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? 

apps2013

Over the year I have used a variety of apps in my teaching of primary school children. They might not be the newest, or the most fancy all singing ones. This list is my must have apps, the ones I wouldn’t be without. For me it is about how they work in the classroom, not just how good they look. So these are the ones that are tried and tested, and I would recommend to any teacher.

2DIY

Create your own interactive resources, activities, games, puzzles, quizzes. With this software teachers and primary school children can create cross-curricular, personalised resources and use them on whiteboards, websites and even on Learning Platforms. There are plenty of opportunities for meaningful learning as children plan, design, create, publish and play. Loads of fun, and easy to use with all ages. I highly recommend this one!

 

abcABCJoinedUp

abc Joined Up makes learning cursive writing an enjoyable and fun experience. It helps children write cursive letters and words correctly and provides positive and supportive feedback by celebrating success. Beginner Level teaches children to recognise letters by their sounds and to write individual cursive letters correctly on the screen with their fingers. Intermediate Level shows children how to recognise letters and blends by their sounds and to join letters together correctly on the screen with their fingers. Expert Level teaches children to sequence the sounds they can hear in a word and then join the letter together and write the word correctly on the screen using a finger or a stylus.

Epic Citadel

Enter Epic Citadel, the dynamic fantasy setting of the award-winning Infinity Blade. From the circus bazaar to the sweeping cathedral in the center of town, Epic Citadel dazzles with a visual parade of special effects, as only imagined by Epic Games and powered by the critically acclaimed Unreal Engine 3. Are you ready to explore the realm of the Epic Citadel and all the beautiful secrets it holds? Really great for creative writing and imaginative thinking. The amount of discussion and imaginative thinking from one app is amazing!

Twinkl Phonics Suite

Whether you are a teacher who wants to use this App to enhance children’s learning alongside your letters and sounds sessions, or a parent who wants to support your child’s learning of phonics at home, this App has something for everyone!
– The sounds and names of each letter of the alphabet
– Letter formation
– Blending sounds in CVC words
– The graphemes taught in phases 2-3 (including digraphs and trigraphs)
– Initial and final blends
– Alternative spellings for phonemes
– High frequency and tricky words for each phase.

Read my full review of the app here. 

Penulitumate

The most natural digital handwriting experience on iPad, Penultimate gives you the convenience and feel of writing on paper with the added power and availability of Evernote. Take notes in class or a meeting, journal your thoughts, or outline your next big idea — in the office, on the go, or at home on the sofa. This is the app I constantly use to scribble down the ramblings inside my head! Easy to jot down ideas, but the kids can also use it as well! I have used it with my digital leaders when doing brain storming sessions.

 

Daisy the Dino

Learn the basics of computer programming with Daisy the Dinosaur! This free, fun app has an easy drag and drop interface that kids of all ages can use to animate Daisy to dance across the screen. Kids will intuitively grasp the basics of objects, sequencing, loops and events by solving this app’s challenges. After playing Daisy, kids can choose to download a kit to program their own computer game.

 

Meteor Maths

Math meets an arcade game in Meteor Math, and you’ll want to play all day! “Crash” meteors together to solve addition, subtraction, multiplication and division equations. Improve your math skills as you progress through increasingly harder problems. Suitable for kids of all ages… and even adults who want a fun challenge! I often use this as a quick starter activity and works really well.

 

Barefoot Atlas 

Barefoot World Atlas is a magical interactive 3D globe that invites children to explore the regions and countries of the world, discovering hundreds of fascinating features and immersing themselves in the rich wonders of our planet. This is a multi-language, universal app for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. The rich and beautifully detailed graphics take full advantage of the amazing new high-definition retina screen. 
Geographer and BBC TV presenter Nick Crane is your guide, as you fly at will around a beautiful 3D globe created by artist David Dean. Explore the world’s continents, great oceans and changing environments. Meet different people around the planet and find out about their way of life. Encounter amazing wildlife, discover landmarks, natural features and famous buildings. LOVE LOVE LOVE IT! So immersive for the pupils and endless lessons from one little app!

 

So that’s my list, make of it what you will! Please leave some comments below of apps you have used with success in the classroom. 

iPad Screenshot 5This week I have been given the task of making the teaching of ICT more mobile and physical in Reception. Sounds fun at 1st but then the reality sets in and I have to find enough work to do on fairly short notice. One of the things I have planned to do is using the iPads a lot with them, looking at some different apps, and different uses in the classroom.

Daisy the Dino is a control based app that works much in the same way as Scratch. Pupils create lists of where and what they want Daisy to do on the screen, it gives the pupils the chance to learn the basics of programming with a fun cartoon! the app is free and easy to use with drag and drop features. Kids of all ages can animate Daisy, making her move, dance or grow as she moves across the screen. The children should grasp the basics of objects, sequencing, loops and events by solving the challenges set by the app. using the app can be developed further by pupils downloading a program on their computers with more functionality, but personally I would use this as an intro to Scratch.

Give it a go and see what you think, overall I think this a great introduction to the world of programming for younger pupils.

iPad Screenshot 4iPad Screenshot 3

 

 

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