Coding in the Playground.

IMG_3206Me, coding?

Recently I heard a statistic that opened my eyes. The average teacher is female, age 41, white British, graduated in 2001 now with 16 years experience and has just 4 days per year to evaluate the impact of her teaching at Inset. Is it any wonder that teachers feel under pressure? Expectations of what tech can do to support the teaching profession needs resetting… playgrounds are no longer uninspiring slabs of concrete but can be the areas where students can explore and learn to control  interactive immersive worlds in full colour!

Apple believe Everyone can code in fact they have developed an amazing set of resources that can support teachers to encourage and teach coding from age 5 to 16 , moving into developing apps when the students are able. Notice I say students, for teachers code is like learning another language, literally. Many teachers will run with it, the same teachers who dare to take on online course to learn Spanish in their 40’s to feel more at ease when summer finally comes! I suspect however, that most just want to know enough to support their classroom practice.

Personally, I can see how incredibly useful, in fact, essential being able to code is going to be. I cannot draw on extensive computing skills but I can teach. So this is my way of reaching out to those who are savvy enough to accept that learning changes and accepting that this change is not science fiction but reality.

First step, take some time to download the first of the teaching resources, start with this curriculum map . It frames the journey from age 5 upwards. So reader, after having researched the why? teach coding, you’ll be keen to see what this looks like in the classroom. Coding is not just restricted to computing, it is rooted in problem solving and designing systems leading ultimately to a better understanding of human behaviour. Students becoming digitally literate and more able to use and express themselves using communicating technologies. The future is now.

At this point reader, it is important that I reassure you that the resources are free. (I realise you’ll need an iOS device to actually complete the course). This is backed up by the reputation of Apple a company who has Education in their DNA. The resources are fun, engaging and have the potential to open the coding world to your students. Check out my daily digital diary which was my first steps in using Swift in the classroom. This blog reflects on the pitfalls as well as the successes of introducing coding into a primary school.
Developing skills is what teachers are about…so where next? I am very fortunate that I have access to the Apple Distinguished Educator programme where incredible teachers who work with Apple technologies around the world give their advice on what’s new and what works in the classroom…and what works is Swift Playgrounds. If you want access to this too, start to tweet. Join Twitter check out @vickiebacondpc and follow my fellow ADE’s – just searching ADE will get you started.

 

 

MEEBOT & SWIFT – a beginners guide for the classroom

Challenge based learning – the big idea!

As a Digital Genius Ambassador I view emerging technologies as the passport to new opportunities to explore and extend skills in communication, with digital storytelling and creativity. My role is to draw together a larger network of experts to offer students the chance to be amazing!

I’m a huge fan of trying out new tech, especially on a promise to code a dancing robot! But, I’m always wary…as a teacher faced with a class of students it’s got to work and I’ve got to know the pitfalls. This post shares the process I went through.

Step 1: download the app for iPhone and iPad.Jimu Robot app

Step 2: Open the box! The  colourful boxes make it straightforward to locate the parts needed.

Step 3: Build – the app opens to a clear interface which allows you to manipulate each piece by zooming and rotating to check accuracy. The handy open book icon allows the builder to check the piece they have selected is the right piece, which is invaluable.

Top Tips for students:

  • #1 when you open the plastic bags of pieces (some of which are tiny) decant them into the colourful box or have a couple of trays/bowls ready to put them in to contain them but with easy access.
  • #2 find the recharging and power adapter (yellow box), start the charging of the main control unit (blue box) to save time and avoid disappointment at the end of the build.
  • #3 if you’re building alone, fine you can spread out the components. If you’re  building in teams it’s best to build the two (symmetrical) halves. One group start at 0/18 and the other from 10/18.  It is just about possible to build the head separately too 15/18.  However, you’ll need to be certain you use the correct servos.

The build process took me 2 hours. Yes, I was extra careful and yes, I was working uninterrupted.  But with no previous knowledge of building a robot it was a satisfying  task and ended with a working robot. The building process is very rewarding. It is a tad fiddly to hold loose components when making but an expert lego devotee would still enjoy the challenge. A whole class build would be ambitious. Although, an after school club would be able to collaborate to build this characterful robot.

Once the robot is built pairing is simple, proximity features quickly connect the app to the robot (if the main control unit has been charged). Then is the fun bit. By using the pre programmed actions, the MeeBot will dance and move exuberantly to everyone’s delight!

But, where’s the learning ?

The amazing thing about the MeeBot is that the students can quickly begin to code their own movements using the block code or in Swift. The icons allow the students to locate visually the part of the robot being coded and gives them full automony to change variables…

I can feel a Dance off #can’t touch this! 

 

 

 

Day 80 – Functioning Perfectly

Working in a new language, whether French, German or for a computer is a challenge!

