Week 4: Coding

Tuesday 29th January

In today’s class, we were looking at a programme called Scratch Jr. This introductory programme was designed to help children learn how to code and be creative. Scratch Jr can be used for children working at early all the way through to second level. It is a great way to introduce children to the world of coding and getting them to develop many skills. It is a programme I would imagine children would find extremely enjoyable. Coding can be a difficult skill to grasp, however it plays a big part in developing literacy in the classroom today. There are many benefits to using Scratch with children as it helps to develop a range of skills such as creative thinking, logical reasoning, problem solving and collaboration skills. When individuals learn how to code, they are also learning how to actively solve problems, design their own projects and also communicate their ideas in a range of ways.

My only previous experience of using Scratch was when I was in 2nd year of high school and I used the regular program. I remember it being such fun learning what all the different buttons were for and programming the characters to move around the screen. This brief knowledge did come in handy for this class. Our task for today was to design an interactive story which focused on the teaching of literacy. After playing about with the programme for a short time I became very familiar with it and it was very easy to navigate around. There are just enough features that you can programme your character to do, without making everything over complicated. The programme itself is very bright and colourful and has a good range of backgrounds, colours, characters and functions that make it very interesting and fun to use. The user can programme characters to move forward, back, up or down as well as getting them to speak or perform other actions such as jumping, getting bigger or smaller and doing 360-degree spins. The fun is endless.

For my task, I focused at aiming my activity for children working at first level. I used the Experience and Outcome LIT 1-05a which was “As I listen or watch, I am learning to make notes under given headings and use these to understand what I have listened or watched and create new texts”. My idea for this was that the children would watch the story of Sam the Scratch Cat going on an adventure to meet his friends. Sam advises the children to take notes on the information his friends give him such as their name, a description of them and their role in the community. At the end of the story, the children then have to write their own imaginative story and try to include as much of the information they have written down as possible.

In the world we live in today, everything is linked in some way to technology and so I think it is important for children to be learning about this form of technology that is coding. In England, children learn to code from age 5 to 16 (Curtis, 2013). Throughout this time they gain a wide range of knowledge which will hopefully prepare them well for their future. Naughton (2012), talks about his views on the topic and mentions that he believes children from all backgrounds should have the opportunity to learn some key ideas of computer science and understand computational thinking. This is something I fully agree with. I think it is so important that children have experiences in using different technologies and programmes. Not only do they allow children to gain deeper understanding of technology it allows them to be creative and express their ideas.

For my task, we had the opportunity to walk around the room to have a look at other people’s ideas and everyone was doing something completely different and based on a different area of the curriculum. It demonstrates that technology can be used in any area of the curriculum to enhance learning and not only focused within ICT lessons. “Scratch is designed for exploration and experimentation, so it supports any different learning style” (The Lead Project, 2014).

Overall, I enjoyed this class and I feel it allowed me to think more widely about how these applications can be used for any subject and the whole curriculum is linked together in some way. Scratch Jr is a very simple programme to use but also very effective in producing materials for use in the classroom. It is one in which I will definitely come back to using at some point in the future.

Week 3: Multimodality

Tuesday 22nd January

Today we looked at the use of multimodal texts within the classroom and how this could have a positive or negative effect on teaching and learning. For a text to be multimodal it has to include at least 2 aspects of the semiotic systems. The 5 aspects include: linguistic, visual, audio, gestural and spatial and can be either presented digitally, on paper or through a live performance.

Beauchamp talks about how the use of multimodal texts is another benefit to using technology in the classroom and it can allow teachers to support their pupils by presenting lessons in a range of different ways. Today we specifically looked at a software called ActivInspire. This software allows you to create different pages of a flip chart which can then be projected onto the Interactive Whiteboard. The flip charts can be as interactive as you like and children can come up to the board and move objects or select answers by simply touching the board. ActivInspire has many amazing resources which can be used to support lessons, specifically maths lessons. Initially I found this software very difficult to use. I did not think it was easy to navigate around and I was constantly pressing the wrong thing. After playing around with the different tools for a while, I started to work my way around it slightly easier. Our task was to create a few pages of a flip chart using ActivInspire that we could potentially use in the classroom. I decided I would work from the same Experience & Outcome from CfE as last week with the Bee Bot activity as I had a few different ideas for that task that I still wanted to use. It took me a while to get started as I wasn’t sure what approach to take. I have attached a few screenshots of my final presentation below.

  

I am not sure how much I would use this resource in the classroom. I found it difficult to use and it was quite time consuming, compared to other presentation software such as PowerPoint. However, I did really like some of the resources, such as the protractor, squared paper and spelling activities so this is possibly something I would use on their own rather than creating a full flip chart presentation.

