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09 September 2021

Let’s Get Physical!

Joanne Hodge profile image
Written by

Joanne Hodge | Primary School Teacher

Let’s Get Physical!

To coin a phrase from a well-known Australian singer, this month, as we are preparing ourselves for the next academic year, I would love to start a discussion about physical computing. Those of you who know me well, know that I fully endorse the use of physical devices, such as Beebots, Micro:bits and Crumbles, within the Computing curriculum. They not only provide excellent opportunities to develop computational thinking skills and creativity but can also be linked to other areas of the curriculum, for example Maths, DT and History.

There are several amazing physical devices on the market and I would urge anyone considering using them to think carefully about what you buy and how you are going to use them. Weigh up cost versus curriculum compatibility.

 As a starting point, I would definitely consider Micro:bits (£22) and Crumbles (£10) as they are so versatile with extensive resources and planning written for them. The new Teach Computing curriculum has a Unit for year 5 making a carousel using the Crumble which links with DT and for Year 6, they use a Mciro:bit to create a step counter. Why not take a listen to Ben Davies and myself from the CAS Virtual Showcase extolling the virtues of them: https://www.gotostage.com/channel/6dc711c5fcae4ab58a31066192a51406/recording/c9273e332b744e37911ecd43dbf29b7e/watch?source=CHANNEL

For Micro:bits, their website is a fantastic starting point, as there are an array of mini follow me projects and planning from age 7 upwards which means you could have each year group doing a project to build skills progression at little cost. It uses block ot text-based code and there is an emulator to test projects before downloading. When I first began using them, I only had one between 3 and it worked fine; enabling me to see whether it was something I would want to invest in. Linked to this, they have set up Micro:bit Classroom which allows you to set a classroom in order to ‘review all students’ work live, download a class report of work completed, pause student work and save to resume for a later class.’ (Micro:bit Classroom). A brilliant tool and definitely something I am going to try this year!

The Crumble controller is made by Redfern Electronics and is my go-to physical device as it is so cheap and uses block code similar to Scratch. You can buy a starter kit for £20 which includes sparkles (led lights), motors and crocodile cables and, as with Micro:bits, you can share it between 3 easily. They have some fun projects written but I would highly recommend looking at the Code-it website by Phil Bagge (aka Mr Crumble) as there some brilliant planning and useful helpcards: http://code-it.co.uk/csplanning.html

Don’t forget about your Beebots too for KS1 as there are plenty of resources from Barefoot and Teach Computing with new units for Year 1 and 2 linked to Robots. For EYFS, we use Cubetto which come with a mat and a story to teach the children how the program – I also purchased additional mats i.e. the Egyptian one as it could be used for KS2 in History to make it cost effective. For EYFS, follow Rachael Coultart on Twitter (@rcoultart) as she has some incredible, creative ideas and uses a vast array of physical devices. She is a CAS Community Lead and has a meeting on the 30th September all about Using Robots to Develop Computing Skills in EYFS which is free:  

https://community.computingatschool.org.uk/events/9147

There are many more devices I use such as Ozobots and Spheros which are definitely worth a look too at but I would love to hear from you.

What I would like to know is:

  • What is your favourite physical device and why?
  • How have you used it across the curriculum?
  • What good websites and resources have you found?
  • What are the barriers to using Physical devices?

 

Useful Links:

Teach Computing Curriculum: https://teachcomputing.org/curriculum

Micro:bit: https://microbit.org/

Micro:bit Classroom: https://classroom.microbit.org/

Crumble: https://redfernelectronics.co.uk

Barefoot Computing: https://www.barefootcomputing.org/

Discussion

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