lego-building-virtual-in-chrome

I seem to spend a good chuck of my life trawling the internet looking for useless rubbish I find cool. Well last night I came across a corker. Google Chrome have teamed up with the guys at Lego and create an amazing little web app.

It really is as simple as it sounds, start of with your blank board and you’re free to build anything and everything. At the moment I’m in love with all thing retro gaming, so I obviously started off by building some classic gaming characters (below). The app is easy to use, and involves the pupils using their mouse as well as several hot keys on the keyboard. Pupils of all ages should be able to pick it up in no time. The app is only available on Chrome at the moment as an extension, this could mean it isn’t accessible in all schools, so check on this 1st.  build with chrome copy

What makes it even cooler is the way it links with Google Earth in a similar way to Google Sketchup. Each one of your building boards is a small section for the Earth that becomes your plot. Some of the better examples have been small models of the Eiffel Tower in its correct location, maybe some of your class could build your school in Lego.

As with a box of real Lego, your imagination is the only barrier to what pupils can make, and given some free time on the app who knows what they could come up with! Think of all the learning advantages of Lego, but without standing on any of the see through pieces!

 

computing without computingCan you see that dark looming shape on the horizon, that’s right, it’s the new Computing Curriculum. Fear not! It really isn’t as daunting as it seems. Most of you will already be doing some element of computing/programming already, it’s just about changing the focus or adapting a plan. For some schools budget is huge factor in what they offer pupils with computing, and how they can teach pupils to the vital skills they need.

In this post I wanted to talk about some different ways you can cover areas of the new curriculum without even touching a computer. Getting you pupils away from the desk where they develop square eye syndrome, and get them active in the hall or outside. The world looks much nicer in HD!

robot teacher

Robot Teacher

Essentially an algorithm is just a list of instructions. That’s it. No really, just instructions. When the 1st draft of the new curriculum people panicked at the prospect of teaching algorithms to KS1 pupils, but I’m sure you cover instructions in your literacy lessons! One great way of getting kids to understand the use of an algorithm is to become the robot teacher (No, not like the type Mr Gove is suggesting), and follow the pupils commands. Give your pupils a list of command prompts and get them to set out an algorithm, or set of instructions, for a simple activity. Getting across the classroom is a great way to get started, and if you’re braver than me you could try something like making a drink. This is also perfect to get pupils to understand the concept for debugging. All this means in taking the wrong or missed steps out of your algorithm to make it run smoothly. If you bang you leg on a chair, or end up with juice all down you shirt then the kids need to fix it! This type of activity leads on perfectly to building up lines of code, of longer and more intricate control procedures.

Sorting Procedures

sorting algorithms

As well as control procedures pupils also need an understanding of how a computer thinks, what procedures and steps it goes through. A great way of doing this is to get pupils to understand how a computer sorts. Everything in a computer is either in alphabetical or numerical order. A computer will do this with a simple sorting algorithm that takes it a fraction of a second. The image to the left is a simple formula for organising and sorting numbers in to order. When 2 numbers meet in a box the smaller one moves to the left, and the larger moves to the right. Over the course of the map all of the numbers should sort themselves into the right order. Great stuff for in the playground, and fun to work out how many moves it will take.

Control Robots 

A good follow on from the Robot teacher is to bring in small control based robots. Something like a Beebot can be used in the classroom and is great fun for the kids. The robots work on basic command sequences which help develop forward thinking for the pupils. It also helps them to visually understand the command prompt needed in control. A Beebot doesn’t understand ‘Go left’ or ‘turn around’, and the pupils quickly see what happens if they try (nothing!)

Out and About

To finish there is also the possibility of sending your kids off on an adventure around the school. start them off in your classroom, and with a series of simple instructions (or an algorithm) get them to travel around the school collecting items to find their way back. Depending on budget, this would be great to do with QR codes and some iPods/iPads. Pupils could scan for a text-based clue, or even a series of visual directions to follow. Possibilities are endless!

 

As well as being away from the computer and active these activities are also a great introduction to computing, and could be a great way to get your pupils of any age started. Any one else have any good ideas to get away from the computer? Anyone tried these before?

