How to thrive during an Ofsted Deep Dive for Computing

Ofsted will be “deep diving” into a selection of subjects during their inspections with the “curriculum at the heart of inspection” focusing on curriculum intent, implementation and impact. I’ve previously written an article on this called inspecting computing. Here, I explore what a deep dive for computing is likely to look like with the aim of helping prepare computing leads.

According to Ofsted the aim of the deep dive “is to allow inspectors to gather the evidence necessary to form an accurate evaluation of how education flows from intention to implementation to impact within a school“. Inspectors will always carry out an inspection of one or more foundation subjects.

The deep dive will include evaluating leader’s planning, discussing rationale for curriculum content and sequencing. Then discussion with teachers about how the curriculum informs their choices about content and sequencing for effective learning. Inspectors will also be looking at “deliberately and explicitly” connected sample lessons and work scrutiny. They will talk to pupils about their learning from observed lessons with a likely focus on the content of their lessons and retention of prior learning.

Ofsted Deep Dive
Ofsted Deep Dive

Quality of Education

A good place to start for computing leads is Ofsted’s curriculum indicators expected to be associated with curriculum quality. Whilst not specific to computing, the indicators offers some insight as to what inspectors will be looking for and allow leaders to begin to assess the quality of computing education they are currently providing.

As a curriculum designer and computing leader, what leaps out to me from the indicators are:

Curriculum
1c – importance of knowledge progression and concept sequencing
1d – inclusive and progressive
2a – Meets the NC at the very least

Leaders
3a – have clear roles and responsibilities
3b – have subject knowledge, expertise and skill
3c – regularly review and QA computing
4a – provide CPD
4b – enable expertise to develop throughout the school
5a – curriculum resources enable effective curriculum implementation
6a – curriculum has sufficient depth and coverage
6c – curriculum mapping ensures full coverage of NC
7c – the curriculum is delivered as planned

Work Scrutiny

Scrutinising the product of computing can be more challenging for computing given that often the work will be digital. I’ve written extensively elsewhere on this blog about how teachers can manage digital artifacts and organise work in such a way as to demonstrate progression. The key points for an Ofsted deep dive are that computing leads need to be able to show that the work builds on prior learning, the pupils’ work shows that a broad range of topics are being learned, progression is being made and pupils can regularly revisit and practice what they know.

Quality Computing

Every subject leader is tasked with being an advocate for, champion of and expert in their subject. Computing presents its own challenges as a ‘new’ subject that few teachers have been trained to teach. It has been statutory since 2014 and many schools are still falling well short of expectations.

I welcome Ofsted’s focus on subject leadership and ‘the three I’s’. For too long, ICT and computing have been shoved to the sidelines by schools in favour of other subjects depriving pupils of their statutory right.

The new framework and its subject deep dives puts the responsibility for the quality of computing education where it should be: in the hands of the computing lead. It encourages them to look carefully at the curriculum and resources they are offering, its delivery and its effect on pupil progression. Ultimately, it empowers leaders to make the necessary changes to ensure they are providing the high quality computing education their pupils are entitled to, deserve and need.

Teach EYFS Computing – Computing in the Foundation Stage

EYFS Computing

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. EYFS Computing - BETT Awards 2018

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

Much of computing as a subject can be learned without using computers at all. Primary aged pupils are perfectly capable of understanding and 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.  Understanding them has become a core skill because, increasingly, the world we live in is governed by them.

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 children 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.  But much more importantly, they develop digital literacy: the ability to be able to express themselves and communicate ideas using tools and technology and participate fully in the modern digital world.

The best practice for Computing in the Early Years (EYFS computing) is where 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 make solid steps towards understanding the world.

iCompute’s expertise and innovation in teaching & learning with, and about, technology has been recognised by BETT and BESA with iCompute in the EYFS being nominated for two awards.  Find out what BESA (chair of the judging panel) has to say about the finalists:

iCompute ERA Awards 2017

iCompute BETT Awards 2018

icompute-schemes

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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.

IT Progression

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

For more tips and advice about computing assessment see our post – How to assess primary computing.

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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.

computing progression

  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. Practice – 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

Ofsted Inspection Framework: for Computing Subject Leaders

Inspecting Computing

The new Ofsted Inspection Framework [3] 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.

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Computing Mastery for Primary Schools

Achieving Computing Mastery

Computing Mastery

Computing Mastery

 

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

Success

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.

Depth

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.

Computational Thinking

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

Computational Thinking

Computational thinking is developed by embedding these skills into all of our lessons, through teacher modelling and with targeted questioning.

Unplugged Activities

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.

