Foundation Phase Coding and Robotics

What is Coding and Robotics?

The Coding and Robotics subject is central to function in a digital and information-driven world, apply digital ICT skills and transfer these skills to solve everyday problems in the development of learners. The subject studies the activities that deal with the solution of problems through logical and computational thinking. It is concerned with the various inter-related areas of Information Technology and Engineering.

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In the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS), the subject Coding and Robotics in Foundation Phase (Grades R-3) has been organised into five study areas: Pattern Recognition, Algorithms and Coding, Robotics Skills, Internet and e-communicating and Application Skills has been organised in this way to ensure that the foundational skills, values and concepts of early childhood development and the subjects offered in Grades 4 – 9 are taught and developed in Grades R-3. Beginning Knowledge and Personal and Social relationships are integrated into the topics. Coding and Robotics is a subject that transverses across the other core Foundation Phase subjects, namely Languages (home and First Additional) and Mathematics that ultimately strengthens and supports them. 

Specific Aims

The Coding and Robotics subject is aimed at guiding and preparing learners to solve problems, think critically, work collaboratively and creatively, function in a digital and information-driven world, apply digital and ICT skills and to transfer these skills to solve everyday problems and its possibilities, including equipping learners for meaningful and successful living in a rapidly changing and transforming society. 

Through Coding and Robotics, learners are exposed to a range of knowledge, skills and values that strengthen their: 

  • aesthetic, creative skills and cognitive development, knowledge through engaging in dance, music, drama and visual art activities 
  • knowledge of digital and ICT skills supported by the technological process and computational thinking skills; 
  • understanding of the relationship between people and the environment, awareness of social relationships, and elementary science;
  • physical, social, personal and emotional development. 

Focus Content Areas

The Coding and Robotics Foundation Phase subject consist of the following Knowledge Strands: 

  • Pattern Recognition and Problem Solving 
  • Algorithms and Coding 
  • Robotic Skills 
  • Internet and E-Communication skills 
  • Application Skills

The Strands co-exist and overlap in their application, knowledge and skill levels. The Subject methodology is based on Computational Thinking and the Engineering Design Process. 

Topics links and overlap 

Throughout the Subject of Coding and Robotics, it is essential to note that there will always be a degree of overlap between topics. The fundamentals of each Topic are taught in its strand but is also reinforced in other strands. Pattern recognition and Problem-solving is a skill set that needs to be developed but forms the foundation for Algorithms and Coding. 

Algorithms and Coding are used to program the logic sequence that Robotics uses, and the Application skills teach learners how to interact with different digital devices. Internet and e-communications rely on Digital Devices taught in Application skills and used the same skills to send and create messages. 

Pattern Recognition and Problem Solving 

Learning to identify abstract and geometric patterns is an integral part of the Design and Computational Thinking process, assisting learners in solving problems. The following skills and concepts are taught in Pattern Recognition and Problem-solving strand: 

  • Identification and analysis of regularities, repetitions and change in patterns that increases in size and number consisting of physical objects, drawings and symbolic forms to make predictions and solve problems. 
  • Description of patterns and relationships using symbolic expressions and grids. 
  • The identification of code patterns through the sequences of lines, shapes and objects in the world. 

Algorithms and Coding 

Fundamental programming principles and constructs in Foundation Phase are introduced for Grade R learners through physical Coding activities, which progress from Grade 1 to digital platforms that are easy-to-learn and fun for learners to engage. The Programming Platforms introduce learners to critical computational skills and concepts: 

  • Identifying and analyse solutions for specific fundamental problems. 
  • Converting simple algorithms to block-based code. 

Robotic Skills 

Robotics consists of two merging fields that including Coding and Engineering. Learners are introduced to the entire Mechanical and Electrical engineering systems and circuits that are used in Robotics. The Robotics strand primarily uses the Engineering Design Process and infuses Computational Thinking Concepts into the process. The Concepts and Skills taught are as follows: 

  • Creating logical steps that robots can follow. 
  • Basic Mechanical systems, including pulleys, gears and linkages. 
  • Basic Electrical Circuits 

Internet and e-Communication Skills 

The strand of the Internet and e-Communications skills prepares learners to interact safely in a digital online and offline world. The following Concepts and skills are taught in the strand: 

  • Their Digital Identity and Security. 
  • Safety around the use of Digital platforms. 
  • Various types of essential e-communication technologies or platforms. 
  • The primary networks and the Internet. 
  • The safe use of Web browsers to search for information. 

