My return to the CAS Conference for its 9th year

After around five years of absence I returned to the 9th CAS Conference held in Birmingham today.

I was hoping for new ideas and a chance to catch up with people and I got both.

Now, cooling off in the garden with darkening skys (it is nearly 11pm) I have spent a few hours reflecting on the day…

The day started really well.  I boarded my train, bacon roll in hand, and made my way to my reserved seat to find none other than Phil Bagge sitting in the seat opposite.  Phil was one of the CAS people I met at my first CAS conference and I’ve pinched his ideas and shown his jam-sandwich-robot video to teachers ever since.  We had a lovely chat about work and life and I tagged along with Phil right up to the University.

The opening sessions were thought-provoking…

Mark Guzdial introduced us to three keys to improving computing teaching:

  1. Prediction – the power of asking the pupils to make predictions help them understand and remember more
  2. Sub goal labelling – making it obvious (almost decomposition) what we are doing
  3. Instructional design

This gave me my first take-away – trying to include Sub Goal Labelling in future resources and planning

The first breakout was on CAS’s Project Quantum with Miles Berry.  Again someone I’ve known for years and who I’ve quoted and also used his YouTube videos around the new computing curriculum with teachers in the past.  One thing he mentioned that really got me thinking was about hinge points/questions after around 20 minutes of teaching was something new to me and a definite second take-away.

Taking time to check real understanding at appropriate times within a lesson before moving on is something I probably don’t conciously focus on enough.   Project Quantum was interesting, a quantatitive online bank of quiz questions that can be used to assess pupils knowledge and understanding of Computing, but currently heavily biased towards secondary.  It made me want to contribute more primary-level questions…

The second break-out I attended was with the aforementioned Phil Bagge and Mark Dorling.

They have been working on a project around attitudes.  What makes a good Computing Problem Solver…

Phil’s resources and animated explanation and description made me want to try these ideas out straight away (another take-away).  I will certainly be introducing them into my teaching from September, if not before.

After lunch I attended a rather poorly attended session on streamlining assessment using tablets.  Will Franklin took us through Formative, Socrative, Kahoot and Plickers also mentioning Google Forms and Class Kick.  Although there was little really new here for me, it did server to reaffirm my ideas and prompt me to spend some time developing Socrative particularly which also made me think a bit more about Hinge points too… so another take-away!

The final breakout I attended was with Steve Bunce and Mark Dorling (again).  This was a look at how to move pupils from a block-based language (Scratch) to a text-based language (such as Python) via something like Snap.

The plenaries in the afternoon started with Miles once more recapping Project Quantum, but with some interesting audience participation!

The Second plenary was a very interesting and engaging talk from Chris Ensor of the National Centre for Cyber Security who talked about his organisation’s changing role since World War 1 and the modern challenges.  He talked about how they are hoping to encourage and support a new generation of security experts (and programmers who understand the absolute need for code without holes) through things like the Cyber First bursary scheme.

The day was rounded off by a charming and highly engaging session from Linda Liukas.  She’s describes herself as an author, storyteller and computer scientist (and more).  Author of the growing “Hello Ruby” book series.  Her storytelling style had the whole lecture theatre of 300+ people spellbound despite the heat and left me with even more to think about (and an Amazon bill for books).  A superbly engaging way of introducing young children to Computer Science and I can’t wait to share it with a reception teacher I know!

Thank you CAS for a great event, thought provoking and invigorating (and excellent value).

Micro:Bits in the Primary Classroom

I attended an excellent hands-on workshop with the BBC Micro:Bit at an RM Seminar at the back end of 2016.  I forget who it was that lead that session, (though it might have been Stuart Ball).

In the session we were told, anecdotally, that the Micro:Bits had originally been intended for Year 6 pupils and although I had dismissed them it became immediately apparent that they are eminently usable by all Key Stage 2 pupils using the blocks editor which is very like Scratch!

I had spent many years wandering in the wilderness (well around Bett) looking for that perfect storm of a computer-controllable device which didn’t break the bank and was suitable for Primary Schools – it suddenly looked as if I had found it!

At only £15 including VAT for a starter kit from Kitronik they really seem a no-brainer!  Combine that with the Inventors kit for less than £25 or the Line Following Buggy for less than only £27 they are truly flexible, adaptable and cheap!

I must mention here that I am not on commission (I wish I was) and that I don’t work for Kitronik but they have been really helpful and supportive and I enjoyed meeting them at Bett 2017.

Since investing in a class set of these I have really enjoyed introducing them to pupils from year 3-6 (aged 7-11) starting with the virtual experience programming the online emulator (free to do at http://microbit.org/code/) before watching their faces light up as they successfully transfer a program to the actual physical thing and it lights-up before their eyes!

We started simple, basic scrolling text controlled by a variety of inputs.  We moved on to the basic Dice program before exploring other dice options.  We then created our own compass and even moved into controlling an eco-house created from an old dolls house and using the Inventors Kit.

Light-Controlled_Lamp_MicroBit

Whether your computing platform is PC, Chromebook or iPad based (yes they work via bluetooth too) if you are looking for something to control on a budget then I would HIGHLY recommend the Micro:Bit!

The Kodu Kup 2013

At Bett 2013 Microsoft, and various partners including CAS and Naace, launched a new competition for KS2 and 3 students – The Kodu Kup!

Kodu Kup

The competition is free to enter and involves using Kodu (FREE software from Microsoft) to program a simple game on one of three themes. The game, plus a poster design for the game, have to be entered online by 31st May 2013. Entrants can be individuals or teams of up to three students.

