I recently had the pleasure of teaching at Maplefields school in Corby, Northamptonshire and I had a great time with a great bunch of kids.
Maplefields is a specialist Academy based in Corby, Northamptonshire. The school caters for pupils aged 5 (Reception Year ) to 18 years (sixth form) with severe behaviour emotional and social difficulties (BESD), now known as social emotional and mental health difficulties (SEMH), as their primary need.
As soon as I started teaching these kids, I was blown away! I had been given a group of 10 students who had various experiences but the one thing that was amazing was their basic understanding of computational thinking. I will be honest I was a little worried at how they would handle the programming but I would say that using TouchDevelop seemed to have a very positive impact on their learning.
We started by doing an unplugged activity and I got the students to walk into each other and I made sure that they understood the importance of giving accurate instructions. These students were brilliant, they were so good that some of the students deliberately made mistakes with their instructions so that they could demonstrate their point to others.
In previous sessions, I had introduced programming to the students by using the Turtle in TouchDevelop. I thought that students with BESD might want to be a little more creative to begin with. We started using code to produce a creeper. They picked up the co-ordinates and coding and some students were creating loops which would make their code run smoother. Here is student – James’ work on creating a creeper.
Moving on from this, we looked at creating more resources and we started to use the MakeyMakey kits. The students were HOOKED! Straight away they were creating their own controllers and they were getting a Turtle to move around the screen. As we only had an hour there wasn’t much of an opportunity to fit more in, but the students loved the session and seemed to get a lot from it.
In summary, from using TouchDevelop with these students, I can see that TouchDevelop can be used as a way of engaging students with BESD and the students seemed to get a lot from it. These students were great coders and were a pleasure to teach. They were engaged, they were problem solving, debugging and they were independent learners. Many were challenging each other and seeing, who could could make their turtle controller first.
I would like to thank Maplefields school in Corby for inviting me in and I would like to thank the staff and students, particularly Mrs McGhee and Mr Briggs. Maplefields is a great school and I look forward to returning in the future to run some more coding sessions. They seemed quite interested when they found the Minecraft-Pi library…. maybe a visit back to Maplefields is on the cards!