It takes practice and perseverance to turn an alien language into sense and finally fluency. Today, functions were the focus as the second attempt to write functions to solve problems ​consumed the class. Working in “talking partners”, with pen and paper , beanbags. Students worked from ‘abstract’ directly on to their playground.  As a teacher – the inspirational lesson ideas in the accompanying  iBook – functions are a pleasure to teach. There’s a real sense of shared challenge and almost a ‘advertising agency ‘ buzz when the smallest piece of  the puzzle is unlocked, the shared success is palpable. 

Using the blog in Seesaw as a learning journal – in conjunction with playgrounds – enables the students to capture a video from their screen withnthe code. This  can be peer-reviewed and if necessary debugged and re-edited to accomplish the task. 

The students were impressive in their forward thinking – I challenged the most able to reduce their code into the fewest possible elements. One group managed four repeats of their function ‘4gemcollectors’ – genius! 

The best part of any computing session is the peer reviews the following day when the students get to comment on the work added by a classmate.

They then use this and test it out for themselves. Spring boarding their own understanding and with it an enthusiasm for coding. Playgrounds is fast becoming the top of the pile for a task that challenges the students – choice of thinking skills, level of challenge and a fun immersive environment, makes it a winner. 

Password and memory joggers

Day 2 of the Easter break.

I set myself the task of migrating my old blogpost site to WordPress. Not the most exciting task granted, but completely necessary if I want to continue to blog easily from the classroom. 

Previously, I had enjoyed the simplicity of Blogger. I was able to add a new post to the blog quickly and easily. My progress was halted unceremoniously by ios10. From that fateful day , Blogger was unresponsive. A change was needed…Wordpress being the answer. What follows is an account of how this seemingly simple task turned into a trial. Even the most feared minds in my tech world couldn’t easily master…it is in fact a cautionary story when using tech in any situation. 

First hurdle to overcome: remembering the password.  I have two factor authentication on my accounts as it is recommended by Apple. If I am advised to do use this method of access by a ‘wiser more experienced counsel’, I generally go with it. But with no joy…three attempts and endless checking of notes and keychains later…

So that failed…that’s ok I’ll just reset the password!

 This is when the fun started, by resetting the password via email, I inadvertently made a typo in the email (the ‘j’ is right next to the ‘k’- easy mistake) but this then set up an avalanche of issues, compounded by a magical app called Clef. This app was added into the mix when it was promised that I wouldn’t have to remember any passwords just hold my phone up to the iPad to unlock my website without an added layer of encryption – I was in awe! This wonderment managed to do, quite reliably it has to be said,  exactly what it promised, right up until today.  Reader, Clef was a good idea – magical in fact. However, now I have learnt that this too is being disbanded. Leaving me with an further issue of access on my accounts. So two hours later I still have no new password or any access to my website which contains the historical blogs that I wish to migrate to my new blog site. 

After a tedious, jazz music accompanied phone call to the domain company, I was finally ‘able’ to unlock the site. Well at least that’s what I thought. Until after going through the whole process and  carefully inputting the new data, checking for typos and taking screen shots of every new action – I pressed send to update my password attached to my email details – full of  expectancy

 I got this familiar message …

Not sure whether to laugh or cry at the “Need help?” option… arrghhh. 
This frustration is exactly why technology can and does get such a bad press. It makes you feel as if it is impossible to crack. An unreachable goal.  It makes you look stupid and leaves you frustrated. This unknown and slightly ‘magical’ world of accessing technology is other worldly to me, I teach. That’s my domain. I love technology and can see the benefits of using these transformative devices to aid learning. What really concerns me is that in order to achieve membership to the club, I have to jump through a load of hoops that quite frankly trip me up! Digital Genius? Nah! 

Although no one was harmed in the making of this blog post, I’d like to thank ‘Panda’ Dan and Troy for their incredible skill and patience is retrieving the seemingly impossible. I am indebted. 

Day 79 – Functioning again

Swift Playgrounds coupled with Everyone can Code iBook is a winner.

Fab ideas for the classroom and a 360°view of how children are learning with the integration of Seesaw and Blogging direct from the classroom. This lesson was 45mins but the students were very happy to continue this in their own time – oh the joys of 1:1.

Here are the latest attempts from my Year 5 & 6 students to explain what a function does and how lops and behaviours can be simplified when creating code. Inspired to start with the Macarena – Apple Music to the rescue and impromptu dance moves in front of the class! Who knew…

Blogging direct from the lesson….charting our own success

Add caption

 

Macarena sets the scene for an fun adventure into coding, loops, behaviour  and functions.