As part of this week’s reading, I read an article which can be found online outlining the truths and consequences of using the Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) in the classroom. This article pointed out that IWB’s are just another classroom accessory which aid teachers in their lessons (Deubel, 2010). It also highlighted some interesting points about how the features on the IWB are not always appropriate for every lesson (Deubel, 2010). Personally, I do agree with this. I feel that sometimes teachers can get carried away with the IWB and use it in every single lesson, even if it is just to show instructions for a task. As much as the IWB is an amazing addition to the classroom and children love when the teachers use it, I think it is important that it is not over used. A lesson can be just as fun and interactive without the use of the IWB and I think this is really important to remember. If teachers really think outside the box for different activities they could create themselves, rather than always going back to what they know, some of the lessons could be really amazing and no doubt the children would love it just as much.

Week 2: Programmable Toys

Tuesday 15th January 

Today’s class was all about looking at the use of programmable toys within the classroom and in particular, Bee Bots. Before the class I was really looking forward to it as I remember having always loved using the Bee Bots in primary school. In preparation for the class we were advised to read an article by Alison Lydon where she talks about her observations from watching children play with Bee-Bots. I was glad I took the time to read this as it allowed me to familiarise myself with this classroom toy and some interesting points about the benefits of Bee-Bot were discussed. For today’s task, we had to design our own mat, which the Bee Bot would drive on. For this activity, I worked alongside 2 others where we decided the subject for our learning would be numeracy, specifically looking at time.

To get us started we had a look at the Experiences & Outcomes put together by CfE. We picked an outcome aimed specifically at first level which required learners to be able to tell the time using both the 12- and 24-hour clock and linking this into their daily routine.

Before we got started, we talked about what we wanted to include on the mat and really thought about the age group we were planning this sort of lesson for. We wanted our mat to be colourful, simple and make the learning fun. We took 10 minutes or so just to brainstorm some ideas of what we wanted it to look like and had a quick play around with the Bee Bot to familiarise ourselves with how it worked. Once we were satisfied with our plan we got started. For this we decided that we would design a mat for the Bee Bot which had a mixture of times on it, 4 clocks and 4 digital clocks. We also made 8 flash cards which had a time of day on them. For example, wake up, breakfast, school and all the way through to bed time. We each took a section of the mat to design, giving us all a task. In the activity the children would have to look at the mat and decide which time they think the card matches with, e.g. school would match with 9 o’clock. Once they have decided on which time they think is correct, they have to program the Bee Bot so that it travels and stops on that time. We were so pleased with how it turned out! I have attached some pictures which shows the stages that were carried out before getting to the final design.                                                                                        


Looking around at everyone’s effort, it was amazing to see other people’s response to the task and all the different approaches to it. In classrooms all over the world today, digital technologies are becoming a fundamental part of teaching and learning across all areas of the curriculum (Janka, 2008). Other groups based their mat around areas of literacy, where the children would look at different scenes in a story. Everyone had really interesting and unique ideas.

Looking specifically at the Bee Bot as a classroom toy, I think in the future I would really enjoy using this with a class. It not only helps children to work on their position and movement skills but also encourages them to interact and communicate within a group and work together to solve the problem (Janka, 2008). Furthermore, the Bee-Bot is the perfect size for an early years class and it is safe for children to use on their own (Lydon, 2008).

I really enjoyed this class and I think this is definitely something I will want to remember for future use within the classroom as it could turn something quite simple into something much more fun and engaging.

Week 1: Introducation to Digital Technologies

Tuesday 8th January

For this term, I was given the chance to pick which module I would like to study and for this I chose Digital Technologies. I decided to go with this module as nowadays, the different types of technologies available for use is constantly developing. As an aspiring teacher, I want to be fully aware of the resources available to me and my class that will enhance my teaching and their learning and therefore I feel that this module will provide me with the knowledge and skill set I require.

From my own personal experience of using different digital technologies, I consider myself to be digital native. I have grown up along side the developing technologies and so I feel comfortable with using Microsoft packages, iPads and other online resources and would like to think I am able to work with them very well.

It is hoped that with the help of digital technologies being used within the classroom to assist learning, this will count towards raising attainment for all children and young people (Beauchamp, 2012). The Scottish Government (2016) talks about how in today’s world, it is important that for children and young people to fully take part in society, that they have a basic skill set in terms of using these technologies. Using and working with this equipment overall improves the learning and teaching across every area of the curriculum.
In classrooms all over the world, it is no longer simple to think of children sitting down and learning from a textbook. As much as this kind of learning is still effective in some ways, the use of more modern methods, such as introducing digital technologies, is a much more interactive and engaging way of learning for children. The interactive whiteboard, for example, allows children to engage with work as groups or individually and the use of colour and sound makes the learning more enjoyable and engaging. Also, the use of laptops for tasks such as maths allows children to play educational games where answers can be checked within seconds. However, as much as there is a list of benefits, that also comes with some negative aspects which teachers have to be aware of. It is important that we do not immerse children with the use of technology in the classroom and remember what the main teaching points of the lesson are, and that these still come across.

To summarise, I believe it is vitally important for teachers and pupils to engage with this incredible resource and make full use of the amazing things it allows us to use it for however, not using it at the expense of learning. I look forward to beginning this module and working on learning a range of new skills.