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.

Scottie Go!

Over the summer holiday I had the chance to code with Scottie Go! – a coding educational game for primary school children.

Scottie Go! comes with a board and a series of cardboard coding blocks which can be snapped together to create an algorithm. The sequence of instructions can be scanned via a mobile App. The App has a series of screen challenging puzzles that can be solved using the coding cards. If the set of instructions are correct and your character arrives to its correct destination, you can then advanced to the next puzzle.

A child with some knowledge of Scratch can easily understand the instructions and make their own algorithms to solve the puzzles on the App. A younger child might need a little bit of help from an adult to set up and get coding.

I think Scottie Go! is an excellent idea for any child who needs the next coding challenge. I like the idea of combining offline and online learning in one game.

Using games to code not only keeps children entertained but also provides a fun learning environment.

Learn more about Scottie Go! If purchasing use the code CODINGBUG to claim a 10% discount.

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.

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.

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.

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.

‘Squishy circuits’

We recently had great fun delivering a ‘squishy circuits’ workshop at Yatton Infant School. This workshop was designed for Key Stage 1 children, and as part of their STEM extra curriculum activities.

‘Squishy circuits’ teaches the children about conductive and insulated materials, and about electricity. Using my home-made conductive and insulated play dough(!), the children constructed basic electronic circuits with their fantastical creature-creations.

I loved the fact that the children were very keen to understand about LEDs, quickly learnt about their ‘polarity’, and applied this effectively on every single project they made.

Play dough is an excellent material for introducing the children to the world of electronics and we certainly had four playful (and messy) afternoons.

Here is a sample of what the children created:

  • Sea monster

Show and Tell at coding club

At coding club we always allocate time for ‘show and tell’. This usually happens near the end of a session when the children have finished their projects, and are ready to show them to the rest of the class.

I always consider this an opportunity for the children to show their pride in what they have achieved. Naturally, there are children who do not wish to show their projects to everyone but are still quietly proud of their achievements. However, I always encourage children to say something about their what they made – how the end product was produced; what was the most challenging; what characters they used; and what they would like to add next.

This is also an opportunity for the rest of the class to give feedback, and get some ideas for their own projects.

With practice, the children become more comfortable at ‘show and tell’. Younger children always get inspiration from seeing the projects of older groups… and what they can do themselves.

I encourage parents to ask their children at home about their Scratch projects and praise them for their achievements.