Helping Children Learn to Code

After School Think Big Coding Club

What is Think Big Coding Club?

Think Big Coding Club has been set up to help schools deliver coding lessons and to feed into the curriculum delivery of computer programmes of study.

One of the biggest overhauls of the national curriculum in 14 years came into effect on 1st September 2017, with information and communications technology (ICT) being replaced by a new computer science programme. As part of the new computing curriculum, coding will be taught in primary and secondary schools across England to children between the ages of five and 15, however, it seems as though someone has forgotten to tell the parents. A new study from Ocado Technology has revealed that two-thirds of parents with primary school children are oblivious to the new computing curriculum.


What is coding?

Coding, in the simplest of terms, is telling a computer what you want it to do, which involves typing in step-by-step commands for the computer to follow. Computers are not clever things, however, they are very obedient. They will do exactly what you want them to do, so long as you tell them how to do it correctly.

Learning to code has been likened to learning a foreign language, or perhaps more specifically, a whole range of foreign languages.

There are many different coding languages, each one designed with certain things in mind. Examples include C, a ‘low level’ but fast programming language that is good for anything graphically intensive like games; JavaScript, which was specifically designed for dealing with web content; and Perl, a multi-functional language that is often referred to as the ‘Swiss army knife’ of programming.

Why is coding important?

Code powers our digital world. Every website, smartphone app, computer programme, calculator and even microwave relies on code to operate. This makes coders the architects and builders of the digital age.

Over the next 10 years it is estimated that there will be 1.4 million jobs in computer sciences and only around 400,000 graduates qualified to do them. Jobs not directly linked to computer sciences – such as banking, medicine and journalism – will also be affected by the need for at least an understanding of programming and coding.

“Our kids should learn to bend, join, break and combine code in a way it wasn’t designed to. It’s a whole generation of kids that will use code like our generation used words.” (quote: Linda Liukas)

What we do

Computer code is a set of rules or instructions. It is made up of words and numbers and when you put them in the right order it will tell your computer what you want it to do. You can program lots of things with code.

There are 5 main things that can lead to an understanding of how coding works:

Abstraction: This is the process of removing things you don’t need. This is hugely important in computing to make your code as efficient as possible. Abstraction helps learners focus on what’s important.

Decomposition: Breaking things down into smaller parts is really useful when learning a new skill, spotting errors or making improvements. The same is true in computing. Decomposing challenges are a sure -fire way to better decision making.

Patterns: Patterns are in everything we do both on and offline. Being able to spot patterns, and use them to help you solve problems, is key to computing success. Being a great pattern spotter is also hugely beneficial for English, maths and science.

Algorithms: An algorithm is a precisely defined set of instructions for performing a task. An algorithm can be used in everyday life (instructions on how to bake a cake, for example) as well as in computing.

Logic: Logical reasoning helps us explain why something happens. Children learn this from an early age. So, during computer games, they may move a joystick or mouse left and right to make the onscreen character follow their movements. Logic is a key tool for making reasoned judgements.

The key coding elements for programming a computer are:

Sequencing – computers are powerful but not very intelligent. They will only do exactly as they are told, in the order they are told to do it.

Selection – This is when a computer programme asks a question to decide what to do next.

Input and output – Input and output devices allow us to get data into and out of a computer.

Repetition – When you put groups of repeated instructions into your code, instead of writing them out again and again, you can use repetition.

Think Big Coding Club: How it works

Our projects are easy to follow, with step-by-step guides to help young people learn Scratch, HTML & CSS, and Python by making games, animations, and websites. The projects gradually introduce coding concepts to allow young people to build their knowledge incrementally, which also means there’s no need for the adult running the session to be a computing expert.

Our club allows the child free choice (guided as necessary) of several things to do:

  1. Coding in Scratch projects on a laptop or desktop computer.
  2. Adjusting and playing games in Scratch
  3. Producing new ideas of their own in Scratch
  4. Using our Micro:bits to follow coding projects
  5. Using Raspberry Pi’s to create projects
  6. Using the Anki Cozmo to interact and learn to programme it.

We also use question and answer sessions to introduce and explain concepts such as binary numbers and algorithms.

We do not teach…we help teachers teach. We are merely there to answer questions in a way that allows the children to come up with their own answers and try them out. We will, of course, introduce them to the necessary tools and commands to use the software packages and equipment safely.

As well as Coding Club we can supply assistants to help your teachers teach code and coding methods.  All our staff are DBS checked.


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