Category: From our Community

ROSSHALL ACADEMY’S CARBON CLEAN APP – APPS FOR GOOD

Rosshall Academy‘s Digital Ambassadors created their app ‘Carbon Clean’ for the Apps for Good competition.
By polling the students and teachers, they found out which climate-based issue was of the most concern to our community and aimed to create an app that met those needs. The students spent numerous hours collaborating in person and over Teams, using their digital literacies, skills, and boundless creativity to develop a wonderful app and moving video.
The whole school were very proud, particularly the Digital Ambassador mentors Miss Edward (@missedward5) and Ms Lamont (@lamont_ms).

This video shows how Rosshall Academy created their Carbon Clean app, focussing on the small changes we can make to fight climate change.

WHAT IS APPS FOR GOOD?

Too many young people don’t have access to the skills they need to succeed in life. Since 2010 Apps for Good have been working with teachers to unlock the potential of over 200,000 students around the UK, and beyond, with our free technology courses. Our courses encourage students to think about the world around them and solve the problems that they find by creating apps and products with machine learning and IoT.



We combine giving students the freedom to tackle issues that matter to them (from food poverty, climate change and mental health issues) with partnering with expert organisations.  These partnerships enhance student’s learning experience by pairing them with companies that they admire; like LEGO, Spotify and Deutsche Bank. Which provides opportunities for students to get direct access to people working in the technology industry and get real-world experience on how to develop their tech products. Industry interactions can bring to life the skills students are learning through our courses and how to apply these skills in the workplace. Volunteers can also show young people the many different careers they might be able to pursue with digital skills, and the many different routes to success.

 

Young people across Scotland have the opportunity to try out our free courses either self-directed, in after school clubs or as part of their curriculum. Each course involve students:

  • identifying a real life problem they care about
  • researching the problem so that they understand fully both the problem and who is affected by it
  • designing a solution to the problem using their chosen technology
  • building and testing a technical prototype
  • presenting their solution

A teacher decides how they’d like to deliver the course, whether in-class or remote and if they’d like the additional support of the Apps for Good team and our experts to help them deliver the course.

“The opportunities that some of my students have had because of Apps for Good has really set us apart. It’s been absolutely incredible to think that a school in rural Scotland has managed to send kids down to London to internships at Thomson Reuters; for the Apps for Good Awards – some had never left the county before… A lot of my students have gone on to choose careers in digital simply because of where things started with Apps for Good.” – Chris Aitken (@skipperaitken), Educator, Wick High School.

 

Over the years others include:

  • Midge Forecast (@mymidgeforecast), which uses topographical data to forecast midge density, helping predict a common Scottish menace
  • Teen Health, providing teen-friendly info on sexual health and contraception
  • Keep Fit Determination, which encourages young people to exercise and earn points in order to keep playing their favourite game consoles
  • Safe Step, sensor enabled mats that alert caregivers and family members of the elderly when someone has fallen or gone missing via a mobile app

 

A key to Apps for Good success is that it places digital training within a real-world context, enabling young people to gain relevant experience, developing the skills and confidence to build digital products to solve problems in their communities and see a clear purpose to their learning.

If you’re interested in learning more and delivering an Apps for Good course in the 2021/22 academic year, visit www.appsforgood.org/courses.

 

 

A CODE CLUB IN EVERY SCHOOL: CODING THE FUTURE – NORTH AYRSHIRE

Coding the Future – initiative to allow all 9-13 year olds to experience coding (@NAC_CodeClubs)

This post was written by Rosslyn Lee (@RosJLee), Digital Skills Coordinator for North Ayrshire Council. The programme has delivered Computing Science to primary and secondary learners across the authority. Most of the knowledge came from the team’s personal interests in coding and digital. Code Club Scotland and Barefoot Computing provided training that supported the programme.

 
Coding the Future has had an incredible impact on learners in North Ayrshire, and they have been unable to fulfil demand for code clubs and summer camps because of the high level of interest. Pupils learned a variety of digital skills apart from coding and was captured in photos, videos, saving programs and sharing and demonstrations to adults.
 
