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Teaching Physical Computing to 5- to 11-year-olds

Teach your young learners how to create electronic circuits, then learn to control them using block-based programming languages.

953 enrolled on this course

Images reflecting the course content, including a Crumble microcontroller attached to a Sparkle light, a BBC micro:bit, some block-based code, and a child behind a table with batteries, wires and craft materials on the table.
  • Duration

    3 weeks
  • Weekly study

    2 hours

Learn how to create physical computing projects using a Crumble or micro:bit

Physical computing is the process of designing, building, and programming systems that use physical components such as buttons, lights, and motors.

On this three-week course from the Raspberry Pi Foundation, you’ll be introduced to the world of physical computing and how it can encourage learners to use their imaginations to solve problems and develop new ideas.

You’ll learn how to support young children aged 5-11 years old as they work through physical computing projects, whilst also developing your own knowledge and skills.

Gain an understanding of inputs and outputs

On the course, you’ll build projects involving connecting both inputs and outputs to a Crumble microcontroller or a BBC micro:bit.

You will use inputs to pass data into the microcontroller, process that data with block-based programming languages, and use outputs to move a robot buggy or provide information to a user.

The course will help you complete several physical computing projects to develop your skills and help you understand the experiences your young learners may have. You’ll also reflect on how your projects use the programming principles of sequence, selection, and repetition.

Learn how to adapt your lessons for young learners, with Raspberry Pi

On the course, you’ll find advice from the experts at Raspberry Pi Foundation on how to make the concepts relevant to young learners.

The projects that you work on also model the use of “levels of abstraction”, a way of splitting up computing projects to help focus on individual aspects, and lower cognitive load.

At the end of the course, you’ll create your own physical computing project involving a buggy to help cement your knowledge and put what you have learned into practice.

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 3 seconds What is physical computing? How can you control LEDs and motors using buttons and sensors? How can you make a robot buggy using a Crumble controller? This free course will help you develop your physical computing skills and become more confident in teaching physical computing to children aged 5 to 11. You’ll learn about designing and programming systems that use components such as buttons, lights, and motors. You’ll build projects using a Crumble controller and a BBC

Skip to 0 minutes and 34 seconds micro:bit. And you’ll reflect on how your projects use the programming principles of sequence, selection, and repetition. This three week course also contains peer-led discussions, trainer interaction, and practical activities to control a robot buggy using a block-based programming language. So whether you’re a teacher with students of your own, or simply curious about Crumble, this course will help you to start teaching physical computing to 5 to 11-year-olds. Sign up now at rpf.io/primaryphysical.

What topics will you cover?

  • Using physical computing devices in primary school
  • Using a Crumble to light LEDs and turn motors
  • Using buttons and sensors as inputs to a Crumble
  • The programming concepts of sequence, repetition, selection, and using variables
  • Building a buggy with a Crumble
  • An introduction to Micro:bit

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Evaluate different commercially available physical computing tools
  • Apply your programming knowledge to control digital inputs and outputs
  • Develop physical computing projects using a Crumble microcontroller from task to completed build
  • Demonstrate how to use the micro:bit MakeCode editor and emulator
  • Design suitable physical computing projects for your learning context
  • Reflect on your learning and create ideas for your classroom practice

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for educators of all types, in schools or informal settings.

It will help you begin your physical computing journey and use physical computing to help to teach young children how to program.

What software or tools do you need?

You will need:

  • A desktop or laptop computer with USB ports; you need to be able to install the Crumble software and access the micro:bit MakeCode website on this computer
  • A Crumble microcontroller
  • A USB cable to connect the Crumble to the computer
  • A Crumble starter kit, or the following components bought separately:
    • Crocodile clip wires
    • Two Sparkle LEDs (fully controllable RGB LEDs)
    • A button
    • A light sensor
    • AA battery holder (for three AA batteries)
    • 3 × AA batteries
  • Two wheels
  • Craft supplies:
    • Cardboard
    • Pencils
    • Glue, tape, or another adhesive
    • Scissors or a craft knife
    • Foil

Who will you learn with?

Primary computing specialist teacher, working with schools and universities to support computing curriculum development and online safety. Barefoot and NCCE content writer, CAS Master teacher and ADE.

Nic is a self confessed IT geek. He is a class teacher, Head of Computing at Latymer Prep School, a Primary CAS Master Teacher, a CAS community leader, a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator, a Google Cert

Who developed the course?

Raspberry Pi Foundation

The Raspberry Pi Foundation works to put the power of digital making into the hands of people all over the world, so they are capable of understanding and shaping our increasingly digital world.

National Centre for Computing Education

This course is part of the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE). Funded by the Department for Education and partners, we aim to change the way computing is taught in schools across England, and enable more young people to benefit from studying this important subject.

If you are a teacher in England you can get free upgraded access to this course, and use it towards NCCE certification. To do this, you must join the course through the Teach Computing website

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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