Making lunch box buggies with Iron Man body parts!
I was delighted to present the work from our CAS project Using micro-bits across the primary curriculum at the CAS Annual Conference on 17th June 2017. I presented with Yvonne Walker from CAS and demonstrated one of the buggies that we had made as well as letting delegates loose on some microbits.
A second Microbit to use as a radio control for the buggy.
On Friday, a very large box of Microbits arrived from Kitronik (via BCS who are distributing the Microbits for our CAS project). So I finally had a second Microbit to try out.
The first Microbit I had was a gift from Yvonne Walker at CAS, so I hadn’t one fresh out of the packet before. I was delighted to discover that once the supplied power pack was attached, the Microbit booted and ran an introductory code. The microbit ‘introduces’ itself and walks you through using the buttons and accelerometer (see Intro to the Microbit from Tech will save us). I will be able to use this for our first lesson using the Microbit, once we have also looked at the safety leaflet and thought about how to handle them safely. (You can re-instate the start-up code from the copy on Tech will save us).
Programming the remote control
Tech will save us has a nice tutorial and code to make a remote control for their buggy. I adapted this code as I had used a different command to control the motors. The remote control Microbit now uses the accelerometer to move the buggy forwards and backwards, pressing button A makes the buggy turn clockwise and button B makes it turn anticlockwise, pressing A+B stops the buggy. The code could do with some refinements as at the moment, it is a two man job to turn the buggy off! Holding down A+B continuously stops the buggy still, whilst someone else switches the power pack off. I’ve also lost the granularity of control I had before, so that going forwards and back for a set time, and turning clockwise and anticlockwise for a set time to effectively turn 90 degrees has been lost within the forever loop. So, any suggestions on how I can get that control back and/or how I can make A+B stop the buggy by one press would be really helpful! The code I have so far is shared below (for the PXT block editor).
We are building lunch box buggies controlled by Microbits as part of a CAS project. So far, I’ve built two versions of the buggy (one in Lego and one using Kitronik kit) and quickly written some very simple code to make it move forward.
I wanted to have some basic sections of code that our children could tinker with and then put together in a sequence to navigate the buggy around a given course.
As I understand it, the motor board has four pins that between them can control 2 motors. There are two wires from one motor to the motor board that connect to two pins (i.e.: motor 1 uses PIN12 and PIN8 and motor 2 uses PIN16 and PIN0).
Using the command ‘digital write pin12 to 1’ turns the electricity on to pin12 (on motor 1) and ‘digital write pin12 to 0’ turns the electricity off to pin12. So going forward when both button A+B are pressed looks like this:
I’ve tried the buggy on a few different surfaces at home as the wheels seem to slip sometimes, and the shape of the lunchbox, with slightly sloping sides causes the wheels to be a slight angle. All of this can make the turns slightly more or less than the 90 degree turn I want, but this is something we can debug with code and with the mechanical aspects with the children once we have the final buggies made.
The code I’ve written so far is published online in the PXT editor. Button A turns right (clockwise), Button B turns left (anticlockwise) and A+B makes the buggy go forward.
Penny Patterson shares her wisdom on how to ensure your school meets the new Safeguarding requirement for online safety.
This term we decided to focus on something that many schools will be covering at this time of year, eSafety. The changes to Keeping Children Safe in Education that came into force on 5 September 2016 included more explicit duties for safeguarding with regard to online activities. We were very fortunate to have Penny Patterson (Senior Inspector Quality Assurance with responsibility for Safeguarding, Havering School Improvement Service) present by Skype for our meeting. She went well beyond the call of duty, when after discovering the M25 was closed, she had to divert and deliver the presentation using her phone from her car whilst parked at a garden centre!
Her slides highlight the new requirements succinctly and she has kindly agreed to share them:
One of the more alarming aspects of her talk was a discussion around sexting, which most of us had felt wouldn’t be an issue we would need to deal with in Primary schools. However, Penny has dealt with two cases involving children in early years and warned us to be aware of the difficulties of dealing with such cases. Unfortunately the strict legal definition of sexting includes the taking and sharing of indecent images, and if children take photographs of what is under their clothes, this can constitute sexting. Fortunately, UKIS have issued guidance on how to proceed if this happens in your school, and how it can be dealt with in a sensible and proportionate way.
Teachers were keen to know how to deal with parents on social media who were not being good role models to their children. Penny advised that they should consider if the children were involved, named or harmed by the online conversations and if they were, then to deal with this as we would with any other safeguarding incident.
We noted with interest the addition of a category of abuse of neglect for parents whose excessive use electronic devices as ‘babysitters’ and for parents who may be ignoring a child through the excessive use of technology themselves (watching their phone instead of their child crossing the road for example).
