Dear primary colleagues, there are still spaces left on the NCCE ‘Programming and Algorithms in Primary Computing’ course that Park House Computing Hub are hosting, before the NCCE review their remote learning process in May. It is unknown what the remote learning will look like after the end of April.
I’m delivering this one day course in the second week of the Easter Holidays, and splitting it into 4 x 2 hour sessions (across Tuesday 14th and the Friday 17th, 10am -12, then 1pm – 3pm). All the other courses I’m running in April are fully booked, so please hurry!
The course is FREE for any primary school teacher, teaching in a state school in England. Simply book on using the link at the bottom of this page.
This is the same course I ran last week with 17 delegates, which was a tremendous success. Here are some testimonials:
I have thoroughly enjoyed this morning’s training. Easy to follow and great trainer. Because I haven’t used scratch before I found it hard to do the activities myself but it was useful being able to watch you do them step by step.
Computing subject lead on Programming and Algorithms in Primary Computing course, facilitated by Phil Wickins
Thank you Phil! I’ve never learnt through remote access before but have enjoyed it so much. I now need to ‘play’ with Scratch and learn for myself. You have gone above and beyond to answer questions and provide support for us and share your valuable resources. Keep safe and look after you and your family.
Assistant Head Teacher on Programming and Algorithms in Primary Computing course, facilitated by Phil Wickins
Feeling much more confident to teach selection and variables. I think the practical classroom activities will prove really useful to introduce algorithms and programming within my own class. As an NQT this is something that I will take forward and implement in my classroom as soon as possible 🙂
NQT on Programming and Algorithms in Primary Computing course, facilitated by Phil Wickins
Course details and booking is below. I hope to see you there on Tuesday!!
I’ve had the permission of the amazing S.F. Said and his lovely agent to live stream a chapter a day of one of the best kids books ever written, Varjak Paw.
I’m adding this to my YouTube channel and will be live Monday to Friday at 6.30pm (after each live session, the video should turn into a standard youtube video so you can catch up if you miss one).
I’ve also made an activity booklet (because that’s what us primary teachers do!) for free download, to capture imagination and reinforce memory and engagement, or simply for fun! It’s on Phil Wickins TES Resources.
If you want more detail, have a look at my teaser/test broadcast
(Please note: Chapter one will DEFINITELY be on Monday at 6.30pm. Also, that while I mention commenting, comments will be disabled due to the fact that my channel is for kids and therefore comments are disabled by YouTube).
Hello primary teachers! During this time of remote learning, I’d like to offer you the opportunity to take part in live online CPD. If this is the first NCCE course for your school, your school will receive a bursary of £220. The course itself costs £35, but rather than invoicing you, the NCCE will simply pay your school £185 on completion of the course. This is available for ANY STATE SCHOOL IN ENGLAND.
Book on now! I will be delivering the courses below, please ensure you have signed up with www.teachcomptuing.org first.
You can complete this CPD from home or from school, but to ensure the bursary, please check that you are the only teacher from your school on the course.
They also wrote a blog post about the Scanner Bot, referencing William as the inspiration behind the project. I’m very proud to say they also referenced me and my approach to teaching Physical computing:
In his blog about the teaching that went around this project, Phil outlines his creative approach to teaching physical computing. Instead of having a set project in mind, he teaches the children how to use the individual components, and then lets them use their imagination to come up with a project. We really like this approach to physical computing, as it enables children to work within their means, and push themselves to their own limits. The phrase “low floor, high ceiling and wide walls” comes to mind here.
Daniel – Redfern Electronics
I’m really pleased that they also picked up on the importance of the design stage; something I’ll always be a great advocate of in both physical computing and coding projects.
So thank you Redfern, and massive shout out to William; I’m so proud of you! Let’s hope this inspires both teachers and pupils alike in their computing adventures…
I am the SME (Subject Matter Expert) for primary schools in the South East (Hampshire, Isle of Wight & West Sussex) and I’d like to make you aware of the latest wave of support from the NCCE.
If you are in a Category 5 or 6 primary school, then you are eligable for fully funded support; which means a bursary of £185 per day (back to your school) when you send one teacher – per academic year – on one of our fully funded (free!) training courses.
