Halloween 🎃 Computational Thinking Puzzles

Scarily 👻 Good Free Resources for Primary Computing

Help your pupils get dead ⚰️ good at problem solving using key computational thinking skills such as abstraction, decomposition, generalisation and pattern spotting with our free Halloween themed puzzles.

Computational thinking lies at the heart of the National Curriculum for Computing and our best selling (Educational Resources Awards nominated) series of Computational Thinking Puzzle books 1-4 help pupils independently practice the skills they learn in their computing lessons.

Grab yourself a treat 🍬 with our free puzzles for Halloween.   Visit www.icompute-uk.com for more free themed lesson plans and resources to support teaching primary computing.

How to thrive during an Ofsted Deep Dive for Computing

Ofsted will be “deep diving” into a selection of subjects during their inspections with the “curriculum at the heart of inspection” focusing on curriculum intent, implementation and impact. I’ve previously written an article on this called inspecting computing for computing subject leaders. Now, with the benefit of feedback from schools using iCompute who’ve undergone a deep dive for computing – and widely published Aide Memoir and Inspector subject training guidance provided by Ofsted – I explore what a deep dive for computing looks like with the aim of helping prepare computing leads.

You can download a copy of my comprehensive guide to the Ofsted Framework and Ofsted Deep Dives for Computing at the end of this post. It’s been updated to include dozens of Ofsted Deep Dive questions our schools have been asked and the school friendly questions suggested by Ofsted along with details of how iCompute helps schools answer them.

Ofsted Deep Dive for Computing questions
Comprehensive set of Ofsted Deep Dive for Computing Questions
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Ofsted Review of Computing

Lack of Subject Knowledge & Resources a “main obstacle”

teaching computing

Ofsted has published its latest research review series [1] with the focus on computing. It states that “Digital technology is driving extraordinary global changes that some are calling the Fourth Industrial Revolution” and that “Navigating these changes effectively and safely requires a significant understanding of digital literacy, information technology and computer science”.

Computing has been statutory since 2014 for Key Stages 1-4 [2] and the review seeks to set out factors that contribute to a high-quality computing education.

Whilst computing in the Early Years is not part of the current framework, it is statutory from Year 1 and there is debate about the importance of learning computing early in education and that young children should experience teaching informed by expertise [3]. The inspectorate highlights the importance of teacher’s content and pedagogical knowledge in teaching a high quality computing curriculum. This is a challenge as a Royal Society UK-wide survey identified lack of subject knowledge and CPD as key obstacles faced by teachers in teaching computing [4]. The report also pointed to teachers finding it difficult to identify and select good quality teaching materials and content for computing.

The review identifies a high-quality computing education as one that interweaves the three strands of the curriculum: computer science, information technology and digital literacy; is rich in computer science; uses a variety of IT to create digital content set in meaningful contexts; does not assume children are digitally literate and has eSafety embedded.

At iCompute, we are teachers first and foremost. I was one of the first Primary Computer Science Master Teachers appointed by the organisation responsible for drafting the 2014 computing curriculum and was funded by the DfE to prepare schools in England for teaching computing when it was introduced. Since then, I’ve trained teachers around the world. When the curriculum was first introduced I feared that teachers would struggle to teach a subject they had never been trained for; which is why I created iCompute as I knew lack of teaching resources would be a major barrier to teaching computing confidently and well. Our scheme of work was the first commercial computing curriculum in the UK. It is founded on subject expertise and years of teaching experience. As computing is a dynamic subject, iCompute is constantly adapted and changed according to new technologies, research and pedagogies.

There have been many more schemes of work published since 2014 and the Government has spent millions in supporting computing through the National Centre of Computing Education. I am disappointed but not surprised to find that the review highlights that lack of subject knowledge and the ability to identify high quality computing resources remain factors that affect teachers being able to deliver a high quality computing education.

We need to do more to make sure schools and teachers have (and can access) the support they need because the aim of the National Curriculum to ‘equip pupils to use computational thinking and creativity to understand and change the world’ [2] is being hampered by their teacher’s lack of content, subject and pedagogical knowledge.

Find out how iCompute can help your school demonstrate a quality computing education through the ‘Three I’s’ and during a Deep Dive by reading my posts “Ofsted Inspection Framework for Computing” and “How to Thrive During a Deep Dive of Computing“.

References

[1] Ofsted. (2022) Research Review Series: Computing. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/research-review-series-computing/research-review-series-computing (Accessed: 19/5/2022).

[2] Department for Education (2013) National curriculum in England: framework for key stages 1 to 4. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-curriculum-in-england-framework-for-key-stages-1-to-4 (Accessed: 19/5/2022).

[3] Manches, A. and Plowman, L. (2017) ‘Computing education in children’s early years: a call for debate’, British Journal of Educational Technology, 18(1).