I have always been keen to share ideas about my teaching, and regularly tweet lesson ideas or activities. However, I haven’t gone as far as making the resources I have made available online, partly because I’ve always been wary about its licensing. Although I work in a primary school, I know that I am ultimately employed by the City Council and so the council owns the Intellectual Property Rights for any educational resources I produce in the line of my employment. As an employee I don’t have the automatic moral rights i.e. the right to be named as author on those resources. I know it isn’t something that many of us think about, but with the massive increase in access to shared resources online, it is really is an issue I believe we teachers should begin to embrace. After all, Open Education is a philosophy that is essentially at the heart of teaching – sharing and learning together, building on each other’s work and collaborating to enhance our own teaching and learning.
I attended the Open Education Schools Conference in Leicester this January. The first event of it’s kind in the UK, was organised by Leicester City Council in partnership with De Montfort University. 92 attendees from 48 primary, secondary and specialist provision schools took part in the day, as well as representatives from five UK universities. One of the sessions I attended was a workshop by Miles Berry who encouraged us to think in a very practical way about how we could begin to teach primary school children about Creative Commons licenses and the correct re-use of other people’s work. There were some fantastic ideas generated, such as children remixing scratch scripts that had been shared online. I worked with two colleagues, Hannah Boydon and Marieke Guy to plan a half term unit of work to show children how to search for CC licensed images and then use them in a website they built, making sure that they included the correct attribution and a link back to the original image. Marieke was one of the main speakers at the event, and her write up of the day and impressions of Miles’ workshop are on her blog.
use technology safely, respectfully and responsibly; recognise acceptable/unacceptable behaviour
use search technologies effectively and be discerning in evaluating digital content
select, use and combine a variety of software (including internet services) to design and create content that accomplish given goals, including collecting, analysing, evaluating and presenting information
The aim of this unit of work is to teach children the principles of copyright compliant searching and accurate attribution of digital content when it is re-used. Children will learn about the ownership of created content and creative commons licences. They will use search effectively to find images that can be re-used and learn to attribute them correctly. They will create a website which combines the images that they have found and combine them with text to explain how other children can search for images to re-use on their own blogs or websites.
I used the lessons myself in the last half term and will be building the websites with my children in the next couple of weeks. I hope that the plans could be adapted to fit into other areas of the curriculum so that the final end product has a real purpose. My children were studying space and we wrote recounts about our visit to the National Space Centre in our English lessons, which we will then turn into websites using the images we found in the computing lessons. The final websites could be recounts, information texts or even instructions on how to search for creative commons licensed images!
Places for children to search for images to re-use
We did hit a few filtering issues while we were trying to search for CC licensed images. We found using Google advanced image search was reliable, but when images were from flickr, they were often blocked by our filters. Some alternatives the children used successfully were: http://www.pics4learning.com/ , http://gallery.nen.gov.uk/ and for clipart https://openclipart.org/. If you are able to use flickr, I would highly recommend using photosforclass.com which uses flickr images that are pre-filtered to provide a pseudo-safe search. The massive advantage here is that with a quick quick, images can be downloaded with an attribution automatically added (like the photo at the top of this post).
I am delighted to announce that, along with my Head Teacher, Debra Bailey, I will be leading a new primary focussed CAS hub in Leicester. Computing At School
(CAS) is a great organisation that aims to promote the teaching of computer science at school. Membership of CAS is open to everyone, and is very broad, including teachers, parents, governors, exam boards, industry, professional societies, and universities.
A CAS hub is a meeting of teachers and lecturers who wish to share their ideas for developing the teaching of computing in their schools, their classrooms and their community. It is a meeting of like-minded professionals with the general objective of supporting each other and the specific aim of providing (at least) one idea that can be taken and tried in the classroom. These meetings provide:
the opportunity for teachers to meet in a relaxed and informal atmosphere
to share ideas and resources
to receive training, and
to gain mutual support from discussing teaching methods with colleagues.
The launch of the CAS Leicester North Primary hub will take place on Wednesday 26 November 2014, from 16:00 – 17:30 at Rushey Mead Primary School, Leicester. The event is free and all you need to do is sign up online for a ticket. We are very excited to have one of the best Primary CAS Master Teachers of Computing , Phil Bagge, giving a presentation by Skype. Phil is a fantastic teacher of computing and delivers inspiring training on Scratch and other areas of the computing curriculum. I attended one of his Scratch courses recently, and was really impressed by the way he made sure that we knew the common misconceptions children could have and how we could deal with them in our teaching. His massive range and depth of experience in teaching computing lessons really shines through. His resources are all available online and provide an excellent way into teaching the computing curriculum with confidence.
CAS Leicester North Primary hub launch meeting programme
16.00 – 16.15 Introduction and Welcome– What is CAS? Why you should join us?
