Computing Reboot conference

This week I had a ball doing a keynote for educational technology in an ofsted Context.  There were some great speakers there too such as Miles Berry and Steve Wheeler doing curriculum renaissance and educational technology.


I also did a workshop on the raspberry pi and Lego which seem to still go down well like the makey makey boards.  

I will blog about my thoughts in the next week or so but it was a fab conference with some amazing staff


Computing…. Resources to help

This post from Malcolm (an LG advisor like myself)  sets out some amazing points.

Published on November 22, 2013 in Coding, Digital Literacy, Games Based Learning, ICT, Mobile Technology, Technologies, control and programming. 2 Comments
Tags: code, coding, control, program, programmable, programming, software.
Do you wonder why it’s important to help pupils learn to code?
The products of coding or computer programming are around us every day, whether we see it or not. Daily living in today’s society depends on someone somewhere having created something in which coding or programming has played a part. Many voices have spoken about how the society in which our pupils live requires more people now and in the future to be skilled in programming or coding.

There is a fear expressed that schools which ignore teaching programming or coding are setting up pupils to only be consumers rather than creators of the code-driven products of today and the future.

Many teachers of today, themselves unfamiliar with coding or programming from their own education, may be anxious that they don’t have the skills needed to teach pupils coding or programming.

So this post sets out to collate resources which will support teachers to provide age-appropriate support for their pupils in including coding or programming in the context of different curriculare areas.

Mitch Resnick, one of the main creators of the coding program called Scratch, delivered a TED Talk outlining the benefits of teaching childrens to code, so they can do more than just “read” new technologies — but also create them.

Ginni Skalski has written a blog post of an interveiw with Red Hat product manager Burr Sutter (who works to make developers more successful and productive with open source tools, technologies, and techniques) who talks about why he believes children need to know how to solve technical problems, to know how to fix the tech tools they use every day, and how he balances that with other activities in which children participate.

Watch the short video below to see a few creators of well-known online tools (from Facebook to Dropbox) explain briefly what they first did to get started in coding, and why it’s important we have more people learning to program. This is also described slightly more fully here. Also it is part of The Hour of Code which links to quotes from a far wider range of well known or influential individuals on the importance of teachign coding today.

Charlie Love has written on the Nesta site about why we should be finding ways to incorporate the teaching of coding into the curriculum, and highlights the links to SDcotland’s Curriculum for Excellence.
5 Reasons to Teach Kids to Code is a graphical poster  created by @GrechenNoelle and @jonmattingly and presented by Kodable (a free programming tool and curriculum for the iPad) which sets out in a visually interesting way why it is important schools empower pupils to learn skills of programming.

Dr. Patricia Fioriello sets out in a blog post why we should be Teaching Kids To Code to Prepare Them For The Future. The post lists 6 reasons, and describes them, and ends by advocating including teaching perogramming in the classroom.

In a BBC Technology report “Where is the next generation of coders?” Jane Wakefield reports on the move to encourage young children to learn programming/coding. The gives the background to the need to have programming taught at an early age, and also what kinds of tools are available.

Programming Power: Does Learning to Code Empower Kids? This post by Ben Williamson looks at the idea that young people should learn to code, which has become a global educational aspiration in the last few years. And asks what kinds of questions should digital media and learning researchers ask about these developments? He suggests three approaches: first, to take a historical look at learning to code; second, to consider it in political and economic context; and third, to understand its cultural dimensions.

Why Learning to CodeMakes My Brain Hurt! This post by Mamie Rheingold explains what she believes learners learn when they are programming. 

So what tools and resources are available?
There is a host of tools available which can be used to support teaching pupils coding or programming. Some are downloadable software, some are specific to certian gaming devices or computing environments. Some work on specific mobile devices as apps. And some are online, requiring no downloads.

Chris Betcher describes and illustrates in this video a range of tools suitable for children to learn to code.

Edutopia blogpost about apps for teaching pupils coding provides a list of a few programs or apps which are aimed at use with children. Each is briefly described. 

