I’m writing new units for iCompute’s whole-school primary computing scheme of work. I’ve started with EYFS (children aged 3-5) and decided to make a variation of the popular Pokémon Go game. Using an Augmented Reality app – HP Reveal (formerly Aurasma) – the children engage in a scavenger hunt for aliens hidden around the school.
I had great fun creating the augmented reality lesson plans and colourful alien resources. For teachers, I’ve written a HR Reveal teacher guide. Please feel free to download and use in your own classroom to blend the real world and the virtual world and see images come to life!
Regular readers of this blog will know that I teach primary computing and have recently added a Primary Robotics scheme of work to iCompute. Part of this scheme involves working with Sphero and programming the robotic balls using Sphero Edu. To help avoid repetitive strain injury by double tapping each block to find out what each command does, I’ve produced this handy Sphero Commands Helpsheet. Now updated to include the new look Scratch blocks.
Download to get rolling with Sphero and Sphero Edu.
Since the introduction to National Curriculum for Computing at Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 in England 2014, it has been a child’s statutory entitlement to a computing education from the age of 5. There have been many challenges along the way since 2014 for primary teachers, not least, due to the subject being introduced throughout schools where the vast majority of teachers had never been trained to teach it.
Despite a number initiatives to improve teacher subject knowledge, notably driven by Computing At Schools (CAS) and the Network of Excellence (a grass-roots organisation I represent as a Computer Science Master Teacher) the Computing Education Project Report (The Royal Society, 2017) – exploring the issues facing computing in schools – concludes that computing education across the UK is ‘patchy and fragile’. There is much to address in a system where many teachers do not feel confident teaching the subject and are in need of significant support.
Coding Apps with a Text-based Programming Language
Free Lesson Plan & Resources
It’s a great stepping stone from the blocks-based languages and environments your pupils may have already mastered (Eg. Scratch, App Inventor, Tynker etc) on to text-based languages.
This post follows on from a previous post detailing my experiences of teaching primary computing, coding with Sphero 2.0. Following the successful loan of Sphero 2.0 from Lancaster University as part of my role as a Computing at Schools Primary Computer Science Master Teacher, my school bought a class set of Sphero SPRK+ to support teaching primary computing and use elsewhere across the curriculum.
Sphero SPRK+ is certainly more stable than Sphero 2.0. Because they are equipped with Bluetooth SMART technology they are much easier to connect to devices and, thankfully, don’t require any of pairing and labelling that I needed to do with Sphero 2.0 for classroom management. Here, connections are made between your device and the robot simply by tapping them together. That said, do check your devices are compatible with SPRK+ as they need Bluetooth 4.0 LE to work. I found out only seven of our iPads at school work with my new set. Luckily, we only have six Sphero but it could have been a very costly mistake!
Sphero SPRK+ has lights, sound and voice. I made links to the work we had been doing in cryptography (iCompute, Year 5, iCrypto) studying Morse Code by using Sphero’s strobe blocks to flash lights representing the dits and dahs of letters in secret messages (changing colours between letters to make decoding easier). For the solutions, the children then added speak blocks after each sequence of Morse code, which said verbally what the letters were.
Another great feature of the Sphero Edu app is being able to easily see (and export to other apps) Sphero’s live sensory data. This is brilliant for cross curricular work, particularly maths and science. Sphero is packed with sensors — gyroscope, accelerometer, location, etc… Pupils can see the real time value of sensors within Sphero Edu with visual graphs. If you throw Sphero like a ball, pupils will see the accelerometer data rise and fall. Similarly, when they construct a maze, they can use the data to track location, distance, and speed.
Click to download
Last, but not least, Sphero Edu with Sphero SPRK+ includes a Program Cam feature which allows pupils to take a videos or images of programs while they’re running. Pupils can narrate what they’re created, demonstrate their learning (and ultimately mastery) and share their work with a wider audience.
Pupils naturally love working with Sphero, they think they’re playing. Under the guise of play, they’re actually learning invaluable programming skills alongside learning about everything from physics to art! That’s learning at its best. The SPRK+ edition, combined with the Sphero Edu app, brings so much more to the table to support teaching and learning – particularly in STEM subjects. They’re expensive but with the right blend planning and imaginative resources, using Sphero SPRK+ in your school can extend to all areas of the curriculum.
Ready to roll? The possibilities are exciting!
Our school purchased six Sphero SPRK+ at full price. I have produced lesson plans and resources for iCompute that use Sphero 2.0 and Sphero SPRK+ but am in no way affiliated with Sphero Inc.
Visit iCompute to find out more about primary robotics
Not long until Easter and I’m sure you’ll have lots planned for it in other subjects, but don’t forget about Computing. It’s a great end-of-term opportunity for your pupils to demonstrate what they can do with Scratch programming.
