Posted in Coding, Cross-Curricular Computing Links, KS1, KS2, Programming Devices

Module 4: Computer Science

 

The final Pick ‘n’ Mix module was all about computer science. Many of my previous blogs give information regarding the topics discussed within this module and they are linked below:

Unplugged:

Algorithms can also be taught using the unplugged concept. Children complete challenges which relate to that of an algorithm, for example, children describe to a partner how to complete simple daily tasks such as getting from one place to another, making a jam sandwich or even tying your shoelaces. Whilst explaining, children will have time to adjust and amend their instructions or debug them, creating problem solvers and computational thinkers.  Computing unplugged can be adapted for use in many lesson such as DT, English, Maths and PE.unplugged cs

Computer Science Unplugged offer some great activities to use within the classroom to help introduce and develop computational thinking.

KS1:

KS1 computer science is a little different to KS2 as they learn to:

  • Write and test simple programs
  • Manipulate data
  • Organise data

Below are some useful resources to use with the children when teaching and learning about the areas outlined above:

Write and test simple programs: understand algorithms and how they are implemented as programs on digital devices

Manipulate data: manipulating and retrieving data in a range of digital formats

Organise data: organising and classifying whilst working creatively using digital media

KS2:

KS2 has significantly more computer science aspects and these can be read about in detail on my KS2 National Curriculum blog.

Areas addressed within the module include (some are linked up to previous blog posts):

  • Analysing and presenting
  • Computer Networks
  • Control
  • De-bugging
  • Decomposition
  • Discernment
  • How an algorithm/program works
  • Programming
  • Repetition
  • Variables

Below are some useful resources to use with the children when teaching and learning about the areas outlined above:

Analyse and Present: use and combine a variety of software to analyse and present data and information

  • Google Trends – great way for children to explore and compare data series. Links nicely with Google Flu Trends
  • Piktochart: create your own infographics combining global and local data by adding images, text and data to ready-made themes. Alternatives are easel.ly and infogr.am. A successful Year 3 student project
  • worksheet to use with children in order to teach them the difference between random data and data organised in a table.  They initially attempt to answer impossible questions based on random data – they can only really guess the answers.  They turn over and answer the same questions once the data has been organised into a data table
  • Hackasaurus: mash up and change any web page like magic. Use ‘x-ray goggles’ to hover over a website to see behind the scenes, then remix, make and share webpages or create your own, all within your browser. This makes it easy for children to tinker and mess around with the building blocks that make up the web. Includes resources for teaching webmaking: printables, cheat sheets, lesson plans, assessment rubrics, and a slideshow.
  • Popcorn Maker from Mozilla makes it easy to enhance, remix and share web video. Combine video and audio with text, links, maps, pictures and live feeds to make your own interactive newscasts, pop-up videos, multimedia reports, fan videos, guided web tours and more. Remix your favorite videos on YouTube or sounds on SoundCloud, add your own comments and links, or drag and drop in content from across the web.The result is a whole new way to tell stories on the web.
  • Mozilla Thimble: Thimble projects are hackable webpages that allow you to complete a challenge, play a game or build something cool by editing the code of the page, and learn webmaking skills like HTML and CSS in the process. Beginners can tinker around with template projects such as ‘Build your own Awesome Animal’, ‘Make an Animated Avatar’ or ‘Make Your Own Meme.’ Or you can hack into a pre-made game, customise it and share with friends
  • Text2Mindmap: A simple way to organise and classify information and show it visually. Outline your ideas as a list of topics and subtopics and an animated mindmap is automatically generated. You can drag and bounce your mindmap around the screen, edit fonts, colours and lines, rearrange the layout and save as a .jpg. Provides a quick focus on the hierarchical relationships between topics
  • The Rebirth of Rails: Amazing infographicvideo from General Electric about capturing and converting energy from braking to power trains. Also see two more interactives on the theme of trains
  • Book Creator App for the iPad- simple book creation for children
  • CBB app for ipad Creative Book Builder
  • Popplet for the iPad- organising ideas
  • Whodunnit? – Analyse a database to solve crimes

