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Physical Computing 6 week+ "Learn to code" unit of work, levelled with assessment sheets, Arduino

Engaging PhysCom coding unit of work. With assessment. Arduino

Alastair Barker

Created by Alastair Barker
last edited Jan 27 2015 by Alastair Barker

I’ve found that teaching coding using Physical Computing is really engaging. Students are able to see the results of their coding in the real world. They can quickly see the potential of learning to code as this unit of work shows how to automate things around their home preparing them for the Internet of Things!

It has taken over 2 years of development and has gone through many different designs of board and delivery sheets which gives this resource integrity of being tested in the field so to speak.

The unit uses the BBoard as its design is such that it is difficult to bend or break the pins, the components are very high quality and therefore produce very dependable responses and the circuitry has been designed to be hardened so that it is difficult to break through earnest student exploration.

The teaching material designs have been developed over many years and embrace the concepts that I’ve found provide both focus and scope to explore for the student. This may sound impossible but the menu style PhysCom challenge sheet backed up by the other challenge and skills sheets worked very well in the past. In addition to my own teaching I provide similar challenge sheets to the annual Bournemouth University run ScratchJam events which enables competitors of all abilities to develop something that is based around the core coding principles, but without boundaries.

The challenges are levelled, provide differentiation as well as almost open-ended tasks and are, most importantly, has been designed to be logistically manageable in a classroom and easily assessed.

I’ve attached some teaching resources that make up the overall package and some technical specifications of the BBoard. The teaching material is written for Arduino as I’ve found the Pi difficult to work with in the classroom. That said a Raspberry Pi version will soon be available as will challenges for the Science and Technology curricula as the BBoard and challenge sheets work equally well in all three departments.

Assessment is easily done during the lesson as students indicate they think they have finished a challenge, the teacher checks they have and then signs next to the level on the challenge sheet. If a date is also added to the overall challenge sheet then progress over time can be monitored.

More challenge and skills sheets will be uploaded as and when.

Check out a video of the Discovery Packs in action by going to and heading for Physical Computing.

Level: (Beginner / Intermediate/ Advanced) KS3, KS4 and KS5. Like Lego the bounds are limited only by imagination.

Duration: (duration, if applicable) Around 6 weeks but could be used throughout all levels of course and other STEM subjects.

Teaches: (set of concepts learned) Teaches principles of coding: variables, I/O, iteration and decisions. Then pushes the student on to create “sexy code” - that which is modular and readable by others.

These resources, imagery and unique concepts are Copyright Al’s Tech Garage UK Ltd. All rights reserved.

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