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CODE Portal for UK Primary Schools – Concept Disclosed in 2017

CODE Portal for UK Primary Schools – Concept Disclosed in 2017

Welcome to WebTechGlobal and the full disclosure of my CODE Portal concept for every Primary School in the UK. The images you’ll see below are concepts of style and layout only. Images do not contain examples of information that relate to this project so your imagination is needed. The information disclosed here is a sample from my project planning and is being presented to teachers within the UK. 

The very first step in the project was a meeting with Jacqueline Thompson (Headteacher of Dysart Primary in Fife, Scotland) where two of my four children attended. The initial concept presented to Jacqueline was closer to a list of tutorials and pages of information about computer science, coding, and programming. Jacqueline was excited by the idea of a free solution and by what the solution could offer. After leaving her office it didn’t take long for the idea to mature into something closer to a fully interactive portal that represents the modern web.

Goals

These goals for CODE Portal will help you to determine if my work is something that your School may be interested in. If you are interested please show it by commenting and sharing this post. That is all the project needs at this time.

Goal 1: Curriculum Focused Course

There is a lot of great information and tools online already. It just isn’t all organised in one place and most of it isn’t planned around the Scottish and English curriculums. CODE Portal will guide staff and pupils to said materials in a structured way. The fundamentals of Computer Science will be included. 

Goal 2: Offer A Free Solution

I want to offer a free intranet solution called CODE Portal. The portal will offer teaching and independent learning material. There is a list
of possible interactive and data-driven features being explored. These will make the free solution unlike anything else on the market and offer a modern experience for it’s users. The approaches being considered are slightly unorthodox but budget cuts often do call for new approaches.

Goal 3: Deliver Modular Course Material

A module would be a milestone. Importantly a module would be made up of multiple individual tasks that exist independently. Meaning a task can be included in multiple modules. This could lead to tailored modules and opens the way for CODE Portal to adapt to different curriculums or changes in existing curriculums. This goal could deliver a powerful tool for arranging courses that fit well into each term and at different levels.

Goal 4: Tracking Activity and Progress

Possible Timeline Design for CODE Portal

Possible Timeline Design

This is where I get “unorthodox”. The portal will be designed for intranets that have no server. That means there will be no database and the absence of a data storage solution, usually, reduces how many data-driven features can (should typically) be implemented. But I’m confident in a workaround which involves storing information in files. Nothing about the portal requires secure data storage. Users only need temporary progress tracking during the course of a module. Schools have the option of implementing a simple spreadsheet solution for recording modular progress. All of these things could be upgraded in Schools with good budgets. But, initially tracking would be designed to be fun and encouraging.

Goal 5: Encourage Independent Learning

Tasks presented by the portal will include theory, practical, team exercises, and unique challenges that will require a member of staff. But most will not require a teacher as the portal will encourage independent learning. 

Goal 6: Continue Learning After School

The free portal might have a support site with the same style as the portal itself. A brand is already being established. The online site would offer some free support and premium services. Pupils could continue learning outside of School with permission from parents. They could jump straight to where they were while at School and enjoy tackling the next task.

Goal 7: Online Service

Online services are a distant possibility but they will be planned. Services could include technical support for the portals installation and updating. The portal could be hosted online without data-driven features but eventual registration and account management services could be provided. Considering the target audience of the service. These services will be built with care and it is likely that cloud data storage services will be used to secure users information safely.

Goal 8: Possible Secondary School Solution

There will be nothing to stop secondary schools downloading and installing the CODE Portal. There is likely to be many secondary pupils who could make use of the early versions of CODE Portal. There will be no license or restrictions on the CODE Portal download. If the portal is a success and I find secondary schools using it. The project would enter a new phase that considers a more mature target audience and teachers with stronger technical skills driving demand for it. A secondary school edition would be created and it is likley a license system would be required. There will won’t be any detailed plans for this service until success is a sure thing at primary level.

What is a portal?