Computer Networks: understanding computer networks including the internet

  • How the Internet Works A module aimed at Year 5 with activities and resources.
  • Modelling Google A class activity. [CC by-sa Graham Hastings]
  • CS Unplugged: computer science without a computer. A collection of lesson ideas aimed at primary students that teach Computer Science through engaging games and puzzles using cards, string, crayons and lots of running around. The activities introduce concepts such as representing information, networks, binary numbers, algorithms, procedures, and data compression, with practical guidance, worksheets, photos and videos.
  • The internet map: an interactive visualisation of the relationships between websites. Enter a well-known site and zoom in and out.
  • ScrabbleNet : Acting out the Internet An activity with Y7 to demonstrate the concept of how data is transmitted across the Internet.

Control: using computers to control simple devices such as toys

  • Pro Bot – classic floor turtle robot car from TTS. Not cheap but a great way into Logo.
  • Examples of worksheets for projects involving input/output control – Flowol based.  LighthousePelicanLevel Crossing.
  • Robots and computers activities from theOregon Museum of Science and Technology(OMNI). You can program a robot to complete an online obstacle course and download activity instructions for programming a friend around a maze or a robot to tie your shoes. Other online interactives include a binary number balance activity, manipulating colour mixing and resolution, how computer pointing devices work, exploring passwords, and the history of communication technologies.
  • Low Life Labs: a robotics activity from the Museum of Minnesota to find out how “CAPTCHAS” tests whether you are a human or a computer. Explore how you read letters versus how a computer reads them. Look at human vision and how human brains use “pattern recognition” to help us understand what we see.
  • Lego robots activities aimed at 8-13 year old girls: how do we design a robot that moves quickly and tuns in a tight circle? Extensions explore how to program a LEGO robot to perform specific tasks, testing and retesting modifications to maximise the effectiveness of each design feature.
  • Lego WeDo and Scratch – Resources for using Scratch to control the Lego WeDo control kit (for 8-12 year olds)
  • Education WeDo Resources for using the Lego WeDo software
  • Robotics Concepts for Kids from IBM: workshop materials that bridge the gap between computer science (programming using NetLogo) and engineering (designing and constructing a magnetic Braitenburg vehicle). The introduction uses a prepared presentation and film clips about artificial intelligence and the history of robotics. A computer simulation and construction of a mechanical vehicle that responds to magnetic force reinforces robotics as a practical pursuit. Suitable for Years 5 and 6.
  • Lightbot: control a robot by giving it commands using programming logic. A great introduction to simple programming with the more complex levels introducing recursion and conditionals.
  • Stencyl: a complete game-creation toolset based on Scratch blocks. Click and drag blocks to program your characters and choose from many ready made blocks.
  • Enchanting Scratch meets Lego NXT.
  • FlowGo Line Following Vehicle – sensing and control with feedback.  Ideal for KS2 extension and STEM project.  See Word doc at the foot of this page & video on Youtube

Decomposition: solve problems by decomposing them into smaller parts

  • Before pupils create something in Scratch it can be useful to look at a working example and decompose what is happening. Spider Game on the Scratch website is here. Use right and left arrows to steer the spider. Spider Game planning is here.
  • Children (yrs 4-6) begin by working in small groups to develop a dance routine and record it on a flip cam. They break down the dance routine into parts and develop flow charts for each part.Pupils then edit screen gabs of them in different dance positions, whilst performing dance routine then import into Scratch costumes. Finally pupils use Selection and repetition to reconstruct the dance routine in scratch.
  • Thinking Myself: Computational Thinking in K-12 A peek into computational thinking through a series of lessons and games for children in grades K-12 defining the terms decompose, patterns, abstraction, algorithms and variables through examples and interactions

Discernment; Not believing everything that is read online

  • All About Explorers: what looks like a regular history site is full of inaccuracies. Activities are designed to help children learn to check facts and apply critical thinking skills to their research.
  • Internet Research (Fact or Fiction): Use this PDF guide covering urban legends, myths, hoaxes, opinions vs fact, web suffixes and dates to instigate class discussion around the accuracy of Internet information and maybe create your own urban legends. (from SNegreid on TES).
  • Media Smart – resources to help children and teachers understand digital advertising

