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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KS1 Computing with Scratch Jr

Learning to Program with Tablets & Scratch Jr

KS1 Computing Support Card

iCompute Pupil Support Card

Introduce your KS1 computing pupils to algorithms and programming in a fun, intuitive way, using Scratch Jr on tablets.  I’ve put together a 6-8 week KS1 computing unit and associated teacher/pupil resources that uses Scratch Jr and am struck by just how quickly my pupils pick up some of the fundamental principles of computer science.

I based the unit around Michael Rosen’s “We Going on a Bear Hunt” to give the children’s coding context and purpose.  Over the weeks the children move progressively from adding sprites and programming some basic movement to programming sprites to go a more complex journey in the form of a hunt – just like in the story.  The concepts covered that I found they grasped really quickly are:

  • Understanding and developing algorithms
  • Programming: sequence, selection and repetition
  • Computational Thinking: logical thinking; abstraction; decomposition; generalisation; recognising patterns & relationships
  • Testing & Debugging

Alongside that, the children learn to work collaboratively, develop digital literacy skills as well as persistence and resilience in problem solving.

KS1 Computing Lesson Plan

Snippet of iCompute Scratch Jr Lesson Plan

You can download our glossary of computing terms for help with any of those concepts.  I’ve also created a periodic table of Scratch Jr blocks which have editable blocks use in unplugged computing activities, and some basic blank Scratch Jr blocks for cutting/sticking activities which help support learning.

There are many creative ways to plan primary computing using Scratch Jr and I’m looking forward to starting another unit for our iPad scheme of work very soon!

Scratch Jr is a free app, with a drag and drop interface for visual programming, developed by MIT and available for tablets on the App Store, Google Play, Chrome Store and Amazon

Get it now and get creative in your KS1 computing classrooms.

 

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Primary Computing Assessment

Computing Assessment Toolkit

Further to my previous post on assessing primary computing I’ve been working on the primary computing assessment toolkit for iCompute.  Along with the end of unit assessment guidance, new-look computing pupil progress trackers have been updated for each year group.  This also now includes the Early Years Foundation Stage and revised P-Scales for computing to reflect the addition of our EYFS Computing pack and to support inclusion, computing and SEN.

Computing Assessment Toolkit Guide

Download a guide

 

I’ve also added a Quick Look Computing Skills Progression Grid to use alongside the other guidance and tools.

Computing Skills Progression

Computing Skills Progression

Existing iCompute schools can access the full toolkit by logging in to our main website at www.icompute-uk.com

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Scratch Jr Blocks – CS Unplugged

Computer Science Unplugged

I’m writing new units for our iPad pack. Starting with KS1 using Scratch Jr, I’ve made these basic blank blocks for pupils to use in cutting and sticking activities for computing unplugged (i.e. without the need for computers).  I’m using this particular resource in my computing lesson plans for a unit set around the story We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen.  The children will plan algorithms using physical grid maps and cut/stick Scratch Jr blocks to give directions on the bear hunt.

They are great to work alongside the Periodic Table of Scratch Jr blocks I posted recently here.

Scratch Jr Blocks

Click to download

 

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Editable & Printable Scratch Jr Blocks

Scratch Jr Blocks for Display & Computing Unplugged

I’ve created editable, scaleable, Scratch Jr blocks for you to download and use in your coding lessons.  Click/tap the Periodic Table of Scratch Jr blocks image (see below).  The blocks can be edited using image editing tools (e.g. Illustrator, Inkscape, Vectr).

It’s important that young children have the opportunity to interact with concrete materials (i.e. printed Scratch 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 before moving on to programming using Scratch Jr itself.

Scratch Jr Blocks

Click/Tap to download

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Editable & Printable Scratch Blocks

Scratch Classroom Display & Unplugged Activities

I’ve created an updated version of all Scratch blocks (Scratch 2.0) to now include the blocks inside the Sensing, Operator, Data and Custom palettes.  Available to download by clicking/tapping the Periodic Table of Scratch blocks image (see below).  The blocks can be edited and scaled using image editing tools (e.g. Illustrator, Inkscape, Vectr).

unplugged-activity

Download and print iCompute’s Scratch Blocks

It’s important that younger 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 before moving on to programming using Scratch itself.

