Teaching Coding with Games: A codeSpark Academy Review

Getting young children into coding can be a challenge. Still, given the increasing importance of coding and computer science in the modern world, they must get a headstart as soon as possible. The complexity of coding can sometimes be off-putting for children, meaning that parents and teachers need to find novel ways of introducing them to coding.

codeSpark Academy sets out to tackle this problem using a wordless game-based approach. By making learning feel more like play, codeSpark aims to get children into coding as young as possible to give them a solid foundation to work from in future coding education.

But is codeSpark Academy worth it for students – and how does it compare with platforms like Zenva Schools? Our codeSpark review has everything you need to know about the platform, including its content, features, pricing and more.

Try out Zenva Schools with your students for free! Contact our team via this form and we’ll be in touch to set up your free access.

What Is CodeSpark Academy?

codeSpark Academy is an online learning platform designed to help younger children learn basic coding and computer science concepts through games and puzzles. It uses a word-free interface that allows all children to engage with the platform regardless of their literacy level.

codeSpark states that its mission is to “help all kids learn to code by igniting their curiosity in computer science and turning programming into play”. Part of this mission is to increase engagement in STEM subjects regardless of gender – they design codeSpark’s courses to appeal equally to girls and boys, avoiding gendered stereotypes to close the gender gap in STEM.

The platform emphasizes creativity and curiosity, with its courses and Game Maker are designed to encourage imaginative solutions and ideas. 

Teaching Coding with Games: A codeSpark Academy Review

What Courses & Content Does codeSpark Academy Provide?

codeSpark Academy offers a range of wordless courses for children aged five and up, which involve using drag-and-drop block coding to help a colorful cast of characters solve puzzles and challenges. Children can learn basic coding concepts through play by controlling these characters through block coding, regardless of their reading ability or prior experience. 

Subjects covered by codeSpark’s courses include sequencing, loops, events, conditional statements, boolean logic, and variables. codeSpark also aims to help children build up valuable skills for computer science, such as creativity, logic, problem-solving, and pattern recognition. 

As well as coding and computer science, codeSpark also provides cross-curricular courses and activities that help children to develop early math and science skills. 

Finally, codeSpark Academy’s Game Maker allows students to create games using the platform’s wordless interface and game engine.

All this being said, this sort of content is not unique. For example, Zenva Schools also teaches coding suitable for younger children, with a huge focus on the popular Scratch tool. Students can learn the same coding principles such as algorithms, variables, digital systems, and more.

On top of this, Zenva Schools courses are designed to be project-based, so students get to make projects that can even later be added to their resumes.

What Coding Content Is Missing From codeSpark Academy?

While codeSpark Academy offers content for younger learners to explore basic coding concepts and techniques, its wordless approach does limit it.

Sticking to block coding also means that students don’t have an opportunity to learn functional text-based languages like Python or JavaScript through codeSpark. Block coding also limits the extent of the Game Maker – since students can only create within the game’s engine rather than designing and developing games from the ground up. 

As such, the practical value of codeSpark Academy is fairly limited despite its fun premise.

Plenty of other platforms have way more content to offer. To name one, Zenva Schools offers courses on Python, JavaScript, Unity, Blender, Scratch, Excel, and more. The course content is also delivered in far more formats – featuring video lessons, text-based summaries, downloadable course files, quizzes, and interactive lessons. As such, different sorts of learners have more opportunities.

Teaching Coding with Games: A codeSpark Academy Review

What Age Group Is codeSpark Academy Targeting?

codeSpark is for students aged 4-10. Its wordless, game-based approach makes coding education accessible to younger learners. Since no reading is required, children younger than four may still be able to use the platform – but will likely need adult supervision and assistance to get the most out of it. 

This, however, is indeed a very limited range. If you’re a teacher with older students, they’re going to be a lot better off with other platforms. Zenva Schools, for instance, has content for students in Year 3 all the way up to year 12. Additionally, the courses are also suitable for adults – so they’re a perfect solution for teacher professional development as well.

How Well Does codeSpark Academy Match The Curriculum?

codeSpark designed its platform to meet curriculum needs for elementary computer science and coding. It also provides curriculum alignment with some aspects of math and science. 

The platform aligns with various components of the K-12 Computer Science Framework for grades K-2 and 3-5. codeSpark also states that they base the content on a curriculum developed at MIT and UCLA.

While this may be fine for many teachers, other teachers may want a more robust match to whatever curriculum standards they need to follow. For instance, Zenva Schools offers curriculum mapping for:

  • Australian Digital Technologies
  • US Common Core Math
  • US Common Core ELA
  • CSTA Computer Science Standards
  • K-12 Computer Science Framework
  • … and more!