A portal is a type of website that acts as a map to many others resources including websites. It is referred to as a portal because it’s primary purpose is to offer links to other websites and the visitor uses it to go through rather than stopping at the portal website. The CODE Portal will include custom content for both staff training, staff guidance, lessons preparation and much of the same for pupils. However due to the intention to direct users towards existing websites I decided to brand it as a portal. This helps to create a clear distinction from existing websites especially code.org which also be featured within the CODE Portal.

What Is Coding?

Coding is what makes it possible for us to create computer software, mobile phone apps and websites. Your browser, your OS (operating system), the apps on your phone, Facebook, YouTube, and this website – they’re all made with code. Even robots like BeeBot contains code and the programming we do to make a robot move simply makes use of a code (language) stored within the robot.

Portal Pages

CODE Portal Feature Idea - Timed Limit Tests and Quizes

CODE Portal Feature Idea – Timed Limit Tests and Quizzes

To further, help you understand what the CODE Portal would offer. I have laid out some of the pages we could expect in either the downloadable intranet version or on the online website.

  1. Home – Visitor selects who they are (Teacher or Pupil), their primary year (1-7), possibly selection of their name and entry of their date of birth. There would not be a password login because no sensitive data is stored. We simply need a gateway that allows the portal to recognise the user through the most basic information. Remember this information is only stored locally. Data will never be sent from the intranet portal to an online website/server.
  2. The Computational Thinker – this would be a clear and separate menu delivering Computer Science lesson including practical activities, videos and if the visitor is a teacher then teaching material would be displayed.
  3. Personal Progress – a dynamic menu that encourages the user to complete activities not complete or just not frequently tried and it would especially encourage tasks key to the national curriculum.
  4. Tools – A list of all the coding/programming tools required to complete modules and projects offered in the portal.
  5. Sitemap – A list of all pages in the portal (not an .xml file)
  6. Changes – History of the portals key development changes i.e. new page added. It would indicate who made the changes, when and why.
  7. Levels and KS – The national curriculum made clear in a table. We would possibly link related content (modules) to each level.
  8. Report – A form for reporting faults and giving feedback. This would only create a local file for the purpose of the Schools staff to make use of rather than it being sent directly to WebTechGlobal.
  9. Tasks and Modules By Language – An index of all languages. Select a language and it would offer further choices. Those choices could be levels or primaries or age groups. Python, Ruby, PHP, JavaScript, Ajax, Shell, C# and more.
  10. Tasks and Modules By Environment – An index of environments that a developer would work within i.e. Mobile and Tablets (Windows 10, iOS and Android), Windows 10 desktop, Chrome Browser Plugin, HTML Website, PHP Website and more. Pupils will often have a strong interest in specific environments and software.
  11. Tasks and Modules By Level – Based on national curriculums with the Scottish and English curriculums being considered separately in the portal design.
  12. Tasks and Modules By Type – A library of Theory modules, Practical modules, Quiz Modules, Pupil Modules (created by pupils for pupils), Video modules (pupil only watches a video and maybe completes a short quiz)
  13. Achievements – Initially a page to track progress but the possibility of badges is an easy addition. Schools could also offer a history of house points gained by the recognised user or simply list all teams/houses progress.
  14. Other Schools – Display code activity by other Primary Schools and help Schools understand where they sit nationally.
  15. Code Staff – A list of staff with strong skills in computer science or staff members who wish to volunteer as a main contact within the School for the CODE Portal.
  16. Accessibility – Special support needs in relation to programming will be detailed here i.e. assistive technology, different programming tools or modules. It would be great to see modules designed with specific students in mind. This is where important ground could be covered.
  17. Inclusion – An area offering guidance on how to create modules that include everyone. Gender, ethnicity and religion should always be considered. Each School may wish to modify or remove inclusion guidance information. I will consider a solution to make such changes easy when I understand the School system more.
  18. Glossary – All the jargon explained.
  19. Facts – Interesting facts about programming and the history of computer science.
  20. Portal Promise – A list of the principles behind Computer Science and programming. The Portal Promise page will explain that it is the responsibility of WebTechGlobal and their School to maintain the portal in a way that respects those principles.
  21. Robots – All things robotic would begin here. Information and guidance would be basic for Primary Schools.
  22. Gaming – Game development guidance and information. It would be basic for Primary Schools.
  23. Code Club – The portal would support a code club. There is an official site to support this also which will be detailed on the Code Club page.
  24. Safety – The CODE Portal for primary Schools is intended to be a download, containing much information and guides, with the optional ability to follow links through to online sites. Exactly how many offline tasks will be available is difficult to say at this time. The safety page could present the Schools existing online/internet safety guides. The page should also offer guidance to pupils on tackling situations that will be new to them and potentially distressing. This type of information should accompany all IT applications I believe. So I’m talking in general and not suggesting that the CODE Portal would lead to distressing situations. However, I do consider a peer system that allows Primary 7 children to review Primary 6 work and provide feedback. This would be a first step towards teaching children that code and programming is scrutinised. That mistakes will be found by others and we should simply learn from our mistakes then move on. This is a sensitive area and set of ideas that need further discussion and probably testing on smaller groups. 

