Tag Archives: computing

Virtual Futures

Hello! Ben Neal here, I’m a Creative Coder and Gadgeteer who’s been working with years 5 and 6 to create futuristic computer controllers to navigate around virtual worlds filled with our artwork.

During last term we used the LittleBits kits and MakeyMakeys to create our own Human Interface Devices made from recycled cardboard boxes and padded envelopes to replace the mouse and keyboard.

We made drawings of what we think we’ll look like in the year 2097 and added these to an interactive 3D world around which we can navigate and explore.

Below you can see some screenshots of what we’ve been up to and an animation of a virtual wall full of students work.

Click play to watch the video above

LittleBits kit
LittleBits kit
3D World
Inventor’s Schematic
Interactive vitual boxes


Back To The Future Day – making our own inventions

Today was officially Back To The Future Day – 21st October 2015 – the day that Marty McFly travelled to the future and witnessed a plethora of exciting inventions from hover boards to flying cars, automatic dog walkers and giant holographic 3d cinema screens.

Today that day has arrived and while some inventions have made it into our lives for real, many of them have yet to be realised.

This week the pupils have been advancing their understanding of Inputs and Outputs, terminology we used in programming, and applying this to physical interactive electronic objects in the real world.



Interactive Technology?

Each of the pupils investigated common interactive technology driven objects from around the home, school and on their person to dissect the Inputs that control them, and the Outputs that they produce. We looked at table lamps and heaters, television sets and radio hi-fi. Once we discovered that many outputs could indeed become sensors as inputs as well as outputs we could understand how devices that we use today might have been dreamt up; from audible reverse parking sensor alerts on cars to automated central heating systems in our homes and schools.

Taking our imagination into the future another 25 years, we all came up with an invention that used some form of Input and Output to show our understanding.


Prototyping ?

Coming back to some of first lessons,  we learnt the term iterative development and the way in which we can quickly produce ideas on paper and in our minds, and then write bits of code or design using computers and then once it works we can further refine and amend our ideas until we are happy with the result.

In digital technology terms this is called prototyping. Creating ideas on paper and then using electronics or computer code to sketch out a rough idea or to quickly demonstrate the interaction between Inputs and Outputs.

Prototyping objects is often quick and means that the focus is on creating and realising ideas rather than spending lots of time building and manufacturing something that may not be the desired result. It is a further form of iterative development and is a process widely used in the technology industry (and many other sectors too)


Little Bits ?

LittleBits are a system of digital building blocks that can be combined to create interactive objects. Much like a series of lego blocks these bits are magnetic and stick together. Through experimentation and understanding we can use them to combine multiple inputs and outputs and with a little crafting and imagination we can transform our ideas into working inventions. Each bit has a different function, some are input devices and sensors and others are output devices.

LittleBits snap together in the following order: ( Power -> Input ->Output ) By changing an Input or Output device we can create varying differences in our objects within seconds of experimentation.


LittleBits is quick, fun and easy to use so it is a perfect tool to enable us to prototype with.


Inventions ?

Choosing Light as our Output we worked with a button (toggle switch) as our Input to create a simple on/off light switch device. Changing the Input for a dimmer (variable potentiometer switch) we were able to alter that device into something that could produce a different amount of light. Altering the Output to a servo motor (rotary motor that moves between 0 and 180 degrees) and attaching a post it note we could create a moving flag with a message on it.



Understanding the building blocks of sensors and devices that make up many of our technology driven objects in the world today, we can now begin to design and develop our own inventions and make them a reality using LittleBits and a bit of creative and artistic imagination.

Creating our own Drawing Tools

One of the amazing things about technology is in the way in which it can enable all of us to become makers and creators. We can learn a tool and then apply our own artistic and creative understanding to produce different outcomes from it. We can even make our own tools for expression.

This week the pupils in Year 5 and Year 6 have been programming their own drawing machines using Scratch.



Last week we looked at how programming is much like reading a list of instructions and making sure we apply those instructions in the correct order. Using our (if this, do that) method of understanding, we could build up a series of instructions to perform a program.

