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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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

Computing with LEGO™ WeDo – Classroom Tips

Physical Programming

I recently published two new 4-6 week physical programming units to iCompute’s Key Stage 2 scheme of work; which I blogged about in my post Teach Programming with LEGO™ WeDo

I admit to a rising sense of panic as I approached my first session: young children, small LEGO parts, computers and stuff that moves!  However, we’ve been having a great time and thought I’d share some of the practises I’ve found necessary to manage these very active learning lessons.

First of all, get organised before each session.  I’ve found it’s much better to work on the floor to prevent bouncing bricks, so book out the school hall if you can or clear your classroom of desks.  I’ve assigned each pair of pupils a LEGO WeDo Construction kit and a labelled basket for their models.  I also arranged space in the classroom for a ‘robot parking lot’.  Whenever I need everyone’s attention, or if we’ll be working on the same model a few weeks in a row, we park the robots in their baskets on top of the construction kit boxes.  This helps keep the kits organised so that, combined, the model and the kit = a full construction kit.

You need to be really firm about pupil movement around the space you’re using with LEGO parts!  I use hula-hoops placed around the hall with big gaps between them.  I explain the necessity of keeping the models and construction kits within hoops to that we don’t lose the parts.  The children have been great, understanding the clear rules and why we have them.

pupils-with-lego

Organisation is key!

In order to work on the floor, you’ll need either laptops or tablets.  If you don’t have either, the children can transport their models in their baskets (always with their kits) to the desktops; but make sure they have plenty of space between them to program and operate the models.

I used the amazing LEGO Digital Designer to put together building instructions as a basis for each of the models the children would be making and programming.  Don’t worry, you won’t have to if you are an iCompute school because I’ve done all that for you.  Simply print and hand out to the children.  If you fancy having a go yourself, you can virtually construct a model of your choosing and then opt to create the build instructions which your can display in a web browser or print.  Love it!

LEGO Build Instructions

Build Instructions for LEGO WeDo

Whilst build instructions can be vital for some pupils, there are still plenty of opportunities for creativity  for others and I allow those the freedom to design, create and program their own models with only a rough guide.

I’ve been really impressed with how well the children have responded to physical programming and how smoothly the lessons have gone.  I hope some of you find my tips useful and please let me know how your lessons go.

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Teach Programming LEGO™ WeDo with iCompute

Build and Code with LEGO™ WeDo

LEGO™ WeDo This week sees the launch of iCompute’s new six week programming unit  for Year 3 and 4-5 week unit for Year 4 which uses LEGO™ WeDo to teach children how to program robots and models in primary computing lessons.

This helps schools address the controlling physical systems objective of the National Curriculum for Computing at Key Stage 2.

What is LEGO WeDo?

Lego WeDo is a fantastic opportunity for children to bring the physical world to life through code.  They build models using the bricks they know and love and then program them interact with the world around them!

Using robotics promotes interest in science and engineering, as well as computer science and helps develop motor skills through model building.  Mechanisms, built by and ultimately designed by, the pupils themselves set computer programming in a meaningful context.  Children learn more quickly when a model executes a program, physically, right before them.

The robotics elements of LEGO WeDo include motors and sensors.  Our new units do not require the full educational LEGO WeDo sets to be bought.  Schools that already have plenty of bricks and parts can simply buy the robotics parts that will enable models to move, sense and interact with the physical world.

Robotic Parts

LEGO WeDo has two versions 1.0 and 2.0.  Our units provide support for both and the principle robotic parts remain the same at their core (albeit with enhanced features for 2.0).

  • The Hub: The WeDo hub connects models to your device. You can connect up to two sensors (motor, distance sensor, or tilt sensor)
  • The Motor: When connected to the hub, the motor can be programmed to turn on/off.  It can also be programmed to adjust power, direction and duration
  • The Distance Sensor: The distance sensor can detect how far away an item is in front of it
  • The Tilt Sensor: The tilt sensor detects how far it’s tilted from left to right.

