Primary Computing Provision

Good or Better Primary Computing?

 

Observation

Computing Observation

Inspired by the great set of questions produced by Miles Berry – for school experience tutors to ask when observing trainee teachers in Computing – I’ve produced my own set for schools to reflect on regarding their computing provision which, hopefully, can be used to inform future plans.

The questions cover most of David Brown’s (former HMI lead for Computing) thoughts for inspecting computing – with a few tweaks!

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iCompute and Pupils with Lakeland Radio

Computing in Primary Schools

This week Lindale CE Primary School were school of the week on Lakeland Radio.  Last Friday our author, Liane O’Kane, who teaches computing at Lindale (a Lead School on the Network of Excellence for Computer Science) met with Breakfast presenter Yakkers and featured on their Back to School with Yakkers segment.

The children and Liane spoke with Yakkers about Computing at Lindale Primary.  Lindale teach primary computing using iCompute for Primary Schools from EYFS to Year 6 and it was lovely hearing about how much the children have been learning and enjoying their lessons.

Summer Computing with Scratch

Coding an Ice-Cream Stand Simulation/Game

 

The Summer term is drawing to a close, the weather is warm and you’ll no doubt have lots of activities planned to take advantage of/celebrate the weather in your classes.  Let’s not forget about Computing though.  Take your pupils outside if you have laptops or mobile devices and use Scratch 2.0 with your Key Stage 2 children (pupils aged 7-11) and our free lesson for summer themed primary computing with supporting resources.

It’s a great end-of term opportunity for your pupils to showcase what they have learned all year in their programming lessons.

free lesson plan for computing

Click to download iCompute’s free summer computing lesson plan

I’ve written another step-by-step lesson plan and some teacher/pupil computing resources that I’m using and have added to iCompute to celebrate Summer.  Feel free to download and use in your own classroom.

Summer time and the weather is sweet.  Makes you want to make a nice cool treat…  Challenge your pupils to create algorithms and program an ice-cream simulation/game.

Free lesson: ice-cream simulation activity

Free ice-cream stand simulation programming activity

Ice-cream simulation pupil support card

Pupil Support Card

As usual, lots of opportunities for differentiation.  For instance, less able pupils could use pupil support cards (see Ice Cream stand card which is included in the pack) and/or concentrate on programming random customers and ice-cream combinations to appear.

Your more able pupils could:

  • program timers, scores and lives (e.g. customers leave ‘hide’ if their order isn’t made within time limits)
  • add a series of levels that become increasingly more challenging
  • generate random prices within a range
  • program your customers to pay
  • calculate and give change

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!

Check out my other free seasonal primary computing lesson plans and resources elsewhere on this blog.

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Coding Drones

Aiming High in Computing

Drone Lesson Plans

Aim High in Primary Computing

Using drones in schools has the potential to take learning, literally, to a higher level.  As they continue to become increasingly practical, attainable, tools for education, teachers around the world are now using drones in their classrooms for STEM and STEAM activities.

In computing, programming drones helps develop children’s skills in algorithms, programming and computational thinking as well as addressing the ‘controlling physical systems’ objectives of the National Curriculum for Computing at Key Stage 2.  Exciting curricula and drone lesson plans are being developed that help teachers develop confidence and make the most out of connected devices.

Drones are revolutionising business and industry:  engineers use the technology for site surveys, filmmakers capture images that would otherwise be unseen, drones are used in agriculture; farming; conservation; military operations and parcel deliveries.  The potential for the application of drones and the rapid growth in the technology is huge.  Understanding how they work, their potential and how to control them through coding prepares children for the modern working world.

iCompute lead the way in teaching and learning using educational technology.  In anticipation of 3D robotics becoming the next big thing in education, we have extended our connected devices offering of comprehensive, step-by-step lesson plans, computing resources and assessment toolkits using Sphero and LEGO™ WeDo by adding an amazing, creative, 6-8 week coding with drones unit aimed at upper KS2 Computing (pupils aged 9-11 or higher).

