Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Using Codebugs at Rufford Primary School

In the past on February 3rd 2016 I wrote about visiting BETT and seeing “codebugs”, a small device that can have programs downloaded onto it. In case you want to read more the relevant URL is www.codebug.org.uk

This little device is proving very successful at KS2. The programming tool is accessed on their website; this appears to be more reliably accessed on Chrome but is usually OK on Internet Explorer. New programming blocks are being added all the time which encourages children to explore.
I am not using this tool to introduce the programming requirements of the Computing curriculum; I prefer to use Scratch, Scratch Jr and a variety of other apps and websites for this. What is really exciting to observe is how easily knowledge previously gained is used in the Codebug environment. The commands in the IF and LOOPS folders are readily applied and any different terminology used creates opportunities for discussion.
The programming tool uses an emulator to test programs before downloading them onto the device. This has been a very successful medium to identify the testing process and separate it from the execution phase. Children find it exciting to use the emulator but excitement reaches a new level when they use the device.
Like most teachers I have very few original ideas but I excel in adapting those made available by other people. My lessons, depending on year group, prior programming experience and time, usually follow these ideas:
  • Drawing sequences of characters and designed sprites on the 5x5 LED matrix, using WAIT to allow them all to be viewed
  • Scrolling a string on the screen
  • Looping, either a set number of times or while a condition is TRUE
  • Incorporating inputs from the 2 buttons and using sleep to delay the start
  • Making choices depending on which button is pressed
  • Downloading onto the device
I then use a couple of ideas from the Codebug website:
  • Does this object conduct electricity?
  • Making a steady hand game
I don’t have any of the hardware add ons for the device. However, I have added the colourtail in the emulator and programmed that. This was very successful in revisiting variables and using them to create light patterns. I hope to try using sound soon if I can find some headphones!

I have experienced some problems using the programming tool when numbers become detached from blocks and can’t be reinserted. Children currently have to bin the whole block and replace it.
I’m prepared to forgive the shortfalls of the device in being used on battery power rather than connected to the computer because they are really appealing and cost effective, although I have to share devices which is a little inconvenient.
If you haven’t tried using this little device that give it a go. They are very favourably received by children, opportunities for the application of knowledge previously acquired is a real strength of the device.

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