Can 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!
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.
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.
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?