Scratch-Blocks

Click to download editable/printable Scratch Blocks & Periodic Table poster

 

Also available, Scratch Jr blocks from this post.

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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 – Make a Santa Game with Scratch

Saving Santa with Scratch at Christmas

iCompute Xmas Plan

Click to download our free lesson plan and computing resources

Looking for Christmas Computing lessons and activities? Christmas is just around the corner and it’s time to have some fun and challenge pupils to show what they know about coding in Scratch.

I’ve prepared a step-by-step lesson plan and some teacher/pupil computing resources that I’m using in my computing lessons to celebrate all that is Christmas and festive.  Feel free to download and use in your own classroom.

Scratch-Santa-Game

 

It’s Christmas Eve and Santa is off on his travels around the world delivering presents when catastrophe strikes!  He’s fallen out of his Sleigh!  Challenge your pupils to create algorithms and program Santa to get back into his sleigh in any way they know.Pupil Support Card

Lots of opportunities for differentiation here.  For instance, less able pupils could use pupil support cards (see Catch Me Card which is included in the pack) and/or write a simple program where Santa is moved using arrow keys.  Your more able pupils could:

  • program Santa to follow the mouse
  • change the sleigh to make glide randomly across the sky
  • add sound effects when the sleigh is caught
  • program presents to appear/disappear
  • program presents to change effects (e.g. colour or size)
  • program presents to fall, so the player must dodge them
  • program Santa to throw snowballs at randomly appearing presents – Angry Birds style

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

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Computing in the Foundation Stage

Laying Solid Foundations for Primary Computing

EYFS ComputingOur children grow up surrounded by technology. Their everyday interactions and experiences involve it, whether that is inside their homes, at school, out shopping or playing.

Their world is an ever-changing digital world. We owe it to our children to prepare them for living in it.  I believe that it is never too early for children to start learning the fundamental principles of computer science because, as Edsger Dijkstra supposedly famously pointed out “Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes”.

Much of computing as a subject can be learned without using computers at all. Primary aged pupils are perfectly capable of executing algorithms. They do so every day: they use algorithms to solve problems in mathematics, learn letter sounds, spell, use grammar – I could go on and on! Algorithms are designed and can be applied in a myriad of different situations.

Computing is much more than the computer, the device or the tool. It’s about developing computational thinking skills (more on that in this post) so that our children can become effective, analytical, problem solvers. It’s also about equipping them with an understanding about how computers and computer systems work so that, combined, they develop transferrable skills which will enable them to design, develop or even just adapt to new tools and technologies in this ever changing digital age.  More than that, they develop important skills that will help them in their everyday lives, throughout their lives.

The best practice for EYFS is where computing activities:

  • are imaginative and fun
  • challenge
  • involve being creative
  • require collaboration and sharing
  • involve listening, understanding, following and giving instructions
  • encourage describing, explaining and elaborating
  • encourage investigation
  • involve problem solving
  • include lots of ‘unplugged’ activities: computing without computers

By offering your children an imaginative, engaging, introduction to computing you help them form solid stepping stones towards their KS1 computing and beyond.

icompute-schemes

Click to find out more

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Join us for the Hour of Code ™ 2016

The Hour of Code is Coming!

Girl with iPad

The Hour of Code with iCompute

Not long to go now for the Hour of Code (December 5th – 11th) and we can’t wait to see how many pupils and schools participate around the world this year.

iCompute are delighted to be involved by providing a selection of fun, creative, activities for schools to use as part of this event and throughout the year.  We’ve put together, free, cross-curricular computing activities that include Computing with English, Computing with Maths and Robotics with Sphero!

iControliJournalistiMathematician

We really hope you join us this year for The Hour of Code and introduce your children to the joy of creative computing!

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Developing Computational Thinking

Preparing The Next Generation of Problem Solvers

computational thinking puzzles

Computational Thinking Puzzles

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:

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

Computational Thinking is about transforming a seemingly complex problem into a simple one that we know how to solve.  This involves the use of abstraction, decomposition and generalisation when approaching tasks to remove unnecessary detail, split it into manageable parts and build on solutions we have used before.  Finding solutions involves spotting patterns and using logical reasoning – applying rules to find solutions, eg. if this happens then I need to do that, otherwise I need to do this…  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.