In addition to this, you are entitled to half a day of SME support; meaning I will complete an action plan with you and assist in any way that I can to improve and develop your delivery of the computing curriculum. This may take the form of curriculum overview development, help with planning, any additional training, subject lead support and so on.
A wise use of your SME time would be to team up with other schools and pool your time together. For example, if you and 3 other computing leads from 4 different schools all gathered together, I could train/ assist/ support you for 2 whole days.
If you are not Category 5 or 6, then there are still loads of resources and lesson plans for download, free online courses and you can of course still attend the training courses for a small fee of £35 per teacher per day. Have a look at all this on the Teach Computing website.
I had the privilege of delivering a lunchtime workshop on digital parenting to the University of Southampton Parent and Carer Network today. We had some excellent questions and good discussions about how to navigate our young digital natives on a safe and healthy path through the online world.
I’ll be delivering more of these sessions soon, keep up to date on Twitter: @PhilWickins
(Link to download plans, guides and resources are at the end of the article)
We have all seen the adverts on TV demonstrating that children know how to use digital devices (TV remotes!) with more confidence than adults do. We (sometimes incorrectly) apply the term ‘tech savvy’ to this new generation of digital natives, whilst we, the digital immigrants struggle to catch up and keep up with this rapidly changing world.  However, as I’m sure you’ve all witnessed the child who begins swiping on a non-touchscreen, our assumptions can be drastically wrong and lead to us letting children down in their education.
The computing curriculum 2014 brought in many changes to the way we teach ‘all things tech’ in schools. Prior to that, in my experience, the ‘ICT’ lesson consisted in opportunities for cross curricular use of computers for word processing, analysing and presenting data with spreadsheets, researching on the internet and possibly some design. Even this I can see was extremely limited based on what should have been happening, but even now there seems to be either too much focus on coding, or the computing suite/laptops are used for typing up literacy stories, or using maths/ reading software (Sumdog, Times Table Rockstars, BugClub etc).
We need to ensure that our children have a well-rounded and balanced experience so that as they progress through the Key Stages, they are competent at not only solving problems through programming and logical analysis, but they can type, operate a mouse, trackpad or touchscreen properly and can select and use any appropriate software for a given task.
These are the parts from the Computing part of the Primary National Curriculum that I feel draw attention to digital literacy in IT:
Computing also ensures that pupils become digitally literate – able to use, and express themselves and develop their ideas through, information and communication technology – at a level suitable for the future workplace and as active participants in a digital world.
Extract from ‘Purpose of Study’ for computing – UK National Curriculum 2013
Pupils are responsible, competent, confident and creative users of information and communication technology.
Extract from ‘Aims’ for computing – UK National Curriculum 2013
Pupils can select, use and combine a variety of software (including internet services) on a range of digital devices to design and create a range of programs, systems and content that accomplish given goals, including collecting, analysing, evaluating and presenting data and information.
Extract from ‘Subject Content’ for KS2 computing – UK National Curriculum 2013
General skills that many of us take for granted often get missed or are not embedded thoroughly; such as using a keyboard and mouse/ trackpad, logging into a desktop/laptop, opening and saving documents etc. Then there are the finer, more detailed skills; cut and paste, move, resize, format, insert, edit etc. Finally, there are the more advanced skills such as using hyperlinks, keyboard shortcuts, transparency, layers, grouping etc.
Therefore we are in need of fun and engaging projects that are relevant and ideally cross curricular, to use as a platform for teaching these specific digital literacy skills, that teachers will feel confident to deliver as a legitimate part of the computing curriculum.
So, how do we re-capture the excitement of teaching IT? How do we develop pupil’s digital literacy without them even knowing it, because they are so engaged with a project? My suggestion is to create a project that:
lasts around half a term,
includes a planning (algorithm) stage,
is themed but allows children a large element of freedom,
where the outcome is an impressive finished product (rather than just practising skills on generic activities that provide no sense of ownership)
Gives you the platform and opportunities to teach explicit IT and digital literacy skills
I have developed ‘Adventure Quests’ as a way of immersing the children in a topic/ literacy (as in English literacy) themed project that can be tailored to suit any writing ability, from KS2 to KS3, whilst providing opportunities to develop the general and finer digital literacy skills.