Code.Org provides a host of resources collated around teaching coding at different stages and ages and for different purposes – but all aimed at encouraging teachers to use coding with pupils. These links include Tutorials for the Classroom: CodeHS (Online curriculum designed specifically for high school classrooms); Codecademy After School (complete online after-school activities for a coding club); Tynker (programming for primary school in a fun way); Bootstrap (high-school algebra and geometry concepts using computer programming); CS Unplugged (Fun classroom exercises to teach computer science principles, with no computers needed).  There are links to various schemes to bring enthusiasts into schools as well as platforms aimed at use with children.

Alice is a  tool to enable creating an animated story, an interactive game, or a video to share online.

Espresso Coding
Espresso Coding is a series of online coding lessons for pupils (free until October 2014). It guides pupils through the elements of learning to code and make their own apps to share with their friends and family. It includes 70+ step-by step lessons and tablet-friendly activities for pupils to create apps, full lesson plans for each activity, a website area where apps can be published and shared, an introduction to coding using elements of JavaScript, and short, helpful video guides.

Kodu is a programming tool to create games on the PC and XBox.
Logo programming language forms the basis for a number of programmable devices, whether on-screen on robots or vehicles used in schools such as Beebot and Roamer. Click here for resources to support the use of Beebot and Roamer devices or their on-screen equivalents.

Raspberry Pi
Zondle Raspberyy Pi Programming Kit is just one of the ways in which Raspberry Pi can be used to help pupils learn programming. Raspberry Pi is a relatively inexpensive palm sized computer which can be used for programming games.

Scratch was previously only available as a downloadable program but is now available as an online version (Scratch 2.0) – this is a programming language that makes it easy to create interactive stories, animations, games, music and art – and share online.
Scratch 2.0 Starter Kit – Tools and resources collated by Randy Rodgers to help get teachers get their classes started with Scratch programming.
For those who like to have a paper handheld guide to using Scratch 2.0 (in comic-book style) then there is a book available for purchase reviewed here by Mark Frauenfelder. It’s also available for purchase in digital Kindle format.

Other Tools
Coding in the Classroom: 10 Tools Students Can Use to Design Apps and Video Games lists and describes 10 programs available for learning about programming, wther for PCs or mobile devices or other devices.

Ask A Teacher: 20 Programming Websites for K-8 – provides a list of 20 programming tools for use in schools with pupils. Includes videos, tutorials and links to resources.

Who can help?
On a Mission: How Code Academy is Helping get Programming into the Classroom.  Lee Summers describes here how Codecademy for teachers is an online educational site built specifically for teachers. It offers slides for each lesson, as well as a quiz and practice set where students can test their knowledge.  The site has been set up so that teachers can craft their own materials and then share them with the rest of the community.

To keep up with developments in such a fast-changing envronment there are a number of groups and individuals who share online via Twitter ideas and resources for supporting teachers in enocuraging pupils to learn to code. These include the following:

@CodeClub – for resources to support programming with 9-11 year-olds

@CoderScot – CoderDojo Scotland is part of a global collaboration which provides free coding clubs for young people to learn programming in a fun and sociable environment.

Flawed foundations – Demise of AS levels

So Mr Gove announced the end of AS level examinations in favour of final termination system at the end of year 13. 
To quote Mr Gove “what we wanted to do then, was essentially, try to ensure that A-Levels …gave people a better preparation for what university involves”

Ok I can see two things here:

1. Universities run on semesters and many modules.  Students have many opportunities to sit modules again in most cases.  So the terminal exam is actually more useful in preparation for death than modules at uni

2.  Currently universities select students on real exam data at AS level.  This gives them an accurate picture of ability by externally set exam.  With this new system selection will be on GCSE performance and some optimistic predictions.

3. Gove suggests this will promote deeper learning.  Possibly but how can this be tested in terminal exam.  More tricky questions?  Longer exam papers.  Surely testing more often with feeback will aid deeper learninf than a one off test?

4.  Students will have pressure at the end of their final year of school.  It will be their last chance to shine.  Are we trying to kill our students off. 

5. Is the goal of education and A-Levels solely for academic achievement…yes of we a trying to create professors of the future at Universities however in my experience theu are much wider than that. 