 

Working out the finer details and protocols of naming functions…

I love the fact that the collaborative and supportive nature of this approach allows questions to be asked without fear of embarrassment. We are all learning together. The students look forward to working with new members of their class and get the feedback that really counts – from their own classmates!

Day 78 – Function-ing Brilliantly!

Halloween can always bring out the dark side of a class, usually through excitement and spirited enthusiasm. Today, with the students I tried some new approaches…

Following a really successful Inset with staff – it was clear that the integration of iPad into the curriculum is going (on the whole) well. However, there are still a few barriers to making continued progress and pushing on with the development of learning and of course teaching. One barrier is always, ‘Vickie I haven’t got time to invent new resources all the time’ (usually this means – ‘so I don’t and haven’t tried anything new as yet…’) I work part time and know I can trust this resource with it I get good results…

So, in evaluating the staff’s needs I made my timely intervention and showed the teachers Nearpod. – Yes I could have introduced this at the very start of our roll out. But truthfully, the creative aspects of iPad and workflow that were encouraged initially worked brilliantly. This is an intervention that refreshes ideas and gives ‘tired’ teachers a quick win with the impetus to keep on preparing the best learning opportunities in lessons for the students.  This targeted focus allows the teacher to use their favourite resource sites (e.g. Twinkl) but also augment the slide deck with interactive tasks which utilities the iPad and gives independence to the student. Putting the onus on the student to be responsible for their learning.

So what have I used in the classroom today?

Nearpod – inverted commas. The basic slide deck was taken from a Pdf exported from a powerpoint in Twinkl. I then added additional slides with examples of modelled exercises, quizzes and free writing opportunities. The cloze procedure is particularly effective with lower Key Stage 2.

Illustrating the rules of using inverted commas

The results of using this guided learning method were evident immediately, the students achieved well and the standard of their work was noticeably more accurate and proficient.

Day 77 – Swift Changes …

Apologies for my loyal followers, my blogs have been limited recently due to a small issue with Blogger crashing since iOS10 update…it seems a bug has been found and fixed so I’m glad to be back with you.

Today my year 5&6 class launched their adventures into the swift playground and they have become bloggers from the classroom too!

What have I been using in the classroom today? 

Seesaw, Swift playground & iBooks combine to make a new way of coding come to life…swift language has been introduced across the world and has made understanding code more easily accessible to students and teachers alike.

Apple have thought 360° about how to make Swift a usable and fun way to learn code. For teachers books available from the app store support the introduction and is backed up with tutorials and scaffolded lessons – much like the way we as teachers now encourage our students to learn.

Together we are working through he new landscape of code with Byte and friends encouraging us at every step. Meanwhile students are supporting and encouraging each other by pairing up and then blogging on the class blog in Seesaw when they have found a solution or have faced a challenge. 

Stage 1 lays down the foundations and conventions of using the swift code language. It was obvious that the students were motivated to find a solution and appreciated the added 3D’s features making the game more involving and immersive. Functions were more of a challenge but many students showed resilience skills that mean that a challenge is a blip…a not managed it yet moment.

My next hope is that the students will guide those in the younger years to try their hand at swift programming through tutorials which have the double bonus of reinforcing newly learnt skills.

Our first hour of code was a success and I look forward to the outcomes when faced with the challenges that see the students tasked with personalising code and seeing first hand how they can influence how a program runs. More importantly, when things go wrong, just how to re-trace steps and check the lines of code to see which block of code is causing the error. Debugging for a reason…

Day 76 – A New Operating System

Every new academic year heralds a variety of changes in the operating system within the school. Whether that is new staff, a new management structure or new students. Refreshing for most and frustrating for a few…

With the new academic year comes a new operating system from Apple too – iOS10 was released and promised to invigorate the daily classroom as it supports shared iPad and the new classroom app, which puts classroom management centre stage again for teachers. All this should be warmly embraced.

However, a few glitches and further updates later the applications don’t always live up to the promises and additional time needs to be spent developing new skills and procedures to enable the devices to work seamlessly in the classroom. This is true ofter of the device management systems that school’s rely on as the backbone of their deployment. The newest application from Apple is classroom, which has been running smoothly at Barns Green allowing the students the ability to really be stretched as they have been provided with timely & targeted work at their own level. Nothing new…but the beauty of the new deployment method is that the extension tasks can be tailored to the students who perhaps have surprised themselves by shining in one area that perhaps they didn’t believe they would…

What have I been using in the classroom? 

Showbie as a the method to plan, deploy and organise the resources for the classroom.

  

One way that working with iPad hasn’t changed in the classroom with the blend of traditional equipment with the exercise books supported by iPad as tool for learning. Handwriting has seen a significant elevation through the use of the iPad to give individual reinforcement for the formation of letters using tutorials,  comprehension and SPaG work have seen a rise in accuracy as the test results are proving!

