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.

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