Quick look: Literacy from Scratch

Scratch ProjectIf you’re concerned that young children won’t be able to grasp computing concepts, or are worried about how you’re going to teach it, have a look around the Literacy from Scratch website.

Managed – and, I think, written by – Lawrence Williams, the  website contains examples of pupils’ work in Scratch, cross-curricular ideas and examples, and notes on pedagogy.

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Review of J2Code

j2code 6As usual, I gave this application a workout without seeking help from a manual or anything like that – which is just as well because there does not seem to be a comprehensive manual.

There are three applications in one: JIT5, LOGO and Visual. This is quite useful because if you are familiar with LOGO but not JavaScript, you can start pupils coding in an environment that is familiar to you. Also, if you teach very young children, JIT5 is highly visual and colourful.

An advantage of J2Code as a whole over 2Code is that it covers the age range from Key Stage 1 (5-6 year olds) to Key Stage 3 (13-14 year olds).

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Coding is not debugging

Sometimes I am not quite sure whether a statement is obvious or not obvious at all. In such cases I try to take the view that if it was that obvious, I wouldn’t need to comment at all. Take the statement “Coding is not debugging”. Of course it isn’t. But to read what some people have written you could be forgiven for thinking that an ability to write good code automatically confers the ability to be good at debugging. Well, like the old Porgy and Bess song has it, it ain’t necessarily so.
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My analogue program

Absolute and comparative advantage bookWhen, on my teacher training course, I was told I had create a resource to be used in school, I thought it would be fun to devise a programmed learning guide to the economic concepts of absolute and comparative advantages. Unfortunately, that was in 1974. Word processors were not yet ubiquitous, and home computers had not yet been invented. That came a year or two later. In any case, when I finally did get my hands on a word processor, courtesy of a friend of mine on my MA course, it was slo-o-o-o-o-w.
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A self-marking spreadsheet

I like a challenge so I thought I’d try to create a self-marking spreadsheet in Excel. (Look, some men like fast cars, some like sport, and some like womanising. Me? I like spreadsheets. OK?)

 

I was inspired to have a go at this by someone called Lee Rymill, who uploaded a self-marking spreadsheet to the CAS resources area. However, I wanted to take it a few steps further…

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ICT Lessons and internet privacy

Privacy keyboardWhatever you think of the current debate over news that the US Government may have been monitoring the online activity of not only its own citizens but those of other countries too, you have to admit one thing. It provides a great opportunity for ICT teachers everywhere to bring some real-world issues into their lessons, in a very newsy (ie current) way.
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Why not experiment when teaching ICT?

1953_beakersIt’s amazing what you can achieve with a paintbrush and a fork. Yesterday morning I watched in helpless horror as the lid of something fell down the plug hole in the bathroom sink. I could see it, just about, using the flashlight app on my smartphone (I knew there was more to smartphones than just being connected), but couldn’t reach it.
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Computer help is not always helpful

Help PointIt’s very tempting to try to make life as easy as possible for end users by being proactive, ie anticipating what is likely to be useful to them, and then implementing that as a default option (or possibly not even an option, but compulsory).

Perhaps some of your students will be tempted, when designing a computer program for use by non-technical people, to make it as ‘proactively helpful’ as possible. If so, they should beware. A good idea would be to undertake some market research, if only of a rudimentary nature, to avoid the pitfall of merely annoying people.

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What is Both good and original in the world of educational technology?

... No!NO!NOOOO!When a young man with dreams of becoming a writer sent a manuscript to Samuel Johnson for his opinion, Dr Johnson is reputed to have replied:

“My congratulations to you, Sir. Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.”

I thought it might be interesting to look at 10 ideas that have gained popularity in the world of educational technology and ICT in recent years, to see if they meet the “good and original" test”. Here are my considered, though possibly opinionated, views.

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Computer programming and the trouble with collective nostalgia

cameramanLord Puttnam said something every interesting at an E-Learning Foundation Conference. Having been a film producer, he said that up to about ten years ago, to be a successful cinematographer you had to be able to take a camera apart and put it together. Now, none of those sort of skills  are required: you need a whole different set of skills in order to find employment in that occupation.

I believe a similar thing is true in the realm of “digital education”. Almost nobody needs a gasp of computer programming, and even fewer need to know how computers actually work.

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