 

Coding the Future – North Ayrshire Council

 

In May 2017, North Ayrshire Council made a pledge to tackle the digital skills gap by providing access to Code Clubs for all learners aged 9–13 by August 2020.

The ‘Coding the Future’ project team, including staff from Customer and Digital Services and Education has the aim of expanding and supporting Code Clubs across the authority.  The first step was to look for volunteer staff to become STEM Ambassadors.  North Ayrshire Council allows their staff to volunteer within the community for 14 hours per calendar year.

Approximately 40 staff became STEM Ambassadors and were part of a ‘train the trainer’ approach.  Their objective was to support schools to set up their own clubs, taking a step back once the staff felt confident to run the clubs by themselves.  We had some training from Code Club Scotland to start us off.  This eventually led to a core group of 8-10 people delivering support to schools.

In addition to this training, some staff attended a Barefoot Computing session. 

Schools were advised that they could request help from a volunteer to start up a Code Club.  We tried to work this on a geographical basis, depending on where the volunteer lived. Some schools set up weekly clubs for a term, some for an academic year and some on a more ad hoc basis.

In addition to individual school clubs, two of the team ran a club most Saturdays at Irvine Library which was always well attended, in fact at times oversubscribed.

We ran two very successful Summer Code Camps in 2018 and 2019.  These ran for a week in July and operated from 10am until 3pm each day, with lunches provided by North Ayrshire Council.  The limit on participants was 25, although we could have organised a couple of camps such was the interest.  Unfortunately, this was not possible as staff were using holidays to run the camp.

At camp, the young people had a variety of activities to choose from including Scratch coding, Python, Raspberry Pis,  Microbits, Spheros, Virtual Reality headsets, Merge Cube AR, 3D printing, 360 degree photography and video making.

At the end of the week we held a challenge – participants had to make their own robot using a Sphero, plastic cups and various other craft items including balloons.  We invited parents to come in on the Friday afternoon to enable the young people to show them what they had experienced and created during the week.  We also had visits from the Leader of the Council, a couple of NAC Heads of Service and two of the Digital Skills Team from Education Scotland.

During these visits our young people very ably demonstrated and taught our visitors about the devices they had been using during the week, including a safety talk about the use of VR Headsets.

We also ran a successful Learn to Code Day for staff one Saturday in November 2019, supported and funded by a STEM Grant from Education Scotland.  Activities ranged from unplugged coding to Raspberry Pis and Codapillars to Python.  Participants were from primary and secondary schools as well as members of our Family Learning Team.

In December 2019 as part of Computing Science Education Week, we held an event where North Ayrshire Council employees could bring their children into work at the end of the day, to learn how to code.  This session attracted children of varying ages and we had children coding with Scratch as well as using devices such as BlueBots, Dash and Spheros.

We were delighted that the project won the North Ayrshire Achieves Award ‘Skills for Life’ in 2018 which recognised the work we had already done and our ambitions for the future.

In February 2020 we were included in EdTech50 for 2020 as one of the projects in the UK shaping technology across the UK.

Unfortunately the initiative was hit by COVID early in 2020 and has not yet resumed.   However we hope to run a Summer Camp in 2022 and depending on the virus, be able to support individual schools- in session 21-22 with clubs and staff with training.

 Coding the Future – North Ayrshire Council

In May 2017, North Ayrshire Council made a pledge to tackle the digital skills gap by providing access to Code Clubs for all learners aged 9–13 by August 2020.

The ‘Coding the Future’ project team, including staff from Customer and Digital Services and Education has the aim of expanding and supporting Code Clubs across the authority.  The first step was to look for volunteer staff to become STEM Ambassadors.  North Ayrshire Council allows their staff to volunteer within the community for 14 hours per calendar year.

Approximately 40 staff became STEM Ambassadors and were part of a ‘train the trainer’ approach.  Their objective was to support schools to set up their own clubs, taking a step back once the staff felt confident to run the clubs by themselves.  We had some training from Code Club Scotland to start us off.  This eventually led to a core group of 8-10 people delivering support to schools.

In addition to this training, some staff attended a Barefoot Computing session. 