You can also connect and program LEGO Power Function lights which do not come with WeDo packs as standard but can be bought on their own and connected to the hub too.

As already mentioned, you can buy the robotic parts separately if you have plenty of LEGO bricks; however it is still possible to pick up education sets of WeDo 1.0 at a fraction of the price of WeDo 2.0.  Search online for LEGO™ Education WeDo Construction Set 9580 (make sure it’s the construction set you are buying).  I managed to buy 6 sets of WeDo 1.0 at £70 each compared to £150 each for LEGO™ Education WeDo 2.0 Core Set 45300.

Programming LEGO™ WeDo

iCompute uses MIT’s Scratch to program models.  LEGO WeDo does have it’s own software that comes as part of the kit, but I don’t feel it offers the same opportunities for enhancing physical programming through storytelling so have chosen to use Scratch instead.

There are two versions of Scratch: 1.4 and 2.0.  Scratch 1.4 is an offline editor that you download and use without the need for web access.  Scratch 2.0 is available as both an online and offline version.  Regular readers will know that I prefer 1.4 for primary aged pupils as the interface is cleaner and the debugging options are better.  Scratch 2.0 however does allow models to be connected to tablets, as well as computers.  You can use both versions of WeDo with Scratch 2.0, however you need to install a device manager and extension in Scratch 2.0 for them to work.

The teacher guides contained within the unit provide comprehensive guidance on the options and their respective setups.

Using Scratch and LEGO WeDo enables pupils to create some amazing models and stories to accompany them.

What Pupils Can Do with LEGO™ WeDo and iCompute

  • Programming, using software , designing and creating working models
  • Using the software to acquire information
  • Using feedback to adjust a programming system output
  • Working with simple machines, gears, levers, pulleys, transmission of motion
  • Measuring time and distance, adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, estimating, randomness, using variables
  • Doing narrative and journalistic writing, storytelling, explaining, interviewing, interpreting
  • Design: Use STEM principles to explore Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics and design models
  • Build: Improve motor function, communicate and collaborate with others in building working models and robots
  • Program: Create animated stories, and program models to interact with the story & physical world
  • Digital Literacy: Create factual and imaginative animations and narratives that explain, interpret and tell stories
  • Test : Use physical output as feedback to to detect errors easily
  • Debug: Correct errors found when models don’t behave as expected
  • Evaluate: Critically analyse work and that of others and discuss what is good, or not so good, about them
  • Improve: Revisit models and code then cycle through this process from ‘Design’ onward to make things better

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KS1 Computing with Scratch Jr

Learning to Program with Tablets & Scratch Jr

KS1 Computing Support Card

iCompute Pupil Support Card

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

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

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

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

KS1 Computing Lesson Plan

Snippet of iCompute Scratch Jr Lesson Plan

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

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

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

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

 

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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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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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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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Primary Computing Curriculum Coverage

Have you got it covered?

The primary computing curriculum has now been statutory since September 2014 with the introduction of the National Curriculum for Computing at Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2.  All schools should now be teaching a broad and balanced computing curriculum that provides full curriculum coverage of the aims and objectives of the National Curriculum for Computing.  But are they?

computing-covered

Think you’re “doing” Computing?

 

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iCompute with Sphero – Free Primary Computing Lesson Resources

Teach controlling physical systems

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have recently written a primary programming robotics scheme of work as part of my role as a primary computing master teacher with Computing At Schools and having been kindly loaned five Sphero.  @cas_lancaster will be lending these lesson plans and resources out as part of their equipment loan scheme and the complete unit and associated resources, assessment guidance etc, now forms part of the iCompute for iPad scheme of work.

Today, I presented at #CASLancaster16 conference about my experiences of teaching with Sphero.  Here is the free programming unit that CAS Lancaster included in their USB Key given to all delegates.

