Trainee Code Monkeys

On Thursday 8th May 2014 Andrea Borwell-Fox and Kate Blueman attended a course at the National Cyber Skills Centre. The course introduced us to the free online program ‘Scratch’. Scratch is aimed at children aged 8+ and allows them to create projects in which they can program their own interactive stories, games and animations by the way of using colourful drag and drop blocks.

The course informed us about the changing curriculum for ICT in schools. In September 2013, the Department for Education reformed qualifications and the curriculum to better prepare pupils for life after school.  The statutory National curriculum in England for computing at key stages 1 to 4 should be taught in all maintained schools in England from September 2014.

Brett Laniosh, from Catshill Learning Partnerships, introduced us to the new curriculum and the importance of higher level computing education required. It states that ‘A high quality computing education equips pupils to use computational thinking and creativity to understand and change the world’. Brett simply broke down some of the aims of the new curriculum into three for us:

Computer Science: In which pupils are taught the principles of information and computation, how digital systems work, and how to put this knowledge to use through programming.

Information Technology: Using knowledge of Computer Science to use information technology to create programmes.

Digital Literacy: To be able to use and express themselves and develop their ideas through information and communication technology.

The curriculum greatly includes Programming and so being introduced to the wonderful idea of using Scratch to encourage creativity alongside problem solving in students seemed like a great way of giving insight into the new learning perspectives of pupils.

We started us off with Scratch basics, this included simply selecting backgrounds and sprites (characters) to use within our screens, and then he provided us with packs which included a range of activities that could be carried out using Scratch.

The activities ranged from simply changing the colour of our sprites by clicking on a selection of blocks, to creating a couple of games which included guiding a diver through a closed-in coral reef and also guiding a wizard towards an evil ghost and finally, creating interactive happy birthday messages whilst including a range of different sprites.

Scratch introduces the basics centripetal to grasping code later on in life. When children who have been exposed to Scratch move on to higher languages, it displays the importance of indentation in coding and is easy to grasp as the vibrancy of the building blocks you use are vivid, especially in a child’s memory. It captures their creative interest which enables them to combine and associate this creativity with mathematics, science, design and technology.

Code Club is something we are taking part in here at borwell. In a bid to contribute to teaching programming to young children, 3 of our software engineers are offering their teaching services to Malvern Parish Primary School. Code Club is an after-school club which implements: Scratch, Html & CSS learning and finally progresses to Python. Code Club reaches out to children who are interested in learning the basics at ages 9-11, the hope however, in a few years, all of these skills will have been taught to children as part of their primary education.