What is a MakerSpace.
I was interested in MakerSpaces because of their strong links to Foundation Stage best practise. It’s a place in school where children use sets of resources to work on projects related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic skills. Children design on their own projects or respond to challenges. I wanted to see how best practises and resources from Foundation can be extended to support learning further up school. For the Year 4 teachers, they wanted to see how our new range of iPad compatible robots can be used in their coding curriculum.
For this MakerSpace I was joined by Jason Milner. Jason is an Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) from Sydney, Australia. Throughout July he visited other ADE schools across Europe and today we collaborated on this project at my school. Jason wanted to gain experience using iPad compatible robots and also observe the impact that wrapping code around the curriculum may improve the way in which children apply mathematic skills.
Monday 4th July was the day I had been waiting for since February. Apple Distinguished Educator, Jason Milner a Year 4 teacher from Sydney, visited my school to work with me on a MakerSpace project we had been planning for months.
What is a MakerSpace?
I was particularly interested in this concept of MakerSpaces because of the strong links to Foundation Stage style practice. It’s a place in your school or setting where children use open-ended resources or work on projects related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic skills. Children work on their own projects or respond to challenges set. I wanted to see how best practices and resources from Foundation can be extended to support learning in computing and programming skills. Jason also wanted to gain experience using our Dash robots with Foundation Stage children.
Coding in the Early Years is something that I have been tinkering with since the new primary curriculum became statutory. I’ve planned unplugged computing strategies which support the later use of BeeBots and practised skills on a suite of iPad apps designed to apply this skill of coding.
This year I’ve been lucky enough to get our hands on Dash robots that connect to our class iPads via Bluetooth. This robots have a suite of apps which progress from early control skills (like a remote controlled car) through to Scratch-like coding blocks that support the Year 6 objectives.
This term our learning has been investigating “what happens when the sun goes down”. One of the earliest observations is that it gets dark much earlier and the moon comes up. With this comes the need for light to see in the dark so out comes our tents, black bed sheets and den building. In our dark spaces we play with torches and light sources. In terms of technology learning in Early Years Outcomes, this play links to the switching on and off of light sources & looking at batteries.
We wanted to take this early technological learning a little deeper, and closer to a modern home. We made use of two different Bluetooth controlled devices in our dark spaces. This activity is all about controlling light sources as a connected device, getting a device to respond to instructions on an app.
At the end of September a huge travelling fair arrives in our city, a 700 year old event which expands year on year. It’s the Goose Fair. There isn’t a school in our region that would ignore it and in true Early Years style, it’s a great opportunity to cash in on some great learning and play opportunities!
This year we are using Dash and Dot robots from MakeWonder as part of our coding curriculum. They fit perfectly in to a classroom with just a few iPads and bring coding to life as children control Dash and Dot from a suite of apps produced by MakeWonder.
The apps for Dash and Dot follow a clear progression in skills and with as this was our first experience coding and controlling, we started with the first app in the collection: “Go”.
Think remote controlled car… The app connects to Dash over Bluetooth and the user steers Dash from the iPad screen. There’s options to send sounds to Dash from the app and even record your own sounds to play over Dash’s speakers. The colours on Dash’s body can also be changed and flashed from the app. It’s that perfect app to teach children early control skills and introduce direction language.
What’s more, Dash and Dot come with ‘building brick connectors’ that can be attached to the sides and head of the robot allowing Lego to be built on to them.
This Spring Term I was invited to work with staff at Heymann School, Nottinghamshire, who were preparing for Science Technology project. My role was to share and support in ways their early years pupils could engage with coding and control skills.
I champion a place for unplugged computing in the curriculum as it secures language, vocabulary, children’s internal decision making, recording and visualising their own inner-computing.
The autumn term has been a long but rewarding one for me. A new job has been the challenge that I was looking for and I am settled in to a new school and a new role. Each week has passed with a new set of achievements and the role has been fast paced, but progress is being made at an astonishing rate!
One focus for me, as for many of us, is implementing a new computing curriculum for the school. As an early years teacher I am keen to include the foundation stage within the primary curriculum planning phase and make stronger links between the two curriculums.
This may be an easier process for other curriculum areas, but within the ‘technology’ strand in Early Years Outcomes and the new computing curriculum for key stage 1, it seems to be a little more vague.
This has been a busy week to say the least! Not only am I preparing to move schools, I have been at 3 CPD events in two days and the new primary curriculum has been released (almost).
The 3 events were Computing at Schools (NTU Hub), TeachMeet Nottingham and The Festival of Innovation. At all 3 events I was involved in running workshops, but it was good to spend time listening to others and finding about about computing and programming. My good friend Peter Bevington (@PeteBevington) has great ideas for a new primary curriculum which he has already started embedding so do get in touch with him for your long term ICT plans!
Meeting other teachers is also great and that’s how I pick up new ideas. So here’s my favourite three Apps for programming on the iPad (the 4th being BeeBot which we all know and love). By the way, these are all FREE on AppStore!