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!
Some news for teachers in the Cheshire/Wirral area and beyond: the next Primary TeachMeet, organised by the #teachmeetchester team, will be on Thursday 26th September at the University Church of England Academy (UCEA) in Ellesmere Port. TeachMeetEP is aimed at primary teachers (though all teachers and trainees are very welcome), but we have the opportunity to use the state-of-the-art facilities at UCEA - also, a great chance to look around this innovative new building!
If you are new to the TeachMeet idea, then this short video explains what they are all about. We already have some really interesting presentations set up, but are on the look out for more. Although TeachMeets are usually about technology for learning, you don't have to show and tell about ICT - come along and share any good idea for enhancing learning in primary schools!
TeachMeetEP will run from 4.30 - 6.00pm (with registration and refreshments available from 4.00pm) and there is plenty of free parking.
You can sign up and find more information here: http://teachmeet.pbworks.com/w/page/66917919/TeachMeetEP
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or comments. For news and views about TeachMeet Ellesmere Port, follow @TeachMeetEP on Twitter.
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.
An initial first draft of the new National Curriculum programme of study for ICT is now on the
As we approach a new school year, I thought the post below (originally from February) may now be very relevant for all those planning their ICT for 2012-13.
Although the disapplying of the ICT programmes of study in September raises some issues and concerns (see That Speech ... from 12th January), there is no doubt that it presents opportunities to re-focus ICT work in schools and create activities, schemes and frameworks which are innovative, creative and downright exciting! A blank slate on which to work can be intimidating, however, and most primary ICT co-ordinators will need support, if they are replace current National Curriculum-based planning with something better. Fortunately, there is plenty of support out there! Many teachers and local authority support services have, for some time, viewed National Curriculum ICT as a baseline and minimum entitlement from which to develop a rich, relevant, up-to-date activities and schemes. Below are just a few of the best documents to support ICT planning in a PoS-free world.
I shared Steve Wheeler's excellent blog post about 'Bear Pit Pedagogy' with colleagues in an (Education) Faculty this week and received a range of responses, from the wildly enthusiastic to the downright sceptical. The Faculty is embarking on writing modules for a new degree programme at the moment, so I thought it was apposite. One theme that recurred in comments was the difficulty of adopting a 'Bear Pit' approach within a 'compliance culture' in both teacher training and in schools. Also, the retention issues that might result from a 'throwing in at the deep end' approach - Yr 1 straight-from-school undergraduates, who have been used to the support networks offered by sixth form, often struggle within a less supported environment and this type of approach was seen by colleagues as too much too soon. The best comment a colleague made was that he likened the approach in a compliance-conscious environment as being 'Teddy Bear Pit Pedagogy'.
Fundamental to Steve's approach is the idea of getting intending teachers to question some of the theories and orthodoxies that they find in schools and elsewhere. A particular example is the unquestioning and simplistic adoption of learning styles theory as a way of defining how some children learn - vakuous (sic) in the extreme. Similarly, the 'if it's new, it must be good' approach to educational technology and the dismissing of older software and tools as being no longer valuable. A case in point - as an introduction to data handling, I still recommend Heather Govier's 1997 article on the MAPE website as a really useful analysis of educational software and children's learning. The programs she refers to are now literally obsolete (BBC B anyone?), but the thinking prompted by the article is invaluable. The article's message: deep thinking and deep learning is not necessarily prompted by tools with all the latest bells and whistles.
Finally, although I love Weebly (OK, maybe a bit strong), it is a bit frustrating that the site (and this blog) can only be edited on Flash-equipped devices. No way round it at the moment (though there is a Weebly iPhone app in the works), so I have set up tonypickford.livejournal.com as a way of doing some (almost) live blogging when I haven't got laptop or desktop to hand. First post is about a research symposium on Black, Minority and Ethnic Achievement.
And absolutely finally, http://bomomo.com is a truly weird visual toy for creating artworks - quite addictive
Having taken a short while to re-read and reflect on the Expert Panel Review of the National Curriculum (summarised here), a few obvious points arise. There is some stuff we can broadly all agree on here (e.g. breadth in the primary curriculum) alongside more contentions material, including some of the selective international comparisons. If there is a problem with the current curriculum (declining standards?), then the solution offered by the Review appears to be a more academic, 'traditional', subject-based curriculum.