[4] Tait, P. (2017) After the reboot: computing education in UK schools. Available at: https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/computing-education/ (Accessed: 19/5/2022)

Ofsted Inspection Framework: for Computing Subject Leaders

Inspecting Computing

The Ofsted Inspection Framework [3] came into effect in September 2019.  With the emphasis on ‘offering a curriculum that is broad, rich and deep’, here I take a look at its implications for Computing Subject Leaders.

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Editable & Printable Scratch 3.0 Blocks

Scratch 3.0 Classroom Display & Unplugged Activities

iCompute Scratch 3.0

Scratch 3.0 Blocks

Scratch 3.0 is out now and, following on from my previous post where you can download editable printable Scratch 2.0 blocks, I’ve made a Scratch 3 version.

The file includes all Category blocks along with Extensions: Microbit, Makey Makey, Video Sensing, Pen, LEGO WeDo, LEGO EV3, Music, Text to Speech and Translate.

Available to download by clicking/tapping the Periodic Table of Scratch 3 Blocks image (see below).  The blocks can be edited and scaled using image editing tools (e.g. Illustrator, Inkscape, Vectr).  The blocks are also provided in .png format.

It’s important that children be given opportunities to interact with physical programming blocks to help them understand both their function and the underlying concepts.  I use them in groups for the children to program me and/or each other as well as programming using Scratch 3 itself.

Printable Scratch 3.0 Blocks

Click to download editable, printable Scratch 3 blocks

Published by iCompute and licensed under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International.

Also available in the same format are Scratch 2.0 blocks and Scratch Jr blocks from this post.

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Developing Computational Thinking

Preparing The Next Generation of Problem Solvers

Computational Thinking

Computational Thinking

A high quality computing education equips pupils to use computational thinking and creativity to understand and change the World” (DfE)

Computational Thinking lies at the heart of the National Curriculum for Computing.  Here, I look at what Computational Thinking means and how teachers can help pupils develop effective problem solving skills that can be applied in all areas of life.

Computational Thinking is about transforming a seemingly complex problem into a simple one that we know how to solve.  It involves taking a problem and breaking it down into a series of smaller, more manageable parts (decomposition). Each part can then be looked at individually, considering similarities between and within other problems (pattern recognition), and focusing only on the important details whilst ignoring irrelevant information (abstraction). Next, looking for solutions to other problems and adapting them to solve new problems (generalisation).  Then, simple steps or rules to solve each of the smaller problems can be designed (algorithms).  Once we have a working solution, we then use (evaluation) to analyse it and ask – Is it any good ? Can it be improved? How?

Teaching computational thinking is not teaching children how to think like a computer.  Computers cannot think.  Computers are stupid.  Everything computers do, people make happen.  It’s also not teaching children how to compute.  It’s developing the knowledge, skills and understanding of how people solve problems.  As such, it absolutely should not be confined to computing lessons and should be used throughout the curriculum to approach and solve problems and communicate and collaborate with others.

iCompute’s computational thinking puzzles for primary pupils are a ground-breaking new development in primary education. In the digital age, the benefits of computational thinking throughout education are increasingly being highlighted. Our, colourful, engaging and challenging puzzles are designed for children aged 7-11 to independently practise and develop the fundamental computational thinking skills that lie at the heart of the National Curriculum for Computing.  The puzzles help develop skills of decomposition, abstraction, generalisation and designing algorithms. This means children can find solutions and apply those already found to different problems, in different contexts. All of this helps lay the foundations for them to become effective problem solvers.

computational thinking puzzles

iCompute’s Computational Thinking Puzzles

Solving puzzles leads to important outcomes including challenge, a sense of satisfaction, achievement and enjoyment. Puzzles rouse curiosity and hone intuition. Our carefully constructed computational thinking puzzles – designed by a computer scientist, software engineer and computer science master teacher – provide challenge, insight and entertainment all of which increase pupil engagement and promote independent learning.

ERA Nominated

iCompute ERA Nominee

Puzzles help children develop general problem-solving and independent learning skills.  Engaging in puzzles means that pupils:

  • use creative approaches
  • make choices;
  • develop modelling skills;
  • develop persistence and resilience;
  • practice recognition of patterns and similarities, reducing the complexity of problems

 Pupils use, applying and develop the following aspects of the National Curriculum for Computing:
* Logical reasoning
* Decomposition – splitting problems down into smaller problems to make them easier to solve
* Abstraction – taking the detail out of a problem to make it easier to solve
* Generalisation – adapting solutions to other problems to solve new ones
* Pattern recognition – spotting patterns and relationships
* Algorithms – finding the steps that solve a problem
* Evaluation – looking critically at a solution to determine if there’s a better way to solve it
* Testing – checking whether a possible solution works
* Debugging – finding problems with a solution and fixing them

Our puzzles are designed for independent pupil work and provide pupils with handy tips on how to approach the problems and challenges. They also make clear links between the puzzles being approached, the skills being developed and the relevance of both not just in computing but the wider world. This enables pupils to make clear links between subjects and helps pupils make meaning of their learning.

See this post for an example of the puzzles.  You can also download samples and order class packs from our main website.

Download a free Computational Thinking Diary here:

Computational Thinking Diary

Click to download

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Computing Pedagogy

for Computing Mastery

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.

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Christmas Computing Activity

Create an Animated Snowman this Christmas

Christmas Animated Snowman Lesson

Click to download the lesson and resources

Christmas Animated SnowmanEveryone likes putting a festive twist on lessons during the approach to Christmas and I’ve been making festive computing lessons for my pupils.

I’ve recently produced a six week animation unit for Key Stage 2 (iAnimate) where the children learn about the history of animation, make their own flipping book animations, make thaumatropes and/or praxinoscopes, explore different animation techniques and, of course, design and make their own fantastic animations using apps and software.

This Christmas, I’ve put together a step-by-step computing lesson plan and teacher resources for creating an animated snowman GIF.  You can download the lesson and resources and use them your own classrooms for a little festive fun!

Christmas animated GIF

Create an animated GIF

The lesson plan contains lots of ideas for differentiation, extension and enrichment: from making a very simple animated sequence to more able pupils:

  • animating backgrounds as well as characters and objects
  • adding 3D effects (e.g. shadows)
  • creating more frames for smoother movement
  • switching backgrounds to create scene changes
  • animating more than one object

A little festive flavour of what our full six week animation unit offers and another Christmas gift to you!

 

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Christmas Computing 🎄 Get Jolly Good at Coding

 Free Christmas Computing Resources

Here’s at iCompute Headquarters there’s nothing we like more than creating Christmas 🎄 themed resources.  I’ve been having a great time designing and developing new lesson plans, tutorials and programs for this year’s festive season.

My latest offering is an absolute Christmas cracker 🎉!  A coding tutorial for Microsoft Kodu.  Kodu is helping Santa 🎅🏻 deliver presents on Christmas Eve but needs your pupil’s help coding him to deliver the presents 🎁 to the right houses.  I’ve made a Kodu tutorial for your pupils to use that will guide them through the coding process before letting them get on with completing the activity and then having some festive fun by making it their own.

iCompute Christmas Kodu

Get the lesson plan & tutorial

 

iCompute Christmas Kodu Tutorial

Another free Christmas computing resource helps your pupils get jolly 🎅🏻 good at problem solving using key computational thinking skills such as abstraction, decomposition, generalisation and pattern spotting.

Computational thinking lies at the heart of the National Curriculum for Computing and our best selling (ERA and BETT nominated) schemes of work support schools teach it creatively and well.

Grab yourself a gift 🎁 with our free stuff for Christmas.   Visit www.icompute-uk.com for more free Christmas themed lesson plans and resources to support teaching primary computing.

christmas computing

Click to download

 

A Christmas Coding Lesson with PRIMM

Christmas Gift Catch

Christmas Coding Activity

Regular readers will know that I’ve previously created a 6 week coding unit for pupils aged 9-11 using BitsBox.  Bitsbox uses a simplified version of Javascript, and provides tools that enable pupils to develop their own apps.

It’s a great stepping stone from the blocks-based languages and environments your pupils may have already mastered (E.g. Scratch, App Inventor, Tynker etc) on to text-based languages.

PRIMM

I’ve been researching pedagogies to support computing mastery and PRIMM is a programming pedagogy developed by Dr Sue Sentence and the Computing Education team at Kings College London based on the notion that its difficult to become successful at writing code if you cannot read it.

I have created a Christmas themed step-by-step lesson plan that uses Bitsbox and I’m using the PRIMM approach for teaching programming.

PRIMM
Predict | Run | Investigate | Modify | Make

PRIMM stands for Predict | Run | Investigate | Modify | Make.  The approach enables teachers to support pupils by giving them some code that they first understand and then build upon towards making their own.

It’s a great way to structure a lesson and think it’ll make a real difference to those pupils who have difficulty understanding some programming concepts.

Christmas Coding Activity Plan
Click to access the plan & resources

Feel free to download this lesson and try PRIMM in your own classroom.

Use the PRIMM programming approach to develop a program from a Christmas gift catching game into a new game

Challenge your pupils to design algorithms and program the game using a text-based programming language, variables and functions.

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As usual, lots of opportunities for differentiation.  For instance, less able pupils could use pupil support cards (see support resource which is included in the pack) and/or write a more simple version.  Your more able pupils could:

  • change the speed, direction and size falling presents
  • make the game multi-player and multi-level
  • complete the game to a time
  • create Game Over functions
  • create sound tracks and jingles for the app

Ideas for differentiation, extension and enrichment are included in the lesson plan.  Lots of opportunities to be inspired and get creative.

Check out my other coding lesson that uses BitsBox at http://www.icompute-uk.com/news/coding-apps/

Find out more about PRIMM and the research at https://icomp.site/primm

Explore computing pedagogy further aqt: