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Coding continues online from September

Since March, dozens of young coders have been actively and enthusiastically participating in online coding clubs – interacting with their friends via video chat and presenting their projects to their peers. All have learned some really useful digital literacy skills that will help them in their coding journey.

I’m grateful to all those parents at Backwell Junior School, Yatton Schools, Mary Elton in Clevedon and Winscombe Primary who encouraged their children to participate so fully in those online sessions.

We will be back coding in September 2020 for any child who attends school in North Somerset.

The online sessions will be targeted for children in Years 3 – 6 and we will have a new class for those in Years 7 and 8.

If you are interested in your child participating, please get in touch.

Online coding lessons

Over the last five weeks (Term 5), I took the opportunity to move our existing coding clubs online. This was a natural extension to what we do – after all, most of our programming skills are learned and demonstrated online.

After a successful term, I would like to extend this offer to young students from other schools from September 2020.

Those students who’ve so far had the opportunity to participate, also now have very real exposure to the world of online working and collaboration. They learned not only to communicate online with their tutor and their peers, but also to learn and understand about a new platform and tools. This has taken their learning up a notch or two.

Mastering digital skills is so important and children who learn when they are still at a young age get confident at ‘doing’ and not simply consuming the technology.

The students have already solved problems they will inevitably encounter later on in their digital lives – such as commenting on each other’s emerging work, online chat (and etiquette), importing digital images, and so on. Together we work through the do’s and don’ts of digital communication and technology.

On top of learning to navigate the digital world, the children learn about a number of different applications used for coding online. We’ve also used a range of basic programming ‘languages’ or building blocks to help the children understand about the principles of computer programming and basic algorithms. This is intended to give the children a flavour of different programming languages and enable them to differentiate why and when to choose one over another.

Next week we will start a new term and I’m looking forward to welcoming more young coders.

If you didn’t get an opportunity to participate last term, why not consider giving it a go this time round?

I’m so grateful to all the parents that are supporting their children by allowing them to join in online, and the encouragement they give their children to continue to learn such important skills.

Wearable Tech Workshop 1

In our efforts to inspire more young people into the world of Wearable Technology and with the support of The Institute of Engineering and Technology, we had our first ‘Wearable Tech Workshops’ to students in North Somerset.

The first of five workshops took place at Portishead Library, who kindly sponsored the room, over the February half term of 2020.

We were pleased to see students from across North Somerset secondary schools for a three hour workshop. The students made a variety of things, including electronic badges, hair bands, light up pockets, etc.

It was a productive morning and I hope to welcome more new students to future workshops.

Due to the Corona virus situation, the workshops have been postponed until further notice.

Coding Club Online

Given the Coronavirus outbreak some parents have already made the decision to keep their children at home.

We will continue to run our coding clubs in school while they remain open. However, in the event of school closures, we will deliver coding clubs online.

I will continue to post updates here.

Keep well everyone.

Bitsy game design

I recently delivered four sessions to a large group of Yatton students who signed up to learn how to make games with Bitsy. This was part of Yatton School’s extracurricular activities.

I was confident that introducing the Bitsy game-maker tool to primary school children would work, but I wasn’t 100% certain the children were going to like it. Well, they absolutely loved it!

Bitsy is a great tool to create games where the characters can be designed in a squared 8 x 8px grid. We talked a lot about pixels and the children created some fantastic avatars and characters with which they could interact.

The children learnt the principles of game design and created small worlds, puzzles and challenges for their avatars to navigate.

You can move around one of the games which was created by a Year 5 pupil here by pressing your keyboard arrow keys.

Here are just a few examples of some of the students’ creations.

Here’s a video of one of the games created by the youngest member of the group – a 7-year old child.

Coding for fun

We have just finished the first term of coding club and as always, Scratch was the children’s favourite coding program across all the schools. I’m always keen to see the reaction of the children when I tell them that we are going to try something different. The majority will tell me they prefer Scratch! I love Scratch, too; in my opinion, it is the best coding environment for children.

That said, it is important that the children get exposed to other software and activities – not just Scratch – to test and enhance their computational thinking knowledge and ability to solve problems.

In my experience, a child’s depth of understanding of code becomes more apparent when they are exposed to different programs.

This term the children created some wonderful games and stories.

To see more projects, go to the Codingbug YouTube channel.

Summer of Code 2019

The third #SummerOfCode has come to an end. A big thank you to our sponsor Viper Innovations for hosting us again and providing drinks, snacks and some magic for the children (yes, talented magician included!).

Day One: we got off to a really good start with our first workshop for 6 and 7 year olds. The children arrived with their tablets ready to create an animated story with ScratchJr… and they all did! By the end of the two-hour workshop, the children were confident enough to create an animated story and also learnt some coding basics. At break time we were treated to some magic by one of the members of staff!

On Day Two we covered all the basics on how to create a ‘Space Invaders’ game in Scratch and how to program it. This was a challenging workshop, especially for the younger attendees, but they should be very proud of what they managed to achieve in a short period of time.

Day Three was all about physical computing with BBC micro:bits. The children busied themselves for a couple of hours learning to program the micro:bit and controlling a light (On/Off), turning on a fan, making music, dimming lights, etc… all with code.

Day Four was packed with students from different schools across North Somerset. We had a mixed-gender group and all were keen to learn how Apps are made. The children created their first Apps using the JavaScript language and were then able to play with the Apps they created.

Day Five was about learning with Python. It was great to see that some of the children came well prepared with Python already installed! They created their first Python chatbot and they were all pretty proud of what they achieved in only two hours.

A big ‘thank you’ to our sponsor Viper Innovations for supporting the event and helping us give the children these opportunities. A special thanks to all Viper’s STEM ambassadors and helpers.

Wearable tech for Year 7s

Codingbug was delighted to be asked to work with Annie Lywood – the founder of Bonnie Binary – to deliver a ‘wearable technology’ workshop for 50 students at Newent Community School in Gloucestershire at the end of the summer term.

We gave the students an introduction to ‘wearable technology’ and they then had a go at making their own badges. We brought in all the materials the students needed for the workshop, including electronic components, conductive threads, felt… and examples for them to try.

E-textiles badge
Giant doughnut badge created by a student.

The school provided many of the extra tools we needed for the workshop, including crocodile clips and multimeters.

The students were a real pleasure to work with. They all learned to use conductive yarn, sewed in their first ‘soft circuit’ and made their badges light up. As always, debugging is an important part of the process and they all had a go at using the multimeter for that purpose.

A big thank you for Mr K. for treating us so well and staying with us throughout the morning and afternoon sessions. We hope to repeat the experience again in the near future.

Paper circuits

During the final term of the school year and as part of Yatton Junior School Learning College, I led a group of children through four sessions looking at some basic electronic principles and ‘how electricity works’.

The children learnt about electronic circuits and how to make them using copper tape. Once they grasped the principles, the children were able to design their own circuits with LED’s… and make them light up.

Copper tape works really well with paper but there were the inevitable connection problems. However, the children used a multimeter to debug their circuits.

The children made a house out of paper that lights up… and also made pop-up greetings cards.

I was very pleased to hear that some of the children had later used batteries to test their circuits at home, so a big ‘thank you’ to the parents who helped with their child’s requests!

Paper circuits give children a great introduction to physics and I’m looking forward to repeating the experience.

If you would like a Paper Circuits workshop at your school, get in touch.