Children learn how to program parrot drones to fly, create aerial shapes, navigate obstacles, fire ‘missiles’, pick up and drop objects all set in imaginative contexts.  They program Santa’s ‘sleigh’  to deliver presents before going on an epic journey to a Galaxy Far, Far Away to take out the Death Star for the Rebel Alliance!

Drone Lesson Plans

The Force is Strong with This One…Visit our website to unleash your power!

 

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Teach Computing: Learn Computing

Your Pupils need YOU not just a Tutorial!


teaching computing not tutorialsComputing has been statutory for pupils from the age of five since 2014 and many schools have risen to the challenge and are teaching some excellent computing.  We’ve seen the emergence of some amazing pedagogies, tools and technologies.  Many companies, myself included with iCompute, have produced a plethora of resources to help schools teach computing creatively and well.  There are dozens of great software and apps that support teaching and learning – see my Periodic Table of Computing Resources for an idea of what’s out there.

I advocate the use of some coding apps; however I’m becoming increasingly concerned as I’ve noticed a worrying trend in primary schools for ‘teaching’ computing primarily through the use of software and services that are tutorial driven. I’m talking about the kind of app, software or service where children work independently through challenges or levels with on-screen prompts.  I spoke to one teacher recently who went from Scratch Jr (aimed at KS1) straight on to Swift Playgrounds (aimed at Year 7, but my able UKS2’s use it) without anything between because they were the only apps she could find that didn’t need her input!  Aside from the fact that there are apps that could fill that gap, it doesn’t mean they should.

There is, of course, a place for these kinds of activities in computing lessons – I produce some myself – but I fear that many teachers are adopting this as their only teaching approach and that’s bad.  Why?  Because they focus on one aspect of the curriculum only and teachers are using it due to a lack of confidence and subject knowledge, not because they’re enabling true self-directed learning.

In Roger Hiemstra’s (Bull, 2013) essay about self-directed learning, he proposes six roles for the teacher attempting to adopt self-directed learning approaches:

  • content resource
  • resource locator
  • interest stimulator
  • positive attitude generator
  • creativity and critical thinking stimulator
  • evaluation stimulator

Using mainly tutorial driven tools for computing lessons means the role of the teacher is often reduced to little more than a resource locator. A teacher’s pedagogical subject knowledge is about having a range of teaching approaches and strategies that enable them to transfer specific subject knowledge to their pupils, which includes knowledge of how to make that understandable.  In other words, they still need subject knowledge.  Often I’ve heard members of grass-roots organisations, who aim to encourage and support schools in computing, suggest to inexperienced teachers that it’s absolutely fine to ‘let the children get on with it’.  It’s not.  As with any subject we are paid to teach, we teachers need to acquire subject knowledge and, especially in the case of computing, keep it up to date.  Then teach it, properly, using a range of approaches and strategies.

Teacher apathy and lack of confidence is a problem in primary computing that we need to start seriously addressing.  It’s not okay to opt out or only cover aspects of it.  As I’ve said before, opting out of teaching computing is like not bothering much with Maths because you find it hard.  Just because some teachers do not find embracing technology an important part of their everyday lives and/or find it challenging does not mean that it can be ignored.  It’s vital for the children they are legally obliged to educate.

Of course I fully understand that many primary teachers feel as if they have been dropped in it, with little in the way of training on offer.  I run regular CPD in my voluntary role as a Primary Computer Science Master Teacher.  Time and time again, I’m training the same passionate, enthusiastic, teachers who are (crucially) released by their schools to attend sessions.  I specifically developed iCompute for inexperienced teachers – to teach the teacher as well as pupils – well in advance of the introduction of the National Curriculum in 2014, as I anticipated that this was going to be a huge leap for most and I’m passionate about my subject being taught with enthusiasm, creatively and well.

