Liane is a Computer Scientist (BSc (Hons)), Software Engineer & author of iCompute for Primary Schools which supports schools with schemes of work for teaching computing in the EYFS, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2.
ERA Awards Finalist 2016-2019, BETT Awards 2014-2018. Featured on BBC Bitesize for Primary Computing and The Hour of Code (code.org)
The new Ofsted Inspection Framework  comes 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.
Mastery in computing means acquiring a deep, long-term, secure and adaptable understanding of the subject. It is demonstrated by how skillfully a child can apply their learning in computing to new situations in unfamiliar contexts.
A positive teacher mindset and strong subject knowledge are key to student success in computing. iCompute aims to enhance students’ enjoyment, resilience, understanding and attainment in computing by empowering and equipping schools to deliver a world-class computing education with comprehensive computing schemes of work that are designed for computing mastery.
Our Principles for Mastery
Every child can enjoy and succeed in computing when offered appropriate learning opportunities. iCompute uses growth mindset and problem-solving approaches that enable pupils to develop resilience, persistence and confidence. All children are encouraged to believe in their ability to master computing and are empowered to succeed through curiosity, tinkering and perseverance.
Pupils are taught through whole-class interactive teaching with pupils working together on the same lesson content at the same time. Concepts are developed in logical steps with particular attention given to fundamental concepts. This ensures that all children can master concepts before moving to the next stage, with no pupil left behind.
Pupils are given the time and opportunity to fully understand, explore and apply skills and ideas in different ways, in different situations and in different subjects. This enables pupils to fully grasp a concept and understand the relevance of their learning.
Developing computational thinking lies at the heart of the National Curriculum for Computing and involves learning how people solve problems; changing what looks like a difficult task into a simple one that we know how to deal with.
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?
Computational thinking is developed by embedding these skills into all of our lessons, through teacher modelling and with targeted questioning.
The judicious use of activities away from devices and computers (unplugged) are crucial to young children’s learning in computing. Our unplugged activities are physical in nature and provide kinaesthetic experiences which help pupils understand abstract concepts and deepen learning. Having activities away from computers is effective as children know that computers are a tool in their learning, rather than the subject itself. Stepping away from computers enables them to think about concepts and teachers can convey fundamentals that are independent of particular software or technology.
What children learn in the unplugged context must be applied to another (plugged: using technology) which supports our other principles of mastery: success and depth.
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.
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.
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 developed a new step-by-step lesson plan that uses Bitsbox and I’m using the PRIMM approach for teaching programming in this one.
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.
Feel free to download this lesson and try PRIMM in your own classroom.
Use the PRIMM programming approach to develop a program from an ice cream dodging game into a variation of Hungry Hippos.
Challenge your pupils to design algorithms and program the game using a text-based programming language, variables and functions.
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 of flying ice creams
make the game multi-play 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.
Many teachers are tasked with planning computing schemes of work for their schools.
Having produced many for iCompute, I know how huge and time consuming the task is. Here I share my tips about how to plan a computing scheme of work which ensures your school has a broad, balanced, rich and progressive scheme of work that will engage and challenge pupils of all abilities.
Use free software and tools – you don’t need to buy a thing in order to meet the objectives of the computing curriculum
Practice – helps you understand the knowledge, skills and understanding the software and tools help develop
Look for progression – you will start to see that particular tools are suitable for specific age groups
Look for full coverage – Computing is not just about coding
Understand how to assess computing – know where your pupils are and where they need to go next
Adapt – make it fit your school, staff and needs of your pupils
Easter is just around the corner and I’ve been busy creating more themed computing activities so that your pupils can demonstrate their computational thinking and coding skills.
Click to get the plan and resources
I’ve prepared step-by-step lesson plans and some teacher/pupil computing resources that I’m using and have added to iCompute to celebrate Easter and/or Spring.
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.
I’ve also created an Easter Egg Hiding Robotics activity using Sphero SPRK+ and Sphero Edu. The Easter Bunny (Sphero) needs your help programming it to hide a collection of Easter Eggs (hollow plastic balls or eggs filled with treats). Lots of cross curricular links here with Science and Mathematics so get rolling.