Schools were advised that they could request help from a volunteer to start up a Code Club.  We tried to work this on a geographical basis, depending on where the volunteer lived. Some schools set up weekly clubs for a term, some for an academic year and some on a more ad hoc basis.

In addition to individual school clubs, two of the team ran a club most Saturdays at Irvine Library which was always well attended, in fact at times oversubscribed.

We ran two very successful Summer Code Camps in 2018 and 2019.  These ran for a week in July and operated from 10am until 3pm each day, with lunches provided by North Ayrshire Council.  The limit on participants was 25, although we could have organised a couple of camps such was the interest.  Unfortunately, this was not possible as staff were using holidays to run the camp.

At camp, the young people had a variety of activities to choose from including Scratch coding, Python, Raspberry Pis,  Microbits, Spheros, Virtual Reality headsets, Merge Cube AR, 3D printing, 360 degree photography and video making.

At the end of the week we held a challenge – participants had to make their own robot using a Sphero, plastic cups and various other craft items including balloons.  We invited parents to come in on the Friday afternoon to enable the young people to show them what they had experienced and created during the week.  We also had visits from the Leader of the Council, a couple of NAC Heads of Service and two of the Digital Skills Team from Education Scotland.

During these visits our young people very ably demonstrated and taught our visitors about the devices they had been using during the week, including a safety talk about the use of VR Headsets.

We also ran a successful Learn to Code Day for staff one Saturday in November 2019, supported and funded by a STEM Grant from Education Scotland.  Activities ranged from unplugged coding to Raspberry Pis and Codapillars to Python.  Participants were from primary and secondary schools as well as members of our Family Learning Team.

In December 2019 as part of Computing Science Education Week, we held an event where North Ayrshire Council employees could bring their children into work at the end of the day, to learn how to code.  This session attracted children of varying ages and we had children coding with Scratch as well as using devices such as BlueBots, Dash and Spheros.

We were delighted that the project won the North Ayrshire Achieves Award ‘Skills for Life’ in 2018 which recognised the work we had already done and our ambitions for the future.

In February 2020 we were included in EdTech50 for 2020 as one of the projects in the UK shaping technology across the UK.

Unfortunately the initiative was hit by COVID early in 2020 and has not yet resumed.   However we hope to run a Summer Camp in 2022 and depending on the virus, be able to support individual schools- in session 21-22 with clubs and staff with training.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bridging the Digital Gender Divide – OECD

This post is based on a report published in 2018 by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The report aims to further strengthen the evidence base in support of the equitable participation of women in the digital economy. As the OECD report runs to more than 150 pages, I have written this post to share what I believe are the key messages, most relevant to educators in Scotland, and some of the guidance we are putting, or can put, in place to improve gender balance in computing and digital skills. 

 

We are all well aware of the increasing gender wage gap, which is especially so in digital careers, and if we don’t engage girls, they’ll be further behind in terms of earnings and career progression. In terms of digital literacy, the report suggests that the ‘generalist wins out over the specialist’ – this is useful to consider when we plan our learning and teaching: do we need children and young people who are very good at one area or skill, let’s say coding, or would be preparing them better for the world of work by allowing them to experience data, security, web development and other areas all set in cross-curricular meaningful contexts? 

 

Regarding gender balance in Computing Science, the report recognises that ‘girls perform better in collaborative tasks yet we celebrate completion/accuracy of tasks (think exams!) which don’t reward or mention the collaborative process’ – this made me reflect on my own practice, and while I would recognise good teamwork or effort that would probably be second to task accuracy or completion. So, do we need to upskill ourselves in supporting and developing collaborative learning – how to recognise when this is effective and how to feedback effectively on it – so that we can design learning and environments that foster, promote and celebrate collaboration? 

 

It might seem like common sense to promote girls-only or girl-centred lessons, classes and clubs to engage more girls – and yet the research does not support this! The OECD points to the need for ‘girls and boys working together breaks down barriers and biases’ and ‘awareness raising of digital as a cultural norm for girls and women’, while ‘showcasing female leadership in digital’. So, next time you think of setting up girls-only clubs, is it worth thinking how you can ensure mixed-gender activities that promote the skills, abilities and characters of girls alongside those of boys? 

