To Code or Not to Code?
The former would certainly seem to be the answer with many of Irelands tech multinationals clamouring for code literate graduates, and bemoaning the dearth of same. Also it would seem the Department of Education and Skills are listening, with the inclusion of a new short course in programming and coding as part of their proposed (and controversial) overhaul of the Junior Certificate cycle. I read with interest a news story recently regarding the development of a new coding textbook for Second-level students.
Whilst much of the talk is primarily around second-level students learning to code, I think it’s essential that by time children join the second-level system they should already have a good foundation in the fundamentals of computer programming. Historically some primary school’s have had some great exponents of programming and for many pupils of the 80s and 90s the image of a pixelated (and often belligerent!) turtle traversing a CRT screen armed with lines and lines of Logo code was a weekly pursuit. Whilst logo it still alive and well today the world of educational coding has developed and evolved hugely into a much more user-friendly, accessible and relevant problem-solving and collaborative activity for primary children. The purpose of this post is to suggest three possible resources for interested teachers new to the area…
Code.org: Originally developed Stateside but now with a UK portal (uk.code.org),Code.org is a project backed by such business heavyweights as Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Richard Branson (to name but a few) designed to teach young people how to code, by providing access to easy to follow video based tutorials introducing students to the basics of several computer languages, using drag and drop programming in a game-like environments.
The creators of code.org believe every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer programming.and that computer science should be part of the core curriculum in education,
Scratch: Very much thought of as the successor to the aforementioned Logo, Scratch from MIT is a free visual drag and drop programming tool specifically designed for education. With Scratch, you can program your own interactive stories, games, and animations and then share your creations with others online. The creators of Scratch maintain it helps young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively. ..more
Code Club is a worldwide network of nearly 2500 coding clubs for children designed give every child the chance to learn to code by providing project materials and support. Code Club provides a new set of projects every school term. Currently terms 1 & 2 use Scratch to teach the basics of programming, while term 3 looks at the basics of web design using HTML and CSS. The next term will teach Python and so on… To support teachers and volunteers Code Club provides detailed notes and support materials for every project.
In addition many of the projects are suitable for use on low cost, credit-card sized Raspberry Pi. The PI was designed by Eben Upton and his colleagues at Cambridge University in 2006 as a counter to their growing concern about continuous decline in the numbers of young people interested and learning to programme. This bare-bones pc can costs less than 40 euros but yet It capable of doing everything a desktop computer can do, from browsing the internet and playing high-definition video, to making spread sheets, word-processing, and playing games. Personally these devices I think have huge potential and our school is in the process of acquiring a number to try out with some pupils next school year so I promise to keep those interested posted on progress through this blog. In the meantime check out some of the resources above and of course www.raspberrypi.org for more.