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Pencil Code

Pencil Code, which is built on top of MIT’s Scratch, is a programming site for drawing art, playing music, and creating games. It is also a place to experiment with mathematical functions, geometry, graphing, webpages, simulations, and algorithms (learn more here). Programs are open for all to see and copy. If you are trying to teach your students how to code in a creative engaging manner, then you should consider this tool.

Keywords: Constructionism

Tool Snapshot

Price Free
Learning Constructionism
Ease of Use ★★★
Privacy ★★★★★
Accessibility ★✩
Class Size Unlimited
Login No
ISTE*S Innovative Designer, Computational Thinker
COPPA/
FERPA
Yes

Pencil Code Overview

Pencil Code is a great tool. Overall it is easy to learn, but if you’ve never seen this tool or similar tools such as Scratch, it has a decent learning curve to get over.

Privacy-wise, Pencil Code is great as it is clearly stated that all tools are public to all users and no real names are allowed on the platform.

However, since Pencil Code’s content is very dynamic, accessibility is an issue with the site since the output of the code is not supported by screen readers or similar tools.

Pencil Code Overview Video

YouTube Video
 

Pencil Code & the SAMR Model

Here is an example of how Pencil Code might fit within the SAMR model:

Far too often, technology is used as a direct substitute for other low-tech tools (e.g., pencil and paper). While substitution has some benefits (e.g., students develop their technology skills and knowledge), we encourage you to think about how you might use Pencil Code to modify or redefine learning.

Learning Activities

Math

Students can learn about mathematical concepts such as angles and degrees using Pencil Code. In order to move around the plane, students must know about the unit circle.

Music

Students can create their own music by writing code, they could choose individual instruments such as piano, or create their own by changing the pitch and frequency of provided sound effects.

English/Language Arts

Students can create interactive adventures using code. Using Pencil Code, students can create interactive stories in which they can receive input from users and perform different actions based on the inputs.

Creative Arts

Students can draw simple and complex objects using code. Ranging from a simple house using 8 lines of code, to an elaborate tree structure using 25 lines of code.

Other

Students are able to combine any and all of the resources previously mentioned to create their own projects, such as creating an interactive story that has a custom background noise depending on the what is currently happening in the story.

Resources

How to Use Pencil Code

If you’ve ever used Scratch, pencil code will be very straightforward. If you’ve never used scratch or any drag and drop coding tool, a highly recommend you read the get started guide.

In order to get started follow these steps:

  1. Go to the Pencil Code website: https://pencilcode.net/
  2. If you want to get started quickly:
    1. Click the “Let’s Play Button”
    2. Once in the code editor, drag and drop blocks to code!
  3. If you want to simply create a new empty pencil code:
    1. Look at the bottom right corner under the “Get Creative” section
    2. Click “Start on a Blank Page”
    3. Once in the code editor, drag and drop blocks to code!
  4. If you want to create an account:
    1. Click the “New Account” button on the top right
    2. Input your username and passwords, keep in mind that no real names are allowed on Pencil Code per the privacy policy
  5. Once you’re done with your Pencil Code project, click the save button on the top right to save it to your account
  6. Or once you’re done with your Pencil Code project, share it with peers or instructors by clicking “Share” on the right corner.

Research

Deng, W., Pi, Z., Lei, W., Zhou, Q., & Zhang, W. (2020). Pencil Code improves learners' computational thinking and computer learning attitudeComputer applications in engineering education28(1), 90-104.

Author

This page was created by Brian Ramirez.

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