Google Course Builder

Just incase you haven’t seen Google’s attempt at elearning yet…..

They state that:

“Do you want to teach the world? Do you want to share your knowledge with a class, a company, a country? Course Builder, our open source education platform, can help you create and deliver online courses, whether they’re for 10 or 1,000,000+ students. Download Course Builder and get started now!”

Courses built already with it:

JOLT (Journal of Online Learning and Teaching) has some good research in this area and the abstracts of these can be found here


Comments on DfE A-Level Gender analysis

A-Level equality analysis by DfE (April 10th 2014)

It is very welcome that the DfE has looked at the equality of access for qualifications at A-Level.


How are we here?

In March 2012, the Secretary of State for Education set out a programme of reform for A levels. In line with the Government’s commitment in the 2010 Schools White Paper, The Importance of Teaching. He suggested that universities should be more involved in the design of A levels to ensure that the qualifications are equipped for HE.

He also confirmed the Government’s ambition for A levels to be linear, with all examinations at the end of the two year course. Subsequently, in an exchange of letters with the Ofqual Chief Regulator, he confirmed that the AS should become a separate, stand-alone qualification, also taught and assessed on a linear basis

Computer Science

Our analysis suggested that an increase in quantitative content may make it less accessible to pupils with a disability such as dyscalculia and may have an impact on female engagement. I think this is quite a generalisation and we need to be clear that quantitative content ‘may’ make is less accessible. Although CS does have close links and a basis is mathematics the course content of A-Level specifications vary in their mathematical content.

A very small number of respondents (3) thought that the increase in mathematical content would make it less accessible and a particular point was made of encouraging female engagement in computer science. One respondent offered a US as an example of encouraging female students in computer science. We would need a major on the engagement of mathematics and gender and then CS to correlate this as far as I am aware a study of this has not been done yet. It may be worth exploring in your own school. It may also be wise to discuss A-Level timetabling sympathetically with rather than against mathematics for example. Essentially do students who perfom highly in mathematics also perform in CS and how is the this reflected in the performance of gender?

In consultation with stakeholders, including subject associations, there was extensive support for the need for more quantitative skills in a computer science. This is a fair point and the close links between mathematics should be explored more in relation to computer science for example links to Algebra.

A level

The subject content introduces a new aim that A level specifications must encourage students to develop ‘mathematical skills’.

Setting these out explicitly within the A level subject content will strengthen the mathematical content of the qualifications and will address the concerns expressed by higher education representatives that the current content does not ensure that all students develop appropriate mathematical skills. No evidence was offered that an increase in quantitative content would have any major impact on take up by female students.

For those students with disabilities (such as dyscalculia) there will be some mitigation by access arrangements in some situations. It would be useful to understand the relationship between students with dycalculia and their performance with quantitative aspects of CS.

As set out above more than 70% of pupils already achieve at least a C in mathematics GCSEs with around 11,000 achieving what is currently

information technology/ A level computer studies/ICT A levels. It would have bee helpful to have student numbers rather than mixing percentages and numbers.

The arguments as set out for business A level on the teaching of mathematics prior to key stage 5 also apply here.  From what I can see this basically says “don‘t worry out new national currculum is more robust and more students are getting GCSE C grades in mathematics”.

In considering these responses the A level review panel concluded that increasing the focus on quantitative skills in response to the needs of higher education was important and out weighed potential risks.

We are satisfied that the proposed changes will have no major impact on those with the protected characteristics of disability or gender.

As set out above, one respondent offered a published study from a US university that has successfully turned this problem around so that 42% of their undergraduate computer science intake is female – it took active engagement at pre-GCSE and following that through:   – <This really is quite a useful project in my opinion

It may be that that there are positive lessons to learn from this study.  I will blog these for CAS include.  

In relation to securing greater female engagement which have the potential for a greater positive impact than can be achieved through the qualification content.

In consultation with stakeholders including subject associations there was extensive support for the need for more quantitative skills in the computer science A-level.I agree.

We believe that on balance the proposed changes are justifiable to meet the educational needs as set out above and that the majority of students are adequately prepared.

We have not identified any potential for a negative impact on students because of age, race, religion or belief pregnancy or maternity or sexual orientation or as a result of gender reassignment

For more links and inspiration on gender and inclusion in Compuer Science check out @CASInclude

The full DfE report can be found here

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.