The point being that there are plenty of other platforms with better matches depending on your needs.

What Features Does codeSpark Academy Have For Students & Parents?

The main feature of codeSpark Academy is its wordless, game-based model of education. This approach makes it accessible for learners with low literacy levels, meaning that codeSpark is accessible for pre-reading children and children with learning difficulties. With a focus as well on making sure it’s inclusive for girls, there’s a lot to be said about this aspect.

The content is also designed so parents don’t need to have any coding experience themselves to help out their children if they get stuck.

However, beyond this main feature, there isn’t much in terms of features for students and parents.

Other platforms like Zenva Schools can be a lot more worthwhile in this regard. As mentioned, Zenva Schools provided project-based approaches for students plus additional learning materials to help students with different needs. On top of this, students can receive Certificates of Completion which not only motivate them to continue, but can be added to any future resumes.

What Features Does codeSpark Academy Have For Teachers?

codeSpark Academy is free for all verified public school teachers in North America. The access includes unlimited classrooms and student accounts, allowing teachers to use codeSpark with as many classes and students as they wish.

It also offers teachers a free Teacher Dashboard, which gives teachers access to the platform’s entire curriculum and extra resources like lesson plans and unplugged activities. 

The dashboard can also help teachers to monitor their students’ progress and understanding with a class tracker that shows how far each student has progressed through different modules and concepts.

In addition to content for children, codeSpark also provides teachers with professional development through its codeSpark Ignite course. Ignite is an activity-based online course comprising of five 60-90 minute modules. However – you’ll need to pay for the course separately if you want to take it.

This being said, these features are fairly comparable to other platforms – both free and paid services. Zenva Schools, for instance, offers similar features like classroom management for organizing students and analytics for tracking student progress. Teachers can also receive an area for professional development (with no extra cost) and pre-mapped lesson plans for curriculum standards.

Teaching Coding with Games: A codeSpark Academy Review

How Much Does codeSpark Academy Cost?

Though – as mentioned – codeSpark Academy is mostly free, there are some paid subscription options for individuals and teachers in need of additional services. The table below will outline the options available.

Subscription OptionPriceWhat Does The Subscription Option Include?
codeSpark home subscription$9.99 per month or $79.99 annually (equal to $6.67 per month).Access to all core codeSpark content, including unlimited coding challenges and educational puzzles; supports up to 3 child accounts.
codeSpark gift subscription6 months for $59.99 (equal to $10 per month) or 12 months for $89.99 (equal to $7.50 per month).The same as a standard home subscription, but bought as a one-off redeemable access code rather than billed as a renewing subscription
codeSpark lifetime access gift $199.99 for lifetime access(equal to $5.56 assuming it’s used for at least three years).Lifetime access to all codeSpark content and other features included in standard subscriptions, plus a free plush toy (US addresses only).
codeSpark for schoolsFree for all verified teachers and librarians at public schools in North America. No information is given for non-US schools, so teachers in other countries may need to contact codeSpark directly for pricing.All core codeSpark content plus lesson plans, unplugged activities, access to a Teacher Dashboard and unlimited classrooms and student accounts.
codeSpark IgniteIt is normally $250 but is $119 at the time of writing.Activity-based professional development course consisting of five 60-90 minute modules.
Prices obtained from codeSpark Academy in 2022

While these prices are competitive, keep in mind two things. First, the cost adds quickly for homeschooling parents. Second, while the service is free in North America, other countries are going to have better luck elsewhere.

Just to compare, Zenva Schools offers only a single tier charged per year with a price based on the number of students. However, for the price Zenva Schools offers every single course and feature – including the ability to use the courses for professional development. As such, and especially for schools outside of North America, Zenva Schools may be a more suitable option.

Teaching Coding with Games: A codeSpark Academy Review

Conclusion: Is codeSpark Academy Worth It?

codeSpark Academy offers a unique way to get young learners into coding from an early age. It covers a range of foundational coding and computer science skills, as well as helps to develop key skills such as creativity and problem-solving. Moreover, its cross-curricular courses are useful for math and science education alongside coding.

However, codeSpark is limited in how far it can take students’ coding education. As such, while it provides a foundation for elementary students just beginning to learn how to code, there is nothing here really for older students. This is not to mention that gamification does lack the ability to map to real life in comparison to more traditional online courses.

For older students, a platform like Zenva Schools is definitely a way better option. Not only does it offer teachers amazing features like classroom management and analytics, but students learn practical job preparation skills when it comes to coding. Plus, there is a wider range of topics to engage students with various different interests.

In the end, choosing the right platform is hard – so make sure to continue researching and find the platform right for you!

If you’re from a K12 school and want to try out our platform, fill out the form below.

We’ll organize a free trial so you can test it out with your students in class!