with friends and family.
The much-anticipated Sweetopia is now out and ready to update for all Foos fans. WARNING: it is hard to stop playing once you’ve started because it is SO MUCH FUN! In Sweetopia, the play not only involves gaining new commands, decorations, and characters for use in Foo Studio but also will have many improvements in the interface so they get the most out of the experience. Daily activities to achieve more points for buying supplies, characters, and objects in the Foo Store are available too. The focus however with the daily activities is really how to learn to prioritize and sequence in a calm and steady manner. This practice not only aids in self-regulation but also trains kids to evaluate and set priorities. Kids learn to use both ambient and central vision to view incoming streams of balloons floating by loaded in different types of candy in order to sort them. Timing is essential, and to accurately sort one must look, make decisions concerning the attributes of the candy, and pop the balloon at just the right time to drop them into their bins. By playing daily, you can really see changes in the way kid’s think and react. Games like the Foos provide kids with the tools for turning their minds into a logical but also creative approach when looking at ways to solve problems. And this is the most important lesson of all – one that teaches that there are many routes to accomplish a task and so plants the seed of tolerance to another’s point of view. Being open, calm, and willing to share experiences with others sets the tone for a successful student, and the Foos have captured this brilliantly.
The Foos have been an incredible learning experience for all kids I have encountered, both young and those young at heart. Kids as young as four have been successful playing with a minimum amount of supervision, and the younger ones benefit from shared play with adults or siblings. Most parents (and therapists), well – are drawn into gameplay along with their kids. Again the accompanied educator’s guide for teaching and learning more about the benefits of coding is a gift. A lot of effort and thought went into this app. The pedagogy and play are laid out for both the novice and expert alike and will get kids up and code in minutes. Now that The Hour of Code has passed, is teaching coding still present in your curriculum? If not, take a look at The Foos for some Fun Filled Fantastic Learning experiences. A TWA Top Pick and one of our Top Apps of 2015!
Jo Booth OTR/L has been an Occupational Therapist for over 35 years, and currently practices at EasterSeals of SEPA, Montgomery County Division mainly focusing on Early Intervention. It is an APS (Approved Private School) and home outreach based setting. She has also worked in Adolescent and Adult Rehabilitation. Writing reviews for Teachers With Apps have been a tremendous opportunity and experience to share and learn with others.