 

In addition to the potential ‘barrier’ of gender to accessing computing and digital skills, how many of use consider the possibility of cultural and language barriers? Are our computing lessons relatable and meaningful to learners who speak English as an additional language? Does it fit their cultural capital – or that of their family? The ‘most exciting’ computing lesson (if such a thing existed) might be that for just one group while being less accessible to others. So, how do we ensure our lessons and activities excite and engage more learners, and not just more girls. 

 

The DigiLearn team have been working with our Improving Gender Balance colleagues to ensure we implement as much of this in our support as possible. We are proud to say that we will ensure that our support for educators will: 

  • support engagement in extracurricular activities 
  • bear in mind gender-related considerations for teaching – this will be built-in to our webinars and web content 
  • raise awareness of women who lead in computing and digital skills – in and out of education 
  • support applications for funding that can be accessed to support or enhance female participation 

 

Read the paper

REMOTE TEACHING OF CODING, CARMYLE PRIMARY

Laura Di Pasquale (@LauraKeeney01) was previously acting principal teacher at Carmyle Primary School and Nursery Class in Glasgow City.

She has been delivering learning to staff to increase their confidence in delivering the learning to pupils:

“I have taken part in several computing science CPD sessions over the past two years and am now leading the Glasgow City (GCC) webinars for Swift Playgrounds on iPad. In the beginning, staff did not have a lot of confidence in teaching computing science, so I developed some further training to improve this.

I had already introduced the GCC trackers for Digital Literacy and Computing Science but staff were still developing their confidence with this too. So, I developed and delivered online training with staff in my school on computing science, coding and its place in the curriculum. I then created a staff pack of three coding lessons for each year group P1-P7 for staff to use. Finally, I team-taught a lesson remotely (I was shielding at home whilst the rest of the school returned) with each class to build that teacher’s confidence.

Throughout this work I have been able to demonstrate how accessible coding can be, and how each teacher already has most of the skills required to teach a coding lesson in the classroom. Colleagues took my ready made lesson for their own class and taught this – feedback was excellent! Staff are now much more aware of how computing science can be taught offline and are now more engaged in developing computing science in the classroom; some have actively sought out further CPD (such as digilearn) to enhance their skills and knowledge.”

“The best part of all of this work has been the educational impact on the children! They were really engaged and could make the links between skills being taught in the classroom and those linked to the wider world. The learners were engaged in the tasks and really enjoyed follow-up tasks that used online activities such Scratch or Swift Playgrounds. Children were assessed using a lot of questions and watching how they engaged with the task and how well they could remember and use new technical vocabulary, such as commands and sequence.”

FIRST LEGO LEAGUE JUNIOR: PLAYMAKERS, DALMILLING PRIMARY

Elizabeth Cairns is a class teacher at Dalmilling Primary School in South Ayrshire. She has been using the First Lego League: Playmakers project to develop her learners’ understanding of coding, problem solving and design solutions. Elizabeth started by attending a webinar with the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) where she learned about the project, resources and advice on delivering the learning. The First Lego League is fully resourced with learning materials, guidance and instructions on the IET Lego Education site and the Lego WeDo 2.0 kit was purchased by the school. Using the Lego WeDo project is a great way to engage learners as the challenge has a context, relates to a real world problem and the Lego makes it hands-on with concrete materials.

Elizabeth noted that all of her class engaged with the project, especially those who don’t always engage with technologies or computing lessons. Research shows that girls, especially, engage better with technology when the learning is contextual, collaborative and based on relationships -which match the six core values of the First Lego League: inclusion, discovery, teamwork, innovation, fun and impact. Elizabeth felt that this learning was enjoyed by almost all of the learners and that they developed many skills, including coding, teamwork and problem solving.

