Autumn half-term coding

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We held some very successful coding workshops for primary school children at the offices of Viper Innovations in Portishead over the Autumn half-term.

Our hosts made their fantastic boardroom available to us for three mornings during a normal working week. The children turned up with their laptops and learnt to code a spooky game in Scratch, made a Minecraft zombie game, and learnt how to code the micro:bit.

The Minecraft zombie game in particular was a real hit with the children and there was a real buzz in the room with everyone adding their own ideas to the game.

The children had an opportunity to show-off their projects with a ‘show and tell’ at the end of each of the sessions. The grown-ups present were very impressed with their creations.

Thank you to all the parents that let their children attend the sessions – and a special thanks to those who supported their children during the workshops.

Finally, a big *thank you* to Viper Innovations staff for their support with the workshops and to their STEM ambassadors who were of great help – including the ‘magician’!

We hope to repeat the experience again next year!

What parents told us was the best thing about the workshops:

“My son loved everything about this workshop”

“The boys hadn’t used the micro:bit before, so it gave them a new experience in coding in a relaxed atmosphere.”

“Thought the Halloween content was great.”

“Flexibility to fit all ages and abilities”

“My son was engaged and excited… he’s looking forward to attending again.”

Code + Make Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding campaign for digital making

I have been leading coding sessions for young people for over four years. During this time I have seen children develop their computational thinking and coding skills. The children have also been exposed to hardware like the micro:bit, RaspberryPi and the Pico-board.

Lately, I have also been delivering workshops in e-Textiles at Yatton Primary School where children have learnt about basic electronics and making wearable projects.

To further continue to inspire more young people into ‘digital making’, I have launched a crowdfunding campaign to create a ‘mobile maker space’. I hope to raise the funds to purchase the hardware needed to deliver more workshops inside and outside school.

I would be grateful for your support to this project. You can pledge on the project page on Spacehive.

 

Making Apps with JavaScript

JavaScript is the programming language that powers the web. It adds interactivity to a website and applications are written in JavaScript everyday – ranging from a single page application, games, apps, programming drones to the Internet of things.

At Coding Club, the children have been learning how to program apps with JavaScript using Bitsbox. Bitsbox is a paid online learning application, but anyone can sign up and start using the free tutorials or the hour of code. They also offer a monthly subscription with lost of goodies.

The Bitsbox interface consists of a phone simulator and a text editor, so the results can be seen straight away. A QR code can also be scanned so the apps can run on a phone or tablet. This is a great way to introduce text-based programming to young people.

Most children in Year 4 and above who are confident with Scratch should be able to write apps with JavaScript and understand the concepts. Bixtbox has definitely been a big hit with the kids.

Making apps with JavaScript

Micro:bits start at primary school

During the last term of the school year, I ran five sessions on how to program the micro:bit at Yatton and Mary Elton primary schools.

The micro:bit is an electronic device created by the BBC to encourage children to code. The BBC distributed micro:bits to secondary schools in 2016; since then the micro:bit has grown in popularity and it is now available for anyone to purchase for their own use (for less than £20).

I got my hands on a micro:bit as soon as it was available with a view to introducing it to primary school children. I then bought a further 10 micro:bits – enough for twenty children to work in pairs. The devices have been fantastic and the children have loved programming them.

We used the JavaScript blocks editor, as the children are already familiar with the Scratch block programming language. Once the children understood how the micro:bit worked and how the code is downloaded and transferred to the micro:bit… the fun really started.

The children were challenged to display letters, numbers, play games, build a compass, check the temperature and listen to music notes. I was pleased to see the children’s enthusiasm; it was like ‘a pet’ that obeyed their orders and commands. It made them laugh and they loved going around the room sharing with their friends.

The micro:bit is not just for secondary school children. As more children become more confident with coding, they are ready to be challenged, and the micro:bit is the perfect device for this. It is easy to set up and get started.

I look forward to running more micro:bit sessions in the next academic year and continue to challenge the children.

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ScratchJr for Key Stage 1

Teaching ScratchJr to Year 1 and Year 2 children has been a particularly rewarding and challenging experience this past academic year. When the children start learning to code at such a young age it is important to keep them engaged and interested. ScratchJr has been fantastic in providing the levels of engagement the children need while at the same time nurturing their creativity.

ScratchJr has all the basic elements of a design tool to draw characters and backgrounds, which is perfect for young creative coders. It also comes ready with a set of characters and backgrounds from which to draw – and the children love using a combination of both. At every session I see ideas come to life with beautifully-drawn characters, backgrounds and ‘abstract’ drawings (use your ‘imagination’)!

Although the coding blocks that come with ScratchJr are pretty basic, there is so much to learn and it takes time for the children to master the concepts.

My approach is broadly as follows… with the obvious caveat that we see beginners and more experienced coders in both Year groups:

Year 1 – the children learn basic algorithms; how to give instructions to their characters to make them move, rotate, dance, etc. In computer programming, this is called ‘sequencing’.

Year 2 – the children learn more complex algorithms. They start making small games and use computational thinking in their thought process.

In Year 1 and Year 2 the children learn to identify ‘bugs’ in their code and how to ‘fix’ them. They also learn to collaborate by helping each other and explain how they solve their coding challenges.

In order to for the children to advance their understanding of coding, I also introduce them to the fantastic resources of Code.org which help reinforce their understanding of computer programming concepts.

We always try to allocate time to ‘show and tell’ at the end of each session.

This academic year has been another big success. Special ‘thank you’ to parents for encouraging their ‘little ones’ to code.

Here are some of the children at work and some of their work.

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Coding a website

This term the children are having a crack at creating a website. They’re learning how a webpage is structured, what language is used to create a website and how to style their pages.

Learning HTML and CSS (the two essential markup languages used to create a website) at young age is challenging. But at coding club I make sure the children learn all the foundation skills they need in order to tackle these challenges.

Creating a website about Pichu

One of the first hurdles when programming young is that most children don’t know how to use the keyboard. Not only do they learn to use the keyboard and the ‘special characters’ needed when writing code, but they also learn how code is constructed and how important it is to type with accuracy. The children quickly appreciate that any missing semi-colon or ‘curly’ bracket will mean their code simply will not run as expected.

Paying attention to detail, learning to be patient and staying calm when things go wrong are all critical skills that they acquire when coding. Everyone makes mistakes (and this is how we learn) but knowing how to spot the problem is crucial to a successful outcome.

Another important element of learning to make a website is understanding about images and their different formats. Sourcing images from the web; learning how to use them and manipulate them with code – these are skills that are essential to their understanding of how images work for the web.

I’m pleased to see that all the children that have been coding with me for some time are making some great mini-websites – often using their favourite characters! They feel confident enough to tackle the code and are beginning to show me they can debug the code by themselves before calling for help.

 

 

Make a Pokémon game in Scratch

The Curzon Clevedon was once again the venue for a workshop on ‘How to make a Pokémon game in Scratch’.

The game the children made consisted of adding a Pokémon trainer that could catch the childrens’ favourite Pokémons using three different poké balls. Pokemon game in Scratch

The children learnt how to manipulate their favourite Pokémon images in Scratch and animate the balls in order to catch Pokémons. Once the Pokémons were ‘caught’, these followed their trainer everywhere s/he went. There were different variations of the game, but all the children amused themselves by solving the challenges.

Kids coding at the Curzon Clevedon

Look out for more workshops coming up at the Clevedon Curzon.