Primary Cryptography

Encryption and Decryption

Enigma Factfile

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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 – is available now!  Visit www.icompute-uk.com to find out more about our acclaimed primary computing scheme of work.

Primary Computing – Celebrate Ada Lovelace Day!

The Magnificent Ada Lovelace

iCompute Ada Lovelace Activity

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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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