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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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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Primary Computing – Cryptography Lesson Plans

Encryption & Decryption

Cryptography Enigma Machine

Click to Download

Cryptography

Since man first began writing there has been a desire to send messages in secret: in code.  Codes and ciphers are forms of secret communication. A code replaces words with letters, numbers or symbols.  A cipher rearranges letters or uses substitutes to disguise the message. This process is called encryption. The art of writing and solving codes and ciphers is called cryptography.

Codes and ciphers have been used throughout time when people wanted to keep messages private.  Cryptography has, and is still, used by governments, military, companies, and organisations to protect information and messages.

Today, encryption is used to protect data and data transfer between computers.  Documents, data and messages are encrypted to protect confidentiality.  Modern encryption methods are very clever but their underlying principles remain that of those ancient methods.

Cryptography Unit

I have written a 6 week unit introducing cryptography for iCompute for Primary Schools computing scheme of work.  Here, the children will unleash their inner spy and learn about how data can be transferred in secret over distances. They will learn how codes and ciphers have been used throughout history and explore a number of different ways that data can be encrypted and decrypted.

cryptography-enigma-lesson

As part of it, along with step-by-step lesson plans and pupil/teacher support materials, I’ve been putting together resources on the history of cryptography.  Download a brief introduction to the Enigma machine and how the magnificent men and women at Bletchley helped shorten World War II with their code breaking skills!  Practise secret code writing in your classroom by downloading and making a cipher disk.  Lots of engaging activities to learn about encryption methods past and present and the importance of keeping data private in the modern digital age.

cryptography cipher wheel

Click to download

The new cryptography unit – iCrypto – is available now in our Whole School Computing Curriculum for the National Curriculum for Computing at Key Stage 2.

Visit www.icompute-uk.com to find out more about our acclaimed primary computing scheme of work.

Cross Curricular Computing Lesson Plans

Enrich learning with a cross curricular approach to primary computing

CT Poster

Click to download the poster

Computing is one of the most fundamentally cross curricular subject areas in education.  It’s about using technology, logic, creativity and computational thinking to solve problems that cross all disciplines.  It requires the systematic breakdown (decomposition) of both the problem and the solution.  We need to prepare pupils for how to live in an increasingly digital world by equipping them with the knowledge, understanding and skills to solve as yet unknown problems using tools and technologies that do not yet exist.  We can work towards achieving this by using computing as a means of making sense of the world and using what the children learn in computing across the curriculum.

The best primary practice includes a blend of rigorous, discrete, subject teaching and equally effective cross curricular links.  Both approaches are needed for effective learning to take place, to enable children to make links between subjects and to set learning in meaningful contexts.  Using computing throughout the primary curriculum offers a way to enrich and deepen learning through engaging, interconnected, topics.

I have put together a selection of free resources and links to others to help teachers get started with ideas and inspiration for enriching learning and exploring computing through a rich variety of media and technologies in cross curricular contexts.

cross curricular computational thinking

Click to download poster

Computational Thinking

http://icomp.site/cthink

 

 

 

 

 

Cross Curricular computing

Free Cross-Curricular Computing Planning

http://www.icompute-uk.com/hoc

 

 

Cross Curricular Podcasting

Podcasting

Podcasting

http://icomp.site/podcast

 

 

 

 

cross curricular CT Diary

Click to Download

Free Computational Thinking Diary

http://icomp.site/diary (Download)

 

 

 

 

Cross curricular QR Codes

QR Codes enable mobile learning

QR Codes in the Classroom

http://icomp.site/qr

 

 

 

 

 

Cross curricular Robotics

Robotics

Robotics

http://www.icompute-uk.com/hoc

 

 

Visit www.icompute-uk.com to find out more about our highly acclaimed comprehensive primary computing schemes of work and cross curricular computing pack.

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Free Valentines Day Coding Lesson

Valentines Day – Spreading the Love with Code!

 

Valentines Day

Click to download

Play and code this Valentines day with our free coding activity: a romantic themed Cupid game for pupils aged 7-11 using Scratch.

Throughout the year, I create free themed computing lessons, and I’ve written another step-by-step lesson plan and some teacher/pupil computing resources that I’m using in my computing classes and am adding to iCompute to celebrate Valentines Day.

Love is in the air but Cupid needs a little help aiming his arrow!  Challenge your pupils to program Cupid’s bow to respond to user input and aim to catch the heart of a love interest.

Valentines Day Coding Game

Valentines Day Resource

 

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 themed primary computing lesson plans and resources elsewhere on this blog and by visiting icompute-uk.com/free-stuff.html

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Primary Cryptography

Encryption and Decryption

Enigma Factfile

Click to download

Since man first began writing there has been a desire to send messages in secret: in code.  Codes and ciphers are forms of secret communication. A code replaces words with letters, numbers or symbols.  A cipher rearranges letters or uses substitutes to disguise the message. This process is called encryption. The art of writing and solving codes and ciphers is called cryptography.

