30 May

This will change the way you teach flowcharts!

We all know that planning a program before coding is a sign of mastery and is a skill rewarded by marking schemes on NEA projects and exams. It is a sure sign of a non-confident coder when the first thing they do upon receiving a problem is open up their IDE and start writing lines of code. Unless the problem is extremely similar to something they have recently done, it’s a way to frustration. 

It is much faster to create a plan, think through the steps and change them if needed, rather than attempt to write the code, your thinking process interrupted by trying to remember the syntax, then not get the desired results and wonder if it’s the syntax or the logical error. You can see the person at this stage trying to randomly change/append the code hoping that something sticks. This is not helpful for the exam practice and very wasteful with 20 hours given for the current assessment cycle.

Enter planning, either in pseudocode or flowcharts. We will concentrate on the interactive flowcharting tool called Flowgorithm which then has an amazing feature of generating decent pseudocode, or in fact, actual code for a number of the most popular languages. You can get a portable version here (requires no installation and works off the memory stick or a network shared area), or a full installation here. [UPDATE, here is a link to a newer version of the Portable Flowgorithm]. While it does have a few help pages but we thought we would add a summary that makes it more accessible to GCSE (and KS3) pupils. It is Windows only, however, some success has been reported running it under Wine (Windows emulator for Mac, see information on Wine here).

A compact version of Flowgorithm manual can be downloaded here.

Note, that Flowgorithm can’t be used in NEA sessions or installed to NEA accounts, due to its ability to generate code.

First, let’s look at this video that sets up a basic programming problem and shows how to plan it with the help of Flowgorithm.

View the PowerPoint with screenshot videos.

Then we will leave you with a comprehensive set of exercises and tasks making use of Flowgorithm, although you don't have to use it this way. You can do the traditional pen-and-paper flowcharting and use these for guidance. And you can then use our flowchart making template PowerPoint file.

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