After using light-bot as a central piece of the first classes we ran, I decided to make less use of it, because it had significant usability issues for the kids. The awkward click-targets and instruction management were very difficult for the kids, who wanted to experiment and change the order of their bot programs frequently. I'm very glad to see that that's one of the biggest improvements in this version of light-bot: instructions highlight when you mouse over them, clicking them removes them/adds them immediately, the position they will end up in when you release a drag is highlighted, etc. Great work on that! Starting with just enough instructions and slots to demonstrate the direction of flow is also a good move.
There are a few other issues that seem to have popped up: there are so many buttons on the relatively small screen that at any point, it can be difficult to tell what to push next. What do >> and >>> mean to an 11-year-old, or < vs a wraparound back arrow?
I haven't tested this version (I no longer teach those classes), but I can imagine kids clicking arbitrarily around until things move forward without them quite understanding why or whether they were successful, or just being paralysed by not being sure what to do. That paralysis was very common for us, and it sometimes took a lot of encouragement to get kids to just play around and try whatever came to mind.
Regardless, I think light-bot is fun, challenging, feels good to beat, and helps to familiarize kids with step-by-step operations and looping structures especially. Procedures often required some extra conceptual explanation, but also get a good treatment. Glad to see it being updated and promoted!
My one gripe with LightBot was that it's not open source, so the kids couldn't look inside it. The ideal would be if gCompris included a LightBot style activity.
The thing that gets their interest every time is something physical. I can sit them in front of Scratch for four hours twice a week, or this, or LOGO, or any of a multitude of other solutions, but the two things that never fail to interest them are Lego Mindstorms and my quadcopter. My quadcopter usually catches their attention (wow, a machine that can go over a hundred miles an hour! cool!) but the Lego Mindstorms robot is what keeps them interested.
This is because they have no idea of how to build a quadcopter that can go as fast as mine (which is reasonable, considering it took eight months to build mine - it's among the fastest in the world and may even be the fastest) but they do know how to drag and drop blocks to make the robot go.
My point is: there has to be some kind of moment where you snag the kids' attention. I don't see any moment here that would make the kids excited. Seeing my quadcopter soar through the sky at over a hundred miles an hour fascinates them. Seeing the robot move across the board, shoot projectiles or battle another robot (at their command!) fascinates them. But having a virtual character follow commands in an interface which looks like it came out of a preschool? I doubt it.
It looks like this may be targeted towards very young children, but in that case my worry is not that this won't snag their attention (very young children are much more interested in a computer game than my quadcopter) but rather that they'll simply forget about it by the time they learn to read and write (and thus even be able to start reading and writing code.)
Here's another comment I made about teaching kids to code: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7450503
I would have to say that the physical devices thing is perhaps your own projection for being the best way of snagging kids' attention- of course, you do work with robotics and quadcoptors, but for many kids, real games (and that means not Scratch or Logo) are what catches attention.
LightBot's design starts basic. But the puzzles become quite difficult. From what I've seen, kids associate with the character and first become interested due to that connection, and then are later motivated to complete puzzles because each completion actually feels rewarding and something that they truly had to figure out (very few things do that nowadays outside of puzzle games for kids).
So perhaps physical toys are your cup of tea, and they may be for many kids, but just think about how many kids today would rather play Minecraft than play Lego Mindstorms. It's not a physical contraption and can be seen as an educational tool in many regards. I would argue that physical toys aren't always the best motivators for kids in the same way that video games aren't for others.
My five year old zips around the ipad and could do a lot more than he's doing, but he's just not going to take the time to sound out words and try to figure out what the game is telling him.
There is a sweet spot that I've found between icon-ifying everything and keeping written instructions in. The mobile versions have a "guiding hand" that also leads through the first level of what exactly to press, but later on, levels like procedures and loops really require a written, accompanying explanation which cannot come across with pictures alone. So, you will see an image that explains the concept as well, but the two together are what works best.
A voiceover/actor would be ideal, but I have yet to search too far in that direction, and would then need those voiceovers translated to the other languages, etc etc.
By the time they are 8, there is no difference between former early readers and other kids, so there is no reason to worry about it.
From my few minutes with it, Lightbot seems like a great follow-up game for older kids.
Once 1.8 is officially released, someone could create educational adventure maps. I have played some 1.8 maps, and the new features can essentially make Minecraft into a game engine for voxel-based adventure games.
Here's an example from earlier in the 1.8 dev cycle -- there are even more features now.
Dyarosla, can you consider adding an easy level with "P1"? A very very long blue line would be perfect to learn to call P1x12 instead of enter (Walk+Light)x12.
Can you also add more basic levels: she had liked to solve them, but now she doesn't want to play again. The levels are "already done" or "too hard".