A bizarre weekend

So..where to begin.  A normal trip to football on Saturday with the boys. On the way back we pull in to the the close and see a man in a black Volvo doubled up on the back seat of his car.  A neighbour and passer by are talking to him.  I pull over and get out (leave all three kids in the car) and help out.  The man is clearly having a serious heart attack.   After five minutes his wife
appears as she had gone to get a drink thinking he was having a diabetic seizure.   A neighbour calls 999 again.  I spend quite some time moving and soothing him by rubbing his back. He is in agony and lying on the back seat in distress.  No sign of ambulance…. after several more calls and several casualty movements later we are still waiting.   It seems like an age for the paramedic to get to us from Putney….the paramedic then calls an ambulance after an ecg and they zoom off to St Georges in Tooting (remember that name).

Later in the evening the mans wife comes back to collect the car.  The man has had to have bypass surgery and has clots which they are removing.  Quite serious but hopefully we got to him in time and helped to get him through the hour or so.



So, not wanting to have a heart attack myself I decide to go for a run this morning.   I run for 45mins up to Ronnie Woods house in claygate and around the common.  BUT…as I am on the home leg I decide to do another lap to get me to an hour as I haven’t run in ages.  As I run down the bridleway a girl gets bucked off a horse in front of me and it kicks her in the forehead..boom.  So saga continues.. All the three horse riders with her are all in shock and and running around in a panic and almost trampling the poor girl with their horses.   I have never spoken to anyone with concussion before but she had no idea who or where she was.  Very surreal couple of hours.  Recovery
postion and phone call using 112 as 999 was not working.  Also…moral to this one…pin codes for phones and concussion don’t mix…make sure you set your ICE contact up as it appears in the emergency numbers if you dont have the pin.  Ambulance takes her’ve guessed it St Georges in Tooting…great

Why the hell am I blogging this?  Well three reasons…if you see something or end up in a situation (even if you are not first aid trained) someone must take control.  In these dramatic situations first responders make a difference.   The ambulance took 1hr 10mins to get to the horse accident and over 30mins for the heart attack victim.  Even in London boroughs where I live. 

Secondly, put your ICE number in your phone now and remember 112 if you dont have signal.

Thirdly, these things happen in threes so don’t come anywhere near me.

Games Based Learning (Further reading)

