OctoStudio is a new block-based coding app that enables students to make simple animations and games using characters and sounds that they choose. OctoStudio was developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten group at MIT Media Lab and is available for free on iPhones, iPads, and Android smartphones and tablets.
OctoStudio is a fun creative tool designed for students ages 7 and up to learn to create interactive projects by tinkering with code blocks, while developing their creativity and problem-solving skills. OctoStudio is a mainstream app that has been designed for all students – including students who are low vision and students who use a screen reader.
OctoStudio is similar in some ways to the Scratch coding environment; both are visual programming languages which use coding blocks that can be snapped together to make characters move, play sounds, interact, and more. One of the original Scratch founders, Natalie Rusk, is the research scientist who has been leading the development of OctoStudio. The creators of OctoStudio understand that Scratch is not accessible to students who use screen readers and have diligently worked – and continue to work – to make OctoStudio as accessible as possible.
Excited to get started? Linda Coccovizzoan assistive technology instructor who has been one of the lead accessibility advisors for the project, has created a quick video demonstrating OctoStudio on an iPhone running VoiceOver.
In order to better understand the video, it is helpful to know the layout of the screen. The app is played in portrait mode. This video starts with creating a new project by choosing a sprite and backdrop, and then goes to the project editor screen.
At the top of the project editor is a toolbar. Below the toolbar is the Stage, a visual image of the sprite on the backdrop. When the script is played, this is where your creation comes to life and the sprite will become animated! Next is a menu; if you have chosen multiple sprites, there will also be a sprite menu and tools for editing the selected sprite.
The main area of the screen is the Coding Area. Drag in and snap blocks together to code your sprite.
The bottom of the screen contains the Blocks Palette. The top row contains the blocks which can be dragged up to the Coding area. Below the blocks are the seven categories of blocks. The blocks are organized into seven categories or tabs: When to start, Motion, Words and sounds, Scene, Colors and light, Control, and More blocks.
OctoStudio is designed for iPhones and Android smartphones and is compatible with VoiceOver and TalkBack. OctoStudio can also be played on an iPad or Android tablet. Designed for kids, the app in general has many blocks that incorporate motivating, unique sounds. On smartphones, the app also provides haptic feedback for the “buzz” coding block.
by Diane Brauner, 11/3/23
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