Click to download the plan and resources
I’ve prepared a step-by-step lesson plan and some teacher/pupil computing resources that I’m using and have added to iCompute to celebrate Easter and/or Spring. Feel free to download and use in your own classroom.
It’s Easter and the Easter Bunny has forgotten where she has hidden all of her eggs. Challenge your pupils to create algorithms and program the bunny to get all of her eggs in her basket any way they know.
Pupil Support Card
As usual, lots of opportunities for differentiation. For instance, less able pupils could use pupil support cards (see Egg Hunt card which is included in the pack) and/or write a more simple collecting less eggs. Your more able pupils could:
program the ice-cream truck sprite to move across the x-axis
program the hot-air balloon to fly
add the Easter eggs to a list variable when collected
add ‘enemies’ to thwart the Easter Bunny in her quest
add extra, increasingly difficult, levels (e.g. mazes to navigate)
Ideas for differentiation, extension and enrichment are included in the lesson plan. Lots of opportunities to be inspired and get creative.
Everyone likes putting a seasonal twist on lessons during the approach to Easter and I’ve been making Easter computing lessons for my pupils to add to iCompute‘s computing scheme of work
This time, I’ve put together a step-by-step computing lesson plan and teacher resources for Key Stage 1 pupils. You can download the free Easter computing lesson and resources and use them your own classrooms for a little seasonal fun!
A spin on the Bee Bot app, this uses Scratch 2.0 and ‘BunnyBot’. The children create algorithms and program the Easter Bunny to collect Eggs.
Click to download lesson & resources
The lesson plan contains lots of ideas for differentiation, extension and enrichment
Since man first began writing there has been a desire to send messages in secret: in code. Codes and ciphers are forms of secret communication. A code replaces words with letters, numbers or symbols. A cipher rearranges letters or uses substitutes to disguise the message. This process is called encryption. The art of writing and solving codes and ciphers is called cryptography.
Codes and ciphers have been used throughout time when people wanted to keep messages private. Cryptography has, and is still, used by governments, military, companies, and organisations to protect information and messages.
Today, encryption is used to protect data and data transfer between computers. Documents, data and messages are encrypted to protect confidentiality. Modern encryption methods are very clever but their underlying principles remain that of those ancient methods.
I have written a 6 week unit introducing cryptography for iCompute for Primary Schools computing scheme of work. Here, the children will unleash their inner spy and learn about how data can be transferred in secret over distances. They will learn how codes and ciphers have been used throughout history and explore a number of different ways that data can be encrypted and decrypted.
As part of it, along with step-by-step lesson plans and pupil/teacher support materials, I’ve been putting together resources on the history of cryptography. Download a brief introduction to the Enigma machine and how the magnificent men and women at Bletchley helped shorten World War II with their code breaking skills! Practice secret code writing in your classroom by downloading our Morse Code Worksheet and Morse Code Decoder Wheel and make a cipher disk. Lots of engaging activities to learn about encryption methods past and present and the importance of keeping data private in the modern digital age.
Enrich learning with a cross curricular approach to primary computing
Click to download the poster
Computing is one of the most fundamentally cross curricular subject areas in education. It’s about using technology, logic, creativity and computational thinking to solve problems that cross all disciplines. It requires the systematic breakdown (decomposition) of both the problem and the solution. We need to prepare pupils for how to live in an increasingly digital world by equipping them with the knowledge, understanding and skills to solve as yet unknown problems using tools and technologies that do not yet exist. We can work towards achieving this by using computing as a means of making sense of the world and using what the children learn in computing across the curriculum.
The best primary practice includes a blend of rigorous, discrete, subject teaching and equally effective cross curricular links. Both approaches are needed for effective learning to take place, to enable children to make links between subjects and to set learning in meaningful contexts. Using computing throughout the primary curriculum offers a way to enrich and deepen learning through engaging, interconnected, topics.
I have put together a selection of free resources and links to others to help teachers get started with ideas and inspiration for enriching learning and exploring computing through a rich variety of media and technologies in cross curricular contexts.
Play and code this Valentines day with our free coding activity: a romantic themed Cupid game for pupils aged 7-11 using Scratch.
Throughout the year, I create free themed computing lessons, and I’ve written another step-by-step lesson plan and some teacher/pupil computing resources that I’m using in my computing classes and am adding to iCompute to celebrate Valentines Day.
Love is in the air but Cupid needs a little help aiming his arrow! Challenge your pupils to program Cupid’s bow to respond to user input and aim to catch the heart of a love interest.
Ideas for differentiation, extension and enrichment are included in the lesson plan. Plus program templates and partially-written programs for teacher and pupil support. Lots of opportunities to be inspired and get creative!