A Collaboration between Computing and Industry
Mrs Sarah Paddock, Head of ICT & Assessment at Prior Park Preparatory School, discusses computing lessons and how teaching in an innovative way can really motivate and strengthen pupils’ learning...
The challenge of teaching is to motivate pupils to take their learning to a new level. During computing lessons at Prior Park Preparatory School, Year 7 and 8 pupils found hidden talents, raised their aspirations and learnt to work as a team when they were tasked with a six week project to create a computer game in Scratch, a creative learning community.
At the end of the project, the final assessment was to market the game to a panel of buyers from Waitrose supermarket in Cirencester. Many pupils had watched the popular series’ The Apprentice and Dragons’ Den and understood their task more quickly as a result.
Pupils learn to code from Year 1 using a range of software, starting with Bee Bots and progressing to Scratch: a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, provided free of charge.
Using user-friendly, drag and drop script blocks in the Scratch programme, pupils can write code for their own interactive stories, games and animations. Scratch helps pupils to learn to think creatively, reason systematically and work collaboratively — essential skills for life in the 21st century! The ability to code computer programs and understand the language of coding is an important part of literacy in today’s society. When pupils learn to code, they learn important strategies for solving problems, designing projects and communicating ideas.
The Year 7 and 8 pupils were given a basic game framework which they had to develop into an enjoyable game aimed at a specific age group. They researched their target group by questioning other pupils at the school to see what sort of elements they enjoyed. The aim of the game was to promote healthy eating.
Adding different levels, a timer, a score and a ‘Game Over’ screen were elements that the pupils identified as integral to enjoying game play. They became creators rather than consumers and discussed the way that this changed their thinking about games they own and play themselves. Real life roles of Graphic Designer, Project Manager, Internet and Marketing Researcher and Media Producer were chosen by the children after forming teams. Their marketing materials had to include a podcast, which was created using the programme Audacity, as well as a video created using iMovie on iPad. Microsoft Excel was used to create a Gantt Chart to monitor the progression of tasks and MSPublisher was used to create a cover for the game box as well as leaflets and flyers.
Initially, some pupils found it difficult to communicate their ideas or work with a common goal. The project managers had to co-ordinate the production of several different types of marketing material as well as refining their game. However, the prospect of a presentation to real buyers gave the pupils a focus which really brought out their best. In deciding on what to say in their ‘sales pitch’, even the least engaged pupils in a team began to engage in conversation and discussion. When presenting to the managers from Waitrose, the pupils were put to the test in their presentational skills and knowledge about their product. They enjoyed being asked questions that were relevant to life outside school.
Pupils could see the relevance of Computing to their future lives in a new way.