How do we get there?
Lightbot is an Android and iOS app that you can pick up at Google Play or the App Store for $2.99. There is also a Jr. version for younger kids that is the same price. Thankfully, there is a free "Hour of Code" version online here.
Lightbot is a quick and easy intro into code. It is a game, making it instantly engaging of the bat for students. However, under the hood are some key fundamentals to coding. You must be able to break down complex commands, like turning on three lights on your way to the top left corner of the screen, into independent steps. In later levels, you need to be able to utilize variables and loops to solve the puzzles. Ultimately, students will get to experience the joy and frustration of coding without needing to mess with a coding language.
Lightbot is not a programming language, nor does it really prepare you for one. Yes, it does cover some key computational thinking concepts, but it really doesn't give you a leg up learning a particular language. This is a great Hour of Code activity, but if you are looking to integrate more programming into your class, you'd find the opportunities to integrate Lightbot to be slim. It is a game - a great one for introducing programming, but not one you can easily combine with other things you'd be doing.
Engaging, fun, and simple - Lightbot makes the perfect introduction to computational thinking. Even though it isn't programming, it is a close relative and deserves consideration as a way to whet students' appetities on the way to some serious coding.
Want to see a demo? Check out this short tutorial I made for Lightbot: