It is evident that children need to learn that computers and computer software are technologies that they can understand and control so that as they grow up they become the developers of the future. Too many children today are passive users of computers. But how can we encourage them to engage in computing activities and learn computer programming languages? My name is Graham Hastings and I have been teaching computing and ICT since 1985. I know from considerable experience that when children are having fun, being creative and are fully in control they will challenge and surprise themselves with what they are able to do. Computer programming can be rather abstract and theoretical. Physical computing – control technology and data logging – are key to engaging children. The fact that they can design and make things which they then use the computer to control adds to the creative experience. And of course it gives them a great opportunity for communication and collaboration. That computer control is not more widely taught in schools is because control workstations are expensive to purchase, difficult to use and quickly become obsolete due to the endless hardware/software upgrade cycle. At last a solution is within our grasp if we can develop an open source solution featuring a control workstation based on the Raspberry Pi, a good control interface and the Scratch programming language.
By standardising on one system - that is totally fit for purpose teachers who are not naturally drawn to control as an area of study will be confident that they can run activities without fear of the gadgets and pass this confidence on to children.
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