Application Skills 

Application Skills comprises end-user skills that are used on different digital platforms. Learners in Foundation Phase are introduced to other digital platforms and taught about the various user interfaces and functions of applications on the devices. The Application skills strand teaches the following skills and content: 

  • The use of Digital Devices. 
  • The use of Applications and User Interfaces. 
  • Text Editing Applications. 
  • Spreadsheet Applications. 

Requirements for Coding and Robotics 

The Coding and Robotics Subject is practically orientated and includes practicals recorded as formal assessments that need to be included during teaching time. Informal Assessments continues during lessons when learners are not doing PAT’s. 

Resources 

  • Each learner must have a textbook/workbook/e-book. Schools must utilise a book retrieval policy where applicable. 
  • Schools must ensure that the necessary tools, devices, materials, and consumables are available for teaching, learning, and assessment. These resources should be indexed and checked each term. 
  • The school should subscribe to a minimum of two or more subject-related magazines for the teacher to keep abreast with the latest developments in the industrial environment. These magazines could also be lent out to learners (in the same way as library books). These resources must be readily available in the classroom or the library. 
  • Schools offering Coding and Robotics must have a well-equipped Coding and Robotics lab for learners to complete the Practical Assessment Tasks. The Coding and Robotics lab needs to be secured with enough storage space for resources. 
  • The teacher should have various reference books/e-books, charts, and brochures to stimulate the learners’ interest in the subject. 
  • The teacher should have access to the Internet to source, download, and print relevant and new information. The industry environment is a dynamic industry continuously incorporating the latest trends and developments. The teacher should also have e-mail, cloud storage facilities, as new information from subject advisors and other sources can be shared on digital platforms. 
  • The teacher needs to be trained in the context, content and pedagogy of the subject. 
  • Resources to offer Coding and Robotics as a subject are the responsibility of the school. The school should build up a collection of models, e.g. by asking learners, parents or mechanical, electrical and electronic repair workshops and suppliers to donate models. 
  • All resources should be captured in the LTSM inventory list and audited on a term basis; however, these resources should always be readily available for internal/external audits. 
  • Sustainable Support – Robotics and Coding is a subject that requires sustained support. The Coding and Robotics lab requires regular resourcing for the completion of practical tasks and as well as maintenance. 

Coding and Robotics Resources

The School Management Team (SMT) should note the implications that Coding and Robotics lab has on a school’s budget. Whilst it is common practice to provide a working budget, it is imperative to note that the budget should be structured to cater to the completion of practical tasks by the learners and for the teacher to replenish tools and acquire consumables for experiments, demonstrations and simulations. The budget that schools develop should include:

  • Software licenses 
  • Cartridges, paper and storage media 
  • Breakage and maintenance 
  • Insurance 
  • Internet Connectivity 
  • Sustainability plan. 

The teacher must also be allowed to supplement the teaching and learning support material in posters, models, videos, periodicals and many more. Preventative maintenance of training kits/equipment on a regular basis and provisioning for the inevitable failure of equipment should not be disregarded. The SMT should have a plan to regularly phase out and replace obsolete tools, consumables and equipment. 

Coding Requirements 

  • Free open source Software for block-based Coding 
  • Code Cards with basic Coding instructions. 

Robotics Requirements 

Basic Electrical Components 

  • Switches 
  • Batteries
  •  Wires
  •  Breadboards o LED’s
  •  Resistors
  •  DC Motors
  •  Lightbulbs
  •  Buzzer 

Basic Mechanical Components 

  • Wheels and Axles
  •  Pulleys
  •  Linkages 
  • Gears
  •  Plastic/ Cardboard Fans o Elastic Bands
  •  Fasteners 

The components may be made from recyclable materials. 

Infrastructure, Equipment and Finances 

Workspace in Coding and Robotic Labs for learners should be enough for team and individual work. A dedicated Coding and Robotics lab should be used. The school must procure basic robotics components, including a selection of basic Electronic and Mechanical components, etc.

