I just wanted to share something I found today that really surprised me.
The map shows the locations from which our Craft Computer Kit has been viewed or downloaded. Incredibly, it’s been viewed from every continent – according to Google Analytics, not convinced about Antarctica yet! The darker the blue the more it has been downloaded.
Understandably, the UK and US are the darkest but I’m really pleased to see lots from South America. Having spent a few months in Peru I know first hand how useful good education is. It would be great to see Africa showing up and we’ve some plans to help there.
We designed the Craft Computer kit to help teach children Computational Thinking for ages 5-7 and 7-9 and the response has been terrific. I’m currently in my 3rd week of teaching a Computing lunchtime class with it and the kids love it – Week 1 Notes.
For the past two weeks I’ve been teaching, in a South Wales primary school, a year 2 girls only lunchtime computing class (they’re mainly 6-7 years old – here’s the reason why girls only) and I’ve been using the Craft Computer PDF kit I made [you can download it here]. The material is based on the English KS1 National Curriculum – Wales is in the process of creating its own syllabus but I personally think the English is great, an immense achievement really, so we’re using that.
As a quick gauge of how it’s going, the class is purely voluntary, parent’s have to sign a consent letter. The first week I had 14 girls and yesterday I had 5 new ones asking if could they join in! A big nod must go to their parents for agreeing and thinking it a worthwhile thing for them to learn.
The craft approach was used for the following reasons (some more sound pedagogical reasons are in the above posts!):
I wasn’t sure what resources the class would have – turns out it was 2 computers for 30 children!
Everyone loves to make things, especially with paper, card scissors and glue – this is especially true of children
While hands and eyes are busy making something, young minds listen without knowing they’re concentrating quite hard i.e. it’s fun
It gives everyone a simple, tangible, foundation upon which we can build throughout a series of lessons.
Lesson 1 – building the computer
My name is Dan and I’m a programer. My job is programming computers, does anyone know what a programmer is?
For our first lesson I started by introducing myself as a ‘programmer’ and asked if anyone knew what that was. Turns out a few of them did and this blew me away! So we did a little q&a around what ‘programming’ was, how computers aren’t really clever and that they are the clever ones by being able to ‘instruct/make’ the computer to do something. I then asked them
What things can you do with a computer?
This is a great question, as they’ll give you a ton of applications which you can use as solid examples later on such as: games, watch videos, write letters, draw pictures, make music, send photos, etc. This is a great area to expand into technology outside of school and digital safety/literacy later on.But for now, we’re interested in the nuts and bolts of what’s going on inside the machine.
We use the children’s examples to reinforce the idea that with a computer you can pretty much do anything, it’s a tool to help you build, model and create to understand things.
Once I felt they were comfortable with the notion of computers as tool, I asked them if they knew what might be inside that could do all these things?
What do you think is inside a computer?
This is where you get to hear lots of amazing and funny answers: lightning, electricity, batteries, pictures, tiny wheels! At this point I ask them who wants to build a computer and see what’s inside and naturally you get a room full of excited children. Awesome!
We then decamp to the craft tables where each child has a pair of scissors, some glue and the craft computer templates – which looks like this!
Once they’ve cut out their templates we then talk about the the 3 main parts of the computer: the cpu, the memory and the storage. I tend to use a lot of brain/memory analogies which is a little fuzzy (i.e. our brains are a mixture) but it works well enough.
The main aspects we focus on are:
The CPU is where all the logical thinking is done
The memory it puts its list of instructions when it does something e.g. programs
The files (storage) is where the computer writes everything down so it can remember things for next time when it’s turned off.
We finished with recapping the main points of what computers can do, how they do it (i.e. programs) and what’s inside.
Next week: Files and how computers store information. (We did this yesterday so I’ll write this up over the weekend!)
