What is Bits and Bytes?

‘Bits and Bytes’ is an eighteen week social mobility programme designed purposely for year five pupils. Feedback shows that it is enjoyed by pupils whilst being both aspirational and educational. Each week 20Twenty Productions staff deliver a two hour activity* during school hours that support the Government’s Essential Skills for Life criteria. Pupils will in addition to interpersonal skills development develop basic robotic skills (planning, construction and coding) using Lego’s educational Mindstorms package. The final weeks of the programme involve a class based ‘United Nations exercise’ that focus pupils on the vital subject of climate change. Amidst these engaging activities pupils will also complete a Discover Arts Award and take part in a range of activities designed to expand each pupil’s awareness of the range of careers that are open to them.

Funding

Bits and bytes is fully funded by the Department of Education via Cambridgeshire County Council as part of a unique offering made available to primary schools in Fenland and East Cambridgeshire. The program is offered on a first come first served basis to a maximum of twelve schools across the academic years 2018/19 and 2019/20.

Our expertise

20Twenty Productions is a youth arts organisation formed in 2011 that has significant experience of delivering arts and culture activities for children and young people in a wide variety of environments including both primary and secondary schools.

Expectations

20Twenty Productions will provide all of the necessary staff, equipment and software needed to deliver the activities. As such there is no direct cost to the school. However, each participating school is expected to:

  • commit to the 18 week program starting at the same time on the same day of the week
  • place 30 pupils from year five on to the programme
  • provide teacher support during all activities
  • provide 20Twenty Productions staff access to class based projections facilities
  • provide a dedicated appropriate classroom for each week’s activity

Get involved

Please contact Katherine Nightingale if you would like to enrol your school. As explained schools from Fenland and East Cambridgeshire will be enrolled on a first come first served basis, so please do not delay as places are limited. Katherine can be contacted during office hours by phone on 01354 652769 or via email katherine@20twentyproductions.co.uk.

Teacher feedback

“The children have really enjoyed the Bits and Bytes challenges. Being a project that most have little experience of, it has been a challenge to some and has developed them both socially and as programmers. 

It has been interesting to see how friendships have developed, and how pairs of children have learnt to work together to solve the various challenges put to them. As sessions have progressed, the resilience of some individuals has improved, and those to whom sharing and group work has also been an issue, have also seen an improvement. 

There are some children who have ‘shone’ as investigators / leaders, perhaps to the detriment of others in their group, but on the whole the benefits have outweighed the disadvantages across the classroom.

The children’s understanding of both programming and environmental issues have certainly increased as a result of the programme, programming on this scale, is beyond the current financial limits of the School. It will be a shame to see it end.

Girls, I feel, in particular have benefitted from the chance of them working with like minded girls, whereas many would have been ‘left out’ had they been working in larger groups or with some of the boys. This has allowed quieter girls to flourish in areas that perhaps they would not have been able to do so.

Overall the project has so far been a success and has provided many opportunities that the children would not have had otherwise.”

– Mr. Laing. Teacher, Kinderley Primary School, Tydd St. Giles

“Our class of thirty year four children have thoroughly enjoyed the ‘Bits and Bytes’ programme. They look forward to their weekly sessions, and are fully engaged and motivated in all the exciting activities which have been planned. 

We feel, as a school, that this programme has given the children the opportunity to develop their communication skills with their peers, and work with children with whom they wouldn’t normally work alongside. It has given children of all abilities the chance to work together on problem based activities which the 20Twenty Productions team have delivered in a creative and enthusiastic way. 

This programme and its creative thinking approach has enabled our children to develop their independence which will, in turn help them become lifelong learners.”

– Mrs. Pooley.Teacher Arts Subject Lead, Leverington Primary Academy

Please contact Katherine Nightingale if you would like to enrol your school. As explained schools from Fenland and East Cambridgeshire will be enrolled on a first come first served basis, so please do not delay as places are limited.

Session plans

The Bits and bytes program is broken down in to the following weekly activities:

1. A introductory session that outlines the program and its activities, establishes the class based teams that compete against one another across all of the exercises, explains the skills and behavioural based reward system that runs throughout the program and introduces the pupils to our Lego activities. In week one the reward based system focuses on perseverance, positive attitude and respect.

2. This ‘System Lego’ (traditional Lego) activity provides a series of team building activities designed to encourage the children to collaborate prior to attempting the more sophisticated robotic builds. The reward based system focuses on team work, respect, positive attitude and time management.

3. Week three introduces pupils to robotics, with class discussions on what exactly robotics and artificial intelligence is. Pupils are then taken through the robotic kits to understand the various sensors, motors and key parts needed during future weeks. Pupils then begin the relatively simple task of building a model wind turbine, after which they create a simple program (on their team iPad) to control the turbine.

4. ‘The drop of doom!’ Week four begins with a recap quiz of the key points from the previous week, rewarded with team points, after which the teams plan and build their first robot ‘with intelligence’. Each team is tasked to build a robot that can sense the edge of a table so that it stops and reverses away from the edge. The reward based system focuses on problem solving, time keeping and team work.