Games created will need to cover at least one of these three themes: •Retro Arcade Game – Recreate an arcade game from the past with a Kodu twist! If you need some inspiration you could try taking a look at classicgamesarcade.com for some examples. •Water awareness – Create a game that tackles the environmental issue of water. This could be a local or school-based scenario or something more global. •Mars Exploration – Use the Mars Rover character in Kodu Game Lab to create a game centred around the exploration of Mars.

The creators of the ten lucky short-listed entries will be invited to attend a workshop day at the Microsoft Reading headquarters where they will also present their game to a panel of judges. The best three games will win an Xbox 360 plus Kinect for their school with the over-all winners lifting the Kodu Kup too!

To help support Oxfordshire schools we are offering a FREE two-hour introduction to Kodu for absolute Kodu beginners. Unfortunately we cannot offer this until Monday 18th March 2013, and places are strictly limited to two-per-school only. To book your FREE place please visit http://kodukupoxon.eventbrite.co.uk to sign up now.

You could run a mini competition in your class or school to choose a school entry or you could encourage your G&T programmers to create an entry in their own time which you could support them with by getting other pupils to test maybe! If you are interested then you can find out more from the Microsoft Partners in Learning site

Draft National Curriculum for ‘Computing’

As of February 2013 the new National Curriculum document shows ICT as no longer a subject as it is replaced by Computing, which is compulsory across Key Stages 1-4.

Computing (as announced in the Draft Curriculum documentation, Feb 2013)

Purpose of study
A high-quality computing education equips pupils to understand and change the world through computational thinking. It develops and requires logical thinking and precision. It combines creativity with rigour: pupils apply underlying principles to understand real-world systems, and to create purposeful and usable artefacts. More broadly, it provides a lens through which to understand both natural and artificial systems, and has substantial links with the teaching of mathematics, science, and design and technology.

At the core of computing is the science and engineering discipline of computer science, in which pupils are taught how digital systems work, how they are designed and programmed, and the fundamental principles of information and computation. Building on this core, computing equips pupils to apply information technology to create products and solutions. A computing education also ensures that pupils become digitally literate – able to use, and express themselves through, information and communication technology – at a level suitable for the future workplace and as active participants in a digital world.

Aims
The National Curriculum for computing aims to ensure that all pupils:
•can understand and apply the fundamental principles of computer science, including logic, algorithms, data representation, and communication
•can analyse problems in computational terms, and have repeated practical experience of writing computer programs in order to solve such problems
•can evaluate and apply information technology, including new or unfamiliar technologies, analytically to solve problems
•are responsible, competent, confident and creative users of information and communication technology.

Attainment targets
By the end of each key stage, pupils are expected to know, apply and understand the matters, skills and processes specified in the relevant programme of study.

Subject content

Key Stage 1
Pupils should be taught to:
•understand what algorithms are, how they are implemented as programs on digital devices, and that programs execute by following a sequence of instructions
•write and test simple programs
•use logical reasoning to predict the behaviour of simple programs
•organise, store, manipulate and retrieve data in a range of digital formats
•communicate safely and respectfully online, keeping personal information private, and recognise common uses of information technology beyond school.

Key Stage 2
Pupils should be taught to:
•design and write programs that accomplish specific goals, including controlling or simulating physical systems; solve problems by decomposing them into smaller parts
•use sequence, selection, and repetition in programs; work with variables and various forms of input and output; generate appropriate inputs and predicted outputs to test programs
•use logical reasoning to explain how a simple algorithm works and to detect and correct errors in algorithms and programs
•understand computer networks including the internet; how they can provide multiple services, such as the world-wide web; and the opportunities they offer for communication and collaboration
•describe how internet search engines find and store data; use search engines effectively; be discerning in evaluating digital content; respect individuals and intellectual property; use technology responsibly, securely and safely
•select, use and combine a variety of software (including internet services) on a range of digital devices to accomplish given goals, including collecting, analysing, evaluating and presenting data and information.

Key Stage 3
Pupils should be taught to:
•design, use and evaluate computational abstractions that model the state and behaviour of real-world problems and physical systems
•understand at least two key algorithms for each of sorting and searching; use logical reasoning to evaluate the performance trade-offs of using alternative algorithms to solve the same problem
•use two or more programming languages, one of which is textual, each used to solve a variety of computational problems; use data structures such as tables or arrays; use procedures to write modular programs; for each procedure, be able to explain how it works and how to test it
•understand simple Boolean logic (such as AND, OR and NOT) and its use in determining which parts of a program are executed; use Boolean logic and wild-cards in search or database queries; appreciate how search engine results are selected and ranked
•understand the hardware and software components that make up networked computer systems, how they interact, and how they affect cost and performance; explain how networks such as the internet work; understand how computers can monitor and control physical systems
•explain how instructions are stored and executed within a computer system
•explain how data of various types can be represented and manipulated in the form of binary digits including numbers, text, sounds and pictures, and be able to carry out some such manipulations by hand
•undertake creative projects that involve selecting, using, and combining multiple applications, preferably across a range of devices, to achieve challenging goals, including collecting and analysing data and meeting the needs of known users
•create, reuse, revise and repurpose digital information and content with attention to design, intellectual property and audience.

Key Stage 4

All pupils must have the opportunity to study aspects of information technology and computer science at sufficient depth to allow them to progress to higher levels of study or to a professional career.

All pupils should be taught to:
•develop their capability, creativity and knowledge in computer science, digital media and information technology
•develop and apply their analytic, problem-solving, design, and computational thinking skills.

 

Find out more from the DfE website

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