I worry, correction, I worry a lot about this.  The only saving grace is that I am sure Wales and Scotland won’t go this way.  So in essence great headlines for the tabloids, great pressure for the teachers and even greater pressure for students ..some of whom, I find it sad to say, might even pay the ultimate price if they fail.

I was an assistant head of sixthform and dealt with a lot of the pastoral and academic issues as well as being in charge of UCAS so this post is not an inexperienced sound byte it is based on my experience in education.

#ICT500 Rethinking ICT

There are some amazing posts from many esteemed colleagues, teachers and advisors on rethinking ICT. I am assuming, as a reader, we are aware of all the reports, discussions and the plethora of groups who have staked a claim to support ICT and computing but lets cut to the chase. I know we need to speak to learners, I know we have blank canvas and I know I am doing what I always hate..solutioneering but here goes.

A balanced curriculum with entitlement for all students. The content will have a mix of flavours as does science education does with biology, chemistry and physics. We need ICT users ..but proficient users…actually expert users. We need people to make software too and get a real interest in how it works. We also need to keep students safe and make them aware of the risks as well as experience the benefits across the school and at home for learning in, and beyond, the classroom.

Do we need spreadsheets, databases..I would say yes
Do we need word processing and publishing ..of course
Do we need games development and design ..yes but I would say the the systems life cycle is applicable to this as well as app development.
Do we need a Internet use and safety? that has to be inherent for all year groups
And so on…..

What’s new then dan?……well NOTHING BUT EVERYTHING

What? I know, well what I mean is that the core we had was already there. we now have the option to really move on. Lets use open source as an example. Free to use, distribute, change, share, update and evolve. We can feel safe in the knowledge that we can use all kinds of tools to promote these skills.

A few things worry me though:

Assessment and transferring between key stage to build upon prior knowledge and skills.
Skills versus capability ..Please let’s not go back to claim or ECDL.
ICT staff training and ‘it’s easier to use this off the shelf one from Pearson etc’

Finally…..just remember what’s wrong…when Developing your curriculum think about what you really hated teaching and what kids didn’t enjoy, but down stray away from the hard stuff or the mundane.. However the process to evidence such as printscreens which STILL drive me crazy. Take OCR nationals And DiDA for example..let’s move more to the DiDA model of electronic eportfolio of work and description of the process rather than mind numbing before and after Printscreens of OCR.

anyway I have probably missed some stuff out here but tried to put a more practical angle to allow this. I hate typing on an iPad so sorry for any typos.


BETT 2012

I have realised the BETT show makes me paranoid!  As a head of department, Assistand Head of Sixthform, Class Teacher and Advisor.  There are always  teachers and companies with amazing ideas, practice and solutions.  So thats actually good then?  Yes, so what did I see today of interest.  Here are my very brief and badly typed notes:

BETT 2012 Day 1

Ok so spent last night planning my tour of duty through the BETT show. It is the first time we did not have a stand there so was happier looking around the place and having a coffee. I had planned to see all the big guns as well as take part in a MirandaMod or two about SEN and ICT. These are my highlights to the first day.

Michael Gove opened the event and created chaos, instability by using the most attended ICT teachers event to tell them computer science is back.

In summary :

The trends this year seem to be on content and upgrades rather than any new technology or devices. there seemed to also be more international suppliers available which makes good competition and innovative practice.

Software of interest

Capita emerging app by groupcall. This allows you to access SIMS from a mobile app on iPhone, iPad or Android devices. 2000 for Site license or 200 for one plus 99 per device there after.

Most publishers such as Hodder (stand D67) have some good resources and e-textbooks to put into your VLE for all GCSE subjects. Nelson Thornes (stand H6) are pushing their Kaboodle online blended learning system for secondary schools. Pie Corbett and Johnny Ball are there on Friday, think of a number.

Loxit (G20) have a good selection of laptop and mobile tablet storage units. To complement this Parat (stand S84) have lots of new parasync devices to allow the multiple synchronisation of devices such as iPads.

Zulogic have a new version of their popular Zu3D stop frame animation software and at BETT you can buy a copy with quite a nice webcam, green screen and plasticine for £50.

