WIT lecturers bring coding to life for Gaelscoil Phort Lairge students

200 primary school students learned coding skills through Bee Bots, Sphero Block Coding and Scratch
Twins Cian and Cormac, junior infants, Gaelscoil Phort Láirge working in a team effort to program their Sphero during their all-school codeathon.

6 December 2019

Students from Gaelscoil Phort Láirge took part in a school-wide codeathon last week, led by WIT computing lecturers Dr Siobhan Drohan, Dr Brenda Mullally and Rob O’Connor. The initiative saw 200 primary school students learn coding skills through various age-appropriate tools.

The WIT team designed lesson plans to suit the different year-groups; the junior and senior infants students programmed a sequence of instructions to move their Bee Bot robots around a map and to arrive at a chosen location. Senior infants teacher Fionnuala Knox said she was amazed at how competent such young children were at coding. “As they had been involved from the design of the maps to the coding of the Bee Bots,” she said, “they were wholeheartedly invested in the programme.”

The first and second class children used iPads to code their Sphero Mini robots to know down skittles and dominoes, while the third and fourth class pupils had to navigate their robots around a maze. Students from fifth and sixth class used Scratch block coding to build a game, then connected it to a Makey Makey invention kit and built a game controller using PlayDoh. Ciara O’Connor, sixth class teacher, said: “To see children of all abilities working together in teams to create circuits was wonderful. A great mix of art, imagination and technology.”




“The children engaged in an incredibly enthusiastic manner with the Spheros and Makey Makeys,” said vice-principal Kate Warren. “From a teacher’s perspective, this type of engagement with concrete materials is invaluable to their learning. The students were continually planning, problem solving, innovating, collaborating and learning from mistakes through their engagement with the kit. They absolutely loved coding, wanting to be challenged more and more.”

The team of 13 lectures used a HEA-funded codeathon kit to involve the students in the world of coding. Dr Siobhan Drohan said it can be worked into a number of school subjects. Looking at maths, Dr Drohan said: “Spheros can be used to teach aspects such as time, speed, distance, angles, arithmetic calculations. Looking at science, Makey Makeys, can be used to demonstrate topics such as electricity, circuits, conductivity and currents. The applications of the kit to the curriculum is endless really. Additionally, teaching with the kit allows for various student learning styles (visual, aural, physical, etc).”

Dr Mullally added “Ideally, if we could get additional funding or even donations from local companies of some kit, we could either leave samples behind in schools or leave it in a centre where teachers could borrow it from. This would enable the teachers and children to continue their learning. With our support, we could empower teachers to teach technology in a fun and engaging way.”

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