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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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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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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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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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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A Computational Thinking Puzzle

Logical Thinking Puzzle for Key Stage 2 Computing

Here’s one of our computational thinking puzzles designed for independent work for pupils aged 7-11 to practise and develop the computational thinking skills that lie at the heart of the National Curriculum for Computing at Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2.

To find out more about Computational Thinking and how puzzles can help children engage and develop analytical problem solving skills that will help them, not just in computing, but throughout their lives read this post.

To find out the answer, scroll down.  After you’ve had a go!

Puzzle 5

Try one of our KS2 Computational Thinking Puzzles

To reveal the answer click/tap ‘MORE’

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Primary Computing and Digital Literacy

Digital Literacy in Primary Schools

Digital Literacy

Teaching Digital Literacy

Now that Computing has been statutory in primary schools since the introduction of the National Curriculum for Computing at Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 in 2014, many schools feel that they have got to grips with the objectives and have a view, if not a plan, of how to meet them.  With computer science being at the core of the curriculum, its perhaps easy for schools to neglect the other aspects of it – including digital literacy.

Continue reading

Screencasting in the Classroom

A Powerful Tool for Assessment

I’ve covered a number methods for primary computing assessment in this post but, as I’ve been creating some pupil/teacher resources for video screencasting using, free, OBS (Open Broadcaster Software), I thought I’d go over the screencasting part of it again here.  You can download the pupil/teacher support card by clicking on the image in this post.

Potentially one of the most powerful tools for assessment in computing is engaging pupils in creating screencasts – recording computer screen video with audio narration.  Research indicates that by making learning visual and documenting thinking – through screencasting – pupils more naturally engage in self-assessment.  Even when recordings are made without any intended audience and in the absence of prompting, pupils automatically listen back to themselves, reflect, assess and adjust (Richards, 2014)

This promising tool could be used to further develop information technology and digital literacy skills whilst also engaging pupils in the assessment process by editing screencasts for an intended audience with audio and creating visual effects such as captioning.  The screencasts could then be uploaded to individual or class blogs, using categories and tags mapped to the appropriate strand of the National Curriculum for Computing, as evidence of learning or saved as a video file for storage on file servers either at school or in the Cloud.  Similarly, teachers could use screencasts to provide audio/visual pupil feedback by making recordings when reviewing work.  The screencasts could be cross-referenced against a project and uploaded into the pupil’s e-Portfolio.

screencasting card

Click to Download

 

References:

Richards, Reshan. One Best Thing. iBooks, 2014. eBook [Available here]

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eSafety – Checking the Reliability of Websites

Primary Computing eSafety

I’m writing a new six week unit for our primary computing scheme of work for Year 2 children about creating multimedia eBooks and thought I’d share one of the resources I’ve created for eSafety.  Most children, and many adults, think that the first result returned from a search engine is the best and likely to be reliable.

As I detail in this post, I make eSafety part of everyday discussion with my pupils and advise the teachers I train and schools using iCompute to do the same.  Feel free to use the attached resource with your pupils to help them develop a little healthy skepticism about the information available on websites.

eSafety Do's & Don'ts

Click to Download

 

Primary Computing Glossary

Computing Glossary of Terms

We Computer Scientists like our jargon but now (due to the National Curriculum for Computing) we are teaching pupils as young as five about how computers and computer systems work; teachers need to know – and be able to explain to children – what a plethora of confusing words mean.  As Kurt Vonnegut observed “if you are going to teach, you should either teach graduate school or fourth grade… and if you can’t explain it to fourth graders, you probably don’t know what you’re talking about.

Here I’ve put together a computing glossary of terms that I hope are useful to computing teachers and are used in iCompute’s primary computing schemes of work.

iCompute Glossary

Click to Open/Download

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Managing iPads in Schools

Mobile Device Management

Having recently conducted some CPD for teaching computing with iPads, some of the teachers raised the issue of how best to manage their iPads in school.

iPads are 1:1 devices and were never intended to be used on networks or alongside file management systems.  When we first introduced iPads in my school, I researched many options and found  some quite sophisticated solutions out there but they came at quite a hefty price.

I’ve attached the following guides as to how I manage the iPads in my school that can be downloaded.  They may prove useful to those who are trying to manage iPads alongside a Windows-based school network.  I’d love to hear how you are managing yours so feel free to leave comments after this post to help other schools.

MDM

Click to Download MDM Guide

File Management Guide

Click to download file management guide

 

You may also find this post useful for some of my picks for iPad apps in the primary classroom.

 

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