Online Tools

Barclays Code Playground

Barclays Code Playground

I would like to show you my level of awareness for existing tools and emphasise that the number of resources can be overwhelming.
It is the aim of the portal to guide users to the best resources that suit them and avoid them being lost in Google search.

Services

I’m not sure many of the commonly used developer services should be introduced at Primary School. However, they can’t be completely ignored either because many are key elements of a developer’s working environment. So they might be within a staff area for staff who want to be aware of services that help with the long-term management of their projects and even just individual scripts. It may also be suitable to mention these to pupils in Primary 7 very briefly. Pupils can begin to figure out how it all pieces together in the real-world rather than actually being asked to use them anytime soon.

Code Club

There is a service called Code Club but Schools do not need to follow their approach. Whatever approach a School takes these websites could be recommended to parents as part of an after School coding and programming club. Each should be reviewed as some may be more suitable for secondary schools only.

Project Phases

Technically the project is bigger than this short list of phases but these should help you to understand that professional project management methods are being used to control every aspect of CODE Portal. 

Phase 1: Planning/Research

Days of research has gone into the CODE Portal project. Time has been spent getting to know School procedures and the national curriculum. Understanding the target audience is also a key part of planning. The target audience for CODE Portal includes adults and children. Professionals and learners. Administration staff and technical staff. Pupils and peers. Parents and other family members may also get involved. The design of the portal will focus on super easy navigation and very well presented information for everyone. But the challenge exists to not only research each type of user but to reflect the research in the portals design, information, and resources. 

Phase 2: Technical Design

CODE Portal Concept FAQ Example

CODE Portal Concept Example – FAQ Page

I need to establish the key design elements and establish any restrictions as early as possible. I also need to consider what options we have
later when wishing to improve the portal and take it up a level. Sometimes it pays to consider the future now and implementing a design that can adapt when the time is right.

  • Responsive – the School will view the portal on various screen sizes. It must be responsive for their tablets.
  • Accessibility – special support needs must be considered and standards in usability adhered to for all pupils whatever their disabilities.
  • Safety – all measures must be taking to ensure the information technology does not compromise our pupils. This means users must not need to download or upload files to use the portal or complete modules.
  • Layouts – we need to create a range of layouts for each type of page and especially each type of module. Educative Maintenance: there is an opportunity to further educate children by allowing them to maintain the portal. This will require a slightly simplified technical design i.e. break CSS down into multiple well-named files rather than one large .css file. Images should also be grouped with pupils in mind and not developers.
  • Adaptive – possibly a long term goal would be for the portal to adapt to different users. I would like Primary 7 to get a more professional treatment and even the modules would be presented differently. Maybe even role-play developer and client. This would simply involve modules having extra information that is hidden from other users.

Phase 3: Prototype

The prototype could possibly become the early version of CODE Portal and would be very basic. However, the option to purchase an existing template (styles and layout) to speed up development is there. I’ve found a very modern theme with a high level of interactivity. Purchase

Phase 4: Graphics Design

I would like to see graphics being introduced from a digital collection created by pupils. My initial thoughts is to style each language’s own section within the portal similar to the official sites. This will teach users something in itself. It is important to recognise the languages. Decoration of sections will include snippets of the code itself.