We need a shift in attitudes about teaching primary computing.  It is fundamental to the lives of our children and we owe it to them to prepare them to understand and be able to fully participate in the modern digital world.  Instead of searching for apps or subscribing to services that provide tutorial based lessons, we need to encourage teachers to focus on improving their subject knowledge and push for training.  Only then will they have the ability to know whether those apps and services offer any value in terms of learning and progression.  They will be opting in, not out.

Bibliography:

Charlotte Dignath-van Ewijk and Greetje van der Werf, “What Teachers Think about Self-Regulated Learning: Investigating Teacher Beliefs and Teacher Behavior of Enhancing Students’ Self-Regulation,” Education Research International, vol. 2012, Article ID 741713, 10 pages, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/741713

Bull, Bernard, “What Is The Role Of A Teacher In A Self-Directed Learning Environment? – Etale – Ideas That Matter”. Etale – Ideas that Matter. N.p., 2017. Web. 4 Apr. 2017.

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Easter Computing Activity

For Key Stage 1

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.

Easter Computing Lesson

BunnyBot

Easter computing lesson plan

Click to download lesson & resources

The lesson plan contains lots of ideas for differentiation, extension and enrichment

  • predicting algorithms
  • identifying and using repetition in programs
  • programming against the clock
  • comparing and improving algorithms and programs
  • designing own game

Check out my other Easter computing resources for Key Stage 2 pupils.

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Easter Computing – Programming an Egg Hunt

Program the Easter Bunny with Scratch

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.

Easter Egg Hunt

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.

Easter Scratch Program

Easter Egg Hunt Support Card

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.

Check out my free Key Stage 1 activity: programming the Easter Bunny to collect Eggs – a twist on the BeeBot app.

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Computing with LEGO™ WeDo – Classroom Tips

Physical Programming

I recently published two new 4-6 week physical programming units to iCompute’s Key Stage 2 scheme of work; which I blogged about in my post Teach Programming with LEGO™ WeDo

I admit to a rising sense of panic as I approached my first session: young children, small LEGO parts, computers and stuff that moves!  However, we’ve been having a great time and thought I’d share some of the practises I’ve found necessary to manage these very active learning lessons.

First of all, get organised before each session.  I’ve found it’s much better to work on the floor to prevent bouncing bricks, so book out the school hall if you can or clear your classroom of desks.  I’ve assigned each pair of pupils a LEGO WeDo Construction kit and a labelled basket for their models.  I also arranged space in the classroom for a ‘robot parking lot’.  Whenever I need everyone’s attention, or if we’ll be working on the same model a few weeks in a row, we park the robots in their baskets on top of the construction kit boxes.  This helps keep the kits organised so that, combined, the model and the kit = a full construction kit.

You need to be really firm about pupil movement around the space you’re using with LEGO parts!  I use hula-hoops placed around the hall with big gaps between them.  I explain the necessity of keeping the models and construction kits within hoops to that we don’t lose the parts.  The children have been great, understanding the clear rules and why we have them.

pupils-with-lego

Organisation is key!

In order to work on the floor, you’ll need either laptops or tablets.  If you don’t have either, the children can transport their models in their baskets (always with their kits) to the desktops; but make sure they have plenty of space between them to program and operate the models.

I used the amazing LEGO Digital Designer to put together building instructions as a basis for each of the models the children would be making and programming.  Don’t worry, you won’t have to if you are an iCompute school because I’ve done all that for you.  Simply print and hand out to the children.  If you fancy having a go yourself, you can virtually construct a model of your choosing and then opt to create the build instructions which your can display in a web browser or print.  Love it!

LEGO Build Instructions

Build Instructions for LEGO WeDo

Whilst build instructions can be vital for some pupils, there are still plenty of opportunities for creativity  for others and I allow those the freedom to design, create and program their own models with only a rough guide.

I’ve been really impressed with how well the children have responded to physical programming and how smoothly the lessons have gone.  I hope some of you find my tips useful and please let me know how your lessons go.

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Teach Programming LEGO™ WeDo with iCompute

Build and Code with LEGO™ WeDo

LEGO™ WeDo This week sees the launch of iCompute’s new six week programming unit  for Year 3 and 4-5 week unit for Year 4 which uses LEGO™ WeDo to teach children how to program robots and models in primary computing lessons.