Our puzzles help develop the fundamental computational thinking skills of decomposition, abstraction, generalisation and developing 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.

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.

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.

All four books are now also available in one complete workbook, on Amazon:

Computational Thinking Puzzle Workbook: Ages 7-11

Click for Amazon Complete Workbooks

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iCompute and The Hour of Code

Hour of Code Lesson Plans & Resources

icompute-hour-of-code

The Hour of Code is coming…

We in England are very fortunate that Computing is now a statutory entitlement for pupils aged five and over, with the introduction of the National Curriculum for Computing in 2014.  We owe it to our children to equip them with the knowledge, understanding and skills that will enable them to fully participate in the modern digital world.  We lead the way in teaching and learning in computing science.  Elsewhere around the world there is not (yet) the same emphasis on preparing our children to – not just consume technology, but to – understand how computers and computers systems work.  In doing so, we set the next generation on a path to become the innovators and digital creators of our future.

I’m passionate about getting across the message that Computing is so much more than just ‘code’ – see this post for more on that.  At Computing’s heart, and the heart of the National Curriculum, is developing computational thinking.  A fundamental life skill in itself but, with regard to computing, computational thinking enables children to become effective problem solvers: teaching them skills to solve problems (as yet unknown) for technology that does not yet exist!  Find out more about computational thinking in this post.

The Hour of Code is a global movement by Computer Science Education Week reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries through a one-hour introduction to computer science and computer programming.  As I’m very keen for others to see the benefit of computing throughout the curriculum, I’ve put together three teacher-led cross-curricular activities as iCompute’s contribution to this year’s Hour of Code – scheduled to take place this December – find out more about that here.

Here’s a sneak look.  Watch this space as I might have time to contribute more…

iCompute for Hour of Code iJournalist

Click to find out more

iCompute Hour of Code iMathematician

Click to find out more

iCompute Hour of Code iControl

Click to find out more

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Digital Literacy and Primary Blogging

Developing Digital Literacy by Blogging with Primary Children

primary blogging

A Powerful Tool for Developing Digital Literacy

Blogging is a powerful tool for developing digital literacy in primary schools. It provides a responsive community-driven environment that gives pupil’s writing a voice, an audience and a platform.  When children share their world and their thoughts through writing, they understand how connected people are. They learn from each other, challenge one other, question and receive feedback.

My pupils love blogging and I often use it as a way to engage my reluctant writers.  See below some of the comments the children wrote about blogging in my classes.

love-conversation-1

blog-comment

When pupils know they have a genuine audience for their writing, especially when its other children, I see both an increase in motivation and in product; which in turn helps me more accurately assess their work.

To help other schools introduce primary blogging into their classrooms, I’ve developed six new units for iCompute primary computing scheme of work.  iBlog contains step-by-step primary blogging lesson plans and associated resources.  Existing iCompute Online schools have access to all new units at no additional cost.

I’ve also put together a free infographic about the benefits of blogging with primary children that you can download here.

primary blogging

Click to download

Periodic Table of Primary Computing Resources

New Year, New Tech

Computing Resources

Some schools have been teaching primary computing since its introduction into the National Curriculum since 2014 and some have yet to really get going.  Either way, the very nature of Computing is that things change rapidly and it’s time to start doing something new.

One of the things I like best about Computing is that you can’t churn out the same old lessons year on year.  Technology’s rapid development demands we pay attention to change; that we learn; that we adapt and, most importantly, that we create.

We owe it to our pupils to keep abreast of pedagogical and technological change.  I’ve put together a selection of the fantastic tools and technologies that I use to teach Computing, some of which you’ll know but lots of which I hope are new and you’ll give a go.  Adapted from a previous post here, I’ve turned it into a periodic table of primary computing resources.  I keep banging on about this but Computing is more than just programming and lots of the resources listed here are for you to use with your pupils to teach the other strands of the curriculum as well as to use with cross curricular approaches.

Periodic Table of Computing Resources

Click to Download this Poster – Now including hyperlinks to the resources

There are many, many, more and I’d love to hear how you have been getting on teaching computing in your classrooms as well as hearing about the resources you’ve been using.

Full, progressive step-by-step, lesson plans and all associated lesson resources and worksheets are available for the tools and resources included in the table.  Visit our website for more information.

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