Your email updates, powered by FeedBlitz

Click here to read this mailing online.

 
Here is a sample subscription for you. Click here to start your FREE subscription


  1. Kettles and algorithms
  2. How can a programming language be boring?
  3. Spreadsheets: vindicated at last!
  4. How to organise a news section of your Computing lessons
  5. 5 reasons to have a Computing news section of your lessons
  6. More Recent Articles
  7. Search ICT and Computing in Education
  8. Prior Mailing Archive

Kettles and algorithms

Like many Englishmen, the most important thing to me is having a decent cup of tea. So I was delighted when we bought a variable temperature kettle. This doesn’t just heat up the water to boiling point. It lets you select the right temperature for the kind of drink you have. I tell you, my early morning cuppa never tasted so good. You select the temperature you want the water to be, and you can even opt to keep the water warm – a handy device if, like me, you boil the kettle and then go off to feed the various parasites that live with you. (Presumably, I should not have used the expression “boil the kettle”, but saying “95 degree Celsius the kettle” does not exactly flow off the tongue.)

Just love those controls on the bottom!

But how does it work? It struck me that this would be a nice exercise to set students. What would be the underlying algorithm by which the kettle works out what the temperature is, and then carries on heating the water or stops? How does keeping the water warm come into it? And how would the algorithm or flowchart differ for an ordinary kettle?

I don’t think it matters much whether what the students work out is actually how it works in practice, but there is some information available, such as this eHow article: How does an electric kettle work?


 

cartoon 1 researchYour newsletter editor is hard at work doing research for Digital Education, the free newsletter for education professionals. Have you subscribed yet?

Read more about it, and subscribe, on the Newsletter page of the ICT in Education website.

We use a double opt-in system, and you won’t get spammed.


    


How can a programming language be boring?

Someone told me of a Twitter exchange that took place a few weeks ago in which teachers were saying that their kids found Scratch boring. Well (he says, arms akimbo), here are my views on that.

First, it is axiomatic that kids either find lots of things “boring” or say they do. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to everything that is put to them. (That, and “We did this last year”). So maybe those “boring” comments should be taken with a huge sack of salt.

Bet you can't do THIS in Scratch!

Second, if they really are finding it boring, then that is like saying a pen is boring. Scratch is, in effect, a tool by which to achieve something, such as an understanding of aspects of programming, not an end in itself. It sounds to me like there is something wrong with the scheme of work, the activities they are being given or the way it is being taught. When I was teaching programming using BASIC, Visual Basic and Visual Basic for Applications, my students didn’t say they were bored. They didn’t even look bored. Of course, it could be that they found the programming boring, but that my charismatic personality combined with my brilliant teaching counterbalanced their ennui. We shall never know.

For examples of utterly non-boring Scratch projects, meander over to the Literacy from Scratch website. I especially like the Solar System, which is pretty amazing.

Tomorrow, I hope to work on the next issue of Digital Education. It contains guest articles, including a nice one by student Ellie Gregson and one by lecturer, PhD student and STEM Ambassador Amanda Wilson.


Paperless office?

Your newsletter editor is hard at work sifting through the submissions for Digital Education, the free newsletter for education professionals. Have you subscribed yet?

Read more about it, and subscribe, on the Newsletter page of the ICT in Education website.

We use a double opt-in system, and you won’t get spammed.


    

Spreadsheets: vindicated at last!

I’ve long been an ardent advocate of spreadsheets. They can be an invaluable tool in business, education or any other field in which planning, cost or both are paramount. As far as Computing and ICT is concerned, they can be used for teaching  modelling and computational thinking. However, they have been denigrated as being “just” an office tool, far removed from the exciting world of coding or robotics.

Well, apart from the fact that spreadsheets can be exciting and an enjoyable way of problem-solving, in the real world spreadsheets are still very much in demand. In fact, in most businesses, “spreadsheet literacy”, to coin  phrase, is almost certainly more useful than “coding”, and a recently-published white paper would seem to bear this out.

Photo by Craig Chew-Moulding https://www.flickr.com/photos/craigmoulding/

According to Capitalism’s Dirty Secret, 17% of large businesses have suffered financial loss due to poor spreadsheets, and 57% say that poor spreadsheets have wasted time. Also, 33% of large businesses, 20% of medium businesses and 9% of small businesses have made poor decisions because of bad spreadsheets.

