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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.