Cambridge University Press has recently published some excellent textbooks to help teach coding and robotics in the Foundation Phase.
Coding and Robotics launches in schools in 2023
- Coding and Robotics is a new subject introduced by the Department of Basic Education.
- It aims to prepare learners for the Fourth Industrial Revolution by introducing technology, processes, and ways of thinking that allow them to live and work in a digitally enabled society.
- The Coding and Robotics subject is central to function in a digital and information-driven world, as it not only teaches Information Communication Technology (ICT) skills but develops the learners by transferring and applying these skills to solve everyday problems.
- The subject teaches problem-solving through logical and computational thinking.
- It is also concerned with the various inter-related areas of Information Technology and Engineering.
What is Coding?
- Coding is the way we communicate with a computer to tell it what we want it to do. Coding is also called computer programming. The program or code is a set of instructions, so that the computer knows the actions it must take. You can use your computer coding to tell a computer to process data, create websites or apps, create digital games, and many other amazing digital things.
What is Robotics?
- Robots are machines that have been made to do a task. There are many different types of robots. Often, robots are built to copy or imitate human actions. A robot is a programmable machine that combines Science, Engineering, and Technology.
The Coding and Robotics Foundation Phase subject includes 5 Knowledge Strands
The five Strands co-exist and overlap in their application, knowledge, and skill levels. The fundamentals of each topic are taught in its strand but are also reinforced in other strands, as described below:
- ‘Pattern recognition and problem solving’ is a skill set that is developed alone, but it also forms the foundation for ‘algorithms and coding’.
- The ‘algorithms and coding’ strand supports the logic sequence used in ‘robotics’.
- ‘Application skills’ teaches learners how to interact with different digital devices.
- ‘Internet and E-communications’ relies on using the digital devices taught in ‘application skills’, and the same abilities to send and create messages.
- The subject methodology is based on computational thinking and the Engineering Design Process.
Pattern Recognition and Problem Solving
The following skills and concepts are taught in this strand:
- Identification and analysis of regularities, repetitions and changes in patterns that increase in size and number, 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.
Learning to identify patterns is an integral part of the design and computational thinking processes, which will assist learners in solving problems. Patterns can be physical objects, drawings or symbolic forms.
The example above for teaching patterns and problems includes a 3-step worked example on how to identify patterns, followed by an activity where learners identify the sets in three different patterns. A second step-by-step worked example is given on how to debug a pattern followed by an application activity.
Algorithms and Coding
Programming is introduced in Grade R through physical coding activities, which progress in Grade 1 to digital platforms such as ScratchJr. These are easy-to-learn and fun for learners.
The programming platforms introduce learners to critical computational skills and concepts so that they can:
- Identify and think about solutions for specific problems.
- Convert simple algorithms to block based code.
The example provided above guides learners to program a sprite in ScratchJr. Learners can access a video showing them how to do this (via the QR code) and/or they can follow the step-by-step guide in the learner book. Teachers can demonstrate the steps to the whole class and then let learners work in pairs or small groups to try it out.
Robotics consists of two fields: coding and engineering. Learners are introduced to mechanical and electrical engineering systems and circuits used in robotics.
The concepts and skills taught include:
- Creating logical steps that robots can follow.
- Basic mechanical systems, including pulleys, gears and linkages.
- Basic electrical circuits.
Robotics includes the two fields of coding and engineering. In the example activity above, learners role play controlling a robot.
Internet and E-communication
The following concepts and skills are taught in the strand:
- Digital identity and security.
- Safety around the use of digital platforms.
- Various types of e-communication technologies or platforms.
- The primary networks and the Internet.
- The safe use of web browsers to search for information.
The strand of the Internet and e-Communications skills prepares learners to interact safely in a digital online and offline world.
The content in the learner book provides a simple definition of the internet, connecting devices and connectivity. Illustrations, icons, and bolded keywords in the text (with definitions in nearby keyword boxes) aid learner understanding.
This strand teaches the following content and skills:
- The use of digital devices
- The use of applications and user interfaces
- Text editing applications
- Spreadsheet applications
Application Skills comprises of 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.
In the example above, learners revise user interfaces and are shown how to use arrow keys. A worked example is provided showing how to edit a file name using the arrow keys. They can also access a game using the arrow keys via the QR code.