A chatbot is a computer program or an artificial intelligence (AI) designed to simulate human conversation through text or voice interactions.
A rule based chatbot follows a specific flow of conversation and provides pre-determined responses based on keywords or phrases a user enters. We interact with these chatbots on a regular basis – e.g. when you are doing online shopping.
And AI powered chatbot uses artificial intelligence techniques, such as natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning, to understand and respond to the user. They can learn from interactions, adapt to different contexts, and provide more dynamic and personalised responses.
Python is widely used to build both AI powered or rule based chatbots. I love using this programming language to show my students that they can create a basic rule based chatbot with a few lines of code. It is an excellent way of introducing python syntax and an example of a real application.
I love teaching coding in Minecraft to young people simply because it’s such a creative environment. My workshops give children the opportunity to learn to code and then use this to automate tasks that otherwise would have taken them a long time to do!
Unfortunately, many children are missing out as Minecraft Education is only used in some schools. However, once the children have been introduced to Microsoft Code Builder – the coding platform within Minecraft – and picked up how Minecraft 3D coordinates work, it soon opens up a whole world of possibilities, exploration and play.
As I’ve said many times before, I’m a strong believer that learning through play is an important element in education – and the same is true when learning to code.
In our workshops we cover the principles of computer programming, computational thinking, collaboration and problem solving skills.
I have now been teaching coding to young people for 11 years and I’m very proud to have seen some of my students going on to take a Computer Science GCSE – and in a couple of cases – an A Level. They have told me that they were inspired after attending my coding clubs.
Most children start learning to code with coding blocks, which enables them to learn programming principles without getting the dreaded computer errors. Instead of returning errors, the code simply won’t do what the children expect it to do. This is why the core principle of problem solving and debugging is so key.
When the children are ready to experiment with text-based coding, it can at first be frustrating for them as now they do need to understand the code they are writing, pay attention to the programming syntax and be able to understand error codes. However, a gentle introduction can be achieved in a fun an interactive way. That said, the output needs to be immediate and the children need to be able to see that their code has worked.
Another way of introducing text-based coding is by creating a website page using the HTML language to create the web page structure and CSS to add interactivity.
Of course, once the children have been introduced to some form of text-based coding, the next step is to develop their coding skills by programming with Python.
Scratch, the block programming language, continues to inspire children to learn to code. Last term we had plenty of projects where the children learned to draw, make games and created stories for their characters using code.
At the end of every term, the children get to create anything they want using concepts they have learned over the term. The variety of projects is always great.
Over the summer we delivered many coding clubs and workshops at some of the libraries in North Somerset. After a short break, we are pleased to be able to offer a couple of workshops in the forthcoming October half term.
This workshop will start your child on their coding journey. We will be introducing your child to coding using one of the most popular gaming platforms for young people. It enables children to be creative, learn problem solving skills and learn to code while playing in a safe environment.
This is not a course to teach how to play Minecraft but rather how to modify a Minecraft world with code, create small games and interact with one another. Along the way, children also develop problem solving skills by solving coding puzzles.
If your child loves playing computer games, why not let them create them too! This course will show the children how to design and make a game. They will draw their own characters and create a story for their game.
Everyone is welcome. Older students (Year 6, 7 and 8’s) will create a more complex game which they will be able to publish.
Minecraft has been a part of growing up fro many children – my daughter included. The game has also evolved into an educational resource – with many subjects now taught – at least in part – through the platform.
Learning computer science within Minecraft has been available for quite some time using the RaspberryPi and the Python language. However, in 2017 Microsoft released a set of programming tools accessible for students and educators via is Minecraft Education Edition.
At Codingbug, we have been using Minecraft to learn to code. Children who are familiar with Scratch will find coding in Minecraft a familiar welcoming environment.
During the 2021/22 academic year, our Minecraft coders learnt how to modify a Minecraft World, created mini-games, and automated builds with code. Yes, in Minecraft it is easier to create a wall with code than it is to ‘mine’ it and build!
Coding in a 3D game is harder than coding a 2D game, but the children rise to the challenge and nothing seems daunting or complicated when you can play and interact with it afterwards. Furthermore, the children love being able to see their friends’ avatars and collaborate with one another.
Over the last school summer term we ran our first Web Wizards online course for secondary school students. The course took place after school on Mondays over an 8-week period.
The Monday coding club allows students to develop their coding skills and take them to the next level – whether beginners or advanced coders. There is lots of collaboration and we learn together in a safe and friendly environment.
Over the first six months of this year we partnered with North Somerset Libraries to deliver a series of ‘in person’ coding clubs and workshops for young people. The programme was over-subscribed, attracting many children from different parts of the district. This was heartening given the disruption caused by the pandemic.
