These two things aren't in any way related, but as Harry Potter grew more popular during my teenage years I started noticing fewer and fewer people really knew how the gadgets they were using actually worked. A heavy focus on ease of use and consumerism over education has led to a world where phones and computers really do feel like magic. In a clever attempt to lean into making programming feel like magic as well, Team Kano has reached into the Wizard World and pulled back a special wand. With this wand, and the accompanying Kano software on your iPad or computer, you can learn the building blocks for programming that everyone really could benefit from having.
Also, you get a cool wand. Can't really go wrong there.
- Solid wand design
- Software is fun and simple
- Wand comes with more batteries than it needs
- Wand tends to drift a little
- "Spell" gestures aren't what you remember from the films
Kano Harry Potter Coding Kit What I like
Like the full PC kits before it, this Kano Kit starts with a little hardware assembly. The owner of this wand fully understands the way the single chip in the handle powers the experience, and what it takes to power the whole experience. The whole tip of the wand doesn't do much, aside from looking nice. The wand itself is all black, with some simple wood grain-ish designs in the handle and not much else. It's a little plain compared to an actual wand from the world of Harry Potter, but not modeling the design after a specific wand helps make it something everyone can use without feeling a particular character ownership.
As cool as it is to finish a project yourself, putting the wand in someone else's hand to show them what you've accomplished is a great experience.
The Kano app for iOS does a fantastic job walking the user through the basics of setting up and explaining how everything works. You point the wand at the screen, press the button down, and "draw" a gesture on the screen. As long as the wand is calibrated correctly, you'll see the wand gesture appear on the display as though you had touched the display with a stylus. The wand gestures are broken up into all of the most famous spells from Harry Potter. There's a pattern for levitation, light, and nearly a dozen others. These patterns are taught through the app, but the box also includes a huge poster which breaks down the gestures for a nice group visual reminder.
Wielding the wand is the fun part, but not the most important part. The ultimate goal for this kit is to lay the foundation for programming, and that happens through dozens of skill challenges. The game aspect of the app offers lessons on how to use your wand, but each of these challenges includes a programming element. You have to tell the app what items you want to draw on the screen, what wand gesture you want to be a successful attempt to cast a spell, and what you want the spell to actually do. If you want to make a feather flat as you move your wand, you can create that program. If you want to make a bowl of Bertie Botts Every Flavored Beans to turn in to Chocolate Frogs, you can write that program.
As you complete challenges on the map, the tasks increase significantly in difficulty. But at every point, the Kano software does an amazing job making the person doing the programming feel accomplished. Best of all, every project you finish can be saved and quickly recalled to show friends and family. As cool as it is to finish a project yourself, putting the wand in someone else's hand to show them what you've accomplished is a great experience.
Kano Harry Potter Coding Kit What I don't like
This entire experience only feels like magic as long as everything behaves as it is intended, and unfortunately, that doesn't happen a ton. The marker on the screen for what is supposed to be the front of the wand drifts quite a bit when the wand is not in use, forcing you to recalibrate against the display every couple of tasks.
Recalibrating is super easy, but the frequency with which this happens is a little too high for younger users to really appreciate what is happening. I probably wouldn't leave someone under age 8 to use this unless you were right there to help with recalibration.
If you're a Harry Potter fan who wants a look into a different kind of magic, this is an amazing place to start.
Everything about this experience, from the moment you open the box to the moment you complete the first exercise, screams THIS IS JUST LIKE BEING IN HARRY POTTER to the user. Which is great, and in many cases works well. But I put three teenage super fans in front of this experience and after about 30 minutes they all had the same complaint about the wand. Nearly every gesture associated with a spell is wrong. The wand gesture one would have used in the movies to cast a spell is not the same as the one you are asked to perform to complete the same spell in this experience. Not a huge deal to casual fans, but the kind of thing people who obsess over Harry Potter enough to want a wand to teach them programming will expect. When asked, the Kano Team explained the decision pretty clearly:
During our product development cycle, we've been working directly with The Blair Partnership and Warner Bros. Consumer Products and all the spell motions are what they have set on as canon. They have recently updated all spell motions for the Wizarding World, making some of them different from the ones you see on the movies and on the wikis, hence the difference between the ones you might remember and the ones you see in the app now.
Once my test subjects got over the minor distraction, however, they all had the same thing to say about this experience. It's a lot of fun, while also being decently challenging, and Kano did a great job delivering on that experience.
Kano Harry Potter Coding Kit: Should you buy it?
As a parent of three kids with varying levels of love for the Harry Potter franchise, I love what Team Kano is doing with this wand. There are a lot of apps and games which promise to "teach coding to kids" and they all mostly have the same staying power problem. Getting a kid to enjoy those experiences for extended periods of time is difficult. Sometimes it's because the difficulty ramps up too quickly, or because there's not a lot of variety in the exercises being offered. This isolated programming experience is fantastic, in my opinion. It keeps the user focused and entertained, offers a massive variety of challenges, and gives the people using the wand something to show friends and family in a way they can hold and pass on.
If you want that experience for your kids, or if you're an adult Harry Potter fan who wants a look into a different kind of magic, this is an amazing place to start.
If this is your first Team Kano experience, you should really take a deeper look into their other products. This is an experience Team Kano excels at delivering, and if you like this you're going to love some of the other products they offer.
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