Children should also have open ended opportunities for problem solving as this enables children to engage in higher order thinking. There are activities within all areas of the curriculum which can facilitate this, e.g: setting up obstacle courses in the outdoor provision to cross imaginary swamps and rivers (ELG PD), using Lego or bricks to build bridges for toy cars to fit through, using story props (or even making their own) to sequence familiar stories, making a pattern with beads on strings (ELG Mathematical Development) just to list a few ideas. These activities could be made more challenging by setting specific requirements or limiting the resources.
This task of programming somebody to make a jam sandwich requires clear articulation of instructions, the ability to sequence tasks in the correct order and to pay attention to the smallest of details. Using such a concrete example of what an algorithm is will provide the children with a memory they can refer to when using computer devices; especially if their algorithm is not performing as expected, hopefully they will have gained the skill to re-check the instructions and figure out what is not explicit enough for the computer to follow. Finally, 3) the children should have the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skill of algorithms to program a devise to make it perform a task by following their set of instructions. How can we facilitate this?
Programming in the Early Years and KS1
There is a wide range of resources available on the internet for use on PCs and tablets to support the teaching of programming to young children. I will now explore a variety of these and share my reflections.
Programming and Control:
Cheese Sniffer requires the user to plan the least amount of steps that the mouse will have to take to eat a piece of cheese. The maximum amount of steps is given and once these have been used the game moves over to the other mouse; a two player game (ELG PD – Using tools and materials). Children will develop their spacial awareness skills in order to predict how many moves are required to get to the cheese (ELG Mathematical Development – Shape, space and measure).
Compass Points and Simple Grid References requires children to use compass points and grid references to plan a route around the islands. There are many ways in which the teacher could support children’s programming skills through the use of this game e.g. provide a starting point and a set of instructions to follow – see if the children end up at the correct grid reference, ask the children to compose a set of instructions and swap with their partner – did they end up in the correct grid reference? (ELG – Mathematical Development) If using grid references this would be aimed at older children, but the idea of planning a route could be used by KS1. Teachers should ensure that children recognise that the same language is used when programming something on the computer as it is when programming a floor robot (e.g. Beebot or Roamer). However, some computer programs will leave a line to show the route taken but not all do and neither will a floor robot.
Children can also be supported to sequence events through computer based activities such as those available on http://www.iboard.co.uk/teacher/jlisaw8/1. These will also assist children with science topics such as lifecycles, living and non-living and habitats. These give you the option to print the children’s work too which is a good assessment tool and provides evidence of the child’s learning.
ipad apps for programming:
Daisy the Dinosaur is a free app that offers a ‘free play’ mode or ‘challenge’ mode. The free play mode lists a selection of commands which can be selected in any order and dragged into the ‘program’ box, or out again if you change your mind; a good opportunity to explore the effect of commands. By pressing ‘play’ you can watch the dinosaur perform your commands. It also highlights the commands in order as the dinosaur performs them which will help children to link the command to the movement and also assist to identify errors in programming. The ‘Challenge’ mode provides a problem e.g. ‘Try figuring out how to move Daisy so that she stops in the centre of the star’. This requires children to have the ability to read unless supported by an adult. Once the challenge has been attempted (not necessarily correctly) it provides written feedback and moves on to another challenge. This supports another element of the KS1 NC in Computing: ‘create and debug simple programs’ (DfE, 2013).
Kodable is another free app which is child friendly and provides children with an introduction to programming. Further apps to explore include Move the Turtle, Toca Boca Builder, Cato’s Hike, Hopscotch, Beebot and Scratch Junior.
Children should also be taught to ‘recognise common uses of information technology beyond school’ (DfE, 2013). Teachers can support children to think about the things that are used to control things such as: TV remotes, dials on kitchen appliances (microwaves, cookers, washing machines), keypads on mobiles and tablets. Children could have the opportunity to see such items in use e.g. during a cooking session the teacher could show the children how they are operating the cooker/microwave, and toy versions of these items can be used in the role play area (ELG CLL; KuW).
I have realised that the ‘Computing’ curriculum is beneficial to children in their learning across the whole curriculum: it teaches them how to use ‘talk’ productively; develops their problem solving skills; enabled them to work in collaboration with their peers, building on their social skills; and also promoted independence. I have enjoyed learning about the requirements of the KS1 Computing Curriculum and have gained a comprehensive understanding of how to implement it effectively and now I am looking forward to putting it into practice!
This post has demonstrated the following Teacher’s Standards:
TS1 – I have provided examples of how activities can be extended (differentiation) to challenge pupils of all abilities.
TS2 – I believe that when children are creating algorithms and they have to debug any problems this will demonstrate a conscientious attitude towards their work as they will be encouraged to keep trying until it is correct.
TS3 – I believe this post demonstrates my ability to gain a coherent understanding of the curriculum subjects which will be a continuous part of my role role as a teacher.
TS5 – I have identified which activities would be suitable for EYFS/Y1/Y2 children which could be used to support differentiation.
TS3 and TS8 – I have engaged in a depth of research to broaden my knowledge about the Computing Curriculum.