Computing skills can be learnt in all kinds of fun ways, and as well as developing computational thinking skills, young people can also get active in the process. This was the inspiration behind the CAS team’s innovative Active Bodies, Active Minds video series, created as part of our ongoing CAS Inspire programme run by the CAS outreach team to support our community, teachers, and parents.
We started thinking about the idea for Active Bodies, Active Minds at the start of the lockdown — we wanted to keep young minds active while they were stuck at home. We also wanted to provide fun, creative activities that would involve parents, and that teachers could pass on to students to help them to learn computing skills without a computer. The series completely smashes the idea that computing is all about being indoors. It makes young people realise the essence of computing and logical thinking and how these are important in every aspect of life. My video on drumming, for instance, makes direct parallels between drumming and computing. A drumbeat requires logical thinking, such as an ability to count and repeat a set number of times, much like when we write an algorithm.
We built on the concept of unplugged earning, without explicitly doing unplugged computing exercises, using ‘camouflaged learning’. Young people had the chance to learn or demonstrate a skill while learning about computing at the same time. To take an example, in one of our videos, CAS national community manager Beverly Clarke cooks chocolate brownies. The idea was to take young people through an everyday activity — such as baking — with prompts and thought points to encourage conversation and thinking. These are ‘camouflaged’ in the activity and are linked to computational thinking concepts and approaches, enabling computing to be taught through everyday activities.
Getting young people involved
We felt that it was important to have young people involved in making the videos too. We were grateful to all the children of CAS staff who shared their expertise and enthusiasm to help make the videos. Young people taking part at home have to plan, design, and think logically about what they want to achieve. Then they can reflect or think about how to do the task differently. It comes back to those core ideas about giving young people the confidence to express themselves. A computer enables things to happen, but the creative ideas come from the person.
Ben and Beth worked with their dad, CAS outreach manager Peter Marshman, to make a football video. Beth talked about goalkeeping, and the different positions and decisions you make when a ball is heading straight at you. Computer science concepts were woven in, such as sequencing, order, execution, and selection. It was all about having a set of decisions to make. We also spoke about different variables, such as where a goalkeeper can position themselves. It involved all the tasks associated with goalkeeping, such as logical thinking and problem-solving. At the end of the video, Beth asks viewers to design a workout themselves and to develop a flow chart for different workout sessions. It was great to see the children driving the content and the ideas of this project.
Young people can understand that everything has a set of processes and rules, and that it’s just about understanding how you communicate those set of rules to a computer. Another crucial part of this is that it helps parents understand it as well. One of the last videos we made was with CAS computer champion Neil Rickus. He spoke to his parents and in-laws about their weekly online quiz night — not only is it important to them, but it uses tech. We also featured the child of CAS outreach manager Wendy MacLeod, who chatted to their grandparents about tech. It was all about engaging parents and families in everyday tasks and then relating them to computing.
A resource for teachers
We’ve had a great reaction to the Active Bodies, Active Minds video series. They are great fun and at their core is a sense of trying new activities and being uninhibited — just go for it and see what happens. It also helps parents and children realise this stuff is not that difficult, and that they needn’t get bogged down in terminology. Each video comes with a downloadable help sheet that has instructions, guidance, earning outcomes, and tips for parents and teachers to help them advance young people’s computing skills.
My role was to edit the footage and put the worksheets together, and it was great fun watching young people and colleagues making things and going outdoors. It was also fascinating seeing what my colleagues do outside of work and how they relate that to computing as well. Active Bodies, Active Minds will hopefully also encourage teachers to try these activities with their students. Lockdown has led to a real sea change in how we can do things. We thought hard about how to keep young people, parents, and teachers engaged and excited about learning something new during this time. I think the series has been well received because we’ve all been sitting in front of laptops every day, and it’s important to step away from the computer now and then.
You can find the Active Bodies, Active Minds series on the CAS website.
Join the discussion
We’d love to hear about other experiences of computing outdoors, using camouflage learning, and computing in other contexts. You can join the discussion on the CAS website and also share ideas and activities on social media using the hashtag #CASInspire20.