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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve now been teaching Scratch to children for over 8 years and am very pleased to see some of those children deciding to take Computer Science at GCSE.
For primary school children, I use Scratch, which is a block programming language developed by MIT. They now hosts millions of projects created by children worldwide. It has transformed the way we teach computing to children.
Children gradually journey from learning to use the keyboard to creating games and animations with Scratch. It doesn’t happen overnight; it is like learning to swim. It takes perseverance, patience and practice.
A few lessons in Scratch at school or one ICT lesson every fortnight is in my view not enough if we want to nurture the next generation computer scientists. Likewise, one term of coding club is not enough to gain the digital skills that children need to navigate the digital world.
We also need parents fully engaged so they can help and encourage their boys and girls to take up coding. Being able to use a smart device or a play console is something that most children are used to doing (as ‘consumers’), but we need to teach them how smart devices and computers work.
Why am I comparing swimming to coding? Well, I remember very well what it was like when my children first started their swimming lessons. There we were – on the poolside, every week during term time. There were times when it felt like progress was swift; tangible… and then weeks went by when they didn’t appear to make any progress at all – when everything seemed like it had plateaued. Practice and patience were the key. By the time they reached their teens they had become very proficient swimmers; they represented their school – and one even competed at regional level.
In order to become a confident coder, you first have to learn to code. It takes time to grasp the basic principles; it takes practice and you need to be patient. As any parent will know, patience is something that most children lack. They can get easily frustrated when something doesn’t work for them first time – or how they expect it to. Coding is about learning how to solve problems; how computers ‘do things’ and interpret the instructions we give them. Learning to do this is to understand computational thinking.
Once a child begins to grasp the key concepts of computer science, a whole new world begins to reveal itself. Creativity plays a part, of course, which is why at coding club we encourage children to create their own games and stories.
I believe coding is an important part of any child’s education. It is like reading a writing. It is a new literacy – equipping our children with the skills they will need to prepare them for the jobs of the future.
Back in early March I was still travelling to schools across North Somerset to deliver after school coding clubs. This is something I have been doing for several years; everything changed almost overnight.
It is right that it has been a national priority for all children and young people to return to full-time education, but unfortunately many schools are unable to safely accommodate additional learning opportunities at the end of the school day. In response, we pivoted very quickly to deliver our coding clubs virtually – and accelerated a change we had in mind to make at some stage anyway.
Technology has never played such an important role in our lives and we all are having to adapt to new hybrid ways of working and learning. The school day now looks very different to previous years – with staggered start and finish times. Moving our coding clubs online has only highlighted the importance of digital literacy and teaching children and young people critical thinking, problem solving and digital citizenship. These vital skills and learning to code are now as important as reading and writing.
Coding is for everyone – not just for boys who love playing games on their mobile devices or consoles. Of course this doesn’t mean that everyone is going to become a computer scientist. It’s more about nurturing the skills they need to understand and navigate the digital world today and tomorrow. We help children to become digital makers – rather than simply consumers of technology.
Our coding clubs are now open for registration to primary school children from Year 3 – 6 and secondary school students in Years 7 – 9. We also provide one-to-one sessions- contact us for more details.
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 WinscombePrimary 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.