Liane is a Computer Scientist (BSc (Hons)), Software Engineer & author of iCompute which supports schools with a computing curriculum and resources for teaching computing in the EYFS, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2. ERA Awards Finalist 2016-2021, BETT Awards 2014-2018. Featured on BBC Bitesize for Primary Computing and The Hour of Code (code.org)

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!

 

Valentine Activity

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

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

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Primary Cryptography

Encryption and Decryption

Enigma Factfile

Click to download

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

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

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

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

As part of it, I’ve been putting together resources on the history of cryptography.  Here is a brief introduction to the Enigma machine and how the magnificent men and women at Bletchley helped shorten World War II with their code breaking skills!

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

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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BETT Awards 2018

BETT Award 2018 Nomination for iCompute!

BETT Awards 2018

We are thrilled to announce that iCompute has been shortlisted for a coveted BETT Award for iCompute in the EYFS.

ERA 2017 Finalist - iCompute in the EYFS

BETT Awards 2018 Finalist – Early Years Content

The Bett Awards are a celebration of the inspiring creativity and innovation that can be found throughout technology for education. The awards form an integral part of Bett each year, the world’s leading showcase of education technology solutions.

The Director of BESA, Patrick Hayes, who chairs the panel of judges for the Bett Awards, said:

This was a record year for the Bett Awards, with more applications from EdTech companies than ever before, coming in from around the world. This reflects the status of the Bett Awards as being the global gold standard when it comes to recognising excellence in education technology. The quality of applications was incredibly high this year, and judges had a lot of difficult decisions to make when deciding who the finalists should be. It is no mean feat to be a Bett Awards finalist, and huge congratulations should be in order for all of the companies who made the cut this year!”

The panel of judges selected iCompute for the shortlist according to rigorous criteria, taking into consideration the innovative nature of the products, their impact on teaching and learning in the classroom, and their cost effectiveness in terms of educational aims and results.

Find out more about iCompute in the EYFS.

Liane O’Kane, Managing Director of iCompute, comments:

“Being shortlisted as a BETT finalist this year is a great achievement and a reflection of our dedication and hard work in helping schools teach primary computing creatively and well.  We constantly add to and update our product range to remain at the forefront of advances in educational technology.  We never take these things for granted and are very proud that our expertise and innovation in teaching & learning with, and about, technology has been recognised by BETT and BESA once again.  Fingers crossed for a win this year!’

The full list of finalists is available on Besa’s website.  The winners of the Bett Awards 2018 will be announced on the evening of Wednesday 24 January 2018.

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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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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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Primary Computing Provision

Good or Better Primary Computing?

 

Observation

Computing Observation

Inspired by the great set of questions produced by Miles Berry – for school experience tutors to ask when observing trainee teachers in Computing – I’ve produced my own set for schools to reflect on regarding their computing provision which, hopefully, can be used to inform future plans.

The questions cover most of David Brown’s (former HMI lead for Computing) thoughts for inspecting computing – with a few tweaks!

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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Teach Computing: Learn Computing

Your Pupils need YOU not just a Tutorial!


teaching computing not tutorialsComputing has been statutory for pupils from the age of five since 2014 and many schools have risen to the challenge and are teaching some excellent computing.  We’ve seen the emergence of some amazing pedagogies, tools and technologies.  Many companies, myself included with iCompute, have produced a plethora of resources to help schools teach computing creatively and well.  There are dozens of great software and apps that support teaching and learning – see my Periodic Table of Computing Resources for an idea of what’s out there.

I advocate the use of some coding apps; however I’m becoming increasingly concerned as I’ve noticed a worrying trend in primary schools for ‘teaching’ computing primarily through the use of software and services that are tutorial driven. I’m talking about the kind of app, software or service where children work independently through challenges or levels with on-screen prompts.  I spoke to one teacher recently who went from Scratch Jr (aimed at KS1) straight on to Swift Playgrounds (aimed at Year 7, but my able UKS2’s use it) without anything between because they were the only apps she could find that didn’t need her input!  Aside from the fact that there are apps that could fill that gap, it doesn’t mean they should.

There is, of course, a place for these kinds of activities in computing lessons – I produce some myself – but I fear that many teachers are adopting this as their only teaching approach and that’s bad.  Why?  Because they focus on one aspect of the curriculum only and teachers are using it due to a lack of confidence and subject knowledge, not because they’re enabling true self-directed learning.

In Roger Hiemstra’s (Bull, 2013) essay about self-directed learning, he proposes six roles for the teacher attempting to adopt self-directed learning approaches:

  • content resource
  • resource locator
  • interest stimulator
  • positive attitude generator
  • creativity and critical thinking stimulator
  • evaluation stimulator

Using mainly tutorial driven tools for computing lessons means the role of the teacher is often reduced to little more than a resource locator. A teacher’s pedagogical subject knowledge is about having a range of teaching approaches and strategies that enable them to transfer specific subject knowledge to their pupils, which includes knowledge of how to make that understandable.  In other words, they still need subject knowledge.  Often I’ve heard members of grass-roots organisations, who aim to encourage and support schools in computing, suggest to inexperienced teachers that it’s absolutely fine to ‘let the children get on with it’.  It’s not.  As with any subject we are paid to teach, we teachers need to acquire subject knowledge and, especially in the case of computing, keep it up to date.  Then teach it, properly, using a range of approaches and strategies.

Teacher apathy and lack of confidence is a problem in primary computing that we need to start seriously addressing.  It’s not okay to opt out or only cover aspects of it.  As I’ve said before, opting out of teaching computing is like not bothering much with Maths because you find it hard.  Just because some teachers do not find embracing technology an important part of their everyday lives and/or find it challenging does not mean that it can be ignored.  It’s vital for the children they are legally obliged to educate.