Clicker 6 (crick software stand F40) is out and has some some good new functionality. If you use clicker 5 there are special upgrade prices too.

The entwining and commenius project by the British Council are free and available online. They are at the upper level in gallery 1.

MLS (micro librarian systems stand C20) have a new solution which includes the loaning of ebooks via their librarian mobile app.

Google (stand E70) have some really good seminars throughout each day such as chrome books, google docs, google tools and so on.


Hardware of interest

SMART new interactive projector is worth a look. They are also unveiling the Notebook 11 software soon that will be available to schools which is fully HTML 5 and web compliant. It will be a free upgrade as well so kept an eye out.

Muraspec (stand J2) had some amazing paint that you could use on any wall or table which then becomes a wipe off whiteboard also good for short throw projection units. Great idea, low tech and pedagogically great value for money. ZU3D (stand k11) was showcasing their stop motion software. A cost effective solution for mulit layered animation and video/sound editing.



OCR Nationals course (new version) will be called the Cambridge National. This has gone through QCDA. Look at their website for further details for Key Stage 4 course information.

BT (stand J6) released their new ambassadors of IT course. It is an online course for Esafety and also for online mentoring.

Achievement for All have been funded by the DfE to create an inclusive curriculum and resources to support students with SEN and beyond. They are running some small scale conferencing events about ICT and SEN every day at 12:00 and 3:30 that are free to attend at Gallery room 1.

Media Smart (stand S61) has several excellent curriculum resources for teaching advertising and the media to 6-11year olds. pedagogy


Education – new coalition

So today they produced the document we were waiting for….lets take a look. Intersting bits bolded for you: 😉

The Government believes that we need to reform our school system to tackle educational inequality, which has widened in recent years, and to give greater powers to parents and pupils to choose a good school. We want to ensure high standards of discipline in the classroom, robust standards and the highest quality teaching. We also believe that the state should help parents, community groups and others come together to improve the education system by starting new schools.

• We will promote the reform of schools in order to ensure that new providers can enter the state school system in response to parental demand; that all schools have greater freedom over the curriculum; and that all schools are held properly to account.
• We will fund a significant premium for disadvantaged pupils from outside the schools budget by reductions in spending elsewhere.
• We will give parents, teachers, charities and local communities the chance to set up new schools, as part of our plans to allow new providers to enter the state school system in response to parental demand.

• We will support Teach First, create Teach Now to build on the Graduate Teacher Programme, and seek other ways to improve the quality of the teaching profession.
• We will reform the existing rigid national pay and conditions rules to give schools greater freedoms to pay good teachers more and deal with poor performance.
• We will help schools tackle bullying in schools, especially homophobic bullying.
• We will simplify the regulation of standards in education and target inspection on areas of failure.
• We will give anonymity to teachers accused by pupils and take other measures to protect against false accusations.
• We will seek to attract more top science and maths graduates to be teachers.
• We will publish performance data on educational providers, as well as past exam papers.
• We will create more flexibility in the exams systems so that state schools can offer qualifications like the IGCSE.
• We will reform league tables so that schools are able to focus on, and demonstrate, the progress of children of all abilities.
• We will give heads and teachers the powers they need to ensure discipline in the classroom and promote good behaviour.
• We believe the most vulnerable children deserve the very highest quality of care. We will improve diagnostic assessment for schoolchildren, prevent the unnecessary closure of special schools, and remove the bias towards inclusion.

• We will improve the quality of vocational education, including increasing flexibility for 14–19 year olds and creating new Technical Academies as part of our plans to diversify schools provision.

• We will keep external assessment, but will review how Key Stage 2 tests operate in future.
• We will ensure that all new Academies follow an inclusive admissions policy. We will work with faith groups to enable more faith schools and facilitate inclusive admissions policies in as many of these schools as possible.