Procurement of LTSM resources should be based on needs analyses from the updated inventory list. Evidence of procurements should be kept for five years in line with the Public Finance Management Act (PMFA). 

Schools to provide secure storage space for LTSM. 

Computer Hardware 

Coding and Robotics require learners to work in pairs and individually on computers during contact time. The Coding and Robotics Laboratory should provide for the following minimum hardware specs for Computers: 

  • Computers should have a lifespan of 5 years. This will ensure that the Department receives value for money on the investments made. 
  • 2.0 GHz 64-bit processor (Core I5 CPU minimum) 
  • 8 GB RAM /4GB RAM + 2GB Graphics card 
  • 500 GB secondary storage 
  • Keyboard and mouse 
  • Monitor with a resolution of 1024×768 or higher 
  • DVD-ROM drive 
  • Data projector or demonstrating software (LED Lens with 3000 lumens) 
  • One high-speed printer per Coding and Robotics Lab 
  • Internet Access 
  • Network 

Software Requirements

  • Antivirus and Internet Security 
  • Cloud Storage Services 
  • Operating System 
  • Office Suite (Text editing and Spreadsheets) 
  • Application Software for Block-based Coding and Drawing 
  • Screen Control 

Teaching Coding and Robotics in Foundation Phase 

Coding and Robotics in the Foundation Phase apply the Engineering Design Process and Computational thinking process throughout the subject. The Subject in Foundation Phase is further supported by the National Early Learning Development Standards (NELDS) document for planning, teaching and learning. There are essential skills that very young learners need to master and understand before they go to Grade 1, and Grade R should help them, acquiring those skills. One of the most critical roles of the Grade R teacher is to provide learners with an environment that is safe, clean and caring, with adequate opportunities to play and explore the world under the careful guidance of their teacher.

 The teacher should provide: 

  • routine, structured and free play Coding and Robotic activities for learners that are enjoyable and manageable; 
  • a range of resources for regular, structured and free play Coding and Robotics activities; 

Generally, the Foundation Phase timetable consists of routine activities, free play activities indoors and outdoors, and structured activities. Routine and free play activities have been built into the Coding, and Robotics CAPS document because they usually involve learners in physical education. 

Engineering Design Process (IDMEC) 

Coding and Robotics develop valuable problem-solving skills that will benefit every learner in many life contexts for the 4IR and beyond. As learners’ progress through a task, they must be taught the associated knowledge and the skills needed to design and create a solution. Knowledge is essential, and the learners must show that they can use the knowledge. 

The Engineering Design Process (Investigate, Design, Make, Evaluate, Communicate – IDMEC) forms the backbone of the subject and should be used to structure the delivery of all learning aims. Learners should be exposed to a problem, need or opportunity as a starting point. They should then engage in a systematic process that allows them to develop solutions that solve problems, rectify design issues and satisfy needs. 

Criteria for teaching and assessing design features: 

  • Originality and aesthetics 
  • Value for money/cost-effectiveness 
  • Fit-for-purpose and suitability of materials 
  • Ease of manufacture 
  • Safety and ergonomics 
  • Environmental impact 
  • Bias towards or against a group 

Investigation in this subject involves finding out about contexts of the problem, investigating or evaluating existing products in relation to crucial design aspects and performing practical tests to develop an understanding of aspects of the content areas or determining a product’s fitness-for-purpose. While investigating, learners should be provided with opportunities to explore values, attitudes and indigenous knowledge to develop informed opinions that can help them make compromises and value judgements. Investigation can happen at any point in the Design Process. It should not be something that must be completed before design begins. 

Designing, making and evaluating

These skills should not be separate – they are inter-related. Part of the modernisation of Design and Making. Designs can be drafted, virtually assembled and evaluated before they are produced. Evaluation skills, for example, are used to choose ideas. At this level, learners should be introduced to critical aspects of design. These should be used to evaluate both existing and designed products against predetermined criteria. When making, learners should be encouraged to continue to reflect on their progress against these criteria and modify their solutions based on problems encountered. As learner’s progress, they should demonstrate increasing accuracy and skill, better organisation and safer working practices. 

Communication should also be integral to the overall process. Learners should be recording and presenting progress in written and graphical forms on an ongoing basis. Their presentations should show increasing media use, levels of formality and conventions as they progress through the phase. 

