Coding is a challenge for primaries, so teacher Germaine Furneaux opted for 2Code and Purple Mash
"I’m not good with computers!" "It’s like a foreign language!" “Why do primary schoolchildren need to know how to code?" These were just a few of the comments when the new computing curriculum came out last year. So where to start?
Using 2Simple's 2Code, part of its Purple Mash service, has made the teaching of coding at Long Meadow School in Milton Keynes not only interesting and engaging for our pupils, but also very easy for our teachers too.
It is that engagement of both students and many of the adults in our school that has resulted in the staff becoming more confident when supporting children's learning. That was the key to our progress.
The tools are very simple to use, although very effective when learning the principles of coding. Detailed lessons plans, a glossary of terms and resources are all available and ready to be used in planning, along with Guided Lessons, Debug Challenges and Free Code (see the 2Code Quick Start Teacher Guide).
It helps children, and the rest of us, including teachers, to understand that computers aren’t magic! Everything that a computer does relies on someone telling it what to do.
Coding is taught in every year group. Children begin giving simple instructions to make an object move or disappear, and then go on to creating their own games. There are videos at every stage that help children to progress at their own pace in addition to supporting visual, audio and kinaesthetic styles of learning.
The ‘debugging’ aspect in most of the levels has developed many skills among my pupils. Debug Challenges show children a program that doesn’t work. For example, a green traffic light may appear but the car doesn’t move. The children are presented with the faulty code and it is their job is to find the problem and correct the code. They are more independent and confident in problem solving and are able to explain what they need to do using technical language, such as input, output and command.
'2Code was used to demonstrate visually how the water cycle works'
‘Free code scenes’ give pupils a chance to be creative when designing their own programs. They are given a bank of commands (appropriate to the level they are working on) and can create any kind of program they like. While in ‘design mode’ they have a blank canvas where they can add detail to the background and add in their own objects (characters, vehicles or even vegetables!) to give commands to.
As children have gained a better understanding of coding, we have been able to incorporate this into other areas of the curriculum. Instead of creating a poster or the usual PowerPoint presentation for children to share their learning, 2Code was used to demonstrate visually how the water cycle works in Year 4.
It has also been used in maths. Children have created their own function machines to show their understanding of various times tables and to create number sequences.
As Purple Mash can be accessed at home as well as in school, many children have created codes in their own time and developed their own games, therefore enabling them to have a deeper understanding of the subject as well as experimenting with their own ideas.
Purple Mash is very child friendly (and adult friendly) to use but not to a point where children will outgrow it.
It has valuable resources, which are constantly being updated, that are all linked to the topics covered in the new curriculum. It can be used for drawing, creating animations and maths games. It can even be used to create simple melodies and rhythms in music. Purple Mash is great way to engage the children in literacy with lots of different writing templates, such as postcards, story booklets and leaflets. Moreover, this is a great way to improve their typing skills and speed.
Overall, Purple Mash – and 2Code in particular – are a great way to engage children in computing and not scare off teachers! The service is easy to use, with invaluable and up-to-date resources for teachers and pupils. With it being an online resource, and therefore available at home too, it offers a great opportunity for children to be able to share their learning with parents.
In the future, I hope that the ICT and computing skills learnt by the children in our school become embedded and enable them to use Purple Mash confidently and creatively across all areas of the curriculum.
Germaine Furneaux is Year 5/6 team leader and computing subject leader at Long Meadow School, Milton Keynes