In a world dominated by constantly evolving technology, it’s important for children to receive an education. This needs to take in to consideration the need to develop their computing skills. In the National Curriculum for computing, one of the points it says that KS1 children should know is what algorithms are. This includes ‘how they are implemented as programs on digital devices’, (DfE, 2013) and that programs ‘execute by following precise and unambiguous instructions’ (DfE, 2013). At a first glance, I struggled to understand how you could put a topic such as this forward to a KS1 class in an easy to digest way. I then discovered that, through computer programs and games that allow practice, children can develop their understanding.
An example of one of these programs is LightBot. The game is designed to increase learners understanding of code and algorithms. It is done by getting them to use program the robot to follow a sequence and light up specific squares. This game was simple, interactive and educational, so I chose this as my tool to introduce algorithms to my Year 1 class. I decided to divide them in to groups of six for this task, the first group I took worked individually. The below video ‘Light-Bot, coding for kids’ demonstrates how the code game works.
The learners really enjoyed the task and, although it took a few attempts, they all managed to work through the first few levels. In their maths lessons of for the week, they were doing position and turns, in their PE, they had been doing movement. I was fortunate enough to be able to use this knowledge that was fresh in their minds, to explain the commands used in the program. While the learners did manage to get past the first few levels, after that they began to struggle. The game introduces more commands as it goes up in levels and, this increased difficulty, lead to frustration among them.
When planning for the second group to do this task, I thought about what could help the next lesson run smoother. I decided to create a sheet with pictures of all the commands LightBot can do (left turn, jump etc). I labelled them and gave them out as handouts so, if they struggled with the commands, they could use the sheet as a prompt. Below is a picture of the handout I used:
Thinking about the difficulties during my last session, I chose to let them work in pairs this time so that they could help each other easier. This proved to work, and the learners really enjoyed the prompt sheet, using it to move across levels. However, what I found difficult was making the message of algorithms and code, and their place in the lesson clear. What caused this I think was having too focus, and time spent on making sure that they understood the program itself. I think once I had the prompt sheets, less time could have been spent taking about commands and more time conveying the learning objectives.
In terms of assessment and TS6 ‘Make accurate and productive use of assessment’ (DfE, 2011) I decided to write a short evaluation for each learner. I did this in the form of a photo, a short description of what LightBot is, and comments on what they learned. I then stuck this in their Learning Journals, I have posted an example below.
This not only helped me keep a record of their progress towards the learning objectives, it also helped with my own evaluations. I hope to use this record of the progress made with the task to improve my teaching with other groups. The first statement in the computing curriculum is the one I feel is most important.
‘A high-quality computing education equips pupils to use computational thinking and creativity to understand and change the world.’. (DfE, 2013)
Igniting a passion and understanding for Computing from KS1, can give learners the skills, and creativity to achieve great things. This is something that holds great importance in a world that is ever-changing.
Department for Education, (2013), Computing Programmes of Study: Key Stages 1 and 2 – National Curriculum in England [online], Available < https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/239033/PRIMARY_national_curriculum_-_Computing.pdf> [Accessed 09 October 2017)
Department for Education (2011) Teacher Standards – Guidance for school leaders, school staff and governing bodies, Crown Copyright : 2011 DfE