Phase 5: Development

I will develop the portal in HTML5 and CSS3. It will offer a modern JavaScriptr response. Development will require a small amount of funding
to show that more of my free time is worth spending on the project.

Phase 6: Review

Review the portal and collect feedback from testers. This will phase focuses on layout, visual design, presentation of information and reviewing these notes also.

Phase 7: Documentation

Documentation will focus on installation, FAQ and troubleshooting. 

Phase 8: Release

The release of the portal will involve sending a link to download the portal to everyone interested. Please submit your email address in the newsletter field provided further down this post. Do not submit it in the comment box. 

d home page shortcuts to computers and links on the existing intranet.

Portal Promise

There is a new tradition of telling children what they are entitled to and how to go about ensuring their rights are giving. A  Portal Promise would keep in tradition of that approach to empowering young people. This is not the portal promise itself but information to help create the promise.
http://www.computingatschool.org.uk/data/uploads/CASPrimaryComputing.pdf (p19,20)
The portals promise could include David Jonassen’s five essential aspects to learn in a meaningful and effective manner. I would like to see modules that target these specifically i.e. a module may ask the student to do some “Active” research and then present their finds in a “Constructive” manner. If pupils can grasp these five aspects by Primary 7 they will be able to judge their portals offerings. It is important to remember that each School may eventually have a different portal if my design allows the easy modifications intended. So while the CODE Portal may be fit for purpose after development there is no telling what condition it may be in on any Schools intranet. 

  • Active – discussion and research.
  • Constructive – blog findings, create a prototype, deliver a presentation.
  • Intentional – allow a choice of the final solutions approach.
  • Authentic – allow pupils activity to be shared, seen, used, extended.
  • Co-operative – working together, includes remotely.

Design Goals

Task Clarity

It is an immediate requirement to understand what computer science elements each task teaches. Task can be categorised by type but they also need to clearly show what level, common age group and key stage they focus on. This will allow course building for individuals and groups.

Module Clarity

A course of tasks would make up a module. It may be important to show clearly where a modules activity type changes. To help with that have modified David Jonassen’s originally 5 aspects of “meaningful learning” to make categories that we may consider part of making very successful learners. A single module could cover many of these steps and in doing so the pupil would far closer to a professional level of habits. Mapping these to a younger mind will require further adaptation i.e. Co-operative would become role-play and have the goal of creating understanding rather than experience.

  • Discussion (Active)
  • Research (Active)
  • Prototyping (Constructive)
  • Blogging (Constructive)
  • Coding (Constructive)
  • Decide Methods (Intentional)
  • Select Software (Intentional)
  • Decide Required Skills (Intentional)
  • Choose Supporting Knowledge (Intentional)
  • More Uses (Authentic)
  • Testers (Authentic)
  • Upload (Authentic)
  • Sell (Authentic)
  • Demonstrate (Authentic)
  • Team (Co-operative)
  • File Share (Co-operative)
  • Delegate (Co-operative)
  • Hire (Co-operative)

Staff Material Clarity

Lots of clarity but teachers need a different treatment. I can only go by the Schools I’ve examined and the ones I’m invited to as part of my research. So far I feel that teachers need their guidances and resources split into primary levels 1-2, 3-4, and 5-7. The goal here is to avoid staff teaching the earlier years becoming bogged down. Support staff can also focus on material for learning computer science in sections and modules. The portals task and modules design might even be used to create small courses for teachers. This is an area that will require further research and financial backing.

Computing Curriculum

The fundamental aspects of the computing curriculum should be explained clearly somewhere in the portal in my opinion. They are computer science (CS), information technology (IT), digital literacy (DL). The portal would fit into the CS aspect of technology and it should be clearly explained why. CS, IT and DL do come together

Existing Modular Content

There are modules online already with examples below. Various sites offer them. We will present all of those modules within a module system of our own. Some will simply point the pupil towards the existing online material and some will offer a different approach to help the pupil understand the task but end up on the same interactive page online. This is where we consider the possibility of the portal being a wrapper around existing resources with the aim of providing a different learning experience for specific pupils.