Simply put, Adventure Quests are interactive, non-linear stories, which are implemented as PowerPoint presentations.
To help organise the lesson plan, I have used the idea of levels of abstraction which has been suggested in research as a good way to think about the development of programs. I am treating these levels as the stages that the lesson plan will go through to help pupils develop their Adventure Quest.
These stages are;
Defining the task,
Developing the design (including the algorithms),
Building the solution (PowerPoint presentation),
Debugging and using the solution (PowerPoint presentation).
In designing the Quest, the pupils decide what choices the main character will have to make. Each of these choices is a rule and the order of these rules will control the progression of next pages in the PowerPoint presentation. This set of rules is the algorithm design for the Quest.
To help learners develop the flow of rules (their algorithm), flowcharts will be used to pictorially show the order of choices to be made. PowerPoint page numbers will be added to the flowchart to help pupils manage the process of building their solution. The flowchart can then be used when they are debugging.
(Link to download plans, guides and resources are at the end of the article)
Interactive Adventure Quests Software: MS Powerpoint
Subjects covered: Computing and English Literacy
Time frame: Around 6-8 lessons
Themes: Digital literacy, Information and Communication Technology, reading, planning, editing, writing for a purpose, writing for specific audience, relating to similar texts. This project can fit to any topic or subject, to link in with any curriculum area. This could even become an assessment tool in the form of a quiz that pupils create for each other, or simply as a fictional interactive story.
Guidance: Take this at your own pace, at the speed of the children. The design stage, where you develop the rules (algorithms) for the quest ) is essential. Make sure all children carefully and thoroughly complete this stage. Give them lots of support and check and mark each algorithm as you go along. Don’t move onto the computer to build the PowerPoint until you are sure the rules (algorithms) for the Quest all fit together.
4 stages of the project
Defining the task:
To create an interactive narrative in the form of a quest, aimed at a specific audience, where the reader takes on a role of a character in the narrative and faces choices that determine each stage and the ending. The project must make sense and be eye catching (pictures and layout), as well as adhere to the literacy standards for that year group.
Developing the design (including the algorithms):
Pupils can use any format to create their design. I would suggest A3 paper in portrait orientation. Most pupils should be able to begin from a blank sheet and begin drawing the flowchart boxes themselves, after the teacher input.
I have created an example design which is pre-populated (see below, with an example PowerPoint to match).
I also use an unpopulated version as a writing frame to scaffold learning. Children can add as many choice levels as they wish, however to make the narrative interesting, I’d recommend at least 3 choice levels before the narrative concludes (either positively or negatively). Children can also use the same choice multiple times, for example two or three choices in the narrative may have the same conclusions, so only one outcome is required (as seen in choice 4 & 13 on the example plan). Pupils who finish early can begin drawing characters, settings and enemies around their plan.
Building the PowerPoint (Implementing the design) :
Once their interactive stories are underway, this then gives the teacher the opportunity to cut away groups to teach specific skills. This particular project provides great opportunities to teach the following digital literacy and IT skills:
Opening and saving projects in specific folder locations,
adding and editing text, and text boxes, (including font, style and size)
adding and changing format of shapes,
inserting and editing hyperlinks,
changing background and themes,
safely searching for images online,
inserting, resizing, rotating and layering images,
working with transitions and animations
You could also use this project to teach the following computing skills:
Planning using an algorithm
Testing and de-bugging
I recommend getting the pupils to create a slide for each box on their designs, and create shapes for each of the button choices. Keep on checking their English throughout the project, as their story must makes sense and be grammatically correct. Try and get them to put as much detail in for the reader, as this will improve the whole experience.
Tip: Each slide has a title text box in PowerPoint. Whatever is typed in there, shows up as the slide title in the slide menu, which will be used later on. So it is very important that the children use the choice from the previous slide as the title of the slide the choice connects to. E.g. If one of the choices is “go to the forest”, the next slide that this choice goes to, must have the title “go to the forest”.
