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Today with year 3 I decided to take advantage of the good weather and take the class out for some CSUnplugged. The idea of the lesson was simple, computers love patterns and they had to think like computers in a number of pattern challenges. I split this into 3 areas:

  • Pattern creating to make a task simpler
  • Pattern spotting/understanding
  • Debugging a pattern

We started with using any objects they could find on the field to create different patterns with varying degrees of complexity. The kids needed a push at first to understand the could use ANYTHING they could find, but when they saw me working with group moving some pallets they got the idea! The idea was for them to be creative as possible, making patterns with varying degrees of steps and complexities.

When they’d had a go at this we then took turns to walk around the field looking for patterns left by other groups. The idea of computers spotting patterns and using them clicked with this activity. The groups walked round the field trying to find them, work out what the pattern was (decode) and add another step to it. We even had the opportunity to debug if the wind had blown some of their work away! This meant either finding the pieces, or trying to work out where the previous group had gone wrong.

The kids loved the activity and the weather was great for it. It’s one of the first times I’ve tried to teach computing outside of my room or without a robot. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it!

 

Introducing Year 1 -2DIY

October 21st, 2014 | Posted by AlwaysComputing in 2DIY | PurpleMash - (0 Comments)

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The first few weeks in my job are usually a nightmare with year 1. Spending a few weeks trying to get them used to the network, trying to write their own names and showing them how a password works can slowly drive you insane. A few weeks in now and they have started doing some ‘real work’, which is great as my sanity slowly drifts back.

This half term the pupils have been looking at game making, and how we can use simple software to make games based on their topic. At the moment they are spending their time in classroom looking at all things Space.

So far I have stuck fairly religiously to 2DIY. Great for game making at all ages as the difficulty level can increase or decrease as required. So far our most complicated has been the jigsaw puzzle. Technically all the kids are doing is creating a lovely image showing me either a rocket, alien or the Moon; and then 2DIY turns it into a puzzle for them. I get to see their computing skills when they look at adding a few simple instructions to the game, or think about how they can make it easier/more difficult for other people.

Now the actual work they produce isn’t a Van Gogh, I mean it’s year 1, but the conversations going on in the room are brill! Listening to pupils talking to each other about how to write the instructions, how to change the jigsaw size, and game swapping is what I’m really after. It’s definitely one of those lessons where the biggest noise in the room is from the chairs shuffling around as they try each others work out!

The beauty of using something like 2DIY is its simplicity. I know that even with year 1 pupils I can leave them to the work without having to do much technical help, leaving me to concentrate on the learning. If you want to see programming in KS1 just ask pupils to build you a simple Collecting or Catching game. Job done!

What’s your best 2DIY lesson with KS1? Anyone else share in my year 1 nightmare start to the year?!

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Today I have been continuing my journey through the world of animation with year 3 pupils. By now they are pretty good at making sure the little webcams are plugged in, and they have a good understanding of the basic principles. We are still only moving little models around the tables, but they all understanding that the smaller and finer the movement, the smoother their film looks.

In school we are using the program ZU3D. We purchased the full set up last year, with a full site license, 45 webcams and some of the set kits. All in all it was an expense, but I am already seeing the benefit in the lessons. The discussion generated in the room us just ridiculous. I have them working in animator teams of 2, working out what they want their models to do, how they are going to get it move and what edits they are going to do afterwards. Do they need to add titles and credits? What sounds should they add? How many frames have we done? Could we do more? It’s brilliant!

The films we’re producing aren’t bad either for a group of 7 year olds. Granted they are a big jerky in places, and a few hands manage to creep into the film, but the overall effect is brill.

I’m also doing the same project with year 6 children at the moment but obviously at a different level. They are working with small plasticine models to create their work, and thinking about how they can be used int he world of film making. Again, due to the simple nature of the program, the results have been great. I could leave them working on this for hours if I had the time.

Being a specialist teacher in a primary school I often have to think about things in a different way. I only see the pupils for an hour a week, meaning behaviour management systems need to work in different way. Working with technology also means have ‘one of those lessons’ where NOTHING works! When this happens I like to think on my feet and usually, if it’s a full lesson, I’ll grab the iPads, or mess around with the Beebots. Then there are the occasions where it’s the last 10 mins of a lesson, where it seems pointless to set something up only to have to finish straight away. So here are a few 5 minute fillers I like to use in my ICT lessons.

