computer programming

CAS Scotland Conference

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Computing at School Scotland will be holding this year’s conference in Glasgow on Saturday 2nd September 2017.

What to EXPECT

The conference brings together educators from all sectors and is a great way to get a hands on with new resources, equipment and environments, meet other educators you can colloborate with in future and gain inspiration for the year ahead.

Nursery and Primary specialists at BGE Early, 1st and 2nd levels

  • Hands on with Barefoot unplugged activities with one of the creators of the resources and expert Barefoot instructor- Jane Waite
  • Working with the CS E’s and O’s and benchmarks- Judy Robertson and Kate Farrell

Primary and Secondary teachers at BGE 3rd and 4th levels

  • Diving deep into primary programming- design for quality and independence- Jane Waite
  • Hands on workshop of new unplugged activities for teaching the basics of parallel processing- Jeremy Singer and Louise Black
  • Developing Computational Thinking with 3D Animations & Games in Alice- Quintin Cutts and Fionnuala Johnson

Secondary teachers for the Senior Phase and FE

  • Teaching the level 6 Cyber Security NPA and learners experience of it- George Mullin
  • Planning and advice for introducing the level 4/5 Cyber Security NPA’s in your school- Peter Liddle and Gareth Rae

To book your place click here

 

Parent-led Programming Club at Flora Stevenson’s Primary

For many parents and teachers, computer programming can initially seem intimidating. This is not the case, however, for the pupils who take part in a very successful weekly programming club at Flora Stevenson Primary School. At this club, pupils are currently working on increasingly complex projects such as building calculators and stopwatches.

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Steven Clarke, a parent who works in the ICT sector, runs the club. This is becoming increasingly common in the city where parents with experience working with ICT volunteer in schools, helping to broaden the experiences of the pupils and teach them complex new skills. Meeting with these parents also encourages children to learn more about working in the ICT sector after leaving school, meeting many of the Entitlements and Expectations of the Career Education Standard included in the Curriculum for Excellence. (For more information on this please click here.)

Here, Steven describes the activities that his junior programmers currently take part in:

“At the programming club we have up to 10 children who attend and who each work on different programming challenges that I set them, all using Scratch on a Raspberry Pi. The challenges I set them depend on how experienced they are. My intent is to enable them to use most of the constructs in Scratch and to gain an appreciation of computational thinking.

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If they have never seen Scratch before, I give them a short introduction to how it works, then ask them to write a program that moves a sprite across the screen. I then get them to think about different ways that they could have written the same program. After that, I give them more challenges that introduce more concepts such as loops, conditionals, variables etc (e.g., a guess the number game).

I also introduce them to the idea of how to write effective code. I have a simple challenge where they have to make six sprites dance when one of them is clicked. Then I ask them to change the program so that the sprite that is clicked doesn’t dance but the rest of them do. This often leads them down a path of writing lots of convoluted code which really gets them thinking about how to write that code better. This introduces the concept of messaging and reinforces the idea of state.

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After this I keep giving them more challenges. I ask them to build a calculator for example, which gets them thinking about lists and parsing data structures. They work on

a stopwatch getting them thinking about design patterns like model view controller. I also get them to start thinking like an engineer by giving them incomplete specs of what I’d like them to do and then encourage them to keep asking me questions about what I mean as they work on the program.

I don’t do any lectures. I sit with individual children as they need help and work through a problem with them. So pretty much each child works at their own pace.

We meet each Friday morning for an hour. I have to admit, I don’t do a lot of preparation for this now as we’ve been running it for a couple of years with lots of different children so I’ve seen quite a few progress through the different challenges above. The club has kind of evolved to how it is now. Watching how the children learn helped me figure out what would be a good challenge for them. The biggest challenge for me is thinking of more challenges that will keep pushing them.

The children seem to enjoy it. They keep coming back and asking me for more challenges.”

image001Here are a few words from the children involved:

Tom, P7: “I like the way the challenge stays in your mind and you become determined to do it. Programming is fun and you don’t always realise you are learning new coding. I used Scratch to program an animation showing the Battle of Killiecrankie. It was difficult but really good fun. You do lots of problem solving which I think helps in other things. I really like that programming could be a job.”

