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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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Primary Computing – Cryptography Lesson Plans

Encryption & Decryption

Cryptography Enigma Machine

Click to Download

Cryptography

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

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

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

Cryptography Unit

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

cryptography-enigma-lesson

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

cryptography cipher wheel

Download Cipher Wheel

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

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

Morse Code Worksheet

Download Morse Code Worksheet

Morse Code Worksheet

Download Morse Decoder

Cross Curricular Computing Lesson Plans

Enrich learning with a cross curricular approach to primary computing

CT Poster

Click to download the poster

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

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

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

cross curricular computational thinking

Click to download poster

Computational Thinking

http://icomp.site/cthink

 

 

 

 

 

Cross Curricular computing

Free Cross-Curricular Computing Planning

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

 

 

Cross Curricular Podcasting

Podcasting

Podcasting

http://icomp.site/podcast

 

 

 

 

cross curricular CT Diary

Click to Download

Free Computational Thinking Diary

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

 

 

 

 

Cross curricular QR Codes

QR Codes enable mobile learning

QR Codes in the Classroom

http://icomp.site/qr

 

 

 

 

 

Cross curricular Robotics

Robotics

Robotics

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

 

 

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

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Free Valentines Day Coding Lesson

Valentines Day – Spreading the Love with Code!

 

Valentines Day

Click to download

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

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

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

Valentines Day Coding Game

Valentines Day Resource

 

Ideas for differentiation, extension and enrichment are included in the lesson plan.  Plus program templates and partially-written programs for teacher and pupil support. Lots of opportunities to be inspired and get creative!

 

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

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Free Halloween Computing Lesson with HTML

Create a Halloween Web page

 

Free Halloween Computing Lesson

Click to download

Teachers and pupils alike love a themed lesson so I’ve created a new activity for Halloween computing that teaches basic HTML/CSS for pupils aged 9-11.

Each term, I create free themed computing lessons and I’ve written another step-by-step lesson plan and some teacher/pupil computing resources that I’m using in my computing classes and have added to iCompute’s primary computing schemes of work.  This activity has been adapted from a cross-curricular computing lesson in iCompute Across the Curriculum.

Halloween is approaching and you’re having a party! Using basic HTML and CSS your pupils will create an invitation to their party in the form of a web page.  In this activity children learn how HTML formats web content and CSS styles it using age-appropriate syntax and tools.

Halloween Invitation

Includes HTML template

 

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

Cheat Sheet

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

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Primary Computing – Celebrate Ada Lovelace Day!

The Magnificent Ada Lovelace

iCompute Ada Lovelace Activity

Click to download

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

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

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

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

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

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Free Autumn Coding Lesson

How to code an Autumn leaf catching game

 

Free Coding Lesson

Click to download

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

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

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

Free autumn coding

Free coding lesson from iCompute

Autumn Pupil Support Card

Pupil Support Card

 

Ideas for differentiation, extension and enrichment are included in the lesson plan.  Plus program templates and partially-written programs for teacher and pupil support. Lots of opportunities to be inspired and get creative!

 

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

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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. 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

iCompute and Pupils with Lakeland Radio

Computing in Primary Schools

This week Lindale CE Primary School were school of the week on Lakeland Radio.  Last Friday our author, Liane O’Kane, who teaches computing at Lindale (a Lead School on the Network of Excellence for Computer Science) met with Breakfast presenter Yakkers and featured on their Back to School with Yakkers segment.

The children and Liane spoke with Yakkers about Computing at Lindale Primary.  Lindale teach primary computing using iCompute for Primary Schools from EYFS to Year 6 and it was lovely hearing about how much the children have been learning and enjoying their lessons.

Summer Computing with Scratch

Coding an Ice-Cream Stand Simulation/Game

 

The Summer term is drawing to a close, the weather is warm and you’ll no doubt have lots of activities planned to take advantage of/celebrate the weather in your classes.  Let’s not forget about Computing though.  Take your pupils outside if you have laptops or mobile devices and use Scratch 2.0 with your Key Stage 2 children (pupils aged 7-11) and our free lesson for summer themed primary computing with supporting resources.

It’s a great end-of term opportunity for your pupils to showcase what they have learned all year in their programming lessons.

free lesson plan for computing

Click to download iCompute’s free summer computing lesson plan

I’ve written another step-by-step lesson plan and some teacher/pupil computing resources that I’m using and have added to iCompute to celebrate Summer.  Feel free to download and use in your own classroom.

Summer time and the weather is sweet.  Makes you want to make a nice cool treat…  Challenge your pupils to create algorithms and program an ice-cream simulation/game.

