My name is Richard Smith 20 years ago I was happily teaching Maths and Computer Science in a secondary school when I suddenly became frustrated by the constraints of the school. I needed a new challenge. I secured a temporary job training teachers to use technology more effectively and a few years later my confidence had grown enough for me to start my own sole trader business which I called AmazingICT.
I soon found that school leaders were keen to have someone provide up-to-date advice and support for their staff and children. I now work for ½ a day in 8 different schools teaching algorithms, coding, how to program robots, game design and e-safety.
Two of the biggest positive changes recently have been having affordable devices like the Micro:bit and Crumble that can control things such as fans, cars, and cranes. These devices allow me to explain input and output to students in a practical way. I also have access to two 3D printers and this has allowed students to create models using free software such as Tinkercad and to output their designs to a printer. I have put all the details here for you http://amazingict.co.uk/3d-printing
For National Coding Week, we recommend looking at Scratch. Although there are many alternatives out there for block based coding, Scratch still remains at the forefront and is easy to use.
Being a free platform and accessible online helps schools who have budget constraints where they are unable to buy into any other packages that offer block-based coding. Many children love to create their own Scratch accounts and carry on with projects at home; having an online resource means that the learning carries on beyond the classroom. Children come in to school the next day with lots of enthusiasm to showcase the work they have conducted at home.
It’s also an exciting time to use Scratch with the latest version (Version 3) coming out in January with all new features. This will be welcomed by primary schools as it will run on iPads/tablets and will also support the Micro:bit which will act as a physical input and output device.
If children leave primary school able to independently and confidently write programs in Scratch, we believe that this will provide them with a sound platform moving into coding on Python at Secondary School.
For younger children there is also an App called Scratch Junior that can be downloaded free of charge https://www.scratchjr.org Producing websites during National Coding Week is another viable, and completely free, option to code! We recommend www.W3schools.com
as a great online platform to use for primary school children. Throughout the week, children could produce websites based on their topic work for the term; or produce safety tips for peers/parents on how to stay safe online; or a webpage on how to build a webpage!
Unplugged coding activities: not all activities need to be conducted whilst linked to a computer. In addition, not every classroom will have access to such devices. Unplugged activities are just as important to learn the fundamentals of coding. One activity would be to “blindfold” one child in the classroom and the rest of the class must guide the child to an object in the room using just instructions. The intricate and precise instructions will show to children how such instructions are needed to tell a computer what to do! It is an example of an algorithm.
Parental/community engagement: engaging parents and community is vital to schools to build up those links and showcase what children of the future are learning. We find a lot of parents lack a lot of coding knowledge as it was not taught to many when they attended school. Children also love nothing more than to show parents (or community members) their work and teach them some new skills. Children could be set the task to teach an adult how to build a simple program in Scratch or other coding-based platform.
We are really looking forward to coding week 2018 as we will be introducing staff to Scratch3 (Beta) version and tweeting what we discover via @amazingict on Twitter https://twitter.com/amazingict