In the first article in this series we discussed Computational Thinking and how the concept is integral to every part of the programming process, from understanding and learning, right through to teaching.
There are a number of resources and activities on offer which allow the concept of Computational Thinking to be explored in lessons and we’ll talk about some of these in the next few instalments.
At Key Stage 1, teachers of ages 5-7 can use a the CAS Barefoot Computing website which provides various activities that help develop the ability to programme, create sequences of instructions or algorithms, and fix or ‘de-bug’ errors.
CAS Barefoot is a project that helps teachers to teach Computer Science elements of the new primary curriculum. It is funded by BT and supported by the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the FREE high-quality, practical resources and workshops on offer through the website www.barefootcas.org.uk are there to support teachers in England and help them grasp this important new subject.
There are three main aspects of this Barefoot Computing Project:
- Exemplar teaching activities which help teachers deliver the curriculum in engaging and practical ways.
- Teach yourself components – these are resources that help primary teachers to become excellent computing teachers by improving their knowledge and understanding.
- Barefoot workshops – free CPD sessions run by volunteer experts to introduce teachers to computing resources.
All this information is available online, for free. In order to gain access all that is required is a quick registration with the Barefoot Computing Project. Once registered, gaining the confidence to teach lessons has never been easier. By expanding individual knowledge of the subject and deciding which approaches are essential for Computational Thinking, teachers will be able to cover key concepts, language, and vocabulary and help students to develop computer programming skills that will set them up for life.
There is a whole range of activities available through CAS Barefoot Computing which allow pupils and teachers to use Computational Thinking in order to get to grips with coding in a practical and manageable way. Here are a few to get you thinking:
Crazy Character Algorithms – This activity provides a brilliant introduction to creating algorithms. Students are encouraged to see algorithms like a set of rules that must be followed. If they’re not precise enough then errors will occur that can then be fixed through a ‘de-bugging’ process. The lesson also explains a lot of the key computing vocabulary that could, in turn, be used to create a colourful word wall for students to refer back to. Once registered with CAS Barefoot the activity can be downloaded from the website.
Scratch – At Key Stage 2, pupils can begin to design, write and debug programs that accomplish specific goals by experimenting with a variety of programming languages. One language, called Scratch, has proved very popular in this area. Activities involve tinkering with Scratch to find out what the programming language does and how to create programs in it. Pupils will first need to understand what key words they can use, what they do and in what order and context they can be used; much like learning the vocabulary or grammar of a spoken language.
Kodu – Another programming language similar to Scratch but this activity has two main parts to it. Firstly pupils tinker with a simple game created in Kodu before playing about with a blank project to see how changes they make alter the program.
All these activities provide basic, fun and exciting ways of learning about codes and algorithms. Creating cool animations such as friendly dancing cats, and finding out about the role of algorithms in making computer games are some of the ways in which students can be kept motivated and engaged while learning important new skills.
For teachers who may find all this a little daunting, for those who are worried about keeping up with their students, or for those who are anxious about being able to grasp the fundamentals of computing, algorithms and coding, the resources and websites mentioned in this series will provide help and support whenever it is needed. The Bee-it website is also on hand to offer advice and can be a good resource when searching for downloadable handbooks and guides.
In the next instalment we’ll talk about CS Unplugged, and Code Club, and how this volunteer-led, after school network for 9-11 year olds is doing wonders for the world of coding and programming.