I wanted to include iPad in the things that we do at CoderDojo for a long time and on Saturday we finally did it. Children are absolutely crazy for iPad and I was sure that using iPad will provide a great motivation to start also programming on iPad not just playing games. Unfortunately Apple is very restrictive about programming environments not developed by Apple and for a long time there was no suitable applications that could be used to teach young children programming. Recently a New York-based start-up released Hopscotch and I fell in love with it at first sight. Hopscotch is a programming environment based on Scratch paradigm of visual programming using blocks but with much nicer characters. Especially for girls, visual appearance is important, and original Scratch from MIT was very "boyish" in visual appearance.
Each of 10 characters has also alternative costume which makes it very easy to program cool animations (e.g. gorilla walking, et c.). A cool set of characters enables children to create compelling stories and also simplifies communication with children a lot. Instead of saying "make a computer draw a line" the instructor can say "have a bear draw a tree". Hopscotch has incorporated many lessons from Logo programming language and it is therefore great for drawing.
Hopscotch has been released recently and for now provides only basic programming power that is not yet on par with Scratch. For example, it is not possible at the moment to program application where character would move towards the point where the screen is tapped. What's also dearly missing are more examples, especially very cool ones, which would demonstrate the full power of Hopscotch. There are also some challenges left in the user interface, such as using pixels for movements and degrees for rotation, both concepts not comprehensible by children before age of 8 or 9. Finally, Hopscotch has texts in English only which makes it quite inaccessible to non-English speaking children. For Slovenian language, I would gladly help with translations.
I hope the Hopscotch team finds a sustainable business model for their product. For now the Hopscotch application is free, but I would definitely be willing to pay for it. I'm sure many other parents would be willing to pay for it, too.