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.

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.

 

Pac-man continues to entertain

Pac-man, the arcade game created in the 80’s was our chosen project for term 6. The children created their own versions of the game by drawing their own images. It was one of the longest projects we have ever done at coding club and to my surprise, the children never showed any signs of boredom with the game. Every week, they came to coding club looking forward to add to their projects.

The Pac-man game gave the children the opportunity to practice everything they had learned throughout the year by adding more layers of complexity to the game. Some of the children chose to create their sprites in Pixil art, a program that they learned how to use at coding club.

It gave me great pleasure to see the results and I know for sure the children thoroughly enjoyed it too. Here is a small selection of the projects created.

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Chatbot in Python

Year 5’s and Year 6’s learned to make a chatbot with the Python programming language. The chatbot consisted of a ‘bot’ assistant that interacts with you by asking questions and giving answers based on the responses given. This is a challenging task that children can modify according to their interest. Here are some examples of chatbots talking about dinosaurs, food and scary elevators!

We use Trinket, our favourite Python online editor.