 

Using the iPad is a natural part of how the students learn. Here the first stages of working with Swift playgrounds show how the computing curriculum can be cross curricular and reinforce digital skills which allow the students to excel and clearly communicate their understanding in their studies.

Day 75 – Mastery v Tests

Tests are an accepted way of gauging achievement at a given point. However, at times teaching can be overly focused on this event. I’m not suggesting that colleagues teach to the tests but they are more than mindful of the consequences of not providing the correct level of exposure to the prescribed learning outcomes. But I think it goes further, I believe our education system is weakened if the tested years (Y2,Y6, GCSE etc)  are seen as the most important. Focus can be unbalanced which reduces the impact of teaching or the ability for the teacher to feel that they have the time to really explore and remain creative to achieve the goals. My fear is that the curriculum becomes constricted and narrows.

This week at school, being off formal curriculum LO’s and based on the usual plans have not been a barrier to learning. In fact it has released time to focus on perfecting a skill, rehearsing and editing – in short – mastery of a skill. Today was a case in point. I wanted the students to feel that they could build on their previous knowledge & digital literacy.

What have I used I the classroom today? 

Showbie to gather resources for the challenge based learning task and Classroom app to release additional  resources such as iBooks, podcasts and websites as necessary to the individual needs of the pupil. The focus was on developing a challenge based approach setting a task that needed the students to practise, experiment and for the students to have a positive mindset.

I wanted to layer the skills as i had planned to follow this up with a Keynote masterclass using animation. The task was simple, to animate a dot. The students learnt to effectively use the tools to give an inanimate object some personality…they exceeded my expectations but more importantly surprised themselves with what was possible. Having the time to spend time building the foundation skills will pay dividends in the end as the students can rely on these basic skills and grow with future learning.

Online Safety – Quik it’s so important that the students have the opportunity to recall in their own words and express this understanding in different formats which truly reflects their views and can be a measure of just how they view the world. Whether their views are relevant, responsible and effective to keep them safe online. This was presented as a short animated storyboard…judge for yourself if the students were successful. Check out an example of a video that was shared on Trilby Tv to inform the rest of the school.

This is such a worthy step as the community as an audience is exactly who this knowledge affects and  is valued by. So as far as I am concerned a curriculum based on the premise that mastery of base skills, wrapped in challenge based tasks is a learning environment that promotes achievement, self value and beneficial attitudes to learning including perseverance, independence and self reliance.

Day 74 – Going dotty

Returning to school after a holiday is always demanding. Even with all the planning in the world, one never seems to be 100% ready, whether it’s the forgotten log in details for the language program or the label for the spelling book of the late registered student..it’s enough to send you dotty! 

It’s demanding on the students too with a new teacher, classroom, classmates and routines every second of the first weeks require full focus. Making new friends and bonding with a new circle of friends is hard. But is exactly this environment that is ripe for encouraging and reinforcing good habits. Taking a step back to reflect on why getting along with a variety of people is a useful (life) skill.
At school this week, there has been some space made to do extended projects. The teachers have planned an immersive,  artistic & creative curriculum based on The Dot a book by Peter Reynolds. The activities encourage purposeful social talk, unlimited creativity without being constrained to red group, top group, starfish or whatever derivation of hierarchy is common place in differentiating work. Tasks are collaborative and this shared experience strengthens identity within a new class. 

What have I used in the classroom today? 


I chose a mathematical slant, focusing on the formation of a circle whilst encouraging the pupils to use the properties of circles. Having seen a great pin on pin interest using a paintbrush in a pair of compasses – a collaborative artwork was created. 

The series of skills practised the manipulation of the compasses resulting in an instructional video demo using the built in camera on video mode. The video was airplayed to the class screen and repeated from photos so the support could continue as many times as was necessary. 

Resulting a whole class large version using chalk and string on the classroom floor. 

2) The class were re-introduced to iPad and so the refresh of using app went hand in hand with the refresh of share aware (NSPCC online safety iniitative) and SMART thinking (CEOP – wwwthinkuknow.com) both these sites are excellent for ideas in class to support discussions and reinforce the responsible use of technology in and outside the classroom. 

I used Showbie to distribute resources and set up challenges and switched between AirPlay and using this feature in Classroom, Apple’s newly released classroom management app.  The students responded well to the initial locking of the iPad, they were quite excited by it but in fact as the lesson progressed they were equally eager to see the next resource that they had been directed to. 

The finished animations were quickly uploaded to Trilby Tv and shared across the school to give further reinforcement to good practice when communicating online. A full day collaborating and exploring the possibilities. The difference today was that the value of the technology in the classroom facilitated the students to work with the resources in their own way without preconceived end points. Refreshing.