2cass logoThere are plenty of buzz words that do the rounds in primary schools on a regular basis, but one has popped up constantly this year; Programming. ICT teachers have the task of a changing curriculum with a completely different outlook and focus. So for the past few months I have been thinking of programs and teaching ideas, that I already use with the pupils, that encompass the themes and outcomes of the changing curriculum.

2cass overall

Pupils made some none fiction texts based on nocturnal animals.

One that came to mind, and one that I love using with pupils of all ages is 2CreateASuperStory. 2SimpleSoftware produce some great programs, and are always easy to use with the pupils, but 2CASS adds something else, and extra dimension. Like other software it has the simple drawing tools that all pupils are used to, but it also comes with a whole host of pre-made characters and shapes ready to be manipulated. When loaded into the page children have the ability to programme its movements, the direction, and how far it travels. They can even add text, sounds, and change the movement of the book. The best thing is that the children don’t even know they programming. They get a simple and clear understanding of direction and distance whilst making and sharing some great creative work.

Control instructions made the owl fly across the image.

Control instructions made the owl fly across the image.

Where next? 

Next year I plan to make the movement and control side of the program more of a focus. Rather than just telling pupils to animate their pictures I think I will give them more specific instructions. This should show me that they can programme, and if necessary, debug a sequence of instructions (or algorithm!). I also want to develop the type of activity I do using the software. It has oodles of features and different style that I just haven’t got round to using with pupils, I tend to be lazy and stick to the simple mode.

How many of the different features have you used? What programs that you use now lend themselves easily to programming and control? 

An Afternoon of Kodu

January 15th, 2014 | Posted by AlwaysComputing in ICT Resources - (0 Comments)

koduAt the moment my year 6 classes are looking at all things gaming, and yesterday I introduced them to the wonderful world of Kodu. Kodu is something I have always been meaning to play with, but never been brave enough to. It always seemed a bit complex and fiddly. Our unit of work has looked at classic games, and what makes them great. Then we are moving on to make a variety of games using different programs. They are experts with 2DIY, which is brilliant to use and so adaptable, but I wanted them to move to something with more complexity. I’m working my way towards Scratch, and Kodu seemed like a nice middle ground.

Due to the fact that my knowledge of the program was fairly minimal I left the majority of the teaching down to the kids. I showed them the very basics and set them free to play, explore and make plenty of mistakes. When the lesson finished I realised that this was probably the best way to do it. Those who struggled stuck to what I had shown them, and with a little encouragement pushed themselves and added new details. The best part of the lesson was seeing those who understood it quickly without my coaching. The freedom of the lesson allowed them to flourish and make some fantastic worlds at their 1st attempt. It left me eager to see what they can do with more time, and more development from me.

The only problem I had with the lesson was that the kids spent a good chunk of the time concentrating on their world design and the aesthetics. Next time they are in their challenge will be to focus on the game side of it and try to make a working game in an hour. Seeing their minds working on the look of their work was good, but without the core game working their work seemed hollow. Another little tip for a lesson like this would be to give the children question cards. I limited my pupils to 2 each. this encourages the children to ask their peers for help and work with each other, plus it stops them from hassling you when you don’t have the answers yet!

If anyone else is a bit apprehensive about using Kodu in a primary school I would say go for it, but put the focus on the kids. Make them learn and push themselves to find what they can do. A good website to look at before hand is Planet Kodu, it’s filled with tutorials, downloads and some great inspiration for the children. Have you used Kodu in the classroom? Any helping tips for others or myself?!

New Year, New Start

January 3rd, 2014 | Posted by AlwaysComputing in Thoughts - (0 Comments)

Level upWelcome to 2014 everyone! Over the hols I had the nasty experience of having my previous twitter account hacked. Bad times. It got to the stage where I have had to start all over again with a new twitter account and a new blog. I have managed to transfer all of my previous posts and links over from my old blog, so everything you like is still here. After getting ever so slightly cross (understatement) I decided to look at the positives. New year, New start, New computing curriculum. Time to make the most of a bad situation. From now on this blog is going to heavily orientated towards the new curriculum, and how you can make computing a cross curricular event in your schools, so please make sure you share this site with others.

So lets start this new direction, and the positive look at 2014, with a simple discussion board. In the Padlet below add the what you are looking forward to when working with the new curriculum. Lots has been said about the changes, but lets pick out the positives.

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