There are many links and resources that are useful case studies when it comes to Games in the classroom.  Here are some amazing ones:
Gabe Zichermann: How games make kids smarter:Check out Gabe Zichermann’s TED talk to find out how video games can actually make kids smarter and better problem solvers.
Johnny Lee demos Wii Remote hacks:Check out this video to see how you can turn a cheap Wii Remote into a sophisticated educational tool.
Professor Henry Jenkins on games-based learning at SxSWi 2009:MIT professor Henry Jenkins discusses why he thinks games are great learning tools in this video from SxSWi 2009.
Game-based Learning:This video offers an excellent introduction into the idea of game-based learning, exploring how digital games can share enriched learning experiences.
Games and Education Scholar James Paul Gee on Video Games, Learning, and Literacy:Learn about game learning from expert James Paul Gee, who explains the idea of situated and embodied learning, and how to helps students learn about problem solving.
Katie Salen on Game Design and Learning:Quest2Learn’s Katie Salen explains the philosophy of using game design for learning in the classroom in this video.
John Hunter: Teaching with the World Peace Game:John Hunter explains how he puts all of the world’s problems on a plywood board and uses the “World Peace Game” to encourage his 4th graders to solve them all, engaging them in learning and teaching complex lessons.
Game for Good Design Camp:Gaming in education comes full circle in this video from Generation Cures Game for Good Design Camp. Students learn about science, technology, engineering, and math while they design video games that help others learn.
Immersive learning: it’s game on!:Find out how immersive gaming environments can be useful for students and educators.
Stuart Brown: Play is more than fun:Dr. Stuart Brown discusses his research on play, explaining that gaming and play are important to healthy childhood development into adulthood.
What is Game Based Learning:Check out this video to find a brief introduction to game-based learning.
Game On! How Playful Learning Works:MIT’s video explains how playful learning works in an anywhere/everywhere state of play.
Teaching with Games: GLPC Case Study: Joel:This video case study explores Joel Levin’s work as a school technology integrator, following him as he shares MinecraftEDU with second graders in New York City.
Game-Based Learning:This video explains the application of game-based learning with video presentation and resources.
Classroom Game Design: Paul Andersen at TEDxBozeman:Paul Andersen’s classroom is a video game, and you can learn how he puts video games to work in AP biology.
Video Games and the Future of Learning:Jan Plass and Bruce Horner lecture in this video, explaining the research and science behind video games and their future in education.
Game Based Learning in Special Education:Andre Chercka discusses his experience with game-based learning and how it can be applied to special education in this talk.
Steve Keil: A manifesto for play, for Bulgaria and beyond:View this talk to find out why Bulgarian Steve Keil thinks play is so important to education and society, and how we can reinvent learning to better share a sense of play.
Mission Impossible Physical Education Game:Check out this fun physical education game to see how kids can come together to think critically and work as a team.
The Gaming of Education:In this video, you’ll see how gaming can help kids learn and engage more deeply, and enjoy “The Great Brain Debate” as experts question whether gaming in education negatively contributes to digital information overload.
Brenda Brathwaite: Gaming for understanding:Game designer Brenda Brathwaite discusses how she created a game to help her daughter better understand the concept of slavery.
EdmodoCon 2011: Game Based Learning:Watch this video to see how high school teacher Hyle Daley integrates educational gaming into curriculum.
Integrating Games-based Learning: A Conversation with Tim Rylands:In this video, you’ll learn how to integrate games-based learning in your classroom.
Tim Brown: Tales of creativity and play:Designer Tim Brown explains how important play is to creative thinking, offering great ideas for bringing play into our lives and classrooms.
Teaching with Games: GLPC Case Study: Lisa:Check out this video with 4th grade teacher Lisa Parisi as she uses freely available games from BrainPOP and Manga High to challenge them in math and science content.
Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world:Jane McGonigal’s talk explains how we can harness the power of gaming to solve real-world problems.
Nolan Bushnell Talks About Making Learning a Game:View this video from Atari founder Nolan Bushnell as he talks about changing the way kids learn in and out of school with gaming.
Game-based learning: what do e-learning designers need to know?:What makes educational games different? This video takes a look at what e-learning designers have to do differently when it comes to learning games.
Dawn Hallybone, Teacher, Learning Without Frontiers, London:In this video, British teacher Dawn Hallybone shares her strategies for bringing commercial video game technology to learning in order to motivate her students and improve educational outcomes.
Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution!:Sir Ken Robinson shares his ideas for a radical shift in learning, bringing personalization and creativity to education, and allowing kids’ natural talents to grow.
Games and Learning in the Classroom with Teacher PrantikaDas:Follow this Microsoft Most Innovative Teachers Forum winner as she explains how she uses games to stimulate learning in her classroom.
Net Gen Ed: Game-based Learning:This video from Net Gen Ed explains the fundamentals of game-based learning and how to use games for educational purposes.
A Vision for 21st Century Learning:Check out this presentation on game based learning to better understand the ideas behind immersive learning environments.
Ali Carr-Chellman: Gaming to re-engage boys in learning:How do you get boys interested in learning? Encourage them to play video games. Ali Carr-Chellman’s talk explains a great plan to engage boys in the classroom by bringing video games in.
Gaming in Libraries Class:See what Paul Waelchli has to say about teaching through game learning in this Gaming in Libraries course.
Ian Bogost on Serious Games:Get gaming expert Ian Bogost view on what serious games can do for education and beyond.
School Mods: Gaming the Education System:Jonathan Schneker’s talk is all about how video games can actually help us learn.
Education & business find uses for Serious Games:This piece from Euronews explains how computer games are breaking beyond entertainment and moving into the education and business world.
Game based Learning-How computer games and their design can be used in schools:Watch this video from the Festival of Education explaining why computer games are an essential part of 21st century curriculum.
James Paul Gee on Learning with Video Games:Gaming expert James Paul Gee shares his insight into why video games make great learning tools.
Tom Chatfield: 7 ways games reward the brain:Watch Tom Chatfield’s TED talk to find out how games engage and reward our brains to keep us going for more.
Consolarium on BBC News: Gaming in Education:Scottish educators explain how the Nintendo DS is making a difference in engagement and educational attainment for Scottish students.
Dr. Paul Howard-Jones – Neuroscience, Games & Learning:Dr. Paul Howard-Jones discusses the science of game-based learning as he explains how gaming engages the brain in education.
Welcome to the Digital Generation:This series of videos from Edutopia explains great ideas for teaching today’s digital generation.
The Money Game:In this financial education game, students learn basic money management and wealth creation principles, making personal finance education fun and easy.
Brenda Laurel:Brenda Laurel’s talk on games for girls offers interesting ideas for getting female students more engaged in game learning.
Game-Based Learning in Higher Education:Game-based learning isn’t just for kids. Watch this talk from the USC Center for Excellence in Teaching to find out why and how game-based learning can be used for higher education.
James Paul Gee on Grading with Games:Game-based learning expert James Paul Gee explains how kids can learn, and be graded, with games.
Teaching with Games: GLPC Video Case Study: Steve:Technology instructor Steve Isaacs discusses how he uses video game design and development in 7th grade curriculum, developing 21st century skills and helping to motivate students.
Douglas Thomas on Video Game Learning: Interacting with Media:Watch this video from the MacArthur Foundation to find out how video games can serve as powerful learning tools for students
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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.