A New Podcast

As part of the teaching resource subscription package, I’ve started a series of podcasts covering a multitude of topics designed to help teachers and educators. As a little taster, here is the introductory episode for you to listen to.

Episode One: You don’t need to be an expert to run successful coding lessons.

Jez Whitworth, the co-founder of First Coding introduces himself and talks about how with his background in training and software development, identified a real need to teach coding to the younger generations. He also offers tips on how people who have little or no experience in teaching coding can become computer coding educators like himself and appeals for ideas on how best to encourage more girls to take up the subject.

A Musical Challenge

I set a challenge recently to see if pupils could make a simple note sequencer whereby you load notes into a loop and the Scratch programme  cycles through the sequence, playing them one by one.

This is one of my favourite attempts. The variables at the top allow you to change the notes in the five note sequence. You can also amend the tempo up and down too. Really nice job.

The Scratch Chatbots

I want to share one of the projects my group are working on at the minute. The task was to build a convincing chatbot in Scratch, homing in on particular keywords to give the impression that it understands the statements given to it.  I’ve posted this in a couple of Scratch teaching forums and the response has been great. I can’t wait to share the comments with my pupils.

The Motor Control Kit

The school talks I recently gave on electronic toy hacking highlighted a problem that motor control for the Raspberry Pi and Microbit could be made a great deal simpler (and cheaper) when you see what’s already out there. It only took two prototypes of my pack before I was happy. Each pack contains example code, components and creativity.

First Coding - Motor Control Kit for the Raspberry Pi and Microbit

I have made the component list, assembly instructions and sample Scratch block code available to download here: Motor control instructions for the Raspberry Pi and Microbit

The Code Machine

I love hearing about the journeys pupils’ projects have taken them on, so I thought I would share one of my own.

At the end of last year I put together a little code machine in Scratch (you can see it here), it used a simple Caesar cipher to allow you to send secret messages. This got me into reading a great many books on codes and it wasn’t long before I wanted to create an unbreakable code of my own.

First Coding Spy Month - The Secret Code Machine
I also met a few people along the way, including someone at the Secret Army Museum who discussed with me methods to check whether a coded transmission had been tampered with. All really interesting.

The Code Machine - First Coding - Salisbury Spy
I have now packaged up what I’ve learnt and built an app titled The Code Machine, soon to be available for free so all can enjoy.

The Code Machine - First Coding - Salisbury Spy

The Code Machine - First Coding - Salisbury Spy

A Quick Guide to Coding

If you’re just starting out with coding or have children who are interested in it but not sure how to encourage them, then download our simple Learning to Code guide here. I’ve included a few tips to get you started, as well as some reading material and a couple of my own projects that will hopefully inspire people to start their own.

First Coding Guide to Learning to Code

Computer Science: Real World Talks

I was kindly asked to talk at the Wessex Partnership’s Computer Science Real World talk this week.  I talked about how the benefits of personal projects and how taking the bold step of engaging with the maker community can open doors to some nice unexpected surprises.

I loved how all the presentations flowed nicely into one another and all coincidentally highlighted a couple of common themes. I was also very pleased to present in front of such a keen and engaging audience who I hope went home with heads overflowing with encouragement and ideas.