EdLab Review: Code Avengers

Submitted by Rebecca Hyams on Tue, 08/14/2012 - 12:45pm.
Rebecca Hyams's picture

Overview:
Code Avengers is a gamified learn-to-code website, designed to teach beginners the basics of coding in Javascript and HTML/CSS. The Code Avengers approach starts from the very beginning, but quickly scaffolds into more advanced concepts.



A fourth-level robot lesson, using While loops

Pros:

  • Each lesson is designed to be interactive, with output-driven assignments. As you work through the levels, the assignments get more and more complex.
  • If a wrong solution is entered, a hint becomes available. After two wrong responses, the answer can be viewed. This allows the user to move on instead of hitting a wall.
  • Both the Javascript and HTML/CSS lessons have a theme driving them. This helps with cohesiveness.
  • There is a teacher module for teachers to use Code Avengers with their students and check their progress as they work through the lessons.
  • Badges are given, but are not the primary driving factor behind completing the lessons. They’re more of a background item, but still present for those that like earning badges.

Cons:

  • While the HTML/CSS course (still in a early phase) has a concrete end result (a “superhero profile”), the Javascript exercises left me wondering how I could apply what I had learned to my own website. Maybe that will be something the developer will add to the second level of courses, but that has yet to be completed.
  • There was a lot of math in the Javascript lessons. For someone (like me) who wishes to learn to program for a practical aim, I resented sitting through lessons that were focused simply on doing math. Less math, more robot puzzles and coding problems please!
  • This may be picky, but I was not a fan of the satellite game, which I felt didn’t add much to learning Javascript. It was the one place where I failed to see the pedagogy in practice.

EdLab Relevance:
Code Avengers occupies a similar space to Codecadamey and its ilk. What makes Code Avengers different is that it’s designed to be used either by independent learners or as a tool in the classroom. The Javascript lessons are actually built around the New Zealand high school computer science curriculum (the developer is based in NZ). While there is a gamification element behind the site (with badges and points), the focus is on completing the lessons to solve problems. The focus on pedagogy and ties to curriculum place this ahead of many of its peers.

Our Takeaway:
Code Avengers is a solid delivery system for learning some basic code. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing how this develops as more lessons and levels are added.

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Sharon Hsiao's picture
Sharon Hsiao Says:
Tue, 08/14/2012 - 1:39pm

Interesting :)
But I personally think gamified approach is a bit too simple for high schoolers, especially for this subject. Teaching programming for novices usually easily fall into the trap to pay too much attention on the syntax, which is the easiest part. I'd be interested in knowing how does CodeAvengers teach and evaluate the program semantics and pragmatics.

I briefly talked about programming language learning from games last year. Check the post here.


Rebecca Hyams's picture
Rebecca Hyams Says:
Tue, 08/14/2012 - 1:47pm

Yeah, I certainly can't judge if it's too simple or too complex for high schoolers. All I can go on is that I was able to make it through the Javascript level 1 course (struggled in a few places, but made it through to the end). For comparison's sake I tried Codecademy, but hit roadblocks really early on (and may have hit them even sooner if I hadn't done most of Code Avengers first at that point). I have no idea if what I've learned is practical or applicable outside of the Code Avengers environment, but I do feel like I accomplished something by making it through.

As a side note, I picked up some new HTML tags and concepts that I hadn't known before going through the HTML/CSS course. My formatting for this week's review is thanks to that.


rajesh's picture
rajesh Says:
Tue, 08/21/2012 - 5:11pm

Hi Rebecca,
Great review!
Could we urge you to do a similar review on our programming learning site Programr.com ( http://www.programr.com ) ?

Programr is more into traditional languages like Java and C++.

We have just launched our new Java Practice Zone, where students can practice Java online:
http://www.programr.com/practice/programr211_promo_228/node/592

Do give it a whirl when you have the time.
Would love to know what you think about it.

Thanks,
Rajesh Moorjani
Cofounder
Programr