Laura G

Blogging for ICT

Learning to teach or teaching to learn – computer programming in initial teacher education?

on March 21, 2013

Discuss the benefits (or lack thereof) of computer programming initiatives such as Scratch in the Classroom to develop the personal and professional attributes of students in initial teacher education? 

Planning & preparation (lesson notes, objectives, resource materials, creativity & originality)

  • It is very much about planning for active involvement. You cannot expect children to sit and watch you doing something on the computer. They have to be actively involved at all times, and teacher talk needs to be kept to a minimum. This is imperative for this kind of subject, but it would get you thinking about how to reduce teacher talk in general subjects as well.
    Planning needs to include examples of work from the teacher, a “here’s one I made earlier”. That way it is setting an aim for the lesson, helps to plan the lesson in a certain order so that each part of the lesson builds on the next, all the while with the children knowing what they are aiming to have as their end product. This is a method that can be applied to other subjects also, having a clear outcome to work towards in an active manner.Classroom management (communication, scanning, praise, positive cueing, opportunities for group work/pair work, maximising pupil engagement)

     

  • It is difficult to monitor all the work of the children at all times with computers. However, I found that if you keep them busy enough and give them a task challenging enough and on something they are interested in, they will remain on task and not go browsing online etc.
  • In order to monitor their progress, it is necessary to set a task to them and allow them to work on it as you go around the class to see what they are doing and where they are having difficulty.
  • Pair and group work plays a vital role in the lesson, as they collaborate to come up with ideas and solutions to problems
  • Children are more likely to stay on task for computer coding lessons as it seems to be something they are interested in without being forced. For example, even children with ADHD seemed to be more on task. This provides a lesson to the teacher, that ICT helps children to focus in school. It should be used as a learning aid. Just as pictures may have been used in the past. ICT is the learning aid of the future to the new generation of children to maximise engagement.

    Teaching and learning strategies (lesson structure, pacing, subject knowledge, questioning, consolidation of learning, pupil-centred learning) 
  • By eliciting from the children what they should do next, it is getting them into the frame of mind of how to work computer programming. Get used to the type of questions they should be asking themselves about how to go about doing something, to get in touch with the logic of the programme. This will cause them to eventually become independent with their interaction with the programme.
  • Consolidation of learning takes place in the form of setting a challenge of creating a sprite creation involving all the skills taught in the lesson as well as prior lessons, so allow for revision and practice from other lessons, nothing is learned without purpose. Everything builds on the next thing.
  • Pupil centred lesson at all times. The lesson is pitched at the pupil’s level of learning and interests. The coding is built around what they like, so learning is not a chore. It is something that they want to do, for example, bring their Sprite to life in a theme of something they are interested in. The children are actively engaged at all times in the lesson, the longest they go idle is about 30 seconds for teacher talk, and then proceed to elicit from the children what needs to be done next.

    Assessment & evaluation (appropriateness of lesson objectives, reflection, lesson consolidation)
     
  • A lesson progresses at fluctuating levels, it is difficult to guess how fast they will pick up each element. Sometimes something you think might take them 5 minutes might take half an hour, and vice versa. Lesson objectives need to be simple and short, but each building on the previous one. As previously stated, each objective should be working towards and overall aim, so that at the end of each lesson every new element learned works together to create a completed project. That way they children feel they have achieved something functional.
  • The children are assessed in their challenge at the end of the lesson, starting from a blank Scratch file to apply all skills learned. This involved reflecting on the lesson as a whole and seeing it from a new perspective in isolation. This should also take place at the start of a lesson to ensure that everything learned from the lesson before has been learned before moving on.

    Personal qualities & professionalism (motivation, diligence, rapport with pupils, pupil-teacher interactions)
     
  • As a teacher of Scratch, like any other subject, the teacher needs to be full of enthusiasm about the subject. Being careful about how you word things regarding Scratch also help. For example, referring to coding etc too early could put children off as they may think it is too difficult to attempt.
  • You also need to know what the children are interested in in order to build the lessons around them, hence a rapport is required.
  • Scratch isn’t something that you can look up the night before and be able to teach flawlessly. A teacher needs to have plenty of practice with not only the programme, but also be able to deal with minor computer problems as they arise, as chances are with that many laptops in the room, there will be problems. When there are problems, you need to be able to deal with them swiftly so that the lesson can continue, as computers are scarce and when it is already 2 or 3 children to each computer, you need to keep as many computers functioning as possible.
  • You also need to be adept in the programme, so that you are not holding the children back because of your lack of knowledge. There will be children who will be adding in additional items to what you have already shown them. Telling them to try to work it out for themselves only goes so far, as then when they do attempt and possibly still have questions as to how to do it better, you need to be able to guide them as much as you can.
  • Interaction with the pupils involves treating them like professional working with their computer coding. Take each thing they create seriously, as it takes quite an amount of coding, even if it is to move from left to right.
  • Praise, then follow up with an additional challenge to improve on what they have already, to get them into the habit of constantly adding more.
  • Each of the children will be doing something entirely individual and unique, requiring feedback to match
  • Best bet is so save to the Scratch class website, that way everyone can have feedback on their work and see everyone else’s work. And then the teacher gets to go through them all in their own time to see their progress.

To conclude, teaching Scratch and coding in schools is a futuristic style of teaching. In the course of our careers, we will more than likely witness the crossover from books to using computers full time in schools. Teaching computers is very different from teaching other subjects, as you have to think of different elements. It is keeping with the times. Children now are far different from when we were in school. Evolution in the computer age will result in their brains different, which will result in them requiring being taught in a different way from methods that worked well ten years ago.

Also, it was worth thinking about how using computers would be useful for children with SENs, such as ADHD, as I saw in my limited experience in the classroom what a difference it meant to put a computer as their point of focus. These children need this to keep them occupied in a way that suits them in all lessons.

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