Getting Started with Code

“Early Learning Goal: Technology. Children recognise that a range of technology is used in places such as homes and schools. They select and use technology for particular purposes.”

Early Years Outcomes, 2016

The Early Learning Goal for Technology is limited in Early Years Outcomes and often practitioners feel lost at developing this area of learning. What we forget when reading the Early Learning Goal for technology, is that our curriculum is best taught cross-curricularly. The technology goal is a prompt to make us consider how best to teach technology skills through other areas of learning; just like we do with English and Maths!

The real problem is, what are these links to other areas?

First, you need to decide which part of the Early Learning Goal we are trying to teach. Do you want children to use technology to enhance other skills (by using video, animation, photography, audio recording etc.) or do you want to teach computational thinking skills which will lead in to programming, problem solving and algorithms? Most likely, we sway towards multi-media skills because we are more confident with that than we are with code! But we really should put more emphasis on coding across our curriculum as the Technology strand will lead in to this area in Key Stage 1.

Computational Thinking.

Computational thinking is an approach to problem solving that teaches children to work through a task in the way that a computer would. Elements of computational thinking include (but are not exclusive to):

  • sequencing
  • pattern spotting
  • giving instructions
  • writing ideas down

When computational thinking is described as those 4 elements, suddenly we feel more confident as early years practitioners. They are 4 things that we already do so well across the curriculum – we can all think of a time when children spot patterns, give instructions, sequence events or stories. So all we need to do now are relate these experiences back to Technology and that’s how children can get started with code. The clip below shows how story mapping supports computational thinking:

Get Started with Code.

To help you make these links, there is a free teacher guide called Get Started with Code available to download from the iBooks Store right now. Get Started with Code is the beginning of a coding curriculum which spans from the early years right through to higher education.

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The Everyone Can Code curriculum is free at all stages and teaches children to read and write Swift code. At any age or stage, children and students can start learning Swift code without any prior knowledge, at the age or stage that is appropriate for them. So a College student could start the Everyone Can Code curriculum at their age and stage without any prior knowledge. A Year 6 child could start the Everyone Can Code curriculum from their age and stage without any prior knowledge. And for those students with prior knowledge, they can also continue to develop their understanding from the curriculum also. From what I know, this is the only coding curriculum which supports learning at all ages and stages of development! Find our more about Everyone Can Code here.

What do you need?

You need to download the free teacher guides to your iPad. The guides explain the other apps you will need to download to teach the lessons. You will definitely need these:

  • Tynker
  • CodeSpark Academy
  • Keynote

These 3 apps are also all free. The entire curriculum is planned and resourced for you, for free.

The guides are clear, simple and well structured. All of the resources are contained within the book as download links and there are pop-ups along the way to explain concepts and give you tips and tricks. Each lesson also comes with the slides for your classroom screen or projector (and these can be edited). You’re also given the solutions to the puzzles in the Tynker and CodeSpark Academy apps.

Click the book covers below to download the guides

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Links to Computational Thinking.

It’s obvious that these lessons are designed to teach children how to read and write Swift code using blocks in Tynker. But what about those computational thinking skills I described? Each lesson contains 1 or 2 activities for the first half of the lesson which are off-screen. These are practical activities designed to build language skills for coding and understand concepts in coding. These are where you can make great cross-curricular links to other areas of learning.

Crazy Dance.

The clip above is an example of one activity from the early lessons in the Get Started with Code 1 teacher guide. It’s one of my favourites as it links to physical development. Crazy Dance is a Keynote file with different dance commands on each slide. Children select the commands they like and delete the others. They then play their presentation, learn their steps and teach each other their crazy dance. This links to computational thinking by sequencing, giving instructions and spotting patterns (when they repeat their dance several times over).

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Our Plan.

We intend to take these practical activities out of the Get Started with Code curriculum over the Autumn and Spring term and use them where they best fit in our day-to-day learning. We would use Crazy Dance as a warm up in our dance unit of work for ‘What Happens When The Sun Goes Down?’ learning in Autumn Term 2. Even though the focus is dance, we will make these links to computational thinking throughout the warm up.

In the summer term, when children are ready to start the Get Started with Code curriculum, I will teach the lessons from the guide including these activities. This means that children have already experienced the activities in real-world problem solving examples and have listened to the language of computational thinking all year. So when it comes to the move to the Tynker app to apply these skills to coding, it shouldn’t be too far of a jump for them (or me) either.

First Experiences with Get Started with Code.

This summer term I have been using the curriculum with my Foundation class as well as with Year 1 and 2. Foundation experienced ‘Get Started with Code 1’ lessons and Year 1 and 2 used the ‘Get Started with Code 2’ lessons.

The practical activities are very well designed and clearly linked to other areas of the curriculum as well as technology. What’s more, is that they also develop those multi-media skills of photography, video, audio recording. So through these activities you are providing for the Early Learning Goal by teaching across all aspects of technology across other areas of learning.

A few more tips.

When children use the Tynker app to apply computational thinking to real coding, here are some things that I found effective:

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Record the instructions for every day tasks in an agreed symbol or written system that looks like code (this is called pseudocode)

Talk about the language of English for instructions and the language of Swift for reading and writing code. Make comparisons between the two languages when using Tynker.

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