Programming — Session 4

According to Berry (2013) programming is the best way to introduce children to the world of computer science. It involves turning an idea into instructions that a computer can understand. These instructions are called algorithms. Algorithms are a sequence of instructions or a set of rules that are used for preforming a specific task.

‘The best way for pupils to learn what an algorithm is, and how it can be implemented as a program, is to write some programs themselves’ (Berry 2013, P7). It may sound confusing, however, there are several software’s that can be used to introduce pupils to programming.

What does the National Curriculum (NC 2013, P179) say?

In Key Stage 1 pupils should:

· ‘Understand what algorithms are; how they are implemented as programs on digital devices; and that programs execute by following precise and unambiguous instructions’

· ‘Create and debug simple programs’

· ‘Use logical reasoning to predict the behaviour of simple programs’

In Key Stage 2 pupils should:

· ‘Design, write and debug programs that accomplish specific goals, including controlling or simulating physical systems; solve problems by decomposing them into smaller parts’

· ‘Use sequence, selection, and repetition in programs, work with variables and various forms of input and output’

· ‘Use logical reasoning to explain how some simple algorithms work and to detect and correct errors in algorithms and programs’

Turtle Academy

Turtle Academy is a software that allows you to create shapes through entering basic algorithms.

Commands are abbreviated to help children quickly and accurately enter them, allowing them to focus on programming, rather than spellings. The basic commands include:

· Forward (FD)

· Back (BK)

· Right (RT)

· Left (LF)

When first using this software, I decided to start with a simple algorithm, moving the turtle forward then right 90 degrees four times to create a square.

This algorithm achieved what I wanted; it created a square. However, it was time consuming and easy to make mistakes. We, therefore, learnt ways in which we could produce this same outcome using simpler methods. Using both copy and paste as well as repeating commands I was able to create the same outcome with more efficiency.

I quickly became confident in using the software and was able to create an array of shapes and patterns using different algorithms.

‘Computational thinking is an important life skill, which all pupils now need to develop. It is central to both living in and understanding our digitally enriched world’ (Csizmadia et al. 2015, P16). Before using this program, I would have never thought I would be able to learn basic programming in such a short period of time! This lesson has given me the confidence that I will be able to successfully teach programming to a range of pupils.

Reference List

Berry, M. (2013) Computing in the national curriculum. Computing at School

Csizmadia, A., Curzon, P., Dorling, M., Humphreys, S., Ng, T., Selby, C. and Woollard, J. (2015). Computational thinking: A guide for teachers

Department for Education (2013), National Curriculum in England Key Stages 1 and 2, London: Department for Education