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 (13th October 2020) 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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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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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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Ada Lovelace – I Look Like An Engineer

iCompute Author Liane O'Kane

iCompute’s Liane O’Kane marks Ada Lovelace Day with #iLookLikeAnEngineer

I’m not cut out to be a participant in online social media campaigns.  I’m a Computer Scientist and a teacher.  Case in point: I’m having a touch of  angst about a selfie I posted on Twitter yesterday to celebrate Ada Lovelace Day.  I’m now wondering whether I’ve addressed sexism in the technology industry or perpetuated it?

Being a graduate of computing science in the 90’s where I was one only one of three women in my year and now as a teacher of computing, I was thrilled to see that #AdaLovelaceDay was trending on Twitter yesterday.  I had just written a computing unit for primary pupils featuring her contribution to history as the worlds first computer programmer as part of my primary computing scheme of work.  I then saw that it was being celebrated by thousands of women around the world in technology/science/engineering/maths posting photographs of themselves at work with the hashtag #iLookLikeAnEngineer.  I joined the many women keen to dispel the stereotype of what constitutes an engineer – in my case a software engineer – by adding my photo.

All good.  Except that I then spotted the BBC headline “‘Too hot to be an engineer’ – Women mark Ada Lovelace day”.  The connotations of that headline and my contribution marking Ada Lovelace Day did not sit at all comfortably.  Some posts on Twitter, by women, added to my unease: asking whether women posting images of themselves inevitably focused the conversation towards looks, thus perpetuating perceptions of women in technology.  True, if that’s what is is about.  But it’s not.  Note the quotes in the headline – ‘Too hot to be an engineer’.  That is a comment made by male colleagues to a female software engineer after she took part in a promotional campaign for her company.  To put it diplomatically, they questioned whether her image fit that of a ‘typical’ engineer and suggested that people would find it unlikely that she was one.  The Twitter campaign, #iLookLikeAnEngineer, has taken flight because women working in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) want the world to see that women are engineers – in my case a software engineer.

I’m not interested in showing men that I’m an engineer because I have never, in all my many years in the computing industry, encountered what I would call sexism.  I’ve never missed out on a job, had my contributions dismissed nor been promoted because I’m a women.  I’ve been mistaken for the tea lady in meetings but I didn’t get hysterical about it – I simply spoke with some authority on my subject and they no longer expected a milk with two sugars.  I’ve also been asked, when taking notes, if I was writing a shopping list for making my husband’s dinner. That was a joke and I laughed.  We women need to lose the silicone chip on our shoulders.  They’re not out to get us and we’re not posting pictures of ourselves to look good.

I participated in the campaign because I’m a teacher and I want more girls to take STEM subjects.  I want girls to know that they won’t be the first woman in technology (thank you Ada Lovelace) and that there are lots of us out there continuing to make a contribution. A contribution that we’d love them to be a part of.  So girls, here is what an engineer looks like:

Primary Algorithms outdoors

#iLookLikeAnEngineer

girls with ipads

#iLookLikeAnEngineer

Girls outside with iPads

#iLookLikeAnEngineer

Girls outside with iPads

#iLookLikeAnEngineer

Girls with iPads

#iLookLikeAnEngineer

primary algorithms

#iLookLikeAnEngineer