Computational Thinking 

In education, Computational Thinking is a set of problem-solving methods that involve expressing problems and solutions in ways that a computer could also execute. 

Routine activities 

Routine activities should be centred on Coding and Robotics principles in the subject and can be based on some of the following generic routines: 

  • arrival and departure greetings; 
  • toilet routine; 
  • birthday chart; 
  • date chart; 
  • health chart; 
  • tidying up time after Coding and Robotics free play. 

Free play Coding and Robotics activities 

Free play Coding and Robotics activities can take place indoors or outdoors or both. 

Examples of free play activities include: 

  • Gr R – 1 Pattern recognition game Digital Devices Game 
  • Robot Control Game
  •  Play with different types of robot toys Role Play with ID cards and Password Games
  •  Play with Digital Devices – Applications (Drawing, Digital Keyboards and mouse skills games) 
  • Robot Control Games
  •  Role Play with ID Cards to access the playground
  •  Racing miniature cars
  •  Dance Bot Game
  •  Code Cards Game – Simon says, Fruit picking Robot 
  • Password Games 
  • Code Cards (Directional Movements) 
  • Dance Bot Game (Body movements) Maze Activities
  •  Swapping and Sorting Games Keyboard Games 

Structured activities 

Structured activities are short teaching and learning activities, often guided by the teacher. They can be done with individual learners, in small teams or classes, depending on the nature of the lesson. The concepts, content and skills for structured activities are specified in the Coding and Robotics Strands curriculum document. 

Perceptual skills 

Coding and Robotics contribute to the development of learner’s perceptual skills through free play and coding cards. The relevant perceptual skills used in Coding and Robotics are as follow: 

  • Visual perception – acquiring and interpreting information through the eyes – accurate visual perception enables the learner to read, write and do mathematics; 
  • Visual discrimination – the ability to see similarities, differences and details of objects accurately; 
  • Visual memory – the ability to remember what the eyes have seen and the correct sequence in which things have been perceived; 
  • Auditory perception – acquiring and interpreting information through the ears – accurate auditory perception enables the learner to give meaning to what is heard; 
  • Auditory discrimination – the ability to hear similarities and differences in sounds; 
  • Auditory memory – the ability to remember what the ears have heard and the 
  • correct sequence in which sounds have been perceived; 
  • Hand-eye co-ordination – the hands and eyes working together when performing a 
  • movement, e.g. throwing or catching a ball; 
  • Body image – a complete awareness of one’s own body, i.e. how it moves 
  • and how it functions; 
  • Laterality – showing an awareness of each side of the body, e.g. which hand is waving; 
  • Dominance – preferring to use one hand or side of the body, i.e. either right or left dominant; 
  • Crossing the mid-line – being able to work across the vertical midline of the body, e.g. being able to draw a line from one side of the page to the other without changing the tool from one hand to the other; 
  • Figure-ground perception – being able to focus attention on a specific object or aspect while ignoring all other stimuli, the object of the attention is therefore in the foreground of the perceptual field while all the rest is in the background e.g. being able to read one word in a sentence; 
  • Form perception – the ability to recognise forms, shapes, symbols, letters, etc. regardless of position, size, background, e.g. can recognise a circle because of its unique shape; 
  • Spatial orientation – the ability to understand the space around the body, or the relationship between the object and the observer, e.g. the hat is on my head; 

Topics 

In Coding and Robotics, the curriculum is organised into strands. The use of strands integrates the content from the different subjects’ areas where possible and appropriate. Teachers are encouraged to adapt the topics so that they are suitable for their school contexts. Teachers are also encouraged to choose their topics should they judge these to be more appropriate. 

The weighting of Strands and Topics 

The Coding and Robotics curriculum is designed across 40 weeks of the year. Approximate time allocations are given for each topic during each term, indicating each topic’s weighting. Routine activities and indoor and outdoor Coding and Robotics free play also need to be incorporated into the teaching schedule. 

Sequencing and Progression 

A suggested order for the topics is provided as one of the essential principles of early childhood education: to begin with what is familiar to the learner and introduce less familiar topics and skills later. Therefore, sequencing and progression have been built into the design of the topics. The sequence of the topics can be changed, but teachers should pay attention to the advancement and level at which the topic is addressed. 

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