Getting started with teaching code

Julian S Wood

Julian is an Assistant Head at an inner-city primary school in Sheffield. He has been teaching for 14 years. He is a passionate advocate of using new technology in education and was awarded ‘Microsoft Innovative Educator 2010 Award’ for using new technology in school, with his project about stimulating writing using QR codes and mobile devices.

Julian co-created the Creative Partnerships 'inathirdspace' project in 2009. Which partnered teachers and artists for their own CPD, staff used mobile phones to post photographs and text to a website and used a twitter account (@inathirdspace) to give lesson feedback in an innovative way.

In January Julian presented in a 'break-out' session at the Learning without Frontiers conference in London. He has also been a speaker for the Open University National event ‘Using Web 2.0 technology and Storytelling’, presented about ‘Creative Web 2.0 Learning Provocations’ at the Cape UK, Yorkshire Creative Partnerships Conference. Julian lead a workshop at the National College for School Leadership (NCSL) Future Leaders Course and also presented at a regional ‘Thinking Skills’ Conference in Newcastle. He has presented at 9 Teachmeets.

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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.

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