Sphero Cover

Click to download free Sphero resources

 

 

Primary Programming – Guide to Scratch Skills Progression

Download and use as a guide to primary programming skills progression with Scratch

Please note that children progress at different rates and this is intended as a guide only.  iCompute’s whole-school primary computing scheme of work provides computing lesson plans that have built in differentiation, extension and enrichment activities to include, engage and challenge all pupils in primary computing.

primary programming progression

Click to download

 

 

Computational Thinking Puzzles for Primary Pupils

Develop Primary Computational Thinking Skills With Puzzles

Computational Thinking Puzzle Book

Computational Thinking Puzzle Workbooks

Computational thinking is at the heart of the statutory programme of study for Computing:

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

Since the introduction of the National Curriculum for Computing in 2014, schools now teach computing from the age of 5 and have developed curricula to meet their statutory obligations; however many lack a focus on developing computational thinking skills favouring, instead, to concentrate on the programming, or coding, objectives. In this post, I discuss computational thinking in more detail and how teaching it helps children become problem solvers which is important not just in computing but is an essential life skill.

There has been much research into the benefits of puzzle-based learning. Puzzles help children develop general problem-solving and independent learning skills.

According to Badger et al. (2012) engaging in puzzles means that pupils:

  • take personal responsibility;
  • adopt novel and creative approaches, making choices;
  • develop modelling skills;
  • develop tenacity;
  • practice recognition of cases, reducing problem situations to exercises.

Additionally, in solving puzzles pupils use and apply a range of strategies that cross disciplines in entertaining and engaging ways.

So what does any of this have to do with computational thinking? By selecting the right variety and complexity of puzzles, children will independently practise and develop the fundamental computational thinking skills of decomposition, abstraction, generalisation and developing algorithms.

This will enable them to find solutions and apply those already found to different problems, in different contexts. All of this helps lay the foundations for pupils to become effective problem solvers.  Skills that are increasingly important, as discussed in this post, given the digital world we live in and the need to prepare pupils to solve as yet unknown problems using tools and technologies that do not yet exist.

ERA 2017 Award

Best Educational Book

UPDATE: iCompute’s Computational Thinking Puzzle Workbooks 1-4 have been shortlisted for prestigious ERA (Education Resource Awards) 2017 for Best Educational Book.

 

 

 

 

References:

Badger, M., Sangwin, C, J., Ventura-Medina, E., Thomas, C, R.: 2012, A Guide To Puzzle-Based Learning In Stem Subjects, University of Birmingham.

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Cross Curricular Computing Resources

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

 

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Primary Computing with Sphero

Controlling Physical Systems – Robotics

As part of my role with Computing At Schools (CAS) as a Primary Computer Science Master Teacher,  I have recently been fortunate enough to teach using Sphero, having been lent a set by @cas_lancaster.  The task was to produce a set of step-by-step Sphero lesson plans and associated teacher and pupil support materials for primary teachers to use.  That is all now done and I’ve had great fun creating our new robotics unit – iCompute with Sphero – which forms part of our iPad pack , as well as being available separately.  It will be lent out to other local schools by @cas_lancaster.  Teaching progressive lessons using Spheros enables primary schools to meet a number of the objectives of the National Curriculum for Computing at Key Stage 2 Specifically:

  1. design, write and debug programs that accomplish specific goals, including controlling or simulating physical systems; solve problems by decomposing them into smaller parts
  2. use sequence, selection, and repetition in programs; work with variables and various forms of input and output
  3. use logical reasoning to explain how some simple algorithms work and to detect and correct errors in algorithms and programs
  4. select, use and combine a variety of software (including internet services) on a range of digital devices to design and create a range of programs, systems and content that accomplish given goals, including collecting, analysing, evaluating and presenting data and information
iCompute Lesson Plans with Sphero Cover

iCompute with Sphero

iCompute Features Flowchart

iCompute – Features Flowchart

Here, I share my experiences of using Spheros with primary pupils and give some general advice and classroom tips about how to use them effectively, engage and challenge your pupils.

What is Sphero?