Guess the tech

An important part of the curriculum is for pupils to understand the wider reach of technology and think about it out of the classroom. One activity I like to do is give pupils a real world problem or scenario, and they have to think of a piece of technology that could help. An example of this is, ‘I have 6 people coming for dinner on short notice….help!’. This week in year 5 they came up with a laptop to find recipes, iPod and dock for backing music, digital thermometer for check I don’t kill anyone, and a countdown timer app to make sure I don’t burn anything. Really fun little activity.

Software Solution

Very similar to the previous activity, but this one is based on the machines, rather than hands on technology. I would give the children a problem, or activity idea. They the have to think of the best bit of software for the job. E.g. ‘I have been asked to produce a new leaflet for the PTA, what should I use?’. Year 6 came up with some great ideas like Photoshop for editing any images, QR code generators to shame more info in the leaflet, and Publisher for the layout nd easy printing.

Padlet

Padlet is a great little website where you can make interactive and collaborative learning walls in seconds. I have chattered previously about it here, and I love it. I know you technically need to have all your tech working for this, but it really is useful for a quick plenary. Load up a wall, share with the class, and get the pupils to share something they have learnt, or something they have improved at in the lesson.

Talk yourself up

Quick little Talk for Learning activity I have used in all sorts of lessons. Get pupils to share their improvements and achievements in the lesson with their talk partners. It is them up to their partner to listen, understand, and report back to the teacher. Really encourages pupils to take notice and appreciate the achievement of their peers.

Computing anagrams

After looking at the new curriculum plans for next year I found that the gov. tried to make themselves sound a little bit more important by making the easiest of tasks sound like rocket science. Filled with quite technical terminology for young children, it presents the problem of the pupils having to learn a whole new language. Quick anagrams of the terminology can be a fun little way for the pupils to get to grips with them.

Debug an algorithm

Sticking with the new curriculum, algorithms are key to the learning and progression of the pupils. Stick a set of instructions for a simple activity up on the board, throw in a few mistakes and get the pupils to debug and get it ship-shape age. Make sure you use the technical language in this activity though so that the pupils start using it too.

Expand the algorithm 

Another quick little twist is to get the pupils to take an algorithm and expand upon it. Throw in a few more steps to increase the complexity. With older pupils try and add a few different command prompts, or change the output your require. Always good fun if the algorithm you pick is something you can act out afterwards to see if it works,calling all robot teachers.

Clean and tidy

This one is just for the OCD nature within me. I hate how the kids fill their My Documents folders and never look at it for the full 6 years they are with us. Get them to spend 5 mins creating folders, moving files, and deleting any unwanted work. Sounds simple, but computer and file management is something that often gets missed in lessons, and is important when maintaining your computers.

 

Have a go and see what you think, most of these don’t have to stay in the ICT suite, adapt them and try them in any lesson.

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?

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.

Last week I posted about my plans for the curriculum in Key Stage 1, and how I was going to meet the criteria with lesson ideas. It seemed like a popular post, and as I have done the same for Key Stage 2 I would be a shame not to pop it on the site.

As with the format before I have included it in a mind map for you to explore and search through. The map is split up into the 4 main sections of Digital Media, Programming, Data Handling and Technology in our lives. Having this variety of learning areas means pupils take part in a wide range of activities, making the learning fun and accessible. I have tried to include a number of different equipment types, not just the computers. This included things like digital cameras, ipod/ipads, and Lego robots. While your school might not have these available yet, there are other cheaper options to give the pupils similar experiences.

Hope you find this useful, and please share it around.

 

 

 

Capture

 

Exciting times ahead in the world of ICT! With the new curriculum changes starting soon I’m sure we are all looking at how be can develop our subject, and what changes to teaching need to take place. Over the past few weeks I have starting thinking about how I am going to structure ICT, and what activities or programs I could use to deliver the new standards. Below is a mind map I created showing a few program ideas and possible teaching activities in Key stage 1. I am structuring ICT in 4 key sections; Digital Media, Programming, Data Handling and ICT Beyond the Classroom. By doing this my pupils are able to take part in a wide variety of activities, not just the coding that Mr Gove seems to want! Have a look and see what you think.

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