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:
Algorithms: understand what they are and how they are implemented
Programs: create and debug simple programs, using logic to predict their behaviour
Digital Content: how to use technology to create, manipulate and store content
Privacy and Respect: using technology in positive ways and who to alert when unsure
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:
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:
Let’s build our little craft computer, it’s a card cube template, which each child gets to cut out, and glue together
We then learn about the main components inside a computer by putting in the Brain (CPU), Memory and Storage
Next we talk about how computers aren’t clever, they’re quite dumb really, it’s you that makes it clever by writing programs
Pixel Art – We use big paper punch cards to learn about files and how computers like numbers
Internet – We then link our little craft computers together with sparkly pipe cleaners (it’s important they are sparkly!)
File sharing – we swap our little pixel art files along our networks and this gives us the chance to talk about the internet
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.
We’ve designed it as a PDF craft computer pack for teaching children core computing ideas without the need for any computers or tablets! All you’ll need is a printer, safety scissors and glue – oh and some pipe cleaners or string if you’d like to network your Craft Computers 🙂
Here’s the write up from our first test run with it:
When teaching children we wanted to start at the beginning, before programming, with something tangible, something they could handle and own. There is a strong urge with Computing to dive straight into programming which is the obvious goal but we have found it valuable to have it supported by a solid physical understanding through play and craft.
Children love to create, especially with paper and glue so that’s how we came up with the Craft Computer. As cross-curricular addition it also involves teamwork, hand eye coordination and maths transformation (2D to 3D).
The kit contains:
some components (MEMORY, CPU, FILES) which we use to teach the children some simple fundamentals on how computers work.
Pixel files – we use these as a fun colouring in task to show how computers use numbers to represent things like colours
Program Punch cards – we use these to draw simple “programs” on
Using the Craft Computer Kit you can create your own craft computers which you can give to a whole class with just an A4 printer.
Anyway, that’s enough rambling, here’s the Craft Computer PDF file*:
This was a dry run for our Primary school pilot in September. Our main goal was to test drive the material we have developed especially the craft computer based approach we’ve decided upon. We wanted to check we are going in the right direction, as when we first looked at the syllabus, our first reaction was …
How do we teach this to five year olds?
Luckily, I have one knocking around the house so I sat down to design material for teaching computing to her. I started looking at digital material but then two things dawned on me.
The first was that I can’t guarantee our locations will have computers or an Internet connection. That’s a bit of a snag.
The second came more by accident because my kitchen table looks like this:
Watching my daughter sit at the table was a revelation. Everything she learns at the moment is done by making – or breaking – something. This shouldn’t have been a revelation. I was a kid once and that’s exactly what I did.
This is also how I learned to program. Although I have a Computer Science degree I’d say the vast majority of what I have learned, I learned by hacking/breaking/fixing/making things.
I dimly recall that some bloke called Aristotle once said that
what we learn to do, we learn by doing… and that the way to do the computing is by building a craft computer
The last part of that might be paraphrased slightly.
Anyway, that’s how we decided on the Craft Computer approach. Looking at the KS1 syllabus it is, in a nutshell, about understanding Algorithms, Programs, Debugging, Files, Sharing and Safety. If we start with a computer and build upwards we should be on a solid foundation.
This is where we got a little ambitious. We wanted to devise material that would let us teach the entire syllabus, at least in overview. In order for us to do that we need a starting point and that starting point is our Craft Computer.
The Craft Computer
The Craft Computer is a cube template that we designed to be printed on a double-sided sheet of A4.
This was an important part of our design brief
to create something that anyone with a printer could download, share and learn from
and they could do this anywhere .
This little craft computer is the basis for all the work we’ll do with the KS1 syllabus – although we will supplement it with some role play games and online activities too.
The kids loved it. They loved customising their computers with googly eyes and lips!
I’ll write up a more technical i.e. useful view of the material we covered, the response, the recall rates following the club but for now I can say the Craft Computer approach is definitely a fun and effective way to engage with our young generation of technologists.