ICT is now “Computing” in the 2014 curriculum and there’s been a huge shift in focus toward teaching programming, but knowing where to start isn’t that easy.

In fact, it’s pretty safe to assume that there’s lots of grown ups out there that need introducing to computing. The changes to what is now the computing curriculum can seem a bit daunting, especially if you don’t have any prior experience.

With how busy teachers are these days it’s hard to find time in the day to find new resources let alone teach yourself a whole new skill-set which you then need to try and teach!

So are YOU ready to embrace your inner geek? We are! Let’s do this!

Thankfully programming isn’t as scary as it looks and, if you’re a native English speaker, the hardest thing you’ll have to do at first is learn to make yourself write in American English (as that’s what most programming languages use). It’s probably best not to have a cup of tea during your first few sessions of programming, so you don’t splutter into it in indignation and cover the keyboard in tea (it takes ages to clean it properly).

How do I get started?

It’s best to focus on the basics. Like when you first learned to read or to speak another language getting a solid foundation to build upon will stand you in good stead.

You didn’t start off in French classes learning how to have a political discourse in classic French, so starting off with the programming equivalent of “Où est la bibliotèque?” while not particularly exciting is definitely wise.

In terms of programming this means getting an understanding of the basics of:

  • What a programming language is and how it works
  • Programming key terms
  • Basic programming logic
So what tools can you use to get your head around computer programming?

First off to get a good idea of what it is and what it’s got to do with the box you mostly watch cat videos on. These 3 BrainPOP videos will give you a grounding in how computers work and the basics of what a programming language is, what it does, and why it’s useful. Just sit back and watch.

1. Computer Programming

This BrainPOP topic covers what programming languages are, the basics of how they work, and the types of things they can be used for.

2. Computer

This BrainPOP topic explains all about the hardware in your computer. What the different parts are, as well as the fundamentals of how they work and communicate. Having a basic understanding of the anatomy of your hardware makes it a lot easier to understand programming otherwise it can be a bit like trying to understand how you move your legs without knowing about muscles and bones.

3. Binary

No, you haven’t fallen into “The Matrix”, this BrainPOP topic introduces you to the “language of computers” and how computers use binary to represent and store data.

How can I actually start coding?

Okay so we have our overview of what a programming language is, the anatomy of a computer, and how a computer communicates, it’s time to actually start programming!

Probably the easiest way to get started is to solve some puzzles using programming rather than actually try to start writing something from scratch – the equivalent of sounding out phonemes while learning to read rather than trying to write an essay right off the bat.

There are a few different (free!) programming games on BrainPOP you can get started with for adults the best one to start with is probably Sketch Racer which is very reminiscent of LOGO, but if you’re particularly fond of puppies or sci fi then maybe Tynker: Puppy Adventure orTynker: Lost in Space might be more your speed.

The fantastic thing about these games is that they’re very beginner-friendly – they start slowly and build on your knowledge incrementally. If you make a mistake you can see almost right away and correct it easily (and, even better, no one will know you made a mistake either.) These games are a really solid way to get an initial grasp on the fundamentals before you get really stuck in.

Some people just get on better with a more physical approach to learning and adults are no different. This lesson idea to get across how “instructions” work in programming is great in class but also for adults as well, all you need is to grab a friend, spouse, or particularly amenable family dog to get started.

I’ve done all that so what do I do next?

There’s a few different resources you can use to deepen your knowledge and really get to grips with programming and what you go for depends on what you want to get out of it. If you’re a Key Stage 1 or 2 teacher wanting to start teaching the basics to their students then resources like ScratchTynkerBBC SchoolsCode ClubHour of Code, and Raspberry Pi are all great places to explore.

Key Stage 3 or more precocious students might also enjoy resources like W3 Schools – a platform for coding to build websites, Learn Python – a python programming language learning resource, Khan Academy and Code Academy.

If you’ve discovered you really like coding and want to get more involved yourself then National Coding Week (coming up in September 2015) is a great place to start. If you can’t wait that long then your local library is a good place to get more intensive programming language books and online resources like Khan Academy and Code Academy have easy to use resources and helpful communities.

Happy coding!

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