5. Again this week begins with a recap of week four, with particular attention paid to the coding concepts. Each team builds upon their design from last week, adding further intelligence that allows the robot to remain on the table by looping its given intelligence to continually detect a table’s edges. The reward based system focuses on problem solving, integrity, empathy and perseverance.

6. Pupils are tasked to enter a class ‘robot wars’ competition. Their challenge is to develop a robust robot that can enter a ‘ring’ and continue to operate without being pushing out of the ring. It is of no surprise that pupils find this task particularly enjoyable!

7. In week seven pupils are asked to develop an ‘assistive device’ of their choosing having discussed the concept. Previous examples built include mobility sensors and wearable devices used to pick up items. Pupils are given an additional challenge of developing an assistive device for an astronaut having been shown a short film documenting life on the gravity free International Space Station.

8. Week eight is a United Nations/environmental week where pupils are introduced to the role of the United Nations. Pupils also engage with material explaining some of the causes and effects of climate change. With class discussions and activities that help pupils relate to this vital subject our environmental activities have proved to be both engaging and educational. This United Nations activity is a prelude to our five week ‘finale’ which is a ‘mock’ United nations exercise.

9. Week nine combines the previous week’s environmental learning with robotics, as pupils are tasked with developing a robot that can help combat/overcome particular effects of climate change or of mankind’s neglect of the planet. Pupils have for example created scaled robots that plant trees to combat deforestation and robotic litter pickers that survey and clean the environment. The reward based system focuses on empathy in week nine.

10. Week ten is a second United Nations/Environmental activity which builds upon the learning in week eight. Activities include discussing the impact of climate change via a series of short films that focus on China, Haiti, the Maldives, USA and Vietnam. The session ends with an interactive environmental quiz.

11-12. Weeks eleven and twelve are ‘free build’ weeks where pupils can construct a robot that serves any design or purpose based upon the capabilities of the equipment provided. Further emphasis is placed upon the ‘coding’ of the robot to use sensors, motors and gears.

The United Nations activity

At this point each team has their points score converted to a monetary value on a pro-rata basis. Teams now compete for further funds not points.

13. United Nations Week 1. Each team uses information provided to create an iPad based presentation relating to one of three environmental issues that exist within their allocated country. Each team must explain why they have chosen their selected issue whilst also convincing the class to focus on this issue for the remainder of the United Nations exercise. The ten countries featured are the UK, USA, Maldives, Vietnam, China, Russia, Haiti, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Fiji.

14. United Nations Week 2. Teams present their ideas to class after which a vote for the most pressing issue across all ten countries is taken. Prior to the vote teams participate in a series of classroom discussions about each nation’s issues and their relative merits for selection. Teams are also allowed to lobby other nations for their support prior to the vote. The winning team receives a 20% increase to their funds.

15. United Nations Week 3. Each team is now given the same information about the selected environmental issue alongside a theoretical cost of addressing the problem. Team funds are ‘spent’ within this United Nations exercise to theoretically solve the issue voted for in UN week two. However, this activity is designed so that no team has sufficient funds to solve the problem alone. Each team must collaborate with other teams to raise the necessary amount. Teams discuss their plans with as many teams as possible to create their own bid that protects their own money.

16. United Nations Week 4. Teams continue to meet to negotiate and discuss their plans with each other. In addition teams can now seek funds from ‘The World Bank’. The World Bank will only offer money to a country whose bid has funds donated by two or more countries. In addition, the World Bank is unlikely to offer more money than the total amount of money already pledged in the bid from the involved countries.

17. United Nations Week 5. Each country presents their bid to address the chosen environmental problem. This can include money offered by the world bank, their own money and money committed by other countries. A vote is taken for the ‘best bid’. The teams in the winning bid receive a bonus for solving the issue (relative to how much they contributed) whilst also having their contribution to the bid deducted from their own balance. Ultimately the winner is the team with the most money at the end of this week.

18. A celebration event, celebrating the completion of the program. This includes revealing which team has won the overall prize. A project evaluation activity will also be conducted.

Points scoring and the Essential Skills for Life

Our staff will be looking to praise and reward teams and team members that display positive examples of any of the character traits detailed in the skills for life document. This includes discipline, good time keeping, leadership, team working, honesty, integrity, respect, empathy, curiosity and problem solving. Whilst teams receive points for completing activities, we believe that awarding points for the above essential skills is a fun and engaging way to demonstrate and reward positive behaviour throughout the eighteen weeks.

Points mean funds

Teams will accrue points throughout the first twelve weeks based upon skills exhibited and tasks completed. Points can be lost for negative behaviour along the way. Once the United Nations exercise begins each team’s points are converted to a monetary value. Therefore each team now has their own funds which they must use to help solve the chosen environmental problem. Teams must collaborate to succeed. Upon completion of the United Nations exercise it is the team with the most funds remaining that wins, meaning each team must learn to negotiate carefully to both create an effective bid whilst preserving as much of their original wealth as possible.

*Please note that week one is a two hour activity