Jam sandwiches and the Hokey Cokey to help teach children key tech skills

Children will have to start learning about algorithims and networks from the age of five from September

Primary school teachers from across the UK are being invited to attend free training workshops to learn how to teach digital skills such as algorithms to children, through fun methods such as the Hokey Cokey and jam sandwiches.

The project, led by the Barefoot Computing oragnisation – setup by the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT – will see 800 computing workshops setup in primary schools across England, led by IT experts, including both ICT teachers and BT staff.

The idea is to train teachers to develop interesting, innovative ways of making sure children aged between five and seven are taught key skills from the new cirriculum, which will be taught in UK primary schools for the first time in the autumn.

Tim Whitley, BT’s MD of Research & Innovation, told V3 the firm wanted to get involved in the project in order to ensure it does all it can to inspire and encourage the next generation of digital workers.

“As the future of the UK moves towards an information economy, we are going to need more skilled workers, more computer scientists and, more generally, for all children to have a deeper understanding of IT and computer science,” he said.

BT has been working alongside Barefoot Computing to help develop ways in which it can make the teaching of algorithims and networks fun, engaging and educational to children as young as five.

Whitley explained that teaching children of the importance of how you make a sandwich or follow the instruction of the Hokey Cokey are a great way to demonstrate the way in which computing technology works.

“If you don’t follow things in the correct order in the Hokey Cokey everything goes wrong, so it’s about creating a series of simple vehicles for letting teachers explain computing issues to children in a fun way.”

Another lesson involves asking children to draw the different parts of a face – such as the eyes, ears, nose, mouth – and then explaining why everyone will invariably draw something wildely different because the instructions are not clear or ordered.

“If, for example, you tell children to draw the eyes before the face, that’s clearly not a good order, so it’s a form of debugging to get that order right,” Whitley said.

BT has also worked to bring a UK-centric version of ScratchJR, a programming tool developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to the UK, by liasing with the university to help make the tool suitable for UK children.

The first Barefoot Computing event took place on Friday at BT’s headquarters, with the next event scheduled for Manchester and Portland, with all teachers interested encouraged to attend.

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Source: v3.co.uk

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