16.15 – 16.45 “How searching the Internet is just like asking your mum where you left something.” – Phil Bagge, CAS regional coordinator, has a strange but remarkably accurate approach to explaining to primary pupils how web searches work. Will your searching experience be the same after his talk?
16.45 – 17.00 refreshments
17.00 – 17.20 Where does the Internet come from? a practical hands-on activity to use children to demonstrate how the Internet works by Jo Badge, Computing Lead Teacher, Rushey Mead Primary School.
17.20 – 1730 Evaluation and future CPD
This will be a great opportunity to meet other primary teachers and computing subject leaders locally and share some of the ways that we are beginning to implement the new computing curriculum (there will be tea, coffee, biscuits and hopefully cake on offer too!). I hope you will be able to join us!
We started by understanding what computational thinking was and some useful definitions of the trickier terms in the new curriculum. Algorithms and abstraction (I loved the example that abstraction is precisely demonstrated by the London tube map), generalisation, decomposition and logical reasoning. Interestingly, our staff had missed out logical reasoning when dividing up the curriculum as they did not understand it all. We discussed this and they saw that actually this was about questioning the children, getting them to predict and evaluate what they do. Once we started talking about it, they realised that actually this was something they, as teachers, would do naturally through their questioning. This is exactly the definition that Phil gave us! It is a skill that needs to be a taught so that children can do it alone as they progress through the school.
Some lovely posters to display in the ICT suite to illustrate those tricky computing terms.
One of the best things that Phil did was point out the common mistakes and misconceptions children have when he has taught these lessons. To me this was massively valuable, if you know what sorts of mistakes children are likely to make, it helps you deal with them when or before they arise. It also draws your attention to key teaching points. He was also fantastic at modelling exactly how to do things with the children, including silly voices, physical demonstrations and explaining why some of his modelling was so important. Proper meta-teaching!
For KS1 Phil recommends using the Scratch Junior app on iPads. It is free and does sequencing and repeat really well with very little written language and is highly visual.
For younger children, start with scratch 1.4 (drawing is easier for the younger children), then can graduate to scratch 2.0. Lego WeDo is a nice way to integrate physical control with scratch.
We were working with Scratch (we used version 1.4 but you could just as easily use scratch 2.0)
Always get into the habit of renaming the sprites – so car, not sprite1.
Always model moving the blocks carefully to get them to snap together securely, making a big show of the white snap together line that appears under the blocks. It will pay off later when programmes are more complex and make children think more carefully.
When selecting a key – make the class read it aloud together, so that chn understand the action. Point out very carefully that the ‘1’ key is on their keyboard! Make a big point of showing the snap together line. Encourage the children to think what they putting together.
10 steps = 10 pixels
Always get children to test what they have done.
Use extension tasks for those children who want to experiment and challenge themselves.
Steering – use point blocks because they are always up, down, right left (see the drop down arrow to get degrees for angles for left, right etc).
Use zoom feature on your data projector to show the elements to the children.
Stage – allows you to programme the background. Makes sprite code disappear – it is not lost!
Use whiteboards for children to think through their actions – planning a route for a child to draw out how the car can get along the road (arrows and write down the directions – worked much better!).
Super way to introduce loops and repeats – fits with music really well and children can see the point of introducing loops to repeat sections of their music. Put one repeat inside another and ask children to explain to a partner what they will hear before they test it. Can they predict what will happen?
Add the random number chooser in to the select instrument and the sounds will change on each play.
Import some loop sounds to show how they can be running underneath any other loops you are using.
Programme a button that you have drawn to play notes for a set number of beats, including decimals. Great for demonstrating that two tenths are smaller than five tenths! It sounds shorter – relate to a decimal number line.
Take actual music notation and provide a code so that children can convert notes to the numbers, show children that there is a difference between crochet and minims. Music notation is the algorithm that you can convert into a programme by decomposing the notation into pitch and timing and finding repeats.
Uses sensing and selection. Make sure children understand the if/=/then/ else. Show some real life examples (if I get a cold then I will start sneezing).
Use variable to create the score. Then model how the score changes (how the variable changes) by having a child hold a pot and put pens inside to represent the score. At the end the child says what the final score is by looking in the pot and counting the pens.
Use the forever loop to keep the slug moving permanently. Make it move more slowly by decreasing the number of steps it travels within the loop. Again, it is a great idea to model this physically with the children by reading out the blocks and moving across the floor.
A handy hint, to get the slug back off the edge of the screen, right-click on the sprite on the bottom of the screen and use ‘show’.
Draw lines using pen down – point out to children that it is more efficient to put the pen down before the loop starts. Ask chn to draw a background with a path for the slug to move along, code the slug so that it if touches the background colour (goes off the path) it makes a horrid noise and says ‘uh oh!’.
Overall, it was a super day. lots of information and practical hands on activities packed in. Clear ideas on progression and really clear modelling of exactly how to teach programming to children.