From an educational point of view, these facts are important. I’ve been informed by the Press Association and a small publishing company that new recruits often have to be taught how to create and use a spreadsheet. Recently, someone who runs a digital marketing agency told me that she hoped the new Computing curriculum would lead to school-leavers joining her company with better spreadsheet skills. “Don’t hold your breath”, I told her.

If you give your students the impression that spreadsheets are not only boring, but also that they don’t matter any more, you are doing them a grave disservice. Being comfortable and proficient in the use of spreadsheets will help them to develop their computational skills and, in the case of older students, probably make them more employable.

Useful reading

Computational thinking and spreadsheets

Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum

Why Teach Spreadsheets?


 

cartoon 1 researchYour newsletter editor is hard at work doing research for Digital Education, the free newsletter for education professionals. Have you subscribed yet?

Read more about it, and subscribe, on the Newsletter page of the ICT in Education website.

We use a double opt-in system, and you won’t get spammed.


    


How to organise a news section of your Computing lessons

I have suggested 5 reasons to have a Computing news section of your lessons. If you think that’s a good idea, here’s how to go about it.

Before that, though, I’d just like to clear up one thing. Some people would argue that to have a news section in every lesson would be undesirable, because it would take up quite a bit of time. In my experience, a 10 minute interactive session on what has come up in the news recently and our reactions to it is so productive that it represents an excellent investment of time. If you are unconvinced, though, there are a couple of variations on the theme.

If you are lucky enough to have two lessons of Computing a week, then give some of one of the lessons over to news. If, like many people, you have only one lesson a week, then have a news round-up every other week.

Give it a try anyway.

Here’s how to make it happen.

  • Appoint two news monitors every week to seed the discussion. I suggest two because if one is away then that messes everything up. They don’t have to work together. Indeed, I think you’re more like to get variety if you don’t.
  • Explain that you expect everyone to have an inkling of what the news item is about, as that will encourage them to keep up to date too!
  • Explain that “news” is not just tech news about the latest Apple gizmo. It can be an innocuous-sounding news item on the six-o’-clock news.
  • Encourage students to do more than just watch TV news. They can access a wide variety of newspapers from all over the world by going to the Newspaper Index.
  • Encourage students to read blogs too
  • You might even suggest a list of safe blogs for them to read (ie ones where they are unlikely to come across swear words).
  • Bring in newspapers or newspaper cuttings yourself, as well as your Computing magazines when you’ve finished with them. Start an educational technology library.

If you have very young pupils, then this idea can still work, albeit in a different way. It would mean you sourcing the news and having a 5 or 10 minute discussion with your class about it.


Paperless office?

Your newsletter editor is hard at work sifting through the submissions for Digital Education, the free newsletter for education professionals. Have you subscribed yet?

Read more about it, and subscribe, on the Newsletter page of the ICT in Education website.

We use a double opt-in system, and you won’t get spammed.


    

5 reasons to have a Computing news section of your lessons

One of the ways in in which you can help enliven the Computing curriculum is to allocate some time in every lesson (yes, every lesson) to news. There are several reasons for this.

First, it will help keep the content of the course fresh. There is always something in the news about Computing or a related topic.

Looking for news is a good thing to do! Photo by Jaume Escofet https://www.flickr.com/photos/jaumescar/

Second, it will help ensure the content of the course is relevant to the lives of students their families and the school. Computing isn’t just about learning how to code, and there is certainly more to it than moving a sprite around in Scratch.

Third, it can help create a sense of excitement when a student discovers something that he or she thinks is newsworthy.

Fourth, it gives everyone the opportunity to start a discussion and take part in a discussion.

Fifth, I am a strong believer in having students read newspapers and books on the subject. See 7 Reasons to have an educational technology library.

Convinced? Tomorrow I’ll cover the practical aspects of making this happen.


 

cartoon 1 researchYour newsletter editor is hard at work doing research for Digital Education, the free newsletter for education professionals. Have you subscribed yet?

Read more about it, and subscribe, on the Newsletter page of the ICT in Education website.

We use a double opt-in system, and you won’t get spammed.


    


More Recent Articles


Click here to safely unsubscribe from ICT and Computing in Education. Click here to view mailing archives, here to change your preferences, or here to subscribePrivacy