How an algorithm works:

  • BrainPop animated movie on Computers: How does a computer work? What’s the difference between ROM and RAM? What’s an operating system? Covers what a central processing unit (CPU) is and how a hard drive operates. Also mentions modems, circuit boards, and sound and video cards. A related resource looks at Data Storage Devices: how CDs and DVDs, USB drives and memory cards store data. Resources includes a graded quiz, vocabulary activities and related information pages (subscription needed).
  • Jam Sandwich Algorithm Pupils program their teacher to make a jam sandwich

Programming:

  • Programming Basics A Prezi guide to some programming constructs with simple Scratch examples.
  •  Khan Academy Computer Science: an engaging and fun computing environment that has a coding pane and a canvas. You can change things in real time and explore how patterns, drawings, simulations and animations interact by changing core variables in Javascript or Processing. Watch the code and what is running simultaneously. This encourages you to experiment and make it your own, save to your profile and then share. You can listen to a tutorial as you interact on screen.
  • Redware lesson plans adaptable for upper KS1 and great for KS2 on Scratch.
  • A series of Scratch lesson plans aimed at KS2 and used with Y4-6 following the principle of not always showing pupils how to create each block
  • A series of Python lessons taught to Y6 pupils. Python needs MUCH more teacher time investment to teach successfully at KS2 – its a rarity just now
  • Python Video Help Files
  • Scratchel:introduces computational thinking through a series of problem solving activities set in Scratch based around Scratchel the robot and his friends.
  • Teaching LOGO in Lower KS2 series of lesson plans taught using programming principles
  • Series of Scratch Projects created by Phil Bagge and used in Y4-6.

Repetition: 

These are largely a collection of downloadable PDF’s that you can use with Microsoft’s LOGO program.  Children’s activities on this sort of application are often enriched and enhanced by working in pairs due to the opportunities for developing mathematical language and reasoning.

Variables: 

  • Scratch Maths Quiz which uses a single variable to hold the score. This is increased if the user answers questions right and is reported to the user after each question. (Yrs 4 & 5)
  • Scratch Automated Maths Quiz This builds on the concepts explored in Maths Quiz. The numbers are generated randomly and stored in two variables. The two variables are multiplied and the result stored in another variable. The user answer is compared to total variable. (Y5)
  • Text Based adventure game in Scratch Main Planning Variables used for hitpoints help sheet
  • Python Code (Adapting a poem) This module looks at the creation and use of a variable within a poem. The variable can be created by the programmer or by the program user or selected randomly from a list of items. (Yr 6) I think it is easier to explain variables with Python than Scratch but Python needs MUCH teacher training time investment!
  • Creating a shape calculator in Scratch where the number of repetitions is dependent on the number of sides on a shape.
    Thinking Myself: Computational Thinking in K-12 A peek into computational thinking through a series of lessons and games for children in grades K-12 defining the terms decompose, patterns, abstraction, algorithms and variables through examples and interactions.
  • Duck builder – free simulation resource that allows you to change and test variables
  • Virtual experiments – many of these allow you to test variables
  • A sense of murder  – from Kent ICT. A way of engaging children with data logging equipment.
  • Creatorverse and monster physics are great little apps to promote this area of ICT

Computer science is a key aspect of the computing curriculum and underpins many of the teaching strategies. I would always utilise computer science where necessary within all of my lessons as I believe it helps to set children up for future life within this technological world.

Posted in Coding, KS2

Hopscotch

hopscotch logoHopscotch is an app that prides itself on creative expression and the belief that anyone can code.

By signing up and entering the app you are faced with many options to learn how to code. Once a game or training video is selected it takes you to a screen that allows you to create and code a game by following a smaller step by step video screen.

The video guides the learner through exactly what needs to be done to achieve the desired goal whilst also explaining and defining terms such as code, emoji, algorithm etc.

This app would be extremely useful within the classroom as it allows learners to work at their own pace by either following the pace of the video or a separate group could follow the lead of the teacher.

There are so many options available on this app, children would be kept captivated and engaged whilst learning how to code. It can be linked to instructional texts and even PE; by making instructions clear to a peer to carry them out, for example around an obstacle course.