BETT musings – part 1

After a week of the BETT show from an LA authority point of view, an exhibitors point of view and through BSF goggles I thought I would pop a few of my thoughts down here. Following the tweets, blogs and musing of others really brings home the variety of things at BETT. However it is not about the tools…it is about how you use them and this is what is usually missing from large-scale events like these. However, teachmeet and teachmeet takeover….brings it all home and makes you feel warm again inside…..anyway here goes:


Ok, the new tech at BETT for me seemed to be the 3D projection. I have seen some of this tech recently up close and personal and although it looks amazing the content and development of content is my biggest fear. One way around it is the google warehouse and possibly sketchup to create your own…but when are teachers going to get the time….

Epson Ultra short throw….good…getting there….interactive walls and the like…However pedagogy seems to missing in the software for some of these devices so a Frankenstein solution of Smart Notebook or ActivInspire is also needed in my opinion. Also OMI had sensory ceiling mounted projectors. And Casio had its bright LED projectors that never need a bulb change…a good tick in the sustainability box and green agenda.

Steljies / SMART have a new interesting project to monitor and edit timelines on video for CPD.

New Visualisers were available from Genee World, Avermedia and Elmo. (thanks to Dave Robinson for highlighting this for me) Finally Dave Robinson pointed out the TTS Group whom has has several new resources including the Tuff-Cam 2 digital camera and Easi-Walker class pack pedometer system and Easi-Torch designed for Early Years.


Learning Platforms were making the most of parental engagement tools with Fronter, UniServity and itsLearning all moving on this one. Roadmaps for LP’s are interesting and are a blog post in their own right but there are some really interesting developments and some quite radical ones in the case of the new product ‘Life’ from UniServity which seems to have lots and lots of potential.

Again, BETT had a range of ICTAC software and some fab resources for SEN. Not however as much SCORM compliant software as I had thought, although Pearson is beginning to push all their content into Fronter which is exiting. Some software providers seem to be claiming they will work within LP’s but full integration with assessment data and the like seem to be missing.

Miles Berry and the Open Source cafe crew did a fantastic job and the CD has gone down a treat with all who popped into their stand. Twitter was buzzing with the OSS CD recommendations. And in the week that the whitehouse also claimed use of OSS for their comms….great timing.

2Simple were showing their new software 2Create a Superstory which, like 2Do It Yourself, is a Flash creator that can be uploaded to websites and Learning Platforms.

    TeachMeet takeover

Now this was where I saw some fantastic stuff. The amount of good, next, emerging and outstanding practice at these micro presentations was brilliant. Seeing inspirational teachers discuss projects and resources is what BETT should also be all about. TM takeover reflections

    Vital CPD

The OU project Vital to collate and share CPD with others seems to have a great pedagogical perspective. Free courses, online courses…however the commercial training companies suppliers may struggle to fit into their business models but this will be huge I am sure.

    Learning Spaces

This area set up by PfS was very enlightening to all with BSF or new builds commencing. There were some excellent resources, companies and ideas that made my brain boil. I need to probably do a separate post for this.

Smart V Promethean

Promethean, the UK-based maker of interactive whiteboards, is planning an initial public offering valuing it at £400m-£500m, which would propel it to the front of the class in the rapidly expanding market for digital classroom technology. Smart may follow.

Which ones do you use? I have trained teaching staff using both Smart Notebook and ActivStudio…(with the new versions currently being rolled out).There are some fantastic resources out there and promeathean planet and smart resources are available from within the software dashboards / resource kits. I have however founf that the installation of the software has been hit and miss in classrooms with often several key components missing. For me Smart is the more intuitive solution however the Promethean software has much more exciting advanced features.

Assessing ICT

Been presnting on ICT and Assessment for Learning this week to senior leaders and strategy managers.  Included an overview of APP (assessing pupils progress) and sub levelling.  Very interesting for ICT as it is very difficult to assess by outcome alone.

The common issues are that

  • Assessing by outcome difficult
  • §ssessment better but cautionary
  • No sub level guidance
  • Transfer and progression
  • Feedback / AfL recording…
  • Non specialist teachers AND other subjects

The Assessment focusses

•AF1 – Planning, developing and evaluating
•AF2 – Handling data, sequencing instructions and modelling
•AF3 – Finding, using and communicating information
Very positive comments from the Senior leaders an ICT in England at a good pace to monitor progression at a granular level.