Find out more about computing pedagogy for mastery by reading this blog post – http://www.icompute-uk.com/news/computing-pedagogy/ and more about our primary computing schemes of work by visiting www.icompute-uk.com

Computing Pedagogy

for Computing Mastery

Since the introduction to National Curriculum for Computing at Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 in England 2014, it has been a child’s statutory entitlement to a computing education from the age of 5. There have been many challenges along the way since 2014 for primary teachers, not least, due to the subject being introduced throughout schools where the vast majority of teachers had never been trained to teach it.

Despite a number initiatives to improve teacher subject knowledge, notably driven by Computing At Schools (CAS) and the Network of Excellence (a grass-roots organisation I represent as a Computer Science Master Teacher) the Computing Education Project Report (The Royal Society, 2017) – exploring the issues facing computing in schools – concludes that computing education across the UK is ‘patchy and fragile’. There is much to address in a system where many teachers do not feel confident teaching the subject and are in need of significant support.

Continue reading

Summer Coding Lesson with PRIMM

Ice Cream Dodge

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

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

PRIMM

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

I have 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
Predict | Run | Investigate | Modify | Make

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

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

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

Bitsbox lesson plan
Download Lesson Plan

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.

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

  • change the speed, direction and size 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.

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

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

Explore computing pedagogy further aqt:

Easter Computing 🐰 Free Themed Coding Activities

Get Rolling 🥚 with Easter 🐰 Themed Computing

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.

Easter Egg Hunt

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.

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.

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.

iHide Eggs

Click for the plan and resources

I haven’t forgotten Key Stage 1, so out my free Key Stage 1 activity: programming the Easter Bunny to collect Eggs – a twist on the BeeBot app.

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Pancake Day 🥞 Computational Thinking Problem

Flipping Fabulous Pancake Day Problem

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.

 

pancake day problem

Click to download

 

 

iCompute now on Puffin Academy

iCompute now available on Puffin Academy app

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

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

How to access iCompute through Puffin Academy

1) Download the free Puffin Academy app from the Google Play store for Android tablets or from the iTunes store for iPads.

puffin-app

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) Open Puffin Academy and search for iCompute


How to add iCompute to Puffin Academy Dashboard

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:

https://www.icompute-uk.com/resources/puffin-bookmarks.html

As in this image:

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

 

Editable & Printable Scratch 3.0 Blocks

Scratch 3.0 Classroom Display & Unplugged Activities

iCompute Scratch 3.0

Scratch 3.0 Blocks

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

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

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

 

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

Printable Scratch 3.0 Blocks

Click to download editable, printable Scratch 3 blocks

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

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Christmas Computing 🎄 Get Jolly Good at Coding

 Free Christmas Computing Resources

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

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

iCompute Christmas Kodu

Get the lesson plan & tutorial

 

iCompute Christmas Kodu Tutorial

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

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

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

christmas computing

Click to download

 

Join us for the Hour of Code™ 2018

The Hour of Code is Coming!

icompute hour of codeNot 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.

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 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!

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Halloween 🎃 Computational Thinking Puzzles

Scarily 👻 Good Free Resources for Primary Computing

 

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

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

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

 

Download a free Halloween Puzzle

Halloween Puzzle 2

Download a free Halloween Puzzle

 

Free Halloween Computing Lesson

Create a Halloween Web page with HTML

 

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 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!

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

 

tutorial

iCompute Tutorial

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HP Reveal – Augmented Reality for Teachers

HP Reveal Teacher Guide

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.AR Worksheet

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!

HP Reveal Teacher Guide

Download HP Reveal Guide

 

 

Sphero Edu Commands Helpsheet

Sphero Commands Helpsheet

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 – Free Computing Lesson Plan

Coding Apps with a Text-based Programming Language

I’ve been busy writing lots of new units for iCompute this term and, during my research, came across the fabulous coding apps resource – Bitsbox.  Bitsbox uses a simplified version of Javascript, and provides tools that enable pupils to develop their own apps.

coding apps

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.

Continue reading

Primary Computing with Sphero SPRK+

Coding with Sphero SPRK+ and Sphero Edu

 

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.

The Sphero SPRK+ Edition is aimed at the education sector and includes the same sensors and electronics as Sphero 2.0 but, unlike the white shell, the clear polycarbonate material brings pupils closer to the robotic action. Children can immediately see the connection between the programs they create and how the insides of Sphero work and react.  Powered by Sphero Edu app, pupils can learn programming using drag-and-drop blocks and progress to coding using JavaScript.  I really like how making connections between the visual programming language (the blocks) and its text equivalent is literally at pupils finger tips: with just a tap, they can see how the block of code they are using is written in JavaScript code.  That’s great for progression in computer science.

Sphero Edu

Tap to see blocks written in JavaScript

 

 

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.

Sphero Protractor

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.

 

sphero cover

Visit iCompute to find out more about primary robotics