I am no computer whiz, but I picked up this app and instantly felt confident in creating my own game. I managed to make a ‘whack-a-dinosaur’ and a ‘jump in’ game. It is super easy to follow and s the aspects of code are regularly spoken about, the children will learn definitions and computer vocabulary through free time and exploration on this app.

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The Hopscotch blog has many useful pages relating to the importance of coding, computational thinking and creativity. 

I will definitely be using Hopscotch within my teaching to enhance the knowledge and skill set of the children within my classroom. I feel the simple, yet effective app allows children to individualise coding to suit their interests and foster their creativity.

 

Posted in Apps, Coding, Cross-Curricular Computing Links, KS1

Scratch Jr: The baby brother of Scratch

Scratch Jr is an introductory programming language that caters for young children, mainly within KS1, by using drag and drop blocks. Children snap together the graphical programming blocks to make characters, or ‘sprites’, move, jump, turn, walk, dance and sing. The programming language used is developmentally appropriate for younger children and the features are designed to match young children’s cognitive, personal, social, and emotional development (Scratch Jr website). Children can then move onto the Scratch app when they are ready. At a glance, the content and language used is much more suite dot KS1 than Scratch, however, being relatively new to the world of code, it still took me a while to get to grips with it.

Why Scratch Jr for KS1?

Scratch Jr was created to allow young children to enter the world of code. It enables them to create and express themselves through computing rather than just interacting with it. Whilst enjoying Scratch Jr, children are developing as computational thinkers, solving problems and develop sequencing skills paramount to future academic success. In addition, early numeracy and literacy skills are developed due to the language used and the meaningful and motivating context Scratch displays.

Setting up Scratch Jr:

Scratch Jr is available as a FREE app for both iPad and Android devices. Once loaded and opened, clicking on the house icon allows you to create a project or access saved projects – great for assessing children’s work after the lesson. The coding world is then at your fingertips!

My Experience of Scratch Jr:

I first noticed that there are more pictures than words, making it easily accessible for all young learners. The icons pr block palette, number 14 in the screenshot below, indicate how the ‘sprite’ will move or the basic programming options.

scratch-jr

The functions are much simpler than Scratch and I easily managed to create a small walking safari scene using customised ‘sprites’. It is super easy to use as you  drag the blocks you would like into the programming area.

scratchjr2.png
My ‘safari walk’ created on Scratch Jr.

For children, I do feel a teacher would have to explain the green flag and how to group parts together but once informed, they could be fully independent in no time. I enjoyed the challenge of debugging sprites and making sure things worked exactly as I planned out and I am positive KS1 children would feel the same and become immersed in the world of coding that this app has to offer.

The teacher could create a simple project and ask children to add on or edit specific aspects to check and assess their debugging skills. This would aid in their computational thinking skills and problem solving whilst allowing them to explore coding and algorithms. Additionally, the teacher could set challenges for the higher achieving students and could write a set of instructions for lower achieving students to follow.

There are also step by step guides available on the website for how to create more complex aspects of Scratch Jr such as Meet and Greet and Conversations.

What do people think of Scratch Jr:

This ScratchJr Book Gets Younger Minds Creating with Code – GeekDad. January 7, 2016

Top 10 Tech | 2016 – School Library Journal. December 6, 2016

 

Posted in Apps, Coding, Cross-Curricular Computing Links, KS2

Scratch: My second ever attempt and I made a catching game…

Today, I had a look at the popular KS2 educational programming and coding site Scratch, for the second time ever. I have never seen Scratch used in the classroom, but have seen the app logo on many school i-pads. At first, I was slightly overwhelmed by the many different options and not having a step by step audio guide was quite daunting, however I quickly realised there was visual step by step guides on the website (which I will probably rely on for quite a while)! Even the vocabulary used throughout the site is all new and will take quite a while for me to get used to.

Setting up Scratch:

Scratch can be used via app or on the website itself making it quite a flexible programming device in schools, as educational institutions who may not have a plethora of i-pads are still able to access Scratch on computer and laptops. Once on the website, clicking create, gives you full access to programme to your heart’s content.