Codes and ciphers have been used throughout time when people wanted to keep messages private.  Cryptography has, and is still, used by governments, military, companies, and organisations to protect information and messages.

Today, encryption is used to protect data and data transfer between computers.  Documents, data and messages are encrypted to protect confidentiality.  Modern encryption methods are very clever but their underlying principles remain that of those ancient methods.

I’m writing a unit of work on cryptography which will be published to iCompute for Primary Schools computing scheme of work.  Here, the children will unleash their inner spy and learn about how data can be transferred in secret over distances. They will learn how codes and ciphers have been used throughout history and explore a number of different ways that data can be encrypted and decrypted.

As part of it, I’ve been putting together resources on the history of cryptography.  Here is a brief introduction to the Enigma machine and how the magnificent men and women at Bletchley helped shorten World War II with their code breaking skills!

The new cryptography unit – iCrypto – will be available for Key Stage 2 soon.  Visit www.icompute-uk.com to find out more about our acclaimed primary computing scheme of work.

Join us for the Hour of Code™ 2017

The Hour of Code is Coming!

HOC 2017Not long to go now for the Hour of Code 2017 (December 4th – 10th) and we can’t wait to see how many pupils and schools participate around the world.

HOCiCompute 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 saving Santa with Scratch, animating a snowman and delivering Santa’s presents with parrot drones!  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, we 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!

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Free Halloween Computing Lesson with HTML

Create a Halloween Web page

 

Free Halloween Computing Lesson

Click to download

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.

Halloween Invitation

Includes HTML template

 

Ideas for differentiation, extension and enrichment are included in the lesson plan.  Plus HTML tutorial for teacher and pupil support. Lots of opportunities to be inspired and get creative!

Cheat Sheet

Check out my other free seasonal primary computing lesson plans and resources elsewhere on this blog and by visiting icompute-uk.com/free-stuff.html

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Primary Computing – Celebrate Ada Lovelace Day!

The Magnificent Ada Lovelace

iCompute Ada Lovelace Activity

Click to download

Ada Lovelace had it worse, but as one of the few women undertaking a Computing Science degree in the 90’s, I’m used to being a minority.  I’ve never understood why it is such a male dominated industry because I love it.  I don’t put this down to sexism.  Throughout my studies and beyond in the workplace as a software engineer and, later, project manager I have been treated with respect at all times by men in my field.

I have my own theories about why girls don’t take to computer science as wholeheartedly as their male counterparts and they are, in my opinion, largely down to teaching – or lack thereof.  Which is why it’s great that, here in the UK, learning computer science is statutory from the age of 5 because it allows us teachers the (almost unique) opportunity to engage girls early in this creative and fascinating subject.  Not just enabling them to enter into the tech industry later if they want to but because it’s absolutely crucial to know how to communicate, collaborate and express yourself in the modern digital world.

In her blog post of 2009 (when Ada Lovelace Day was born) Suw Charman-Anderson speaks of research pointing to need for women to need to see female role models.  If that’s true then, given the amount of women teaching computing in the UK, we should surely see an upsurge in engagement in computing by girls and, empowerment through it!  That is, if their role model’s are good ones; who show a passion and enthusiasm for the subject and teach it in creative, fun and challenging ways.  I hope that, since its introduction into the National Curriculum in 2014, we are making good strides towards achieving this.  There’s no excuse not to as there is a wealth of support and resources available to support teachers and schools.  I regularly produce free lesson plans and support materials to, hopefully, inspire and motivate teachers of primary computing.

This Ada Lovelace day (10th October 2017) I’ve put together a step-by-step lesson plan and supporting resources adapted from iCompute’s Cross Curricular Computing pack for teaching Computing with History.  Suitable for pupils aged 7-11, it involves researching Ada Lovelace and producing a webpage about their findings using basic HTML.

Download and use to show your pupils how women have been instrumental in the transformation of the technological world.

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Free Autumn Coding Lesson

How to code an Autumn leaf catching game

 

Free Coding Lesson

Click to download

Goodbye summer, hello a brand new academic year.  We know you’ve got plenty on your plate already with new pupils and all of the many other changes a new year brings.  Make your computing lessons easier this term and use our free coding lesson: an autumnal themed falling leaf game for pupils aged 7-11 using Scratch.

Each term, I create free (seasonal) computing lessons, and I’ve written another step-by-step lesson plan and some teacher/pupil computing resources that I’m using in my computing classes and am adding to iCompute this Autumn.

Autumn is here and catching a falling leaf before it hits the ground means you get one happy day!  Challenge your pupils to program sprites to catch falling autumn leaves.  Catch ten and program something awesome to happen any way they know how to!

