Following on from last month’s blog, we continue to examine the Digital Competence Framework (DCF). In this article, we'll take a close look at each of the statements linked to computing, what they mean, and how to meet each statement through meaningful and effective learning experiences.
This statement follows the Year 2 statement explaining a solution. The example here is the order of waking up and getting ready for school. In year 3 we move away from simply understanding an algorithm in a concrete physical way to more abstract methods such as a diagram or flowchart. Flowcharts are used extensively throughout computer science and developing children’s understanding of them will greatly benefit them throughout the Science and Technology AOLE. Any familiar process can be represented this way (preparing food, brushing teeth, getting dressed, etc.). Performing this as a whole class and physically moving through a large flowchart will help before creating smaller flowcharts on paper or screens. Exposure to many different flowcharts will help, and above all, make it fun!
Debugging can be one of the most stressful sides of computing, especially if children are trying to debug their own code. As they are emotionally attached to their code, any errors reflect on them and debugging can be a frustrating experience if they haven’t developed the understanding that making mistakes and deliberately trying to break their code is an essential part of computer science. So, it is essential that children learn to debug with instructions/code given to them. Enabling them to approach it dispassionately and objectively. It can also be incredibly fun, especially when the mistakes result in something hilarious happening (see ‘My Robot Pal’). The process of modelling is important here, as a teacher modelling making mistakes and responding to them positively is essential and will help develop resilience in learners. Also, teaching a systematic approach to de-bugging will give children strategies that they can rely on, rather than trying to fix errors in a haphazard manner. This will also translate to being more effective problem solvers in other aspects of the curriculum.
First, it’s crucial to get children to realise why it is important to be able to identify repetition in a sequence. Getting them to draw, or write, or act out something long and repetitive will help them realise that it will save time and energy. Then giving them songs, poems, instructions, etc. where they can then identify the sections that repeat and representing them in a shortened manner, will demonstrate the skills of abstraction (removing unnecessary detail).
Moving on from identifying loops and repetition in Year 3, in Year 4, children use loops to solve a problem. For example, when preparing a meal for one person, how would this repeat for four people? Drawing pictures using logos or hand drawing, which elements could be repeated (when drawing regular shapes such as squares or rectangles, etc.).
This combines the Year 3 elements. Again, children move on from simply understanding flowcharts to applying them to a real-life situation. In this case, the sequence of traffic lights. In mathematics, a variable is a quantity that may change, in this case, the time that a light is on or off. In computing, a variable is a way of storing information that can then be changed. This can be as text, integers, or decimal numbers, which are also called floats.
When discussing this statement with teachers, they often get put off by the technical language, but it’s important to get past these terms but to also use them with the children. An algorithm is a sequence of instructions and a Boolean value is one that is either yes or no, or, true or false. This allows sequences to take multiple routes and to not be purely linear. For example, when making a cup of tea, do you add sugar or milk? Sharing such examples with children will allow them to create their own in much more meaningful contexts (there are only so many cups of tea and jam sandwiches you can make!). The game ‘Guess Who?’, offers simple and visual ways of using flowcharts, including Boolean values. This also offers the opportunity to differentiate by simply recording it orally, then on a written flowchart, to recording the sequence of questions in a programming language, such as Scratch or Python.
The first word ‘demonstrate’ means that the children need to understand how algorithms work and can identify examples and discuss how these examples work. Hopefully, they can recall examples from previous years and discuss why they are followed precisely, why this needs to be the case and what happens when they are not.
Again, ‘demonstrate’ suggests that the children have a deep enough understanding to be able to talk through how algorithms work, understanding that element of step-by-step instruction. As they have spent time learning about loops and branching flow diagrams (due to Boolean values), they can discuss that the ‘testing’ element allows them to model a variety of outcomes. Classroom examples could include creating rules for a class game, reducing litter in the playground or how to solve a reasoning problem in mathematics.
This statement, again, suggests a depth of understanding. It also encourages children to tinker with their algorithms. This would be easiest accomplished using a code like Scratch, so children can manipulate it repeatedly. There is an element of tinkering to this statement. Getting children to move beyond what they are taught and to develop their own understanding.
Often in primary schools, the ‘unexpected outcomes’ are a far more valuable learning experience than anything pre-planned. This is where the children take true ownership of their learning. Surely, that is the aim of any lesson.
by Steve Lewis
Pencoed based Sony UK TEC are joining members of the public in remembering and celebrating the lives of family members, friends, and loved ones who have been tragically lost over the last 18 months by supporting the City Hospice Forever Flowers campaign.