Chapman, P5: “I really enjoy the end result, knowing that you have made something and that people do this as a job and you can too. It really helps to have an expert with us and Mr Clarke has really helped us to get better. Coding is fun but can be really difficult too.”

To actively encourage more female pupils to take part in STEM activities, Flora Stevenson’s will be taking 40 girls to RBS in March for a day of Coding as well as starting up a similar club for girls after the February break, run by a mother who works in programming.

If you’d like to start something similar at your school but have no parent volunteers with appropriate experience, a popular alternative is Code Club, a UK-wide network of free, volunteer-led after-school coding clubs for children aged 9-11. Several Code Clubs have already been set up in Edinburgh schools. For more information please see www.codeclub.org.uk.

Free Programming Workshops from ComputerXplorers

computerXplorers1-150x150In conjunction with British Science Week (11 – 18 March) ComputerXplorers are offering free programming workshops for pupils which will teach them to program their own computer games.  In addition, teachers are offered a free ‘Introduction to Programming’ session designed to increase confidence in programming.

Schools wishing to sign up for free on-site children’s ComputerXplorers coding workshops or teachers’ computing CPD sessions on British Science Week’s digital day, Friday 11 March, should email info@computerxplorers.co.uk for more details.

Leith Primary School Win a Place at First Lego League Final

Last weekend, a team from Leith Primary School won the regional final of the First Lego League, beating 17 other teams (both primary and secondary) to secure their place in the UK and Ireland final next month. The all-girl team, made up of one student from primary seven, two from primary six and two from primary five, won a trophy and £1000 for their school at the competition.

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This year, the theme of the project strand of the competition was ‘Trash Trek’. Teams were asked to identify a problem with the way that waste is handled and then design a solution to the problem using Lego Mindstorm materials. Another strand of the competition saw the team creating and programming a robot to take part in a robot game. Students were interviewed by Lego judges to find out about their core values as a team as well as their technical understanding.

The First Lego League club is run at Leith Primary School by the Headteacher, Mr Alasdair Friend, who has overseen it for the last six years and who accompanied the two teams from his school to the recent competition. He is very enthusiastic about First Lego League and believes that it helps learners in a variety of ways, developing team work and language skills as well as building on their computational thinking and problem-solving skills. He has witnessed notable improvements in the language acquisition of the EAL members of the team and thinks believes that it is a very worthwhile project to take part in.

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Becoming increasingly popular in Scotland, Mr Friend says that there is always a great atmosphere at the First Lego League competitions and he is looking forward to the team having fun at the finals in Loughborough on 21st February.

Speaking about the competition, Mr Friend said:  “I am delighted the girls team from Leith Primary did so well. They are great role models for girls achieving in science, technology, engineering and maths.”

The winning team members said:

“We feel really proud because it was our first time in the Lego team.”
“It was so surprising to win because we thought our robot wasn’t doing so well at the end.”
“I have learned more about computers doing Lego club.”
“I have met new friends and it’s helped with my maths.”

For more information about First Lego League, see the website here: http://firstlegoleague.theiet.org/

Apps for Good – a novel way to deliver computational thinking and foster creativity

News

Apps for Good is a charitable organisation aiming to allow students the opportunity to prepare for the real world by taking part in an app-designing challenge. They have created structured programmes where young people are challenged to come up with an app which provides a solution to a real-life problem. They then take their idea through the design process, working together as part of a team.

Apps for Good provide online training for teachers, teaching materials as well as course guidelines matched with CfE outcomes. The course structure is flexible, with a short and long versions, and is free for all non-fee-paying schools. Based in London, the company currently works with over 450 educational establishments and over 22,000 students from all parts of the UK. Some of their most successful app developing teams so far have come from a school in Wick.

The scheme is suitable to use all year round, although the deadline for competition entries is normally around Easter. This isn’t obligatory – schools can choose whether or not they’d like to take part in the competition, which is really a celebration of the hard work that has been happening throughout the year. The main aim of Apps for Good is to encourage entrepreneurial spirit in young people, allowing them access to a huge variety of industry experts who are giving back to the community by taking part in the scheme.