Help your pupils get flipping fabulous 🥞 at problem solving using key computational thinking skills such as abstraction, decomposition, generalisation and pattern spotting with this free Pancake Day problem.
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 practise the skills they learn in their computing lessons.
Grab yourself a treat 🍬 with this free Shrove Tuesday resource. Visit www.icompute-uk.com for more free themed lesson plans and resources to support teaching primary computing.
Education Resources Award Nomination for iCompute!
We are thrilled to announce that the ERA Awards 2019 panel have shortlisted iCompute for a coveted educational resources award.
ERA Awards 2019
The Education Resources Awards (ERA) are firmly established as a premier annual event to celebrate outstanding success for the suppliers and teaching professionals of the education sector throughout the UK. The ERA’s aim to encourage the raising of educational services & product standards throughout the industry and is recognised throughout the sector as the Accolade of excellence.
The panel of judges selected iCompute for the shortlist according to rigorous criteria, taking into consideration the innovative nature of the products, their impact on teaching and learning in the classroom, and their cost effectiveness in terms of educational aims and results.
It is a huge honour to be amongst the other shortlisted organisations, schools and companies and we thank all of the teachers and schools who supported our nomination by providing amazing testimonials about how iCompute have improved teaching and learning in computing.
Liane O’Kane, Managing Director of iCompute, comments:
“Being shortlisted as a finalist for an ERA Award is a fantastic achievement and a reflection of the dedication and hard work we put in to helping schools teach primary computing creatively and well. We constantly add to and update our product range to bring innovative new computing resources and teaching materials that support and promote engagement with computer science around the world. We offer many of these free on our website as well as on the Hour of Code.
We never take these things for granted and are very proud that our expertise and innovation in teaching & learning with, and about, technology has been recognised by ERA and BESA once again. Fingers crossed for a win in March!’
iCompute is delighted to announce that we are available on Puffin Academy, allowing pupils and teachers to easily access primary computing resources on tablet and mobile devices for free! Puffin Academy…
Puffin Academy Free App
Schools using our primary computing resources can access games and tutorials from our whole-school pack on iPads and tablets, through Puffin Academy, the free Flash mobile browser that provides access to whitelisted online educational resources.
What is Puffin Academy?
Puffin Academy is a ‘Mobile Flash Browser’ for pupils, teachers, and parents and always enforces site filtering by only allowing whitelisted educational websites to be accessed.
Puffin Academy Key Features:
Free to all users
Free app to all users on iPhone and iPad (rated 4+)
Free of charge to all educational content providers
For purely educational web sites only
Educational content providers must apply for approval
Once approved, content is available to all users
Incredible speed and Flash support
500% faster than Safari and Chrome
Supports Flash content & videos on iPhone and iPad
1) Once you have located iCompute on Puffin Academy, tap ‘Install’
iCompute will then install to the dashboard and look like this when opening Puffin Academy
How to add key iCompute activities to your ‘bookmarks’
The following steps are optional. You only need to follow them the first time you access iCompute through the Puffin Academy app. Simply follow these steps to add iCompute as a bookmark on your iPad or tablet.
1) Tap the three vertical dots in the top right corner of the address bar
2) Then tap ‘Add Bookmark’
3) Next give your bookmark a meaningful name and point the URL to:
4) The next time you want to use iCompute on your iPad or Android tablet, open the Puffin Academy app, click on the three dots, then click ‘Bookmarks’. Select the saved bookmark and have some computing fun!
*To have the best experience using iCompute’s primary computing interactive activities we recommend to accessing our website from a desktop or laptop
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.
Click to download editable, printable Scratch 3 blocks
Also available in the same format are Scratch 2.0 blocks and Scratch Jr blocks from this post.
Although she initially trained in computer science, Liane became a teacher in 2011. She became one of the few primary computer science master teachers funded by the Department of Education in 2014 to prepare schools for the introduction of the National Curriculum for Computing.
Liane also saw the opportunity to develop a business to help teachers fulfil the curriculum.
She used her lesson plans as a base to create schemes of work which schools could buy in and use to teach students from nursery through to Year Six.
iCompute now produces schemes of work which are used by thousands of schools in the UK, as well as overseas.
Most recently the Ministry of Education on the Cayman Islands, in the Caribbean, has taken on the resources produced by iCompute. Liane expects to travel to the islands to assist with the rollout in its schools later this year.
“I have had the benefit of studying computing at GCSE and then degree level and then working in industry,” said Liane.
“It’s about understanding what the National Curriculum is and what the objectives need be in each key stage. It’s about making it fun for the pupils and easy to teach for the teachers.”
She said the schemes of work included practical, active ways of teaching youngsters the concepts behind computing – for example, pretending to be the ‘spiders’ and ‘crawlers’ in a search engine – rather than hours sat in front of a screen.
The resources are entirely digital, which means Liane can make constant updates to keep step with changing technology.
“It is constantly evolving and I think that’s unique,” said Liane.
Click to go to The Mail website or read the full article below
From Cumbria to the Cayman Islands
A TEACHER’S acclaimed curriculum for teaching computing to pupils is due to be rolled out to all government schools in the British Overseas Territory of The Cayman Islands.
iCompute for Primary Schools was created by Liane O’Kane to prepare teachers for the introduction of the National Curriculum for Computing in 2014.
It is now used in thousands of schools around the world and has been bought by the Ministry of Education in The Cayman Islands for all of its schools.
Liane, who is originally from Barrow and teaches at Lindale CE Primary School, is being flown out to train all of their teachers in the forthcoming months.
“Being asked to supply schools and train teachers in the Cayman Islands is an exciting opportunity for iCompute to help others prepare pupils for the modern digital world – learning about and with technology,” she said.
“It always surprises me the reach that we have and where our lesson plans and resources are being used. We have a number of Overseas Territories and Commonwealth countries using iCompute in their schools and plan to offer them a visit whist I’m in the area this year. I can’t wait to show teachers in the Caribbean how rewarding and creative teaching computing can be and how enthusiastically their pupils will respond.”
iCompute provides step-by-step lesson plans all the resources schools need to teach primary computing creatively and well from Nursery to Year 6.
It has been nominated for several prestigious educational technology awards each year since 2014, features on BBC Bitesize for Primary Computing and is used in thousands of schools around the world.
Computer Scientist Liane is one of a few primary computer science master teachers appointed and funded by the Department of Education (DfE) in England 2014 to prepare teachers for the introduction of the National Curriculum for Computing.
Her work has been instrumental in the success of the National Curriculum’s implementation in over 26,000 primary schools.
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.
Get the lesson plan & 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.
Not long to go now for the Hour of Code 2018 (December 3rd – 9th) and we can’t wait to see how many pupils and schools participate around the world.
iCompute are delighted to partner with code.org again this year by providing lots of fun, creative, activities for schools to use as part of this event and throughout the year. We’ve put together, free, Christmas themed lessons and lots more, including coding apps, sending secret messages with Morse Code, animating a snowman and saving Santa! Included are detailed step-by-step lesson plans with built in differentiation and creative ideas for extension and enrichment.
The Hour of Code™ is a global movement and worldwide effort to celebrate computer science. Organised by Computer Science Education Week and Code.org it reaches tens of millions of students in 180+ countries through a one-hour introduction to computer science and computer programming.
In England, children have a statutory entitlement to a computer science education from the age of five. iCompute provides full coverage for the National Curriculum for Computing at Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2.
Each year, iCompute offer free computing lesson plans and computing resources to support the Hour of Code™ and help raise awareness of and engagement in computing science around the world.
We really hope you join us this year for The Hour of Code and introduce your pupils to the joy of creative computing!
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.
Teachers and pupils alike love a themed lesson so I’ve created a new activity for Halloween computing that teaches basic HTML/CSS for pupils aged 9-11.
Each term, 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 have added to iCompute’s primary computing schemes of work. This activity has been adapted from a cross-curricular computing lesson in iCompute Across the Curriculum.
Halloween is approaching and you’re having a party! Using basic HTML and CSS your pupils will create an invitation to their party in the form of a web page. In this activity children learn how HTML formats web content and CSS styles it using age-appropriate syntax and tools.
Includes HTML tutorial
Ideas for differentiation, extension and enrichment are included in the lesson plan. Plus HTML Mozilla Thimble tutorial for teacher and pupil support. Lots of opportunities to be inspired and get creative!
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.
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