Scratch continues to inspire children

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.

This term we’re running a Code in Scratch online course suitable for children in Years 3 – 6.

Learn to Code Programme

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

Learning Python
Children coding in Python

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

Introduction to Wearable Tech

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.

Back to coding in school

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.

It’s never too late to start.

Online coding clubs

Since March 2020 we have been offering learning opportuities online tailored to suit different ages and abilities.

Primary


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.

Secondary

Our courses for secondary school students are designed to provide opportunities to learn to program in different coding environments, and to expand their knowledge using Python and JavaScript – two of the most popular computer programming languages. The students develop an understanding of the language as well write lots of code to make games and small applications. They get to collaborate with each other and develop their problem-solving skills. A new Creative Coding course starts in January 2022.

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.

JavaScript for Teens course

Over this Autumn term we offered our JavaScript for Teens course to secondary school students.

Coding in JavaScript can be challenging, and there aren’t any shortcuts to learning the language. Learning the principles of JavaScript will give the student the best start to coding for the web.

Neither is there a fast route to coding games if you don’t understand about data types, variables, conditionals, arrays, and so forth. This is precisely what JavaScript for Teens is about: understanding the JavaScript language from the ground up.

This term, the students learned to debug JavaScript in the console and wrote their first JavaScript programs using Codepen – a development environment for HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

JavaScript for Teens course

A big shout out to all the students who participated this term; they did themselves proud. Next term, a new course on Creative Coding will teach students how they can use the P5 JavaScript library to make a webpage more interactive. The course is suitable for anyone who wants to be creative with code.

Playing games with the Meowbit

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.

Coding in Minecraft

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.

Our next Coding in Minecraft course is now open for registrations.

Reflections on online learning

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 like learning 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.

I’m very proud of our secondary school students who have been coding throughout the pandemic. They have learned Python, Game Design, App Design and JavaScript. They can now write code to a good standard. They have learned programming, how to collaborate and solve problems.

Your children are all doing you proud.

A new term is just around the corner and all our courses are now open for registration.

Web design for kids

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.

Here are some of the results:

  • Website created by a 9 year  old
  • Wed design for children
  • HTML page design for children
  • My virtual pet by a 10 year old
  • web design for primary school children
  • Wed page created by a 10 year old
  • Website created by a 10 year old
  • Website created by a 9 year old
  • Website created by a 9 year old
  • Website created by a 10 year old
  • Website created by a 10 year old

Check out our Autumn courses

Learning game design

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.