INTRODUCING CODING AND COMPUTATIONAL THINKING WITH CODE-A-PILLAR

Dundee practitioner, Judi Regan has very kindly shared resources for some wonderful Code-a-pillar play activities for early level learners. If you were at SLF 2019, you may have been lucky enough to attend her seminar. Among the resources, there are the ‘human’ Code-a-pillar arrows for children to wear. Judi them laminated these and added string for children to wear to remind them which ‘direction’ they were during unplugged CS play and also when creating their algorithms with the Code-a-pillar . The children would decide on the directions the Code-a-pillar was to travel, and form a line, holding on to the person in front. The ‘head’ would listen for each child in turn to call out their ‘direction’ and would then move in that way to make the ‘human’ Code-a-pillar travel. This could be extended by planning in advance how to reach a particular object/area; recreating the actual Code-a-pillar algorithm and moving alongside as it moves or making a plan for moving in a shape, e.g., “let’s see if we can get our human Code-a-pillar to move in a square shape?”

We have popped all of Judi’s resources into a folder on OneDrive, you can access and download here.

WHY COMPUTING SCIENCE MATTERS

by Susan Ward, DHT Kingsland Primary, Scottish Borders

Finding the time for computing science can be tough. With a slimmed-down recovery curriculum to contend with and a ‘to do’ list stretching to infinity and beyond, primary teachers could be forgiven for consigning CS lessons to the ‘would be nice’ pile rather than firmly rooted in the weekly plan’s must haves.

But computing science is too important to be sidelined.

There’s a viral video doing the rounds just now of a toddler demanding that an Amazon Echo play her favourite song (Baby Shark, in case you’re wondering). The person filming watches with great amusement as the little girl talks to the machine as if it is alive: “Alexa, play my favourite song!” When Alexa obliges, the little girl claps her hands in delight: “Alexa you my friend!” she squeals.

And as any stumped parent will tell you, ‘asking Google’ quickly becomes a regular response to the steady stream of “But why?” enquiries from curious offspring from their earliest days.

The message inadvertently given to children is that technology knows best, that Google and Alexa are the smart ones, that they just magically “know”.

The point here is that to a generation used to asking machines to do everything from play CBeebies to shutting the curtains, making computing science visible becomes a real struggle. Technology is now so integrated into the fabric of everyday lives it becomes unseen, unknowable, just ‘there’.

In the absence of good-quality computing science teaching, we are faced with a generation growing up who will believe Alexa is the ghost in the machine. All-seeing and all-knowing, machines will provide all the answers and children won’t think to question how they know.

But if our children and young people don’t know how the machines work, how can they design them to work better?

Teaching children to think computationally is essential learning and should start as young as possible. Children in nursery can understand the importance of sequencing and pattern making, the idea that instructions have to be clear and sensible. Tinker tables where children can take machines apart and look inside make technology visible and encourage curiosity about how things work. Like the technology all around us, the principles of computing science are woven into our everyday lives. We just have to show our children where to look.

There are lots of nifty gadgets out there that can help and one of the best and most underused is the humble Bee-Bot. Sturdy enough to cope with enthusiastically sticky hands yet sophisticated enough to demonstrate simple programming, Bee-Bots are a brilliant option. In our school, P4 learned to program using Bee-Bots, initially by using paper ‘fakebots’, available free from Barefoot Computing, to design and debug before moving onto the real thing. Problem-solving and collaborative working were in plentiful supply as children sought out and tested their own solutions.

Once confident in their programs, P4 created some furry costumes and story mats and, in the era before class bubbles, they were able to head to nursery to teach the younger children what they had learned. Big fans of ‘Going on a Bear Hunt’ by Michael Rosen, the Bee-Bots became bears and the nursery children learned how to program the bears to go through the swishy grass and oozy mud, just like in the story.

This is a small example of how computing science can open doors to learning and collaboration across the curriculum and across your school. It is a great leveller, a chance for children to shine in unexpected ways when the pursuit of a logical solution becomes a shared goal.

Computational thinking doesn’t require lots of resources or even constant access to a computer. It’s not about ‘doing coding’. We can grow problem solvers, careful sequence checkers, creative thinkers and logical predictors long before the word ‘algorithm’ is ever mentioned.

Showing children and young people how machines work, drawing back the curtain on the ‘magic’ and opening their eyes to the amazing and inspiring power of computational thinking will ignite your classroom and the potential that lies inside every child.

