These videos show the results of a task, undertaken by PGCE Primary associate teachers, to create a 'dance' performed by a pair of Bee-bots. The aim was to familiarise the group with Bee-bots and their simple controls as well as cover key programming ideas, such as debugging. Enjoy!
Note that the music for the first is a free download from freeplaymusic.com to avoid infringing copyright on YouTube. The videos below use MIDI files for the same reason.
I have just created a new page on this site devoted to programming in primary schools. It includes links to general resources, software, online tools and apps. Hopefully, it will be a useful source of ideas and information in preparation for the Computing curriculum in 2014. Please let me know if there are obvious resources I have missed!
So we have a new draft framework for the National Curriculum In England and across the board subject-by-subject there appears to be a theme: it's content-heavy and it's challenging. Whether it's mathematical basics or the 'facts' of British history, there's a lot to cram in and some of it shows little awareness of age appropriateness or relevance. The Computing curriculum is a case in point - in primary, we now have algorthms and 'sequence, selection, and repetition in programs; ... variables and various forms of input and output' to contend with. Basically, if it's not hard work to learn and to teach, then its not worthwhile. But wait a minute, that isn't what technology is about, is it? Surely technology is about making it easier to do things? About enabling children to engage in creative processes and make products that would have been impossible in the past. Children can now make videos and animations with handheld devices that would have required a roomful of kit and a well-funded chequebook just a few years ago.
Computing (or dare I call it, ICT) is about tools for learning across the curriculum, but the document makes no mention of them in any other subject. Instead we have a dark recess of the curriculum (that the Expert Panel, remember them, didn't think worthy of a programme of study) that is dominated by programming. And let's be honest, programming is an acquired taste for learner (and teacher). If done well, programming can be engaging, but if done badly, it is dull, tedious and repetitive stuff - 'now let's go back for the tenth time and see if we can get the turtle to draw a Christmas tree'. So do I despair? No. There is enough in the Computing curriculum to ensure that links are made with ways that technology enhances learning and makes a difference in the real world.
I did a short introductory workshop on Logo with PGCE Primary students yesterday. Using Microworlds JR, they were given the challenge of producing a screensaver-style animation using turtle graphics and basic procedures. The video below shows some of the animations that were produced in a very short time. Each follow the basic pattern of geometric shape procedure, followed by a move procedure inserted into a control button. Simple stuff, but effective and, hopefully, the group will now have some confidence if they are asked to teach Logo on placement(?). The session certainly illustrated the problem-solving nature of Logo programming and the need to improve and refine initial ideas. The music in the video is from http://freeplaymusic.com and is called 'Tiny Little Flickering'.
An unrelated find (well, not entirely?) is ArtisanCam Activities - a range of online, interactive activities including a Paint Studio and a simple online Picture Book Maker. Try out Trees and Tides and work in the style of Andy Goldsworthy or Richard Long ...
There appear to be at least two themes running through the development of educational technology at the moment: the move towards a more programming-focused, 'computer science' type curriculum and the increasing use of mobile, handheld technology in the classroom and beyond, e.g. smartphones. I have now heard about several local schools who have invested in iPads as a means of harnessing technology across the curriculum. Are these two themes pulling ICT in different directions or are they linked? Maybe this app provides a clue? Or this one?
Although Mr. Gove has been quiet on the subject so far, the move to a more 'computer science' focused technology curriculum in the UK was strengthened by the government's response to an 'independent review' by two leaders in the games industry. The Guardian reported that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said on Monday 'that classes in computing – known as Information and Communication Technology (ICT) – are "insufficiently rigorous" and in need of reform'. The BBC headlined with 'Government backs call for classroom coding'. And suggested that computer coding is the new Latin - now that is really going to get children interested!
So what might this look like in primary schools? Simon Haughton provided some timely support on 26th November: 'Teaching Control Programming with 2Go' from 2Simple. I will be introducing PGCE Primary students to MicroWorlds JR later this week - can't wait?!
My 19th May post referred to one aspect of augmented reality (AR) for education: superimposing data and information on the view through a mobile device’s camera. Over the summer I have been taking a look at marker-based augmented reality applications - using a webcam to play with 3D objects and characters generated by printed markers. Several websites now use this type of AR and you might like to have a play with the technology. I am not convinced in relation to the educational potential, beyond novelty value, though I am willing to be persuaded .....
SciMorph is a DCSF-funded project aimed at supporting the key stage one and two science curriculum. According to the site, 'Scimorph is a very simple, central character who can journey through a series of activities in a virtual science environment based around the curriculum for primary aged children'.
Rainforest Life on the London Zoo website puts a slender loris in the palm of your hand!
SmartGrid on the US General Electric website uses markers to create 3D animations of a wind farm and a solar panel. The fold-out effect is really impressive, although the 3D objects don't really do very much!
Finally, the Adopt Me website uses a marker to create virtual pet on your desktop.
I did a short session on LOGO and Control with PGCE (Primary) students last week and one group was really taken with the idea of getting Bee Bots to 'dance'. The result reminded me of country dancing, so I chose some appropriate music to accompany the video - its maybe not what the group expected!
Tony Pickford is a tutor and writer on primary education.