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.
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.
Learning how to interact with the objects on the screen and use ‘event-driven’ programming to make their Apps come to life was really challenging, but the students rose to the challenge and created and shared some terrific Apps. They even created their own App icon to access them on their phones.
Well done to everyone who participated and I look forward to seeing you next term for our new Programming with Python course – registration is now open.
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.
I always encourage my students to make games when learning to program. They have to think about the aim of the game, the characters, the controls, the visual effects, and so on. Once they know all the basics, they can create their own and experiment.
Our group of Year 7 & 8 students have learned how to make Arcade games with Microsoft Make Code Arcade. This is a step up from Scratch programming.
We had a full term packed full of activities that led to a final ‘space shooter’ game where the students put everything they learned into practice. They created some fantastic games featuring some great characters.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.