27 Oct

Why we are teaching our pupils to code…

This question is asked with increasing frequency as more and more schools begin to get to grips with the new curriculum. The emphasis on understanding algorithms, creating and then debugging these creations, has opened up a whole new conversation about why we are asking all children to understand these concepts.

 

What is coding?

Communciation. Through an app, a programme and with a variety of devices.

This debate will rumble on – the catch all term ‘coding’ has definitely ruffled a few feathers – from a secondary (and therefore arguably more specialised) computer science perspective as well as those who work in the industry. However in it’s simplest form ‘coding’ lets you create a story using a language your device, programme and computer will understand. It’s about communicating ideas and manipulating language to create.

Why are we teaching our pupils to code?

There is a recognition that children will need to understand more fully the digital devices that they are growing up with. They will need to recognise that it is not some sort of ‘magic’ but a programmable device that people manipulate to get what they want.

However, when our pupils will leave school they will not be using the devices that we give them in primary school. The chances are they will never have to manipulate a dinosaur across a field using only directions, or come against a visual language such as Scratch – it is not about a specific language or a specific programme. It is about logic, about creativity and about problem solving. There is a place for some languages to be used so they can be recognised e.g. Java or Python, however the aim is for children to be resilient about searching for the answer and finding a way to manipulate the programme put in front of them.

 

Computer Science or Digital Literacy?

Digital literacy skills are still fundamental – these include the ability to find information; sift, sort and select what is useful; be safe online and to understand how the internet works.

They also include using and manipulating digital technology to create and store information e.g. Presentations, spreadsheets and cloud computing. These skills would be more about the old ‘ICT’ curriculum and, barring the odd area such as online safety, will be done through other areas of the curriculum. The key here is choice – can pupils choose what programmes to use? Can they choose how best to find information? Are they making good choices when communicating online?

Schools can do this because we can give our pupils a safe email address, we can give them cloud saving and give them responsibility over their work. We can show them how nothing is ever really deleted, so that silly comment you wrote from home can be shared with your teacher and parents. It’s probably the only chance they will get to make these mistakes and it be safe.

And the future?

The aims must be simple:

  • confident children who understand logic and approach problem solving in a logical fashion.
  • It must not be about specific devices, or specific programmes.
  • Schools need to take lead and give pupils choice, independence and the chance to make mistakes with a safe digital environment.

Further reading:

Made With Code

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/10584617/Computing-curriculum-Digital-skills-versus-computer-science.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/10468460/Coding-for-kids-schoolchildren-learn-computer-programming.html

http://code.org

30 May

Hakitzu – stretch your pupils with JavaScript

Looking for inventive ways of stretching your pupils to develop their coding skills?

Hakitzu is a great game from Kuato Studios  which puts you in control of robots during combat.  The studio have been running a brilliant 100 Hours of Code programme  – visiting schools and using their game to show pupils and teachers how fun coding can be. And it is fun!!

The game introduces JavaScript , which may be more advanced than Primary children would normally go, so teachers can develop their own confidence at the same time. In the classroom the pupils enjoy the developing sense of competition and can get involved really quickly as it follows different levels of difficulty. You begin with a tutorial which allows movement easily with little coding – as the difficulty ramps up you need to use more code.

As with any app in the classroom there are some practical constraints (though this may change as the app updates)

  • an email and username is needed for the competitive element of the game – if the children have one they wish to use then great – or you can provide with names and made-up email (do try this first though in case that changes!)
  • The tutorial and initial sections of the app are easily accessible – and you could easily let them play with this first and then bring them back to see what they are finding difficult
  • to play the competitive elements the wifi in the class needs to be good…

images

Get it on ios here

On Android here

A great dropbox for Hakitzu resources here – lots of ideas here!

Read more from their blog here

08 Jun

Creating Games

This half term we are giving a trial run to some of the game creation apps that are beginning to hit the market. We designed a 4/5 week plan, looking for opportunities for the children to collaborate, experiment and develop their confidence when coding.

I chose a few programs that the teachers and pupils were already familiar with. There are also some great ideas in the Digital Leader Network site.

Thanks to an excellent Code Club, some of the pupils were already familiar with the programme Scratch (and indeed more and more teachers are becoming familiar with this). However in order to ensure that something could be created from all pupils we are also using 2Simple’s 2DIY and a really great app called SketchNation. Other programmes, such as Hopscotch and Game Salad are available, and we’re currently trying them out! My advice – have a play with these programmes first, but importantly learn with the children! Many have great tutorials, and examples you can play with.

The aims of this unit?

An engaging unit which will pull in work from many other subjects to create a genuine project based learning.

The literacy work is easily tied in, character creation, story telling, language of evaluation and opinion are all developed. In fact an excellent unit was planned for comic book creation anyway, so choosing a segment of the story and developing characters is all tied in!

Sketch Nation has a great in app designer for simple characters, or sprites!

Sketch Nation has a great in app designer for simple characters, or sprites!

Art and design also planned in easily, you could mimic an art style if you wished, or develop and play with whatever the chldren are interested in. Creating characters on the computer can be explored, and to facilitate this using squared paper to create would help.

Maths can also be used – a really interesting lesson is exploring how scoring works within games, both on their designs and finished games. For example, what does a ‘multiplier’ do? How can they tweak the scoring system in an already finished game within Scratch? Does it affect your enjoyment of the game?

A rough outline of the weekly overview is as follows: ( tap on the image for a larger view)

Overview of the Weeks

Week 1 – which involved looking at what a ‘game’ is was very interesting! The children tried various games then collated a table of key descriptions, thoughts and ideas as well as a rating system. They did this groups and we developed some interesting ideas!

What makes a good game? Ideas to get discussion started!

What makes a good game? Ideas to get discussion started!

I would love to hear any thoughts! And I’ll keep you informed as to how it’s going!