Saturday, May 16, 2015

Learn to Code

I have long been a fan of the Rising Stars Switched on ICT units because of the way that they cover ICT in a creative way, supporting teachers who have low confidence in covering he curriculum. With the move to the computing curriculum, Rising Stars have responded quickly, with a set of Learn to Code books, written by Claire Lotriet @ohlottie. 

When I first saw them I was impressed with the way that the units are set out in easy to follow steps and that they can be used progressively through KS2. Our ICT coordinator felt the same and that they would be a useful addition to the resources that we have in school. 

Exploring Kodu

The fact that the activities are based on free resources means that it can be a cost effective way of covering the computing curriculum, especially for less confident teachers. There is a great variety too! The programs in the unit cover sequence, selection, and repetition in programs; working with variables and various forms of input and output. I was pleased to see Kodu and Thimble included and impressed that it moved on to things like Python and AppInventor. 

Ensuring the Scratch instructions work!

It was important to find out what our children thought though, as they often have different opinions from the teachers!  So my year 5 code club (which includes some digital leaders) have spent the last couple of weeks reviewing some of the activities (they selected the ones they wanted to try out). The thing that stood out was that my children were generally able to follow the instructions and investigate independently. There is a range of ability within this group and the normal range of personalities, from those who quietly persevere, to those who prefer to work in pairs and others who are motivated by other's successes. The children who have the least stamina were given the easier tasks from the first books.

Lightbot explorers

I did my usual observing and questioning and when they did get stuck I encouraged them to return to the last instruction and try again, which they did! They have learned essential computing skills, such as using logical reasoning and debugging as well as perseverance. They have thoroughly enjoyed using them – not just the more familiar resources like Scratch, Lightbot or Snap and the creative enticement of Kodu, but relishing the success they felt when they have managed to create a script and program a turtle using TouchDevelop. Drawing a square with a turtle using this unknown resource was a huge coding achievement for one child.

Amazing perseverance with TouchDevelop

I think this is a great scheme for helping primary aged children (and early secondary) develop their coding confidence. If you lack confidence as a teacher to deliver the computing curriculum, you won't go far wrong with these. 

NB Depending on the experience of your children, you may want to use books meant for lower year groups with your children.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Successful resources for the computing curriculum

Last Thursday #DLChat focused on successful resources that have been used in the computing curriculum. I started a gdoc to crowd-source these successes and to show how digital leaders have supported delivery of the computing curriculum. Many of you will know how passionate I am about digital leaders, the benefits to them as students and the impact that they can have in school. It is great to see how schools have benefited from their skills. 

 This differs in the crowd-sourced computing document as it is not just ones that are known, but ones that have been used.  I have blogged about many computing resources and am proud to say that there are very few that I haven't tried in school - and this is mostly because they are new, not appropriate for KS1 and I only have an hour a week with my code club so haven't got round to them yet. Please add any that you know of that haven't been listed. There are lots of valuable ideas in the #DLChat story below too. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Bugs and numbers

This is another lovely EYFS/SEN app made by Little Bit Studio. Like Bugs and Buttons, the graphics and the music are appealing and of high quality. There is a range of games to play, to enhance early maths skills from counting and adding to time and fractions.

As with the last app I reviewed, there is a handy finger to give you a hint should you need it.

The first game I played was number recognition and ordering to 100. If you get the order wrong you get an 'oops', but then continue from where you were, which is good.

At the end you get a score, which I would then encourage children to try and beat.

The next game I looked at was a sequencing game. It shows you the order of the xylophone, which you then shake up before replicating. A nice matching/sequencing game. 

The time game is a simple match the analogue to digital time. I only played this briefly so it may go past hour times. It scaffolds learning by showing the time as you move the small hand, then the train chuffs away if you match the time correctly. 

The adding game uses ants as visual, which I know will appeal to children. It is a great game for independent work for a child with SEN in my class as I know he will experience lots of success with it-which it more important than challenge at times. 

The music is appropriate for each game, with a lovely Italian favour during pizza fractions! 

The measuring lab had suitably scientific kooky music too. If you weren't watching your child at play, you would know exactly what they were doing.

There is also some lovely humour too - during game show addition and subtraction (level 1) I was told that I am a super genius! ☺️ That's what I tell my children all the while!

I haven't played all the games in the app, but from the ones I have played I would recommend it as another quality app for early years education. I will definitely be using this in class.

Bugs and buttons

This morning I am exploring some more apps that are great for EYFS and children with SEN in ks1. Little Bit studio have made a range of 'bug' apps that look beautiful, because of the brightly coloured high-definition graphics. They definitely feel like the high quality resource you would want to be using in the classroom. 
Learning and exploring through play is key for our youngest children and Bugs and Buttons 2 lets children do this. There are 18 games within the app, with different environments for your child to explore. It covers a range of skills, from counting and sorting to manipulating and early computing (computational thinking) skills. The latter happens as children have to think about what they need to do to be successful within the games. It's nice that the games don't get too hard, too quickly, but that is a bit frustrating for me as a reviewer, so I have bought it for my favourite little beta tester to trial too (thanks Ruby!) I will share her views once I have them. 

A quick snapshot of some of the games

The first game I played was a simple match the button to the trolley game. I realised quite soon that you could speed it up by adding more buttons to each trolley, then got it wrong when I was matching by colour, but not by button. Early computational thinking. At one point it seemed quite frantic (in a good way) as I was trying to put all the buttons I had on screen into the trolleys before they rolled away. A nice matching game.

The next game I played is a 1:1 correspondence game, whereby you have to give the right dish of treats according to the number of bugs. It has nice background music for an app- well it didn't irritate me like some have! Before starting the game there is a helping hand to give a hint about what to do. 

This game is a lovely manipulation game that I shall try with a child in my class. (If you use your personal ipad in class it is important that you lock it to the one app so that they don't go wandering.) In this game you pinch the screen to create an elastic band, to bounce the buttons so that they don't hit the bugs. Lovely! 

I will be having a look at the other games, but for just over £2 I really don't think you can go far wrong! Here are the other games that you can play.

I will add my beta testers reviews once I have them, so come back and check them out soon - or subscribe to updates. If you have any thoughts, please comment below!

Another free computing app: Tickle

My good #DLchat friend @clcsimon recommended this app to me during #dlchat a couple of weeks ago. You can use it to program air drones, connected toys and smart home devices, such as Philips Hue lighting system. If you don't have any of these devices you can do like I do and use it to program Orca. There are some 'courses' on their website that you can use ( or you can create your own.

Other creatures are available within the app, which is free. It's another one that is as easy to use as Scratch and Hopscotch, but the different 'sprites' will appeal to different children. It also has some quite funky music. The fact that it's free means it is definitely worth getting your digital leaders or code club members to explore and review it. It's their opinions that really count isn't it? I shall add my code clubber's thoughts when they've had a play.

If you've already done that, please share blog posts or your thoughts in the comments. Thank you!