My Second Personal Experience of Scratch:

As at first I was quite overwhelmed, I quickly searched the website in the hope of some guides to help me navigate and start my coding adventure. A pop up box on the right hand side of the screen has many options to help you out. I chose to create a catch game from the step-by-step menu at the side to get my head around the endless possibilities Scratch has to offer…

scratch-help-guide
The help guide on the right hand side can be used by beginners or masters of scratch as the creations all vary in difficulty and types of challenge.

The step-by-step guide talks you through each element from selecting sprites (the images used within the game) to enhancing the game by adding a scoring system. I found this particularly useful and it made the whole coding and programming process seem much less intimidating.

New ideas and actions were introduced during the step-by-step guide in a clear and concise way that are easy for children and adults alike to follow. The colour system used for the various sub-sections is also a useful feature and it makes it easier to search for the programming option you require and identify it more clearly when building the scripts.

The step-by-step guide not only tells you but shows you visually how to construct the scripts so they are successful and achieve your targets, putting an emphasis on how easy it can be once mastered.

scratch-help-guide-step-by-step
The step-by-step guide on the right hand side of the screen is an invaluable tool for getting to grips with Scratch.

After completing the majority of the step-by-step guide, I was able to play the catching game I had created using a monkey and bananas as the sprites. This game was fun and it was made even more satisfying by the fact that I had programmed it myself.

scratch-catch-game-1
I was able to create a catching game using a monkey and bananas. It proved successful after 3 attempts!

To test my skills even further and enhance the quality of the game, I added a scoring system (with the help of the guide). This was simple enough to do once told how to add it. It proved successful (after 2 attempts) and I was able to play as the monkey and catch the bananas, thus, with each successful catch I scored a point.

scractch-catching-game-2
The score button has been added (the top left hand corner of he background image)

I enjoyed the challenge of creating my own game and feel KS2 would also enjoy this. It does appear rather complex but once broken down into manageable steps and you remember where everything is, it could be mastered quite quickly. The children could even work in small groups or pairs to further their reasoning, communication and teamwork skills or grouped accordingly to support someone who perhaps lacks confidence in computing.

I still need to have more a free play time on Scratch to develop my knowledge and understanding and programming in general, without specific instruction, to really enhance my skill development within the area of KS2 computing.

Potential Cross-Curricular Links:

Scratch is quite a unique tool and requires quite a bit of concentration to really engage within the programming and coding of characters and scripts. You could link it to a topic lesson by creating a theme within a game e.g. Viking characters and props linking to History. However, I believe the main focus when using Scratch should be on the computing vocabulary and the programming and coding itself, rather than mixing that focus with another topic.

Assessment for Learning:

There are so many options on Scratch. Children can create animations, games and stories either individually, within partnerships or in small groups. Teachers can easily assess the children’s learning as they are able to save their work and progressions, which is very useful for children to continually work on projects over the course of a term and enhance their programming skills according to their knowledge and understanding of computing. Children can independently save work by signing in and creating a Scratch account, which I am sure schools would invest in. Their account would be accessible by the teacher so that the children’s learning, knowledge and understanding can be recorded at different stages of the year. Similarly, the children will feel proud of their work as they could potentially create a programme that is completely unique and quite advanced if copious amounts of time are dedicated to Scratch over the course of a term or even a school year.

For the lower achievers, the teacher could create their own guides for children to follow but within these guides leave elements of choice so the children can discover ideas of their own and thus, feel proud of their work. It may even instil curiosity to try programming and coding on Scratch without a guide in a subsequent lesson once their confidence builds.

For higher achievers within computing, the teacher could ask questions regarding higher order computing skills and reasoning to further their individual development. These children could be highlighted after an initial task of following instructions to create a simple game has been completed, achieved successfully and whether the children added anything extra off their own back. All in all a great app and website for assessment and learning within computing.

To conclude this long blog, Scratch states that it helps children to work collaboratively, creatively think of ideas and reason systematically, which are all essential skills for successful computing, programming and coding within the 21st century. In addition, these skills are transferable to all the other subjects within the National Curriculum and therefore, this programming device holistically develops the whole child.