Kano's Harry Potter Kit Makes Coding Magic | Tech Review

This Potter-themed kit combines the beloved fictional world with coding in a magical way for students, who can use the wand as more than just a glorified remote.

Accio, Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit! As a Potter devotee, and coding enthusiast, a wand and Harry Potter-themed kit to teach coding seemed too good to be true. My two favorite worlds were colliding.

However as much as I love Harry Potter, I approached the kit ($100) with a healthy dose of skepticism. I teach in a kindergarten through fifth grade media center, and I’ve tried a lot of coding products that seem life-changing on the surface, but don’t end up delivering as promised.

Photo courtesy of Kano

 

When I opened the box, it was packaged as if Mr. Ollivander himself sent the wand from his shop. The wand was split into two parts: the electronics and the plastic outer shell. Both pieces were encased in an elegant black box, veiled with a gauzy black ribbon. I appreciated that students could see the hardware before experiencing the software.

Photo courtesy of Kano

It was also a bonus that there was a pamphlet describing the different sensors on the wand. Most coding products skip this background information. The wand itself was simple to put together and once the free Kano app was downloaded onto my iPad, the app automatically sensed that I was using a wand and started the process of pairing the two. It is iOS and Android, Mac and PC compatible. Unfortunately at this time, the Kano wand software is not compatible with Chromebooks, which are often the device of choice in schools.

Creating a Kano account was easy, and a major plus for using this app in schools is that more than one account can be linked with a single email address. Once I logged on, a map of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter universe loaded with more than 70 challenges marked by stars. From the Quidditch Pitch and Diagon Alley to the Forbidden Forest and Hogwarts, the app stays true to the Harry Potter story.

Photo courtesy of Kano

One fault I typically find with many coding products, is that students end up using it as a glorified remote control without ever actually having to do much coding. That is certainly not a problem with the Kano wand. While completing each challenge students are interacting with block code on the screen before even attempting to pick up the wand. In the early challenges, a yellow beacon guides users step-by-step through the coding.

Increasing difficulty

The challenges increase in complexity and range from sending up sparks with the wand (reminiscent of the scene in the Forbidden Forest at the end of the Sorcerer’s Stone movie) to making a potion change color to making a cauldron jump. Another neat feature is the ability to see the JavaScript behind the block coding. This adds a nice layer for more advanced coders. It starts off simple, using only if-then commands. For example, if I move my wand up, [then] change the color of the potion to purple. As challenges progress, students are introduced to loops and variables. Some of the more advanced challenges even expect students to have an understanding of basic math and physics.

I probably would not use this kit with students younger than third grade, but it could definitely be used with students through middle school, and even beginning coders at the high school level. In my classroom, it would most effective in partners or groups of three. Larger groups of students would have difficulty staying focused, as there are only so many people who can handle the wand and the iPad or computer at one time.

Students will need to experiment with the force necessary to keep the Weasley’s Ford Anglia afloat without it turning upside down. As I explored the challenges, the only fault I found was that depending on how well the wand is centered the wand on the iPad or computer the first time the kit is used with the device, you may have to re-center it to effectively make the more complicated wand motions as the challenges become more advanced.

Students work in groups. Photos: Jennifer Emmolo

I explored the Kano wand with groups of fourth and fifth grade students of varying coding abilities. They all gave rave reviews. As they worked, I often heard shouts of, “We can do real spells!” They were intrigued by the interaction between the wand and the iPad, and many commented on how cool it was that they could manipulate objects on the screen using only the wand. The students also loved the ability to personalize their avatar and pet, and got excited about collecting accessories for their avatars as they completed challenges.

VERDICT: The Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit did not disappoint. It offers coding that works for beginners and offers advanced options for more experienced or older students and stays true to the Harry Potter theme, keeping the kids in the excitement of J.K. Rowling’s world. The kit would fit nicely into a makerspace in a public or school library where students could come in and explore on their own. Since each user could use their own Kano account, one wand can be utilized by countless individuals who could all save their progress. This kit could also be used as part of a coding curriculum, although the current lack of Chromebook compatibility isn’t ideal. Chromebooks are often the device of choice in schools.

At $99.99, the Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit falls into the middle price range of coding products for students. When contemplating the value of this product, it is important to consider that it combines the excitement of quality literature with the adventure of coding. The Harry Potter Kano wand kit is well worth the cost, and I’m eager to bring them to my library on a larger scale.


Jennifer Emmolo is the media specialist, technology integrator, and expeditionary learning program facilitator at Wilson Elementary School in West Caldwell, NJ.

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