Exploratory Coding

[Note – this is my first #28daysofwriting post (1 day late starting!) and I only have 21 minutes left…apologies for the potential brevity and lack of focus.]

This afternoon, my Year 6 class and I explored the third session in our current Computing progression of learning. We are artists is our current unit which, adapted from the Rising Stars Computing scheme of work, involves using a range of programs to create artwork. Fusing geometry and coding is the theme flowing throughout our topic and the children are investigating the potential benefits of using digital tools to present artistic ideas.

Having already explored Inkscape to design tessellating patterns, today we moved on to designing Mayan inspired art using Scratch. As with most Computing lessons where ‘new’ pieces of software are introduced (the children have used Scratch before, but required some time to ‘get used’ to the tools available again), I began the session with a ‘five minute madness’ recap. This involved giving the children a set amount of time to explore, play and investigate the software with the freedom to create anything they liked.

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Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chelotic/

Within minutes, the children had changed their sprite, edited their backgrounds and developed a range of algorithms to make their sprite achieve a range of different outcomes. This activity very naturally led to a range of discussions about how different scripts could be utilised to produce pieces of art. The pen script then spread across the class like wildfire and towards the end of the five minutes, the group had begun their own pieces of art.Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 20.03.48

After a couple of plenaries to raise questions, provoke thinking and direct pupils attention to specific scripts that would help them achieve aesthetically pleasing art and effective (debugged) algorithms, I modelled how the ‘repeat’ control script can be used to loop the creation of shapes and achieve a pattern. Teacher modelling of skills in my classroom rarely receives applause from my class. However, after modelling an example algorithm to a group of children in order to support their developing programming skills, an applause spread around the classroom. It was fantastic.

The power of Computing to inspire young people is huge and during this session it became clear that through exploring new skills and concepts in coding, children’s imaginations can be fuelled. Certainly, my class were excited and engaged to be learning genuinely new skills and understanding (something that sadly can be lost at some points in Year 6… this could lead to an entirely different blog post later this week). My class, I hope, are coming to realise the endless potential that Computing can offer. In terms of its potential to open, rich learning opportunities, I certainly am.

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