When you get right down to it, computing science is about careful attention to a problem and the curious and methodical pursuit of an effective solution.

 

What weekly plan cannot make space for that?

DEDRIDGE PRIMARY SCHOOL CODE CHRISTMAS

Dedridge Primary School, West Lothian shared this wonderful example of how early level learners created algorithms to programme BeeBots to retell the nativity story at Christmas time. How many areas of the curriculum can you identify in this clip? 

We would love to continually add examples of how you are embedding computing science through play in ELC settings and with the young learners you are working with. Please click on this link to share your examples of unplugged computing science and how children are exploring programmable devices if you have access to them 

INSPIRING DIGITAL ENTERPRISE AWARDS AT GROVE ACADEMY

iDEA Awards, Grove Academy

Gavin Pyott, PT Computing Science

I became aware of the iDEA awards by chance when it was first launched 3 years ago. I can’t explain how glad I am that I did. The programme is so well written and produced that all learners are drawn into the modules and are keen to do more. Due to the positive impact iDEA had with classes in my department l began promoting the awards and encouraging others to use it within their schools. As a result of this l was awarded the title of Teacher Ambassador from iDEA.  

The Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award, known as iDEA, is an international programme that helps students develop and demonstrate digital, enterprise and employability skills.

Since its launch, iDEA has established itself as the digital equivalent of The Duke of Edinburgh Award. The iDEA awards are recognised by universities and employers so are a great addition to any student’s CV.

The iDEA awards allow students to map their knowledge and understanding of the digital world through a series of modules (badges).

The badges have been designed to unlock new opportunities and raise awareness of the diverse range of careers in our digital world, all the while allowing students to gain an industry recognised award to help them stand out from the crowd.

To achieve a Bronze Award, students need to earn a minimum of 250 points, including at least 40 points in each of the core categories of the curriculum: Citizen, Worker, Maker and Entrepreneur.

CITIZEN BADGES cover digital awareness, safety and ethics.

WORKER BADGES introduce tools and techniques which are useful in the digital workplace.

MAKER BADGES cover digital creativity and building and making in the digital world.

ENTREPRENEUR BADGES explain how to originate ideas and bring them to life.

GAMER BADGES investigate gamification techniques and help people learn how to make games.

These badges are all very informative and explain complex concepts in a straightforward, easy to understand, way. All badges are designed to be interactive, allowing pupils to answer questions as they go, building up their knowledge step-by-step.

To help track student progress iDEA have launched ‘organiser codes’ and the organiser area. This allows you to provide pupils with a simple code to add to their iDEA profiles. This will then pull the progress charts for each pupil together into a handy, easy to use spreadsheet.

After completing the Bronze award, many pupils volunteer to move on to the Silver. Unlike Bronze, the Silver award has been written as a series of topics. Each topic is story-based with students being guided through a real-life scenario as they discover the skills required to progress.

Due to the amazing quality and excellent writing in the badges in the programme the target audience range has really been opened up. I have successfully delivered the iDEA award in S1, S2 and S3. We now have pupils is S4-6 who are also tapping into the programme as it has caught their attention. iDEA also works great in an upper primary setting. My own daughter liked the look of the badges and had a go herself. She successfully completed the Bronze award in Primary 6 and completed her Silver when in Primary 7. Not wanting to stop there she completed a total of 50 Bronze badges to become ‘Badge Champion’ and completed the remaining Silver topic to become a

‘Silver Star’. This determination to complete the modules has been replicated by students in my classes who applied the Pokemon ‘got to get them all’ approach to the badges and awards. I have to admit, I have done this too! The iDEA badges are so interesting and informative I found I couldn’t stop either! As an introduction to a new concept (block chain) or to brush up existing skills the iDEA Award is great CLPL for staff too.

Mr Pyott has created a Sway which will give you a full introduction to the work and process involved in using iDEA and his top tips. To view click here.

To see more from Mr Pyott you can visit his Twitter feed on @MrPyott

To see more from Grove Academy, please visit their Twitter feed on @Grove_Academy

You can find out more on iDEA Awards via https://idea.org.uk/