Thursday, 30 October 2014

Is it an Algorithm?

If the new primary computing curriculum has achieved anything,  it is introducing the word algorithm into the vocabulary of most teachers. We now all know that algorithms are just a set of instructions to get something done and range from knitting patterns to recipes, from lego instructions to programs written in logo. 

This term we have introduced the word algorithm to pupils EYFS. The children pretended to be a pirate, the gruffalo, even the Queen when saying the word. They have also enjoyed singing the algorithm round.


There are key features to algorithm that we can use to identify if something is an algorithm. They must have a outcome: something has to be achieved. They need to be sequenced into a set of steps: if these steps are not followed in order the end product will not be reached. So a no parking sign is not an algorithm but instructions on how to use a parking meter are.

Using this criteria,  pupils can sort images into algorithms or advice. This can be started in class, using this presentation, and continued at home with pupils collecting images of everyday algorithms. Before attempting to understand what a program is, pupils' need a sound understanding of what an algorithm is and isn't.

Celebrity Spelling Tests

I have been using the free iOS app photospeak for sometime, primarily as an alternative way of recording. For those who haven't used the app, photospeak allows you to record a voice over an animated face. This face can be one within the app or an imported image. In class we have created animations of Isaac Newton explaining why the Jenga tower collapsed, Winston Churchill persuading people to enlist and vegetables explaining what nutrients they contain and how these are used by the human body.
Photospeak a free iOS app

Recently a pupil asked if we could get Simon Cowell, whose animation we were using as a stimulus for our writing, to do our weekly spelling test. So that Friday the X-Factor judge obliged and read out the spellings. 

The interface for recording animated voice-overs
Since then this idea has grown and we now have a celebrity spelling test every Friday conducted by a celebrity of the children's choosing. Spellings are given out on Friday allowing children the option of writing sentences, including these words, for use in the next spelling test. It has definitely made the weekly spelling test fun and the children are motivated not just to learn the spellings, but to use the words in the correct context.