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Views & Opinion Should we give play a chance? Comment by Alicia Blanco-Bayo, Early Years teacher at Kirkham Grammar School

I often wonder if we truly know what it is we want from a school when our children enter the world of education. Having worked in some schools in Europe and the Middle East, parental expectations do vary depending on cultural influences. So then my question is, ‘are parents aware of how children might learn?’ In an attempt to answer this question, perhaps it would be of relevance to mention the fact that we live in a world in which intellectual development seems to matter more than other basic developmental needs. How often do we hear parents show pride in

their children because they enjoy play pretend activities? Sadly, the recognition tends to happen when a child shows they have mastered an academic skill earlier than they might have. It is because of this that there is a real need to re- educate families so that the necessity of play as a learning tool can be spread amongst the new generations of parents.

Developing through play Let’s begin by describing the developmental process which takes place as children learn basic skills through play. As a child is first exposed to a particular scenario, he or she goes through a series of stages. The initial contact a child has with other

children will encourage the emotional need to be part of a social circle, and as he or she is encouraged to practise this, a sense of confidence begins to develop. Imagine a child who is introduced to a group of three other children who are sitting on the carpet playing with some cars. The new child might be offered a car and is then left to react to whatever is going on. As the child observes the other children, he understands that he can do all those things the other children are doing if he wants to be part of the game. That is how the child’s cognitive ability is developing, by trying to assimilate the uses of a car into that particular game. All these stages together represent a complex developmental process that will happen at the required speed if the adult enhances play appropriately. It is clearly identified in the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework that it is essential to understand how different children learn and subsequently enhance play to promote the development of individual needs. Of course it is important to let children explore

independently, but how the environment they choose to explore is presented is crucial. If, as Early Years professionals, we ensure that all activities offered to children provide emotional support, we will be promoting the development of confidence as the initial step children go onto before they see

the need to complete a task. If, being the child, I play with the car I have been given, the other children might like me. If they like me I will feel loved and feeling loved will make me feel secure and confident to want to show the other children what I can do with my car. We must applaud the accomplishment of the child who has mastered that. After all, becoming part of a new social circle can be hard for adults too, even when we our emotional skills are fully developed. At this stage, we are looking at how the child

chooses to learn what he needs so he can fit in socially. Subsequently, the more the adult takes an active part, the further the child’s thinking skills will develop. If, being the adult, I talk to the child about the type of cars that are being used for the game and how they are all different in size and colour, I am expanding on the knowledge the child might have already about cars. If I then ask the child questions about the cars, or even ask if he or she has any other types of cars at home, I am encouraging the child to think and bring his own ideas into the game. Does this explain how play must be given a

chance as a vehicle to embark on our journey through life? I would like to continue thinking that it does, and so I will endeavour to offer it to children in as many varied ways as possible.

Solving the technology challenges facing computing teachers

Comment by Freddy May, Co-founder of the Codio programming platform

For many, teaching coding is a daunting task. Yet it also brings opportunity to explore new teaching methods which have the potential to really bring out the best that students can do. Coding is a skill best learnt by doing, where practical experience is key. Students will succeed at coding if they are set a challenge and given encouragement and mentoring to solve it, rather than if they listen to a teacher talk about the principles and theories of programming every week. In order to facilitate this learning style however, the appropriate technology must be in place.

What are the main technology challenges facing teachers? • Setting up computers for students is difficult and time consuming. Installing the necessary software on each computer in an ICT suite of 30 computers can take up to two weeks! Installing development stacks to create the correct coding environment means that the teacher is either limited to a lengthy set-up process on classroom PCs or has to take responsibility for getting students set up wherever they wish to code.

• It is very difficult for coding activities to be set April 2015

as homework. Transferring code across computers via memory sticks or emails creates homework excuses such as installation problems, security warnings and missing USBs. It is important that students should be able to code wherever and whenever they want to, including from home. Only then can they fully access the boundless learning potential they can get from coding.

• Lack of quality content – since computing was introduced to the curriculum there has been an influx of resources, which is a testament to the power of the internet and the enthusiasm of the education community. However, when faced with so many ‘indispensible’ resources, how do teachers narrow down the selection?

• There needs to be a clear assessment process where teachers can view, run and mark a student’s code all in the same place. Teaching content also needs to be linked to assessment frameworks from examining bodies.

How can we solve these issues? Web-based IDEs are a great solution to these problems. Moving to a cloud platform allows teachers to sidestep the time-consuming task of setting up many programming tools for the

various operating systems on every single Mac or PC within an ICT suite and on students’ own machines. A web-based IDE also solves the homework problem – all students need is a browser and an internet connection. Of course the learning resources need to be

inspiring and engaging for students – but ideally they should also be integrated and embedded within the IDE platform. This allows for side by side display of code editing, teaching content and a preview window so students can not only engage with the material, but code away, testing and trialling, and actually see the code run. Building assessments into the learning

resources again leverages the power of a cloud IDE platform – where challenges can be set, broken code fixed, and feedback and learning can be real and instantaneous. This approach allows pupils to self-pace with

minimal input from teachers, enabling teachers to play a more facilitative supporting and coaching role. The usability of an IDE makes this technique possible for a subject like coding - students can quickly login and get started on their code projects right away, independently or in groups. They can then embrace the limitless learning potential that coding offers. 15

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