Several Edinburgh schools are already using Apps for good, including Boroughmuir and Craigmount High Schools. Here are some thoughts from teachers who have been delivering the programme:

“The materials are good and you can easily adapt them for your class. My pupils particularly enjoyed feedback from the Expert sessions. The Apps for Good team have been extremely supportive too.”
– Ms L. Dighton, Boroughmuir HS

“For anyone looking for a course that covers programming, app design, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and marketing you should really look into it.
The course has so many benefits:
Allows students to work together to create an app to solve an existing problem
Forces students to think about solutions to problems that they encounter
Forces students to work together from generation of ideas right through to implementation and marketing.” – Mr D. Sansom, Craigmount HS

For further information about Apps for Good or to sign up, please download their flyer here or view their website here.

Coding Week @ Echline PS

Jude Moir, P7 teacher at Echline Primary School, describes a very successful coding week run by his school just before the summer holidays:

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Will Wright helping some of the children design their games

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Mrs Crawford, Head Teacher, plays a game

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Some of the Scratch code involved in creating a game

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Andrew Knight and Will Wright – games designers

Last session Primary 4/5 and Primary 5 took part in a week-long interdisciplinary project that involved them devising and creating their own computer games.

The children were working in groups of 4 and had to decide on certain roles; Programmer, Head of Advertising, Story Director and Art director. Workshops were given throughout the week to help the children achieve success in their roles.

The children used Scratch to program their games, and were free to create a game in any way they liked. We were fortunate enough to have the expertise of Games Designer Andrew Knight, who was able to guide the children to create exciting games and help with any bugs that crept up throughout the week.

The children were working towards an exhibition of their work at the end of the week where they would have a stall set up with their computer game, and other classes from around the school would visit to try out the exciting games. Advertising was a really strong element of the exhibition and teams had made posters, leaflets and costumes to make their game stand out.

The teams were voted on under the following categories: Best Advertising, Best Game and there was also an Industry award voted for by Andrew Knight and Will Wright who were our visiting games design professionals, as well as Erin Mercer, a recent graduate of the Abertay Computer Design course. The children were also very excited when a photographer from the local newspaper came in to take pictures.

On the exhibition day the children also had the chance to try out Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset that allowed them to explore the world of Minecraft.

The week was such a positive experience and on reflection the children identified teamwork, problem solving, ICT skills, literacy and art as the skills that were developed.

From a teacher’s point of view the experience was fantastic. The children were motivated, engaged and hard-working throughout the whole week. They showed resilience and persistence in the face of problems and worked together as teams to overcome any issues. My confidence with computers and Scratch was definitely an advantage, however the children soon overtook me in terms of mastery of the processes involved in creating a game.

If you are planning a similar project, or if it is something you would be interested in, I would recommend spending a bit of time letting the children explore Scratch first (or any other program). This allowed them to develop their confidence before working towards a more extended project.

Raspberry Pi @ St Peter’s Primary

IMG_0722Last session P4 at St Peter’s Primary took part in the ‘Hour of Code’ and submitted the project to the Raspberry Pi Foundation. They were successful in winning five Raspberry Pis and, with the support of a parent, are exploring programming using Python during a lunchtime computer club.

What is Raspberry Pi and how might you use it?

When introduced to the Pi learners at St Peter’s started with the basics. This included how to assemble the Pi and as it is so small the pupils were able to see all the components that make a computer work. They then learned to connect and ‘boot’ the Pi and navigate the interface.

IMG_0725This  led to the use of the free Minecraft program, Minecraft Pi. Pupils were very excited and motivated by this environment. They were taught how to use Python to carry out building tasks. Once this was mastered the pupils learned to edit and run a Python script to build and customise the size and building materials of a castle. They then learned to control the Python execution using conditional statements. By using their knowledge of Python the children are now able to bypass creating new worlds each time and much prefer working together to create castles and then demolish them with explosives! You can find out more about Raspberry Pi here and use these lesson plans to get you started. If you are keen to get a code club started in your school and don’t have the expertise Code Club connects schools with volunteer programmers, who are keen to support schools for free.