As part of the proposed new draft primary curriculum for ICT, there is a significant emphasis on computer science. Below I've included a selection of apps which can be used in both Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2. The apps included range from basic skills in coding a Beebot to more advanced skills in coding games and simulations in apps such as Hopscotch and Codea.
I've also included some other useful 'ICT' apps, which can be used to develop a pupil's typing skills and spreadsheet skills.
In light of the new computing programme of study, Optimus Education are bringing together a line up of primary ICT and computing experts and inspiring practitioners to share best practice around delivering outstanding ICT in schools.
As stated in the new draft programme of study, at Key Stage 1 pupils will now be expected to write and test simple programmes, and understand the basics of algorithms. At Key Stage 2, pupils will now have to explain how a simple algorithm works and to correct errors in algorithms and programs (DfE 07/02/13). Many schools feel ill-equipped to deliver these new expectations, but Optimus Education’s timely event is designed to help primary leaders prepare their school and staff to deliver the new computing programme of study at primary level.
Last week, Microsoft, in conjunction with Naace, the ICT Association, launched a new competition designed to excite and inspire school children about the possibilities of coding and Computer Science.
The Kodu Kup will offer UK school children, aged between seven and fourteen, the opportunity to design a brand new computer game, using Kodu, a visual programming language built specifically for creating games by Microsoft. The entries will be judged by a high profile panel, which includes Gary Carr (Creative Director at games studio, Lionhead, home of the multi-million selling Fable titles) and Theo Chin of independent games developer, IndieSkies.
Google has announced it will be donating 15,000 of the credit-card-sized computers to schools in the UK, hoping to spawn a new generation of hardware and software engineers.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation, Google and six UK educational partners are now working to find the kids who will benefit most from having their own Raspberry Pi.
The donation was part of Google Giving, which awards funding, technology and man-hours to causes across the world.
The simplest to use app store on the planet, with lowest barriers to entry, has gone live.
Designed with schools in mind, the YOUSRC App Store has no enrolment fee to be a publisher, and you don’t have to earn a minimum amount of funds before withdrawing your earnings. The YOUSRC App Store allows students and teachers to write their own YOUSRC apps and sell them to others, receiving a share of the proceeds in return. This could be for fun, or could be used by school enterprise projects, for example.
This week, to coincide with the release of James Bond's Skyfall, YOUSRC have announced a new set of self-paced tasks to help students learn how to programme - with a “Spy” theme aimed at being of interest to both boys and girls.
Suitable for use in lessons, for homework, school holiday activities or just for fun, students earn star rewards for writing apps and progressing through various MI5 tasks.
In a MacTaggart lecture full of sound advice - reduce regulation, listen to the Victorians, ignore Alan Sugar - perhaps the most important suggestion made by Eric Schmidt was that computer science be taught properly in schools.
This means, as the Google Chairman pointed out, teaching children how to make computer programs rather than merely how to use them.
But in an era when GCSE marks are awarded for linking a picture of a football to the word “le football”, can pupils really cope with the protean rigours of computer programming?
Of course they can. Today’s children grow up surrounded by software. They enjoy using it so much that they are largely self-taught. They eagerly upgrade to the latest mobile phone, even if this means learning to use an entirely new operation system. Such enthusiasm and confidence are the perfect foundations on which to learn to program.
For the past two years many schools have been using the free web-based learn-to-program resource called YOUSRC (“You source”) to introduce programming to schools.
Some have been using it at Year 9 to introduce a whole year group to programming – such as Bay House School in Hampshire, where 350 students did a Caesar Cipher challenge using YOUSRC in the summer term. Others, like Tonbridge Grammar School in Kent, where 23 girls achieved 9 A*s, 10 As, 2Bs and 2Cs, have used it for programming and controlled assessments for OCR GCSE Computing.
From the beginning, the core idea behind YOUSRC was to provide an easy-to-learn programming language which would support wide use at Year 9, whilst having the sophistication to support GCSE Computing. YOUSRC's student-developed apps have always been able run on Android mobile phones, with development, debugging and testing of the apps done through a PC web browser. Now, these apps can also be run unchanged on the new credit-card sized computer, the Raspberry Pi.
Many teachers jump straight into teaching students code. They log on, load up the interface and start typing out lines of code. Those students, who can copy from the board, do so and are successful. For those students who can’t or who miss a part of the code, then the program fails and some students are just turned off, straight away. The key to enabling students to learn to code is getting them interested and teaching them to think about what they want the program to do before they start coding.
When first introducing programming, it is useful to get students to notate on paper how to direct a student around the tables in a classroom. It is good fun and gets the students thinking about the commands they need to create and when to use them. More able students can be stretched by allowing them only ten instructions or only the use of a whistle. A remote control car is great for lower ability students to develop the concept of control and getting them to plan what turns they will need to make and in which order, to direct the car accurately around a course.
Much has been said about the Raspberry Pi and its usefulness as a tool for learning. The long waiting lists and competitive price of the Pi have created widespread euphoria. However, as all the excitement dies down, and people begin to receive their Pi, many critics have appeared asking how useful is the Pi?
Many critics and blog posts are comparing it to the iPad, which is futile as they are polar opposites. The Pi was developed as a tool to invoke learning, not as a wow piece of technology. The Pi is for content creation as opposed to content consumption. It is not the physical Pi that is the exciting technology - you don’t purchase it because of its processor speed, graphics ability or even its size - its fundamental strength is as a vehicle to develop students' computing competence and understanding.
Photo credit: Roo Reynolds