Session 3: Creative Computing

Pre-session reading

The reading prior to this session was to read the first chapter of ‘Algorithms and Computational Thinking in KS1,’ which primarily provides practitioners with support, ideas and guidance of how to meet the new National Curriculum Programme of Study requirements for children in KS1. What initially strikes me when reading the introduction, is the relaxed tone used to describe how professionals could meet the new requirements without “expert knowledge” or in some cases even without  a computer!

This session began by looking at the new Programme of Study of KS1 which states, “high quality computing equips pupils to use computational thinking… to change the world.” This is a very bold statement in comparison to the previous ks1 programme of study. As a class we identified the similarities and differences between the old and new aims set out in for KS1. We found that the aims are all very similar to what it was previously but there were two key elements which stood out, that was “computer programming” and to “debug.”

It was evident that many of us in the group were unsure how to go about teaching children how to code, debug and programme, but then we were introduced to a variety of web based tools and apps which could be used in the setting to meet the new national curriculum requirements.

Scratch

Scratch can be accessed through iPad’s or the computer and is aimed for children aged 8-16 (although anyone can use it). Scratch allows you to create your own interactive stories, games and animations, with the option to share these with others.  Today, coding plays a key part in our curriculum, Scratch will support children to code computer programmes which in turn could enhance their ability to solve problems, communicate ideas and design and create their own projects. Below is a clip that I found particularly interesting as it talks about the idea of “learn to code,, code to learn” and how a practitioner can combine the physical and virtual world together- this is something I will be discussing later on in my blog.

After looking having a play around with Scratch, I have to say that I found it quite difficult to use. I feel due to it complexity, this may not be a tool that I would use with early years or Ks1.

Scratch Junior

After attempting to create an algorithm using Scratch Naz and I had decided to look at Scratch Junior as it is aimed at the early years.  As we have been looking at storytelling through digital based tools, we found that Scratch jr strongly links in with storytelling through an interactive mode.  If the practitioner wanted to use this tool for the first time to her reception or year 1 class she/he could use the introduction page to talk the children through how to use the tool through the interactive guidance provided on the website.

scratch

The practitioner can then simply model how to use this app before setting children off to work in pairs, using thework sheets  provided on the website. Here, children could work in pairs which will provide opportunities to work in collaboration and turn taking, they will also be following simple instructions and creating a simple algorithm, problem solving and expressing their creativity. Once the children are confident with the programme they can they go on to more “complex” tasks. If we take ‘Rudy the Rabbit’ for example. The children could use their imagination and creativity to add another element to their versions of how Rudy arrived at their school. This can also be used as a stimulus for writing as the children could create their animation followed by writing a sentence or two about what is happening in the story. Only after playing with the app myself I found that there is an option to have more than one character or object running simultaneously and programmed differently.

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To create an additional part to a story, the children could select a range of different backgrounds and they can also add some writing.  The screen shot on the right shows an example of how text can be incorporated and on the left of the screen are all the different element that I have added on this page, which can all have their own coding as shown at the bottom of the screen.

As a early years trainee I feel that this app is ideal for young children, not only is it simple to use but it is also very versatile.  Below is a video to show how Scratch jr can be used for a variety of projects and how it can help children to build their skill set.

Further Reading:

The reading prior to this session was to read the first chapter of ‘Algorithms and Computational Thinking in KS1,’ which primarily provides practitioners with support, ideas and guidance of how to meet the new National Curriculum Programme of Study requirements in ‘Computing’ for children in KS1. What initially strikes me, when reading the introduction, is the relaxed tone used to describe how professionals could meet the new requirements without “expert knowledge” or in some cases even without a computer. After reading this I was intrigued to find out how!

The terms ‘algorithm’ and computational thinking’ can easily be portrayed as something difficult and “not for the early years” but below are two simple terms which I have taken from this chapter to help my understanding:

“The Collins English dictionary defines algorithms as any method or procedure of computation, usually a series of steps”

“Computational thinking should be seen as a problem solving process, which incorporates the use of algorithms by analysing and logically organising data.”

It also suggests that practitioners should use this key vocabulary in computing to enhance the children’s learning and understanding of the terms as we do when teaching phonics.

Furthermore, the chapter looks as unplugged learning, which to me was a new concept, wee children can be taught the concepts of algorithms, debugging and problem solving through real life experiences such as programming your teacher to do something. Below is a video which was pointed out to us in the session that I thought was a fantastic, fun and engaging idea as the teacher  follows the children’s instructions precisely which aren’t explicit enough,  as a result  the children have the opportunity to rectify their algorithm and try again.

Here are some other reading/ research I did for ‘unplugged’ computing:

CS Unplugged provide a wide range of activities, games and puzzles that offers a fun and practical way to implement computing concepts to children for all ages without the use of a computer.

http://csunplugged.org/

Here are some other reading/ research I did for ‘unplugged’ computing:

CS Unplugged provide a wide range of activities, games and puzzles that offers a fun and practical way to implement computing concepts to children for all ages without the use of a computer.

Playground computing has a range of unplugged activities which could be tweaked to suit the ability group, this link will take you to an example of one of the activities, that I feel would be something that I would use during my practice.

DrTechniko also provides information and resources on unplugged computer programming ideas. I looked at the game ‘how to train your robot’. This game allows children to use simple symbols (arrows) to provide instructions for their robots (their mum or dad).  The children draw their symbol and the robot executes this instruction in order to go through an obstacle course. I really loved this idea as it can be planned in an open space such as outdoors or in the school hall. Children can take turns to be the “robot master”  whilst engaging in a practical activity.

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Reflection:

Unplugged learning wasn’t something that I had come across before, but I feel know that in my next placement I will certainly be putting some of the above ideas into practice. By reading and looking into how computing can be taught without the use of a single computer really reassured me as a future early years teacher that I can provide the best opportunity for young children to become computational thinkers. I intend to continue to build useful resources for myself to enhance my teaching ability and subject knowledge in order to provide children with rich learning opportunities.

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