PowerPoint Mode: This must be set up (In slideshow set up) as ‘Browsed at a Kiosk’ mode. This disables the ability to scan or click through the slideshow in sequential order (which is useless for an interactive story). Once this mode is activated, there will be no way for the user to switch slides at all, unless using hyperlinks.
Hyperlinks (as demonstrated in the video below): This is how the reader will navigate and make choices within the story. On each slide, pupils should have created at least 2 choices, by adding text to a shape (or text box, but coloured so that it looks like a button). By right clicking on the shape (not the text inside it) a hyperlink can be added. When ‘a place in this document’ is selected, a menu of slides will appear. Note; this is why it is essential for the titles to be matched to the choice button, as now you can select exactly which slide this hyperlink will point to. Note: hyperlinks won’t work until the slideshow is being presented/ is running.
For pupils that finish early, they could really go to town on the aesthetics of their Adventure Quest; inserting images, slide transitions, even sounds!
Throughout this whole level of abstraction, it is essential that pupils have their designs with them at all times. This will enable them to remember their story, tick off slides they have already completed (as it doesn’t matter if they appear in order within PowerPoint), make improvements or changes, and overcome any complications of slides linking to other slides. It is basically a road map to help them navigate through their coding.
Debugging and running the PowerPoint
This is the opportunity to test out the story; Do the hyperlinks work? Have any been forgotten? Do the hyperlinks point to the correct pages? Children may realise quickly that when they reach the end of the story (either the character is successful or most of the time, rather gruesomely unsuccessful!), there needs to be a ‘home’ hyperlink for users to try again, maybe using different choices next time in order to win the challenge!
Again, as they test this out, they need to have their designs next to them. Can they improve their story? Are there any parts that don’t make sense? Has their friend tested it out and evaluated it for them?
I have run this project successfully from Year 3 up to Year 9, it can be as simple or as complex as you like. It is also a good one to show off at parent’s evenings and drop ins!
Let me know how you get on, I’d love to hear how your pupils developed there IT skills and digital literacy, as well as your thoughts on the levels of abstraction and design process.
The next step for higher ability pupils, or indeed the equivalent of this for KS3, would be to head over to Twinery and use code to create non-linear stories, but this time with the ability to store variables and apply selection (conditions). This means the player/ reader could enter names, select fears or weapons etc, or pick up keys/ artefacts that allow access to areas that would otherwise be off limits (e.g. if you have the silver key, then you can unlock this door, else you’ll have to go a different route).
 See, for example, Prensky, M (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon 9,5: 1-5. Critiques of the idea of the ‘digital native’ include: Facer, K, Furlong, J, Furlong, R and Sutherland, R (2003), Screenplay: Children and computing in the home. London: Routledge. Buckingham, D and Willett, R (eds) (2006). Digital Generations: Children, young people and new media. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers. Vaidhyanathan, S (2008). Generational myth: Not all young people are tech-savvy. Chronicle of Higher Education, 55,413. Jenkins, H, et al. Conf
 Levels of abstraction have been associated with teaching algorithm development for some time in Universities such as Perrenet, J. et al. 2005. Exploring students’ understanding of the concept of algorithm: levels of abstraction. ACM SIGCSE Bulletin. 37, 3, 64–68. DOI:10.1145/1067445.1067467. This has been extended to secondary age learners, for example the work by Armoni, M. 2013. On Teaching Abstraction in CS to Novices. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching. 32, 3, 265–284.Statter, D. and Armoni, M. 2016. Teaching Abstract Thinking in Introduction to Computer Science for 7th Graders. Proceedings of the 11th Workshop in Primary and Secondary Computing Education (2016), 80–83. DOI:10.1145/2978249.2978261. More recently levels of abstraction has been extended to look generally at all aspects of program development (not just algorithms) Waite, J. et al. 2018. Abstraction in action: K-5 teachers’ uses of levels of abstraction, particularly the design level, in teaching programming. International Journal Of Computer Science Education In Schools. DOI:10.21585/ijcses.v2i1.23. Waite, J. et al, 2019 Design Toolkit for Primary Programming Activities (in publication)