Of course I fully understand that many primary teachers feel as if they have been dropped in it, with little in the way of training on offer.  I run regular CPD in my voluntary role as a Primary Computer Science Master Teacher.  Time and time again, I’m training the same passionate, enthusiastic, teachers who are (crucially) released by their schools to attend sessions.  I specifically developed iCompute for inexperienced teachers – to teach the teacher as well as pupils – well in advance of the introduction of the National Curriculum in 2014, as I anticipated that this was going to be a huge leap for most and I’m passionate about my subject being taught with enthusiasm, creatively and well.

We need a shift in attitudes about teaching primary computing.  It is fundamental to the lives of our children and we owe it to them to prepare them to understand and be able to fully participate in the modern digital world.  Instead of searching for apps or subscribing to services that provide tutorial based lessons, we need to encourage teachers to focus on improving their subject knowledge and push for training.  Only then will they have the ability to know whether those apps and services offer any value in terms of learning and progression.  They will be opting in, not out.

Bibliography:

Charlotte Dignath-van Ewijk and Greetje van der Werf, “What Teachers Think about Self-Regulated Learning: Investigating Teacher Beliefs and Teacher Behavior of Enhancing Students’ Self-Regulation,” Education Research International, vol. 2012, Article ID 741713, 10 pages, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/741713

Bull, Bernard, “What Is The Role Of A Teacher In A Self-Directed Learning Environment? – Etale – Ideas That Matter”. Etale – Ideas that Matter. N.p., 2017. Web. 4 Apr. 2017.

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Easter Computing Activity

For Key Stage 1

Everyone likes putting a seasonal twist on lessons during the approach to Easter and I’ve been making Easter computing lessons for my pupils to add to iCompute‘s computing scheme of work

This time, I’ve put together a step-by-step computing lesson plan and teacher resources for Key Stage 1 pupils.  You can download the free Easter computing lesson and resources and use them your own classrooms for a little seasonal fun!

A spin on the Bee Bot app, this uses Scratch 2.0 and ‘BunnyBot’.  The children create algorithms and program the Easter Bunny to collect Eggs.

Easter Computing Lesson

BunnyBot

Easter computing lesson plan

Click to download lesson & resources

The lesson plan contains lots of ideas for differentiation, extension and enrichment

  • predicting algorithms
  • identifying and using repetition in programs
  • programming against the clock
  • comparing and improving algorithms and programs
  • designing own game

Check out my other Easter computing resources for Key Stage 2 pupils.

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Easter Computing – Programming an Egg Hunt

Program the Easter Bunny with Scratch

Not long until Easter and I’m sure you’ll have lots planned for it in other subjects, but don’t forget about Computing.  It’s a great end-of-term opportunity for your pupils to demonstrate what they can do with Scratch programming.

Easter Egg Hunt

Click to download the plan and resources

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

It’s Easter and the Easter Bunny has forgotten where she has hidden all of her eggs.  Challenge your pupils to create algorithms and program the bunny to get all of her eggs in her basket any way they know.

Easter Scratch Program

Easter Egg Hunt Support Card

Pupil Support Card

As usual, lots of opportunities for differentiation.  For instance, less able pupils could use pupil support cards (see Egg Hunt card which is included in the pack) and/or write a more simple collecting less eggs.  Your more able pupils could:

  • program the ice-cream truck sprite to move across the x-axis
  • program the hot-air balloon to fly
  • add the Easter eggs to a list variable when collected
  • add ‘enemies’ to thwart the Easter Bunny in her quest
  • add extra, increasingly difficult, levels (e.g. mazes to navigate)

Ideas for differentiation, extension and enrichment are included in the lesson plan.  Lots of opportunities to be inspired and get creative.

Check out my free Key Stage 1 activity: programming the Easter Bunny to collect Eggs – a twist on the BeeBot app.

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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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ERA Awards 2017 Finalist

Two Education Resources Award Nominations for iCompute!

ERA 2017 Finalist Logo

We are thrilled to announce that the ERA Awards 2017 panel have shortlisted iCompute in the following categories:

ERA 2017 Finalist - iCompute in the EYFS

ERA 2017 Finalist – Early Years Resource (ICT)

ERA 2017 Finalist - Computational Thinking Puzzle Workbook

ERA 2017 Finalist – Educational Book Award

Organised by Brilliant Marketing Solutions and The British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA), The Education Resources Awards (ERA) are now in their 18th successful year and are firmly established as the premier annual event to celebrate outstanding success for the suppliers and teaching professionals of the education sector throughout the UK.

The awards highlight and reward the quality and diversity of educational products, resources, services and people as well as the best educational establishments and the most dedicated members of the teaching profession. The ERA’s aims to encourage the raising of educational services & product standards throughout the industry and is recognised throughout the sector as the Accolade of excellence.

The panel of judges selected iCompute for the shortlist according to rigorous criteria, taking into consideration the innovative nature of the products, their impact on teaching and learning in the classroom, and their cost effectiveness in terms of educational aims and results.

Find out more about iCompute in the EYFS and our Computational Thinking Puzzle Workbook.

Liane O’Kane, Managing Director of iCompute, comments:

“Being shortlisted as finalists in two categories is a great achievement and a reflection of our dedication and hard work in helping schools teach primary computing creatively and well.  We constantly add to and update our product range to remain at the forefront of advances in educational technology.  We never take these things for granted and are very proud that our expertise and innovation in teaching & learning with, and about, technology has been recognised by ERA and BESA for the second year running.  Fingers crossed for two wins in March!’

The full list of finalists is available on the ERA Website.  Winners will be announced at a gala event to be held at The National Conference Centre, Birmingham on the second evening of The Education Show: Friday 17th March 2017.

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