Sphero is a robot ball with several features that can be controlled though apps and also includes the facility for pupils to create their own computer programs. The main features are:

  • Rolling – Sphero can roll at specified speeds and directions
  • Colours – Sphero can light up to a specified colour
  • Bluetooth – Sphero connects to mobile devices through wireless Bluetooth

Preparation

As Spheros are connected to iPads via Bluetooth, preparing to use them in your classroom before your roll up brandishing them and creating general hysteria is vital!  Make sure all are fully charged and that your have paired each to a particular tablet in advance.  Each Sphero flashes a unique sequence of colours when they are ‘woken’ which can be used to identify them.  A Sphero will appear on your tablet’s Bluetooth list using the initials of the three colours it flashes in order, Eg. Sphero-RGB for a colour sequence of Red, Green and Blue.

I added stickers to each of the Spheros with their unique name, as ‘YGO’, ‘RGW’ etc., and also to the corresponding tablet I’d paired it to. This made distributing them and the iPads much easier when in class.

Environment

You need lots of space to use these.  I used the school hall.  I refer back to ‘Preparation’ for this as it may be something you need to organise. I forgot on my first session and arrived with a very excitable class to a hall full of lunch tables. The first half of my lesson therefore involved getting those out of the way.

You can also buy covers called a ‘Nubby’ for outside use.

Sphero Nubby Cover

Sphero Cover

I tried this with one of my classes and we had to come back inside as it was sunny and therefore impossible to see Sphero’s tail-light: essential to be able to aim it to move in the direction you want it to go.  Also, we had iPads and the children couldn’t see the screens.

 Lesson Ideas

Now on to the good stuff.   My specialism is teaching primary pupils aged 5-11.  I think Spheros are suitable for Key Stage 2 pupils, children aged 7-11.

I suggest your first session focus on teaching the children how to wake Sphero, Orient (aim) it and control it using the standard Sphero app. Each Sphero comes with, amongst other things, a pair of ramps and once the children have got used to moving Sphero forward and backward with reasonable accuracy, add the ramps and other obstacles to make things interesting and develop accuracy further.

Sphero App icon

Sphero App

A lesson, including step-by-step instructions for both teacher and pupil for this are available in our robotics pack.

iCompute with Sphero Lesson Plan

iCompute with Sphero

 

 

 

The following lessons progresses to using the Sphero Draw N’ Drive app enabling the children to gain greater control and begin to understand that Sphero can be controlled to perform specific actions.

I then move things on for the rest of the unit to programming Sphero using Tickle.

Tickle App Icon

Tickle

We created quizzes that the children programmed Sphero to move and change colour to answer.  This presents great cross-curricular opportunities.  We create algorithms and program Sphero to be our dance partners for Physical Education. Also, mazes to navigate with excellent links to Mathematics for distance, direction and angle work.  The children also program Sphero to travel the globe, linking to Geography, using a free floor map from National Geographic.

Using robotics in the primary classroom presents creative and engaging opportunities for the children to extend what they have learned about algorithms and programming in Computing by understanding that physical systems can be controlled too.  With the right blend planning and imaginative resources, using Sphero’s in your classroom has the potential to inspire the next generation of software designers and systems engineers!  The possibilities are exciting…

Visit icompute-uk.com for primary computing lesson plans.

Primary Computing Assessment

How to Assess Primary Computing

Assessment presents particular challenges for computing and many schools have not yet addressed how to accurately assess pupil progress and provide evidence of it.  Let’s see what David Brown, former HMI Ofsted’s National Lead for Computing, had to say about computing in schools.

Mr Brown’s message is overwhelmingly that of outcomes with no specific advice about how to achieve them.  Having taught Computing in primary schools since 2013, I have found that the time required to cover the programmes of study for Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 is one hour of computing each week for Years 1-6, coupled with cross-curricular work to practise and consolidate skills in other subjects.

