Even though programming is often seen as a computing element rather than a design and technology component, there are a lot of professions (mechanics, engineers, programmers) who use the key foundation skills that would have been learnt through a design and technology focus originally when they were at school. If we do not give children the opportunity to explore and experiment and learn key skills now, then we are doing them a disservice.
Apart from this vitally important aspect, we can also consider other advantages of contemplating exploring programming. We already have very little time within the primary school for teaching the wider foundation subjects, and when you start to look at programming there are a lot of opportunities for cross-curricular learning, some of which I wanted to share with you.
My year 2 design and technology subject specialists cover an element within their sessions on programming and control. We started with the simple Bee-Bots
(https://www.educationalappstore.com/app/bee-bot) and cars (which are also good for learning directional vocabulary). The students then went on to use a simple scratch (https://scratch.mit.edu/) style program, and were able to program a small robot, the ‘Oh-Bot’ (https://www.ohbot.co.uk/). This was in the early stages, but I think that as the students were familiar with the scratch software, it did not take them too long to get used to using it.
To develop this further, I booked a Lego Robotic session with a past colleague (Andy Hoang), who now runs his own business visiting schools and teaching Lego Robotics. This was an amazing session that Andy linked to science for us and the life cycle of a frog. The students hadn’t had any previous experience
of building and programming Lego, although the programming was again very similar to the Scratch software – which meant that the students were quick to pick it up.
Andy was very approachable with his teaching methods and let the students proceed at their own pace, and brought all the resources for the lesson. The students were fully immersed in the learning; they all developed their programming and then explored how they could transfer their newfound knowledge into the frog structure that they had designed and made from the Lego bricks.
All the groups were successful in making a frog image that moved around and made a noise.
On Andy’s website, www.beyondblocks.co.uk, he has many examples that you can see, including what my students and school children have made.
If you haven’t considered teaching robotics as it is quite an expensive kit for schools to buy, this is way of keeping the children up to date with programming technologies which can give them an insight into and greater understanding of the robotics of the future, while keeping the costs down.
You can find out more about Lego Robotics either from the website www.beyondblocks.co.uk, or by sending an email to Andy Hoang at email@example.com.