Attendance didn’t drop off through the course programme so I need to give a big thank you to all the parents and carers who ferried their children to the library venues – and the young people themselves, for their enthusiasm and commitment.
Thank you to those who have shared their feedback so far.
Here’s a quick visual summary of the programme!
Make a Chatbot in Python (Feb 2022 )
A 3-hour workshop where the students created their first chatbot in Python. This workshop took place at Yatton library.
Introduction to Wearable Technology (Feb 2022)
A 3-hour workshop where the children learnt the principles of Wearable Technology and made a badge that lit up. This workshop took place in the library at The Campus in Worle.
Web Design (March 2022)
The children learnt to code in HTML and CSS and made a website about an imaginary pet. This coding club was delivered over 6 weeks at the Healthy Living Centre in Weston-super-Mare.
A 6-week coding club on how to make interactive Apps. This course took place at Nailsea Library on Saturday mornings.
Physical computing with the micro:bit (March 2022)
Coding with the micro:bit was a coding club delivered on Saturday mornings at Yatton library – again, over 6 weeks. The pedometer was a real hit!
Make a Minecraft game in Scratch (April 2022)
A 3-hour workshop where the children learnt how to make a Minecraft game in Scratch. This workshop took place at Weston library.
Paper circuits (April 2022)
A 3-hour workshop where the children learnt basic electronics concepts and made an electronic circuit for a greeting card. This workshop took place at the Healthy Living Centre in Weston-super-Mare.
Learn to code in Scratch (May 2022)
An introduction to the Scratch programming language. This course took place over 6 weeks and by the end of the course the children had created a game which they could interact with. The course took place at The Campus in Worle.
Learn to code in Python (May 2022)
Learn to code in Python was another 6 week course for late primary and secondary school students. This course was delivered at Weston library. A big clap to those teens who got up early on those Saturday mornings… and remained wide awake during the lessons 🙂
Introduction to the RaspberryPi Pico (June 2022)
Physical computing with the RaspberryPi Pico. This was a 3-hour workshop where the children learnt to code a traffic light system. This workshop was delivered at Nailsea Library.
What parent’s said about our courses:
He loved it. Thank you so much for the opportunity. It’s definitely sparked a passion.
He absolutely loved it. He created a blushing cactus. He was really proud of what he created. Thank you so much.
She really liked it and enjoyed attending the course very much. She has been using the things she has learned at home.
My son really enjoyed coding club, and learnt a lot from it. He continued to practice what he had learnt at home. Now his younger brother is keen to learn!
He really enjoyed the sessions and was keen to show us the apps he’d created. He had previously only done a little coding in Scratch so learnt a lot. He liked being creative with coding, making apps that reflected his interests and sense of humour. Thank you for these sessions.
She was keen to go each week, a sure sign of the fact she was engaged! She has an interest in coding from doing Scratch at school and was pleased to show us what she had learned.
Both of my girls really enjoyed themselves. They were proud to show me what they had made when they got home and both said they would love to do another workshop one day. Thank you!
He is happy with it. He is into coding and Phyton is one of the hard things to learn. He learned so much from these lessons.
Scratch is a high level block-based visual programming language, which has inspired children around the world to code. As Scratch turns 15 in May 2022, we want to extend a virtual ‘thank you’ to MIT for providing us with such a fantastic coding tool and wonderful Scratch community.
Unlike other block programming platforms, Scratch is easy to use for a 7 year old, yet it has the complexity to keep a 15 year old engaged for hours. We have taught scores of children in North Somerset, some of whom have now chosen to take GCSE and A level computer science. I know that Scratch has played a key role in their respective journeys.
As with any coding environment, knowing some of the principles of computer programming will help young people to get the most of the application. We help them along the way through our coding clubs and other activities, and would encourage every parent out there to give their children an opportunity to code.
Coding helps children problem solve, develop their computational thinking, and vital digital skills.
We are delighted to be working with North Somerset Libraries to deliver a Learn to Code programme for children aged 8+ across five libraries in the district.
Make a Chatbot in Python workshop
The first of our workshops took place during the February half-term where the children learned to program their first chatbot in Python. The room was busy and it was heartening see see so many young teenagers rising early and giving up a whole morning to learn to code. I was also pleased to see younger members of the group weren’t daunted by the Python code editor!
One Year 9 student proudly shared with me that she has chosen to do Computer Science GCSE because she had loved coming to our coding club at Backwell Junior School. I was so chuffed to hear this and of course I wished her every success as she embarks on her CS GCSE.
Introduction to Wearable Technology Workshop
Our second workshop on Wearable Tech took place at the Campus Library in Worle. We filled every single place. Our session started with an introduction to the world of wearable tech and some demonstrations of wearable tech items. The room got noiser as the children started to make their first electronic circuits. It soon became an electronics playground as the children quickly grasped the basic concepts culminating in them all creating a wearable illuminated badge.