Returning to school and reconnecting with peers

Pam Jones,
Computing Curriculum Designer and Subject Matter Expert (SME) for The National Centre of Computing Education.
United Kingdom

Starting a new school year is a daunting time at any age, add in the fact that students have missed 6 months of school due to Covid-19 and there are new challenges.

Walking through the doors of a new school or returning to school after an extended period of time is challenging. Students will need to reconnect or start new friendships as well as adjust to school life again.

There are many activities that will be done as a part of this introduction and transitional stage, one aspect could be computational approaches to programming. A set of approaches for students to work are:

  • Tinkering
  • Creating
  • Debugging
  • Persevering
  • Collaborating


Allowing students the time to experiment with a physical device can build relationships with other group members and strengthen their understanding of how the physical computing device works.


When a student is creating a program to meet success criteria given they are developing their knowledge of the physical computing device and applying their understanding to the task given.


Understanding that an error can be a learning curve is hard to grasp. It is not failure it is a fantastic opportunity to work out what has gone wrong, fix it and strengthen that understanding of how the physical computing device works. 


Keeping going is a skill that everyone should master in all walks of life. If the task is not going as expected, an error needs to be found and fixed or further understanding is required to complete a task, then a student must learn to persevere.


Working together is an essential skill and learning roles within that collaboration to ensure all members of the teamwork together effectively. Pair programming is an industry-standard way of working when actively programming. It involves two students working together to complete a program or task. One student takes the role of a driver the other as the navigator.

  • The driver is the person actively creating the code behind the program.
  • The navigator is the person guiding the driver to the solution, by looking for errors and helping where required.

The benefit of this is a collaboration between two students and an excellent way to get two students to reconnect or get to know one another.

Unplugged vs Plugged

Utilizing unplugged activities prior to using a physical computing device can help break down barriers between friends and be an ice breaker before the hands-on physical computing device task. Why not split your group into pairs, the same that will be working together in the pair programming challenge, and complete the being a robot unplugged activity. 

  • One person is the programmer and the other is the robot.
  • The programmer can only use the printed TagTiles® from the KUBO website.
  • The robot can only carry out the instructions given.
  • This can be an obstacle course style activity across a playground or moving to a set position given to the programmer only.

Now that a working relationship has been established they can move onto utilizing the physical computing device and with KUBO being a device-free solution, it can enable students to find a space and work together in this way to create, tinker, debug, and above all create or reconnect friendships. 

As a teacher, success in a classroom can be seen through the engagement of the students in the tasks they undertake. Building those effective working relationships is essential to an engaged classroom. 

When working on a practical activity, a certain level of trust has to be placed on the way the students work with one another to ensure the activity works as expected and learning takes place. KUBO ensures that students work together from the initial challenge discussion, through to the program construction using the TagTiles. At every step of the challenge, they are creating, tinkering, and debugging as they strive to find the solution to move KUBO as laid out in the challenge task. KUBO can support an engaged classroom and help build positive working relationships.