Assessing Computing Summary

  1. Evidence – Use e-Portfolios such as SeeSaw or maintain individual folders on the network for each pupil to contain digital work
  2. Teacher Feedback – Face-to-face or by using digital ‘marking’ strategies such as adding text comments in digital work or adding audio of your comments
  3. Self/Peer – Blogging, Vlogging or Video Screencasting provides excellent opportunities for pupils to reflect on work
  4. Diagnostic Testing – Creative online interactive quizzes (e.g. Kahoot) provide engaging opportunities to assess pupil understanding and bring a gamification aspect to assessment
  5. Assessment Projects – Using end-of-unit open-ended project tasks allow pupils to demonstrate learning
  6. Progress Tracking – Understanding where pupils are and planning next steps to meet age-related expectations

Read on to find out more…

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Computing and SEN

Computing – Including Pupils with Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEN/D)

iCompute Inclusion for SENWe passionately believe that Computing has the potential to empower pupils with SEN/D and transform their lives. With the right blend of progressive, imaginative planning, exposure to a broad range of tools and technologies, and comprehensive support it is possible that all children can be fully included and fulfill their potential – in computing and throughout the curriculum.

Computing and Information Technology are essential tools for inclusion.  They enable children with SEN/D, whatever their needs, to use technology purposefully in ways that make the curriculum accessible and fully include everyone in activities and learning.

iCompute offers children with SEN/D varied and engaging ways to communicate, collaborate, express ideas and demonstrate success.  From making and editing video/audio footage, programming animations, games and apps to creating rich web content – all pupils have an opportunity to participate, be challenged, learn and progress.

iCompute supports children with SEN/D by providing:

  • Familiarity – Lessons follow similar patterns and all involve aspects that appeal to various learning styles and include ‘unplugged’ activities to support children’s understanding of abstract concepts
  • Progression – Structured, termly/yearly, progressive units of work providing full coverage of the National Curriculum for Computing at Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2
  • Flexibility – All units have Core, Easier, Harder activities as well as a number of Extension/Enrichment/Homework ideas allowing teachers to cater for the individual needs of their pupils
  • Resources – Colourful pupil support materials; engaging worksheets; video screencasts; imaginative unplugged activities and interactive online activities support pupils learning enabling them to achieve
  • Assessment – Comprehensive end of unit assessment guidance supported by detailed pupil progress tracker spreadsheets matched to CAS (Computing At Schools) Progression Pathways enable teachers to accurately assess progress and set targets. If appropriate, end of unit assessment guidance and/or year group progress spreadsheets can be tracked back to find more suitable performance descriptors from earlier year groups. In addition, for those children working below levels expected of their age, iCompute offers a progress tracker with descriptors in line with P-Scales
  • Rich variety of software and tools – A wealth of free software and online tools allow SEN/D pupils to demonstrate skills and progress, express ideas, improve digital literacy and boost self-confidence

Computational Thinking – Primary Computing

Computational Thinking Across the Curriculum

Computational Thinking is a life skill for everyone. It’s analytical problem solving: finding solutions to ‘problems’ using logical reasoning and systematic approaches.  By ‘problem’ I mean something you want to achieve.  This could be anything from designing and building a physical structure to creating a piece of art.

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 Fundamentally, Computational Thinking is about transforming a seemingly complex problem into a simple one that we know how to solve.

This involves the use of abstraction, decomposition and generalisation when approaching tasks to remove unnecessary detail, split it into manageable parts and build on solutions we have used before.

Finding solutions involves spotting patterns and using logical reasoning – applying rules to find solutions, eg. if this happens then I need to do that, otherwise I need to do this…  Once we have a working solution, we then use evaluation to analyse it and ask – Is it any good ? Can it be improved? How?

Teaching computational thinking is not teaching children how to think like a computer.  Computers cannot think.  Computers are stupid.  Everything computers do, people make happen.  It’s also not teaching children how to compute.  It’s developing the knowledge, skills and understanding of how people solve problems.  As such, it absolutely should not be confined to computing lessons and should be used throughout the curriculum to approach and solve problems and communicate and collaborate with others.

Search our blog for our free cross-curricular computing resources and try six free units from our cross-curricular computing scheme.