ICT is always going to sit uncomfortably in such a context because its status as an academic subject has never been entirely secure. Many, including myself, would argue that ICT has academic legitimacy because it is underpinned by distinct theories and processes. Others, coming from more traditional subject backgrounds would see it (to quote the Review) as one of the 'very worthwhile areas of learning [which] apply knowledge in particular ways or foreground particular areas of skill or competence – but have weaker epistemological roots'. ICT draws on knowledge and understandings from a range of disciplines to make a discrete whole. As a subject it is not alone in doing that - geography, for example, has a relatively small core of unique content; the rest is drawn from the sciences, history, mathematics.
The unique core of ICT (in primary, at any rate) is small, but contains content that is essential for the functioning individual in the 21st Century - child or adult - namely digital or media literacy, understandings about controlling devices, the provisionality of information, independent choice of digital tools. If this essential stuff is no longer defined in an agreed programme of study, but left to individual schools to determine, then we have a recipe, not for disaster, but for ever increasing inequalities of opportunity.
Apparently, 77% of respondents to the National Curriculum Review's call for evidence felt ICT should remain a statutory subject (with similar support for other 'demoted' subjects). The Expert Panel remained 'not entirely persuaded'. Discuss.
Although implementation has been booted into the long grass of 2014, the findings and recommendations in the Expert Panel Report published today (link to PDF file) gives an insight into the shape and structure of the new curriculum for England when it appears in twelve months time(?). Amongst the international comparisons and welcome focus on the importance of oral language, there is an explicit deconstruction and restructuring of key stages at primary level and a clear articulation of layers within the school curiculum: the Basic Curriculum made up of a 'slimmed down' National Curriculum of core and foundation subjects plus school-determined cross-curricular provision and a Local Curriculum determined, devised and delivered at school and community level.
So where does Information & Communication Technology sit within this structure? At the moment it is part of the National Curriculum with a programme of study and a set of defined attainment Targets. The Expert Panel's recommendation is that it ceases to have this status, but becomes part of the cross-curricular provision in the Basic Curriculum, alongside Design & Technology, Citizenship (both similarly moved from the NC) and current Basic Curriculum stalwarts: Religious Education and Sex Education (to name but two). At least that appears to be the recommendation at primary level, as there is an indication that Computer Science could have a place in the secondary curriculum. Schools will determine the content of these cross-curricular elements (though RE continues to have a peculiar status of being locally determined). In some ways, ICT is in a similar situation to what it was as a cross-curricular dimension in the much-missed New Primary Curriculum, except that it isn't labelled as an 'Essential for Learning and Life' and its status appears to be only as a tool for learning in other subjects.
So why this demotion (if we are to be simplistic)? The Expert Panel state that 'we are not entirely persuaded of claims that design and technology, information and communication technology and citizenship have sufficient disciplinary coherence' to be discrete subjects. They go on: 'Implicit in this judgement is a view of disciplinary knowledge as a distinct way of investigating, knowing and making sense with particular foci, procedures and theories, reflecting both cumulative understanding and powerful ways of engaging with the future. ... Some very worthwhile areas of learning apply such knowledge in particular ways or foreground particular areas of skill or competence – but have weaker epistemological roots.'
So we are into epistemology - always a favourite! ICT appears to be regarded as a set of skills and competencies, not serious knowledge and understanding for the 21st Century; not a 'powerful way of engaging with the future'.
So that is where we are - based on initial reading and this type of document always reveals hidden depths on re-reading. A few initial thoughts.
And another article making the case for programming in the curriculum: this time by John Naughton in The Observer. Not a particularly convincing case - he appears to be arguing that we should teach programming, so that we might produce another Tim Berners-Lee or Mark Zuckerberg at some point in the future. Almost like saying that we should teach complex musical notation to all children, just in case there is a future Mozart or Bach amongst them.
As for Mark Zuckerberg, he was the subject of BBC 2 documentary last night, which made much of the fact that Facebook relies entirely on users trusting the company with their personal data. A shame that he came out of it appearing very geeky (as you would expect), but also rather shifty ...
And finally: my 'Find' for today is Primary Treasure Chest - not an ICT resource, but a a huge collection of printable materials aimed at both key stages one and two.
Tony Pickford is a tutor and writer on primary education.