Free lesson: ice-cream simulation activity

Free ice-cream stand simulation programming activity

Ice-cream simulation pupil support card

Pupil Support Card

As usual, lots of opportunities for differentiation.  For instance, less able pupils could use pupil support cards (see Ice Cream stand card which is included in the pack) and/or concentrate on programming random customers and ice-cream combinations to appear.

Your more able pupils could:

  • program timers, scores and lives (e.g. customers leave ‘hide’ if their order isn’t made within time limits)
  • add a series of levels that become increasingly more challenging
  • generate random prices within a range
  • program your customers to pay
  • calculate and give change

Ideas for differentiation, extension and enrichment are included in the lesson plan.  Plus program templates and partially-written programs for teacher and pupil support. Lots of opportunities to be inspired and get creative!

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

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Coding Drones

Aiming High in Computing

Drone Lesson Plans

Aim High in Primary Computing

Using drones in schools has the potential to take learning, literally, to a higher level.  As they continue to become increasingly practical, attainable, tools for education, teachers around the world are now using drones in their classrooms for STEM and STEAM activities.

In computing, programming drones helps develop children’s skills in algorithms, programming and computational thinking as well as addressing the ‘controlling physical systems’ objectives of the National Curriculum for Computing at Key Stage 2.  Exciting curricula and drone lesson plans are being developed that help teachers develop confidence and make the most out of connected devices.

Drones are revolutionising business and industry:  engineers use the technology for site surveys, filmmakers capture images that would otherwise be unseen, drones are used in agriculture; farming; conservation; military operations and parcel deliveries.  The potential for the application of drones and the rapid growth in the technology is huge.  Understanding how they work, their potential and how to control them through coding prepares children for the modern working world.

iCompute lead the way in teaching and learning using educational technology.  In anticipation of 3D robotics becoming the next big thing in education, we have extended our connected devices offering of comprehensive, step-by-step lesson plans, computing resources and assessment toolkits using Sphero and LEGO™ WeDo by adding an amazing, creative, 6-8 week coding with drones unit aimed at upper KS2 Computing (pupils aged 9-11 or higher).

Children learn how to program parrot drones to fly, create aerial shapes, navigate obstacles, fire ‘missiles’, pick up and drop objects all set in imaginative contexts.  They program Santa’s ‘sleigh’  to deliver presents before going on an epic journey to a Galaxy Far, Far Away to take out the Death Star for the Rebel Alliance!

Drone Lesson Plans

The Force is Strong with This One…Visit our website to unleash your power!

 

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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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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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Developing Computational Thinking

Preparing The Next Generation of Problem Solvers

computational thinking puzzles

Computational Thinking Puzzles

 

iCompute ERA 2017 Finalist

iCompute’s computational thinking puzzles for primary pupils are a ground-breaking new development in primary education. In the digital age, the benefits of computational thinking throughout education are increasingly being highlighted. Our, colourful, engaging and challenging puzzles are designed for children aged 7-11 to independently practise and develop the fundamental computational thinking skills that lie at the heart of the National Curriculum for Computing:

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

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.

Our puzzles help develop the fundamental computational thinking skills of decomposition, abstraction, generalisation and developing algorithms. This means children can find solutions and apply those already found to different problems, in different contexts. All of this helps lay the foundations for them to become effective problem solvers.

Solving puzzles leads to important outcomes including challenge, a sense of satisfaction, achievement and enjoyment. Puzzles rouse curiosity and hone intuition. Our carefully constructed computational thinking puzzles – designed by a computer scientist, software engineer and computer science master teacher – provide challenge, insight and entertainment all of which increase pupil engagement and promote independent learning.

Puzzles help children develop general problem-solving and independent learning skills.  Engaging in puzzles means that pupils:

  • use creative approaches
  • make choices;
  • develop modelling skills;
  • develop persistence and resilience;
  • practice recognition of patterns and similarities, reducing the complexity of problems

 Pupils use, applying and develop the following aspects of the National Curriculum for Computing:
* Logical reasoning
* Decomposition – splitting problems down into smaller problems to make them easier to solve
* Abstraction – taking the detail out of a problem to make it easier to solve
* Generalisation – adapting solutions to other problems to solve new ones
* Pattern recognition – spotting patterns and relationships
* Algorithms – finding the steps that solve a problem
* Evaluation – looking critically at a solution to determine if there’s a better way to solve it
* Testing – checking whether a possible solution works
* Debugging – finding problems with a solution and fixing them

Our puzzles are designed for independent pupil work and provide pupils with handy tips on how to approach the problems and challenges. They also make clear links between the puzzles being approached, the skills being developed and the relevance of both not just in computing but the wider world. This enables pupils to make clear links between subjects and helps pupils make meaning of their learning.

See this post for an example of the puzzles.  You can also download samples and order class packs from our main website.

Download a free Computational Thinking Diary here:

Computational Thinking Diary

Click to download

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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.

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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