St Christopher’s School, Wrexham: ‘cracking the code’ in a special way

Darllenwch y dudalen hon yn Gymraeg

DCF 'Cracking the code' pupil picJosh Pickett: “I think all pupils need to learn how to solve problems because it will help them with lots of things, not just ICT”.

St Christopher’s is the largest special school in Wales. One year after the launch of ‘cracking the code’, a drive to give teachers and learners coding skills, it has a popular coding club and great examples of how pupils benefit.

All pupils have additional learning needs and traditionally would not be pupils who would participate in computer science. We were one of the first schools to participate cracking the code initiative with GWE in September. As a result of this training we set up a code club every Monday at lunch times which has been attended well throughout the year. We started our code club off in the September using the Redfern electronics crumble board. We created a booklet which was completely independent and the pupils could follow it step by step.

We continued with crumbles throughout the Autumn Term, using switches and motors until we gradually built up to creating projects such a line following robot, sumo bots, a computer science Christmas tree and crumble hacked headphones which played songs using the different voltages on the motor part of the crumble.

Since the first code club the pupils have become far more independent and been able to pick devices, online course and projects that interested them, they have done BBC Microbit, unplugged activities, pro-bots, Spheros and Osmo.

The cracking the code initiative has been brilliant for our pupils in St Christopher’s, the training with Alex Clewett started us off with some projects such as the Sumo bots and reinforced some of the computer science concepts I already knew. Computer Science is extremely important to our pupils as it allows pupils to be resilient learners. It shows them that not everything is going to work and we have to debug and figure out why.

I have noticed that the pupils who have been in the code club are far more independent now with their coding and need far less support than they use to.

Josh Pickett 18 years old and a pupil at St Christopher’s School:

I like code club because: It’s very interesting, we learnt how to make Star Wars themed Christmas decorations that lit up, we built and programmed sumo bots using Crumble that would fight in a ring and try to push each other out. We learnt that things don’t always work first time and you have to debug the program to solve problems and try out different ways of building things to make them work properly. This was a good thing to learn because in the past I would give up if things didn’t work first time. Another thing we did was use microbits and PowerPoint to make a ‘Shut the Box’ game.

I think all pupils should do coding because: What you learn in coding club is how to make computer programs using microbits, crumbles and scratch. We use computer programs to help us to solve problems. I think all pupils need to learn how to solve problems because it will help them with lots of things, not just ICT. Learning about debugging helps pupils to learn that things don’t always go right first time and that they can change things to make them better instead of getting mad with them. Coding club is also fun to do.

With thanks to Josh Pickett and Mr Ryan Hayes, St Christopher’s School.

For more information on ‘cracking the code’ see the Welsh government plan:

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