Is Programming the way forward??

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Posted by Lucy | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on January 7, 2013

Happy New Year!

It is time for a new year and a new blog!

Today in ICT we have been looking at programming; an area of ICT that is becoming increasingly important in ICT education in a move away from the more conventional and traditional ICT lessons that focused on the likes of Excel and Word. An interesting BBC articles discusses this, suggesting that programming is more interesting for children and takes the subject away from a focus on ‘office skills’. However from reading the article there does appear to be some criticism, with the general secretary from the NASUWT union stating that this is not the way to promote ICT in schools. Whilst I am still a little unsure of programming and its application, particularly for Primary aged children, I can see the value if it in terms of teaching logic (for example movement and other mathematical concepts)  and using ICT creatively. I also think programming is a valuable thing for teachers to be able to use in terms of creating personalised resources for their classes, therefore making learning for real and applicable to them as learners. To start the lesson we looked at Bee bots, which are little creatures that can be programmed by children to move. This can be done on mats, for example asking children to get from point A to point B using them. Bee bots can also be used on computers and are a good way for children to develop their logic skills from an early age. As a TA in a Reception class I would often observe children playing with Bee bots very enthusiastically.

              

In terms of progression from Bee bots, children can then move onto slightly more complex programmes such as MSW Logo which allows you to create images from giving commands to the computer. Another, in my opinion, more interesting option in terms of progression is 2Simple’s, 2DoItYourself which whilst it costs about £30 for the licence offers far more in terms of activities for children to access. For example, the ‘Puzzles’ game allows users to draw a picture, which the game then cuts up into puzzle pieces so that children can put it back together or get friends to do their puzzle. Whilst this sounds basic, the concept could be linked to other curriculum areas such as literacy where children could write descriptions of their pictures to help their friends put the puzzle together. Another game I tried was ‘Maths Quiz’ which I felt was perhaps more appropriate for the teacher to use in terms of creating a starter activity for a Numeracy lesson and then the children playing the game. This I thought highlighted the value that programming can bring to the classroom and that  whilst it could be argued this could be done on an IWB, I feel it is additional and varied way to capture children’s imagination and enthusiasm for a subject. I myself had a go at creating my own ‘Maths quiz’ and will upload the link shortly. The other game looked at was called ‘Placing’ and it is basically a way of creating an animation by placing different things that you have drawn into an area on the background. You can then also add movement and sound to this to make it more complex. I think this is an excellent way for children to experiment with basic animation at a fairly young age as an alternative to other animation options available.

‘Scratch’ takes programming even further and is more appropriate for KS2 pupils, offering them a  more complex and creative way of looking at programming. The software is free and allows users to create their own programme or adapt and change other peoples which are uploaded. This is done through drawing a picture/background and creating a script for each ‘Sprite’ (character) which builds up to an animation. Such a script can include commands and variables such as ‘do X if X happens’ along with sounds and various movements. In using Scratch, children can be taught little steps which build up their skills, which can further be aided by using the ‘Scratch Cards’ available. These cards show users what kinds of things they can do on Scratch (changing your sprite’s colour, moving, getting your sprite to speak etc) and how to do it. I think these cards are an excellent introduction for children and teachers who are unfamiliar with the software, making it very user friendly. In addition, a great ‘Getting started’ document is available on line, again making the programme very accessible.

I have created my own Scratch programme – it is very basic, but shows how easy it is to create a simple programme.

As I stated at the beginning of this blog entry, I am not totally convinced by Programming for Primary aged children in terms of understanding how to create a programme (I feel this is more appropriate for Secondary aged children). However, I can see the value of teaching Programming in Primary Schools for other reasons such as teaching logic, creativity, using it in terms of curriculum links and indeed promoting ICT in a wider concept than simply word processing etc. I do feel however that it is also important that basic ICT skills are still taught and not simply forgotten about. Whilst children are likely to pick these skills up quicker  these days due to increased ICT access it is important they they learn how to utilise these skills fully for future life, therefore making it important that we as teachers teach varied skills.

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