Sharing thoughts and ideas about teaching computing in school
I wish to share with you some of my plans for a national competition to help children in the UK have an experience of computer programming. I accept that this is just one small aspect of the discipline of computational thinking – but we have to start somewhere!
Here is my proposal. I have already had assurances that the competition is being supported by people within the UK games, software and entertainment industry – see my previous blog.
A competition aimed at UK children aged 7 – 14 years old. There should as few barriers as possible for children to access the competition materials.
Although the competition could be easily used within a school lesson, a lunchtime or after school club, there are many othr environments in which it could be run, eg. a junior barcamp activity, a holiday club, a scout/guide activity.
I would recommend that geek parents, or geek governors offer to support their local school in running this competition. It is designed to engage as many as possible. It could be used at home by families. STEM ambassadors could introduce it to their local school.
The competition materials will include a short tutorial available as a PDF, and in a web-browser, with written instructions and images showing screen shots where appropriate. There will also be a short video tutorial as well available online through a child safe website.
Children’s games are to be created using Scratch, an open-source, cross-platform visual programming environment.
Children will submit two files, the actual game they have created and a short video no longer than 3 minutes where they pitch their game. In the video they need to present their game and explain how they investigated the problem, researched and investigated, the ideas they had, the selection process, the process of making the game.
There will be about 4 different age categories in the range 7yrs to 14yrs. Prizes will be awarded to the best in each category. The prizes will be family friendly and age appropriate, but should be relative to the context of the competition. They could include – a VIP visit to a games studio or film studios, some technology to help and support the winners to develop their interest in technology.
The exact details of the actual competition are not being revealed until the launch to ensure fairness. However, all the games entered will feature a common core that the children adapt to suit their chosen design. The game will be based on the ‘pong’ game – and that’s all I can say for now. Pong is credited as the game that launched the video games industry 40 years ago, Nolan Bushnell (the man quoted above and below) was the founder of Atari.
Nolan Bushnell has agreed to record a short video for the launch of the competition. What suggestions do you have for his message to the children of today?
The competition is designed to ignite a passion for programming in children. I really want this to be an engaging, rewarding, informative and educational experience for all involved in the competition. If you think I am making any errors or have missed anything out, please let me know.
You can also help support this initiative by encouraging others to sign up. If you have any thoughts/suggestions please comment below on the blog. Alternatively you could email me, my address is my first name alan, in front of at odonohoe.org.uk or ring me 07791 126056.
To be the first to find out about the competition, register here.
“The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.”