Book review- “micro: bit in Wonderland” by Tech Age Kids

primary computing
Written by parents, for parents!

I have received a copy of micro:bit in Wonderland by Tech Age Kids (Tracy Gardner and Elbrie de Kock). It is beautifully illustrated using original images and quotes from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and is packed full of projects related to the story, to be created using BBC’s micro:bit.

This book is admittedly my first step into doing physical computing projects with my own children. I have three girls and one boy and I could tell straight away that this would appeal to all four of them. Despite the micro:bit being a completely new thing for me (I’ve so far only taught crumbles as a teacher), the book explains and describes everything, not only in a way that adults will understand, but all of the pictures and diagrams are super easy for the children to follow too.

In most books designed for schools, there are usually open challenges where they leave it up to you/ the child to work out what needs to be done to complete the projects. In this book, there are complete projects that show you all the code you need and how to make the actual models. This means it’s a great place to start if you’ve never done it before and you and your children can achieve success straight away. This said, the authors have also included challenges and next steps at the end of each project, meaning if you do want more open ended stuff, it’s there.

I absolutely love the illustrations and how the quotes fit the projects perfectly. My kids didn’t take that much notice of it to be honest (they still love the pictures and projects), but being a lover of classic literacy, it made me feel like the authors had really taken the time to appreciate and understand how to also hold an adult’s attention and made them feel welcome to this brave new world our children are entering into. I know that may sound silly, but linking computing to this beautiful book ‘Alice’s adventures in wonderland’ did more to catch my eye than theirs!

Being a bit of a geek, I also can’t help enjoying the symbolism of the original ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ having been written by Mathematician Lewis Carroll (real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, but you’ve heard of the Carroll diagram, right?), who apparently wrote it in 1865 as a scathing satire on new modern mathematics that were emerging in the mid-19th century. What better way to celebrate pushing the boundaries in computing for children!

Overall, I can’t recommend this book more. There are hardly any books out there for physical computing in primary/ early secondary school age, let alone any that appeal to girls. In a world where we are now trying to get our kids away from screens, these projects immerse them in a fantastic learning experience that I believe is also vital for their understanding of the future digital world.

Well done Tech Age Kids, and thank you!

Book Review: Crumble Creations by Phil Bagge

primary computing crumble
Two Phils are better than one…

I had the pleasure of receiving Phil Bagge’s new book: Crumble Creations this week and it is goooooood!

Having recently purchased Redfern Electronic’s Crumble micro controllers for my current school and introduced physical computing, I can totally recommend this book as the perfect starting place. It’s packed with detailed explanation and introduction to the crumble and its many components (old and new editions), plus a wealth of photocopiable lesson plans, worksheets, templates as well as photographs and wiring diagrams.

Phil captures pupils’ imagination through the book’s projects by invoking exploration and investigation; giving just enough away to scaffold their learning, whilst challenging pupils to find creative ways to problem solve. Examples of code (including the notorious servo block issues!) are included for teachers. He does not provide code for children to simply copy, but instead reveals on challenge cards/ worksheets parts of code for pupils to complete, building on their existing coding knowledge.

One of Phil’s strengths is his pseudo code ideas; encouraging learning through role play to consolidate further the importance of computational thinking. There are some great photocopiable pages of pseudo code ideas; one of the many resources in this book that teachers can literally pick up and run with straight away.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to any primary teacher, even if you don’t yet have the equipment in school yet!

Mr Wickins Reads

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Some of you may know that as well as creating training videos on computing in primary schools, I also have on my YouTube channel a playlist of me reading kids’ stories (only the BEST books!), usually to my own kids and usually in funny voices. It’s called Mr Wickins Reads, and has so far generated well over 20,000 views! Reading stories is a passion of mine, and being a teacher and a parent, I get plenty of opportunities to practise!

The most popular one by far, is Burglar Bill by Allan and Janet Ahlberg (Over 5,500 views), I think it’s purely because of the accents…

Have a look through the playlist and see if any of your faves are there….

What books would you like to hear read? Let me know!

 

ScratchUp inspiration!

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A colleague who attended my workshop on Computer Aided Design at the National Computing at School Conference 2018 has tweeted his pupil’s work based on my ‘ScratchUp‘ ideas (Combining 3D design on Sketchup, with Scratch programming).

 

Needless to say, I’m well impressed and honoured to have had such an impact!

Keep ’em coming!

 

Anyone for crumble?

FE267EBD-8ADC-42D6-B8EC-52C0037B611B.jpegI’m teaching my year 6 class physical computing with a brand new set of crumble micro controller (Redfern electronics).

We’ve also bought for each crumble set: 2 motors, 1 servo, 2 LEDs, a switch and a distance sensor. The class are currently in the process of playing, exploring and planning (I like to sometimes try all these processes at once), with the aim of creating a moving model using each component to bring it to life.

We came across an interesting problem with the coding to control the servos however; you can’t use a servo control block on its own. It simply won’t do anything. You have to add a piece of code directly after it, for example a ‘wait’, for it to function. I’ve let Redfern know they need to add this piece of vital information to their help guide!

More on these projects later….

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