This helps schools address the controlling physical systems objective of the National Curriculum for Computing at Key Stage 2.

What is LEGO WeDo?

Lego WeDo is a fantastic opportunity for children to bring the physical world to life through code.  They build models using the bricks they know and love and then program them interact with the world around them!

Using robotics promotes interest in science and engineering, as well as computer science and helps develop motor skills through model building.  Mechanisms, built by and ultimately designed by, the pupils themselves set computer programming in a meaningful context.  Children learn more quickly when a model executes a program, physically, right before them.

The robotics elements of LEGO WeDo include motors and sensors.  Our new units do not require the full educational LEGO WeDo sets to be bought.  Schools that already have plenty of bricks and parts can simply buy the robotics parts that will enable models to move, sense and interact with the physical world.

Robotic Parts

LEGO WeDo has two versions 1.0 and 2.0.  Our units provide support for both and the principle robotic parts remain the same at their core (albeit with enhanced features for 2.0).

  • The Hub: The WeDo hub connects models to your device. You can connect up to two sensors (motor, distance sensor, or tilt sensor)
  • The Motor: When connected to the hub, the motor can be programmed to turn on/off.  It can also be programmed to adjust power, direction and duration
  • The Distance Sensor: The distance sensor can detect how far away an item is in front of it
  • The Tilt Sensor: The tilt sensor detects how far it’s tilted from left to right.

You can also connect and program LEGO Power Function lights which do not come with WeDo packs as standard but can be bought on their own and connected to the hub too.

As already mentioned, you can buy the robotic parts separately if you have plenty of LEGO bricks; however it is still possible to pick up education sets of WeDo 1.0 at a fraction of the price of WeDo 2.0.  Search online for LEGO™ Education WeDo Construction Set 9580 (make sure it’s the construction set you are buying).  I managed to buy 6 sets of WeDo 1.0 at £70 each compared to £150 each for LEGO™ Education WeDo 2.0 Core Set 45300.

Programming LEGO™ WeDo

iCompute uses MIT’s Scratch to program models.  LEGO WeDo does have it’s own software that comes as part of the kit, but I don’t feel it offers the same opportunities for enhancing physical programming through storytelling so have chosen to use Scratch instead.

There are two versions of Scratch: 1.4 and 2.0.  Scratch 1.4 is an offline editor that you download and use without the need for web access.  Scratch 2.0 is available as both an online and offline version.  Regular readers will know that I prefer 1.4 for primary aged pupils as the interface is cleaner and the debugging options are better.  Scratch 2.0 however does allow models to be connected to tablets, as well as computers.  You can use both versions of WeDo with Scratch 2.0, however you need to install a device manager and extension in Scratch 2.0 for them to work.

The teacher guides contained within the unit provide comprehensive guidance on the options and their respective setups.

Using Scratch and LEGO WeDo enables pupils to create some amazing models and stories to accompany them.

What Pupils Can Do with LEGO™ WeDo and iCompute

  • Programming, using software , designing and creating working models
  • Using the software to acquire information
  • Using feedback to adjust a programming system output
  • Working with simple machines, gears, levers, pulleys, transmission of motion
  • Measuring time and distance, adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, estimating, randomness, using variables
  • Doing narrative and journalistic writing, storytelling, explaining, interviewing, interpreting
  • Design: Use STEM principles to explore Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics and design models
  • Build: Improve motor function, communicate and collaborate with others in building working models and robots
  • Program: Create animated stories, and program models to interact with the story & physical world
  • Digital Literacy: Create factual and imaginative animations and narratives that explain, interpret and tell stories
  • Test : Use physical output as feedback to to detect errors easily
  • Debug: Correct errors found when models don’t behave as expected
  • Evaluate: Critically analyse work and that of others and discuss what is good, or not so good, about them
  • Improve: Revisit models and code then cycle through this process from ‘Design’ onward to make things better

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