This first term of a new year Codingbug is looking forward to going back into North Somerset schools. It will have been almost two years. We’ve been busy delivering online lessons since the first lockdown in March 2020 and know that some children have missed out.
If your son or daughter attends either Yatton Schools or Mary Elton School in North Somerset, you can now register for after school coding lessons starting next week.
I missed not giving out stickers at the end of the term and seeing the children learn how to use a USB stick (if they don’t know already!)… so I couldn’t be happier to be back at school.
We need to equip our children with the skills to navigate the digital world and ‘digital literacy’ is just as important a skill for our children to learn as reading and writing.
Since March 2020 we have been offering learning opportuities online tailored to suit different ages and abilities.
Our Coding in Scratch courses are suitable for children in Years 3 – 6. Every week, they create new projects carefully designed to help them grasp the key principles of computer programming. Each term, the children are challenged with puzzles that nurture and build their computational thinking skills. Our Scratch courses are ideal for any child starting their coding journey or for the more advanced coder who needs to be challenged a little more.
This acedemic year we’ve added a new course to our offer – Coding in Minecraft – in which the children learn to code inside the Minecraft environment. This course does not teach Minecraft, but rather how to use code to automate builds and make modifications to a Minecraft World and change game play. The children use block programming to achieve this, making it ideal for beginners.
We also offer block programming for secondary school students as part of our Make Arcade Games or Make Web Apps courses. These courses are suitable for students in Years 7 – 9 and designed to help them learn more about the principles of computer programming and how to design and prototype a game or App.
With all our courses our aim to help students develop their coding skills… and have an enjoyable time while learning.
This term, some of our students learned how to program the Meowbit and created their first Arcade games.
The Meowbit is a small handheld console for playing games. It can be programmed using graphical programming with the Microsoft Arcade platform.
The course teaches principles of computer programming and game design, which is a step up from programming in Scratch. The students learn about the physics of the game, creating animations and interactions with their characters. As always, there is plenty of problem solving challenges and a great sense of satisfaction when the game is completed.
Being able to test the game the students have created is part of the fun. This creates the perfect opportunity for feedback; is the game too easy or difficult? What can it be changed to make it better? Making changes, fixing bugs and finally publishing the game for the world to see is incredibly rewarding.
Our Make Arcade Games course is now open for registration for the November/December term.
This term we have had a group of children learning to code in Minecraft. This course is not about learning to play Minecraft but about making modifications to a Minecraft world with code.
The course focuses on developing programming skills. As the course is targeted at primary school age children, we use an intuitive ‘drag and drop’ interface, similar to Scratch. All of the children have coded in Scratch before making it easier for them to get started. They learn how to create commands, write automated builds, change the weather with code, and so on. They can join the teacher’s Minecraft world or each other’s worlds.
Coding in Minecraft is a creative way of learning to code using a platform already enjoyed by many children.
In order to code in Minecraft students need a licensed copy of Minecraft Educational Edition, which is included as part of the course.
A day after the first lockdown was announced and schools in the UK were temporarily closed, we were prepared enough to pivot quickly to deliver our lessons online. So, 18 months’ on, I wanted to share some reflections on the experience of teaching coding to children online.
The first and most obvious thing to note is that the children were able to continue their coding journey uninterrupted. Moving entirely online has also enabled them to gain exposure to new platforms and accelerated the learning of new digital skills.
As I’ve writen previously, learning to code is likelearning to swim; as the children get exposed to and become more confident navigating between different coding environments, they develop problem-solving skills and computational thinking.
Older children now have a very good command of the technology we use for the lessons. They are comfortable giving presentations and showing others how their projects are evolving week by week.
Unfortunately, while some younger children have not been able to join us online, those that have are all doing amazingly well – thanks in part to their parents and carers who in many cases haven’t been far away and able to assist with keyboard and computer skills! I cannot thank them enough.
Your children are all doing you proud.
A new term is just around the corner and all our courses are now open for registration.
Over the summer holiday I had the chance to code with Scottie Go! – a coding educational game for primary school children.
Scottie Go! comes with a board and a series of cardboard coding blocks which can be snapped together to create an algorithm. The sequence of instructions can be scanned via a mobile App. The App has a series of screen challenging puzzles that can be solved using the coding cards. If the set of instructions are correct and your character arrives to its correct destination, you can then advanced to the next puzzle.
A child with some knowledge of Scratch can easily understand the instructions and make their own algorithms to solve the puzzles on the App. A younger child might need a little bit of help from an adult to set up and get coding.
I think Scottie Go! is an excellent idea for any child who needs the next coding challenge. I like the idea of combining offline and online learning in one game.
Using games to code not only keeps children entertained but also provides a fun learning environment.
During the last term of the academic year we offered the web design course for primary school children in KS2. Most of the children attending were in Year 5 & Year 6 and were already familiar with text based coding.
It was very challenging for the children to get started with HTML & CSS but once they understood the basic syntax, it was relatively easy for them to create their first web page. The theme of the course was to create a website about a pet or ‘virtual pet’. The course focused on teaching the children how to plan and prototype their website, then add the code to make it display on the browser and finally add the CSS to add the design elements.
We don’t use templates or existing code, so it was great to see a variety of websites that were built from scratch. They learned about image formats and file sizes, how to place the elements on a web page and create their own designs by adding CSS code.
A big well done to all the children that participated.
Year 5 & Year 6 students who signed up to the Game Design course learned how to make pixel games with Bitsy. It was a great opportunity to learn to draw on a 8X8 pixel grid and create a story board for their games. Here is a taster of what they created.
We have just completed four weeks of coding a platformer game using the Microsoft MakeCode platform. The students who participated are in Years 7 to 9. Over four weeks the students designed and created a game which they can play on a game device, such as the KittenBot.
Creating a Mario style platformer game allowed the students to develop a deeper understanding of the process of creating a game – planning the story; creating the main character (and their enemies); scene changing; and designing platforms to the physics of the game (gravity, velocity, and acceleration). One important part of the process is the ability to solve the inevitable technical challenges that they come across along the way.
It was wonderful to witness the students sharing and playing their games with their peers. I told them all they should be very proud of the effort and dedication they put into creating their games in just four lessons.