Coronavirus (Covid-19): Latest updates and information
Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Open Online Course as of end of year 1

The first attempt to set out a 'curriculum for making construals' can be found in the sessions organised at the C5 event in December 2014.

This curriculum, which took much of its inspiration from previous resources developed for teaching HE students with advanced computing knowledge and skills, was recognised to be far too ambitious for the target audience for CONSTRUIT!. It was also apparent that there was too much reliance on materials that made use of the original desktop version of the environment for making construals (initially developed in 1987), and that (whatever the merits of these materials) the focus had to be on a single platform based on the online JS-Eden environment and on less complex and technically sophisticated illustrative examples. The construal of Donald Michie's Matchbox Educable Noughts and Crosses Engine (MENACE), first conceived as an introductory illustration of how a construal could serve both as the inspiration and a practical resource for generating OERs for schools, was far beyond the scope of what a teacher could handle.

New exemplar construals were developed in response to this critique. This was done in conjunction with a revised version of the JS-Eden environment (the 'scifest' variant). The new construals developed included three construals that were deployed with schoolchildren at Scifest 2015: hex-colouring, the light box (for which a physical counterpart was constructed), and the game of NIM. A construal of shopping was identified as a particularly good vehicle for introducing the principles of making construals. Other simple construals relating to an electrical circuit such as might feature in wiring the lighting for a room were developed. Prototype resources that might motivate the adoption of 'making construals' by schoolteachers at secondary school level were deployed at C14 in Athens in May 2015. These resources are available from the Project List of the 'scifest' variant of JS-Eden.

The feedback from teachers indicated that, whilst construals attracted curiosity and interest, the claims for accessibility and comprehensibility (which were the primary focus of interest in Year 1) could not yet be sustained. Though it seemed plausible that some teachers could in principle develop basic skills in making construals, they would require much more motivation to engage with making construals than any easily perceived benefits could promote. Other topics, such as the potential merit for collaboration and for wider applications were incidentally illustrated however. This was the result of the introduction of a distinctive networking feature that enabled construals running on different instances of JS-Eden to communicate with each other, and the independent development of an ambitious construal of a piano keyboard.

The use of the shopping construal as the basis for an introductory account of the principles of making construals was the principal theme of a paper and complementary workshop at the i<tag> 2015 conference in Nottingham, UK in October 2015. The discovery that making construals was in some respects much easier to advocate in the context of primary education was an unexpected side-effect of the activities in Year 1. In this context, it was unfortunately even more problematic as a technical innovation. This led us to identify three different levels of engagement that teachers might have with construals: merely using them as OERs, learning to modify them in response to pedagogical imperatives, and creating their own construals.

This established the context for the next phase of the project, where the key concerns were to make a case for developing OERs based on making construals rather than conventional programming, and to further enhance the prospects that use might lead to modification and eventually perhaps to creation of OERs by teachers themselves.