 Why Coding and Programming in Primary?

When I began to talk about my ideas in the School playground with other parents. The only question I ever got was “Why?” and the answer was usually, “Because the rest of the world is doing it and some are further ahead than us!”. Well here is a great video to help parents take notice, get onboard and begin to trust that we know our stuff. This video is important to me when moving forward because I got some strange looks from parents as if they couldn’t understand why someone who isn’t staff could begin to talk about, potentially influencing their child’s education. What can I say, they met someone with an idea that might be good for everyone. Getting them to trust me and my idea might require a celebrity… 

Teaching Resources

There are some very official resources for teachers like Quick Start Computing which offers a wealth of information that we may be able to bring into the portal. Whatever staff area is created, it will be broken down and with consultation, it will be perfected. 

Levelling and Key Stages (KS)

The information gathered here will be used to create accurate national curriculum guides. I will have to come up with a way to present tasks/modules in a way that fits into each stage of the curriculum. As a none teacher, I’m also trying to understand the differences between England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Which means the portal must be designed in a way that can adapt to suit each country, region and organisation. Failing to do so may restrict the projects potential to spread.

Assessment

CODE Portal Feature Idea - Engaging Polls

Engaging Polls Example

Material and tools to aid assessment. There will be a section of pages for assessment because there are many forms and approaches. This section of the portal requires information that aids in assessment planning. Pupils and staff should be able to read the information so that there is an understanding of what is expected from everyone. We need to understand what information should and can be stored for each pupil to track their individual progress but that can be part of a longer term goal for the portal.

  • Optional Tests – It may be beneficial to create modules that test and are presented with some test characteristics i.e. time limit, points for individual parts. I strongly believe they should be optional. The national curriculum focuses on gauging a pupils ability without exams of any nature. However, I know the nature of IT exams and they can be among the toughest a person can sit. They demand logic, reasoning, interpretation, literacy, efficiency with a computer and time management. Encouraging children to code and create programs under the pressure of time or a little peer pressure but without lasting consequences is likely to be fun and prepare their nerves for University examination. I would guess pupils will frequently choose to test themselves and each other.
  • Self-Assessment – a blog is an ideal method for students to record their activity, outcome, thoughts on what they have learned, difficulties etc.
  • Peer-Assessment – I would like the portal to include guidance on how, why, who and when peer-assessment is best carried out. The world of information technology opens us all to scrutiny. I myself champion greater transparency especially in the web development industry and I campaign for far more accountability when things go wrong. Our children will grow up in a world where every mistake might become public and they must become insensitive to it for it is part of the process. Controlled peer-assessment could prepare them for jobs where mistakes are easily made but can have very public consequences. The CODE Portal should contain information on how to deal with the pressure of a community responding to our actions when playing, working and socializing online.
  • Open-Questioning – this is more suitable for projects where the pupil can make various free choices and make their own path towards a solution. Questioning approaches may depend on the pupil and, ideally it would. Individuals with stronger personalities with more confidence may benefit greatly from standing in front of the class and opening themselves to questioning. It’s not something I would ever volunteer to do so I’m the first to suggest that it is optional. Smaller groups may be preferred by some and others may wish a one-to-one with their teacher.
    Discussion With Peers: this would involve online discussion because that is generally what would happen in the real-world. Pupils would talk to pupils from other Schools about their project. They may be open to criticism and again this will prepare them for later.

Research Material

A list of sites and documents already researched.

Summary

This post contains a lot of information and is more about creating my first point of information for the CODE Portal concept. I’ve already spent days of unpaid work on research and simply want to keep the first release of information simple. On moving forward with the final product I would create a dedicated site. Until that website is launched please request more information anytime. If you, would like a blog post or document that focuses on a specific aspect of the project, please request it today. A working prototype will be created and delivered to Schools I already have contact with. There is a possibility that the free portal installed on those School’s intranet will bring a decisive end to the project due to the concept failing to meet stakeholders needs. We will not know unless we try but it is important to understand that pledges to help support me are none refundable and merely help me to see the concept through to a completed prototype scenario.  

 

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