Free autumn coding

Free coding lesson from iCompute

Autumn Pupil Support Card

Pupil Support Card

 

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 and by visiting icompute-uk.com/free-stuff.html

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New 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 in 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 computing resources, 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.  I’ve turned it into a periodic table of primary computing resources, now with hyperlinks!  I keep banging on about this but Computing is more than just coding and lots of the resources listed here are for you to use with your pupils to teach the other strands of the curriculum (digital literacy, information technology and eSafety) as well as to use with cross curricular approaches.

iCompute Resources

Click to Download

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.

Our primary computing schemes provide full, progressive, step-by-step, lesson plans and all associated lesson resources and worksheets using the tools and computing resources included in the table.  Visit our website for more information.

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Primary Robotics

Teach Controlling Physical Systems

primary robotics

iCompute’s Primary Robotics Pack

I’ve been teaching primary robotics for some time now as part of the computing curriculum that I write for iCompute.  I teach with and have produced schemes of work for robotics from EYFS to Year 6 using BeeBots, LEGO WeDo, Sphero and parrot drones to name a few.

Whilst teaching computing itself can be daunting for many teachers, the prospect of the added pressure of actual things being whizzed around classrooms through code can push many to avoid the controlling physical systems aspects of the National Curriculum for Computing altogether!

The rapid pace of advances in technology means children are growing up in an age dominated by embedded computer systems and robotics. It is crucial they have an understanding of its impact on the world and their own futures.  Teachers need to be in a position to provide pupils with the level of knowledge, understanding and skills they need to live in the modern world.

Including Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM subjects) in early education provides a strong motivation for learning and an improvement in progression.  Teaching robotics is a great way of  connecting with children and enables schools to engage the potential engineers and computer scientists of the future.

Most curricula in primary schools cover science and mathematics, but we need to do more in teaching problem solving, computer science, design, technology and robotics.

The use of robotic systems and robotics as a subject offers an introduction to the  engineering design process and sets children’s learning in a fun, meaningful, contexts.  The fundamental principles of computer science are applied and made easier as models and devices can be designed, constructed, programmed and executed in front of pupil’s eyes.  This makes it much easier to learn what robots can and cannot do: their capabilities and, crucially, their limitations.

We’ve recently put all of our robotics units into one primary robotics pack that covers the controlling physical systems aspects of the National Curriculum for Computing at Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 (pupils aged 5-11).

I’m also including some free activities as part of our contribution to this year’s Hour of Code, adding to those already featured last year and still live.  As the Hour of Code launches each year in December, I’ll be adding a nice festive twist to my teacher-led activities. Hint: Santa’s sleigh is broken but he has a drone!  Here’s a sneak peek of the cover…

HOC iFly

HOC iFly Cover

Check out my other blog posts for teaching tips and advice about how to manage programming physical devices with younger children. I cover:

Sphero

LEGO WeDo

LEGO WeDo Classroom tips

Parrot Drones

The primary robotics pack is now available to purchase from iCompute.

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Planning Computing

How to plan a Primary Computing Scheme of Work

 

iCompute Primary Computing Scheme

Primary Computing Scheme

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.

  1. Use free software and tools – you don’t need to buy a thing in order to meet the objectives of the computing curriculum
  2. Practise – helps you understand the knowledge, skills and understanding the software and tools help develop
  3. Look for progression – you will start to see that particular tools are suitable for specific age groups
  4. Look for full coverage – Computing is not just about coding
  5. Understand how to assess computing – know where your pupils are and where they need to go next
  6. Adapt – make it fit your school, staff and needs of your pupils

Read on to find out more about each stage … Continue reading

Primary Computing Assessment

Computing Tests & Tasks

 

Computing Assessment Sample

Click/Tap to download

iCompute’s Computing Assessment Tests and Tasks – designed to complement our comprehensive Primary Computing Schemes of Work and existing assessment toolkit – is out now.

Developed by our author – a computer scientist and primary computer science master teacher – the tasks and tests support schools in accurately assessing attainment, pupil progress and target setting in primary computing.

For each iCompute unit for each year, we have produced an associated end of unit online diagnostic test and an end of unit assessment project. Diagnostic testing assists progression planning and helps identify gaps and/or misconceptions. The end of unit assessment projects enable teachers to check skills in computing and computational thinking. The provided answers and assessment guidance informs assessment judgements and can be fed into our interactive digital pupil progress trackers.

Our diagnostic tests match the National Curriculum for Computing at Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2. They are divided into iCompute units and are intended for use following each unit to assess pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skills.

Our interactive, fun, quizzes are played online and bring a gamification aspect to assessment. Aside from being a powerful tool in measuring pupil progress, they also help increase engagement, motivation and encourage children to challenge themselves.

Forming part of our acclaimed primary computing schemes of work, our Tasks & Tests pack is available to buy from iCompute.

 

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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!

Continue reading

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 and by visiting icompute-uk.com/free-stuff.html

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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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