Computers are not as clever as us humans and so we need to give them exact instructions or they will not do as we ask. We can also figure out ways of getting them to perform lots of tasks with as little effort from us as possible.

We must remember that there can often be many different ways to solve the same problem in programming.



Last week we also explored variables – values that are stored on the computer and can change either via instructions from the program or from user interaction, such as pressing a key on the keyboard.

We looked at 2 types of variables: strings which are characters, letters or words and integers which are whole numbers.

Our integer variables this week were the co ordinates of the character on the screen, called ‘x’ and ‘y’. By changing the numbers we could manipulate the character and make it move. Using our (if this, do that) structure we could create a keyboard press IF and a variable change THAT to produce the movement. We had to press the key a lot of times to make our character move about !



To create instructions that repeat themselves over and over again we learned about ‘Recursion’ or Looping/Repeating. This enables us to take a few instructions and repeat them many times without having to keep sending the same instructions again and again.

Making our character move with one instruction was really fun. Making him move 20 steps in one direction involved a lot of key presses; imagine that it needed to move 1000 steps….

By taking an instruction and repeating it we could have one key press perform many actions for us!




Drawing Tools?

Learning repetition is much more fun when we can use it to draw shapes for us on screen.

Understanding how to repeat a simple instruction such as move forward and turn right 90 degrees we could build up repetitions to allow us to instruct the computer to move in a square shape and draw it out for us. (Hint: we repeated the instruction 4 times)

Using Scratch, we were able to take simple instructions and repeat them to create our own creative drawing tool. Using the Pen commands we created a spirograph/etch-a-sketch tool that responded to our inputs from the keyboard.

By changing the variables we could create different shapes and colours. By adding in the ability to stamp our character sprite on the screen we could create colourful spiral drawings made of ghosts, unicorns and cats.




Every Child – Becoming Digital Artists

Hi my name is Ashley and I am slowly becoming known in the school as the ‘Makey Makey Man’. I am a digital artist and coder who uses technology to create playful creative works that range from smartphone applications to large scale art gallery light installations.

I have been working in school with Year 5 and Year 6 to start our exploration of Digital Arts, Creative Technology and using our artistic inventiveness to explore and understand computer programming with a creative and playful outcome.

So far we have made pianos and musical instruments out of bananas! and our bodies. We have created games controllers to play Flappy Bird with our own colourful play dough creatures.




We are understanding what it means to be creative and use technology as our medium to become aspiring Digital Artists of the future.

We have explored what it means to be an ‘artist’ and to have an art form or ‘practice’ that describes what you do or make. We looked at ‘mediums’ or materials,tools and processes that allow you to be able to create that art form.


We are using throughout the project a variety of technology, hardware and software solutions to enable both creative outputs and understanding. These tools are available globally and empower users to make and be creative through light, sound, touch, movement and coding – real world physical interactions that get us looking beyond the screen and the digital world. We are investigating how different interfaces and different people interact with computers in fun and playful ways.

We have used a Makey Makey , a digital interface that allows us to connect everyday conductive objects such as coins, fruit and ourselves to control content on the computer.

Using resistive electricity we create and connect circuits with these objects to the Makey Makey device so that when connected together by touching the objects with our body, they operate like a switch and simulate the pressing of a key on the computer, such as the spacebar.

IMG_20150916_182947 IMG_20150916_122734 IMG_20150916_150617


Behind the creative outputs is the understanding of how computers, and more importantly ‘logic’ and instructional programming  works.

We have been learning about INPUTS and OUTPUTS and creating basic blocks of instructions using an ‘IF THIS happens, then DO THAT’ understanding.

We have started to create our own digital media on the computers using a visual programming language called Scratch which enables us to create games, animations and drawings using defined blocks of code that join together like modular building blocks, like a kind of digital lego. So far the children are using simple INPUTS of keyboard presses to move a character around the screen (OUTPUT).



Gurjeevan And Hammad


When we were creating our game we had some difficulties as it was our first time using pyonkee. Our difficulties were when we had to make the pac man move. In addition, it was really fun although it was tough. However everything we done came through and worked. Even though we didn’t finish our game came out quite good.