Designing the Craft Computer Course

Craft Computer: Learning about Computing for ages 5-7

In September 2014 the National Curriculum will contain a compulsory Computing syllabus. From age 5 upwards!

As a Computer Scientist with a 5 year old daughter I was keen to find out what they are going to teach 5 year olds. I can understand 8 year olds onwards that can read and write learning some programming.

But aged 5? What would the syllabus look like for them?

Well, this is it. In Summary, as of next year if you’ve a 5-7 year old this is what they will have to learn:

  1. Algorithms: understand what they are and how they are implemented
  2. Programs: create and debug simple programs, using logic to predict their behaviour
  3. Digital Content: how to use technology to create, manipulate and store content
  4. Privacy and Respect: using technology in positive ways and who to alert when unsure
  5. Beyond the school: learn how we use technology in our world
It’s incredibly ambitious and my first reaction was top marks for the educational teams and politicians that pushed this through. It’s nothing short of a revolution and one that we need if we’re to fill that estimated 144 million tech jobs by 2020.
My second thought was how on earth do we teach this to 5 year olds?

Luckily, I have a 5 year old around the house so I sat down to design the material by watching what she likes to do. Which is pretty much anything craft related: drawing, colouring, cutting, gluing.

So the Craft Computer was devised as a way to create something tangible we could use to build our sessions around and it looks like this:

The Craft Computer Cube
The Craft Computer Cube

Looking at the KS1 syllabus it is, in a nutshell, about understanding Algorithms, Programs, Debugging, Files, Sharing and Safety. So we start with making our own computer and build upwards which guarantees we’re  on a solid foundation.

Our sessions run along these lines:

  1. Let’s build our little craft computer, it’s a card cube template, which each child gets to cut out, and glue together
  2. We then learn about the main components inside a computer by putting in the Brain (CPU),  Memory and Storage
  3. Next we talk about how computers aren’t clever, they’re quite dumb really, it’s you that makes it clever by writing programs
  4. Pixel Art – We use big paper punch cards to learn about files and how computers like numbers
  5. Internet – We then link our little craft computers together with sparkly pipe cleaners (it’s important they are sparkly!)
  6. File sharing – we swap our little pixel art files along our networks and this gives us the chance to talk about the internet
  7. Algorithms – we play a little game as a group which teaches children what algorithms are and what debugging is

Quite often, one of these little sections will take a diversion or overrun so they are very fluid.

At the very least, the children come away knowing what computers are, what’s inside them and that programs are what makes them clever.

They also get to put googly eyes on them!

If you want a copy of the materials we’ve made just drop me an email on dan@inpractice.org or tweet me @danfbridge.

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