Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Assessing the New Computing Curriculum

After four days at the Bettt Show speaking to teachers about the new Computing curriculum, I was asked over and over again how I would teach it and how I would assess it. This document released by the DfE this week, doesn't really shine much light on the situation.

I was lucky enough to take part in a meeting with the "NOT the DfE Expert Computing Group" during Bett, where this topic was hot conversation. I'm still not sure we resolved anything, but it got me thinking seriously about how I would assess my students without levels and how I would explain this to SLT.

Pointless Data?

I have always argued that levels were pointless since before I trained to be a teacher. They do not mean anything to students or parents. They are just numbers, and yet at a data driven school, teachers are expected to give a level to students progress as much as 4 times every academic year. I think I'd approach SLT and start a conversation about dropping this system from Sept 2014, or considering a new system. Without actually having this conversation with someone in SLT it's difficult to say the outcome, but I would urge you to start pestering them, perhaps with a system like mine (below).

What would I do?

If I were still teaching (I still think I am tbh, only been out of the classroom for 3 weeks!) I think this is how I would go about assessing the new computing curriculum:

All students at KS3 have an eportfolio, either a website or a blog. Over the course of Year 7, 8 and 9 this would stay with each student. It would act as an exercise book for the subject, where students would add all their work in the form of links, screen grabs, videos, screen casts, audio files, whatever.

I'd create a badge for each bullet point on the new programme of study for KS3. Each of these would have a subsection of badges that were gold, silver and bronze. (For your school data this could be lower, middle, high).

I'd make new badges in this style reflecting new curric
(algorithms, programming, data representation, hardware, networks, etc)

At the end of each unit I would assess the students classwork, tests, homework against the unit's objectives, and the CAS Pupil Progress Chart produced by Mark Dorling. (Row purple would be bronze, row red would be silver and row black would be gold.) Then I would award a badge to the student based on the teacher assessment against the statements in the chart. I'd be looking for accuracy and frequency as an assessor within each unit.

Students would then be able to add their badge to their eportolios next to their work. They would understand where they would need to go next to progress looking at the overall chart.  At the end of KS3 students would then have an eportfolio full of work and badges that show how they have progressed through the computing curriculum.

Obviously this is just a theory, I'm not in a position to test it, but it could be a starting point.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

You should come to BETT 2014 and here are the reasons why...

On the face of it, BETT seems like any other trade show. Lots of vendors with shiny stands and know it all sales people. But it's not. There are so many layers to bett, that as an educator you'd be silly to ignore it.

Free CPD

The most interesting and exciting aspect of Bett for me, is the large amounts of FREE seminars, talks, and workshops taking place not only in the 4 or 5 Bett theatres but also on individual stands. Ston Computing is a great example of this, they have a schedule packed with inspirational talks from educators, innovators and personalities.

Show Guide

Meet Likeminded Educators

Another big pull is being able to meet other educators. Bett has the largest Teachmeet every year, and seems to be getting bigger and bigger every year. There is also a teachmeet takeover going on daily, where teachers are taking over some the of the exhibitor stands to give talks.

Meet Exhibitors 

Bett is also a great opportunity as a educator to speak to people who are not directly in the classroom. For example, the Raspberry Pi Education Team of @Clivebeale @Ben_nuttall DaveHoness and myself will be at Bett for all four days. We want to meet you. We want to know what you want, what your concerns and interests are. We want to listen to you, and we are not alone in this. All the exhibitors want to hear from you too.

Try Stuff

If you've ever wondered what Raspberry Pi was all about, or Lego robotics, or Smart boards, or any other educational technology then Bett is the place to do it. Where else do you get to play with technology all day? You might even be able to win a prize or earn a badge for doing so. On the Stone Computing stand, I'll be running a Raspberry Pi workshop, so come have a go and earn a badge!

Get Stationary

Every year I am usually able to restock my pencil case and often my stationary drawer thanks to Bett. Many stands will offer you some promotional pens, pencils and often much more, in the hope that you'll speak to them. It's a win win on both sides.

From the horses mouth

I don't like to describe the Education Secretary as a horse, but it is fair to say that big announcements are sometimes made at Bett. A few years ago Michael Gove announced that the ICT curriculum was being scrapped during his keynote, and he is due to open the show this year. He is not the only high profile speaker. At bett you get the chance to ask questions and have access to people you may not ordinarily have.

Meet Me!

Ok so this one is less of a reason to go to Bett. I'm not that cool, but I will be at Bett every day, and as you can see from my timetable below I'm going to be busy! I really want to meet and hear from you. I want to help you teach computing, a subject that I am passionate about. I don;t want to tell you what to do, I want to understand what will help you teach how you want. Please tweet me, come find me at any of these stands, and connect with me.

Check out my Bett Timetable here!

My Timetable Highlights:

  • 10 ways yo use YouTube Talk - Google Stand Wednesday 22nd 10.30am - 10.50am.
  • Raspberry Pi Bett 2014 Workshop - Stone Stand Wednesday 22nd 11am - 12 noon.
  • Girls in Computing Talk - Stone Stand Wednesday 12 noon.
  • Adventures in Raspberry Pi Meet and Book Signing - Exa Stand Friday 24th 3.30pm - 4.15pm.
  • Sonic Pi Live Demos - OCR Stand every day!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Ticking that ICT box!

Yesterday I gave a presentation to all the student teachers in my borough about ways in which they can use ICT in their practice. The idea was to really push their concept of ICT in teaching. To move away from simply using slides to help explain the lesson, and show how creative you can really be.

My hope is that they remix what I do and make it way better in their chosen subject areas.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Free CPD for teachers from Teen Tech

Some days ago during Mozfest I had the great fortune to meet Maggie Philbin from Tomorrows World and Big Bang. With such a unique surname, I've always been asked if I am related to Maggie, and probably also because of my interest in STEM. What you may not know is that Maggie started Teen Tech, to inspire young people.

@teknoteacher takes great photos!

On 14th November from 4pm till 6pm at BL-NK Space in Hackney, Maggie and Teen Tech are running a free cpd event for teachers. To take part, all you need to do is email anna@teentechevent.com to grab a spot.


"We have an amazing line up for the TeenTech Teachers event to help empower Teachers in preparation for Curriculum changes in 2014.  We will be helping Teachers learn more about computer science and the ways students can pursue a career in the Tech Industry."

As well as ways to inspire them in the classroom today! There will be:
  • Interactive TeenTech exhibits from Queen Mary University
  • Showcasing new technology businesses from Reward Technology and Moment.Us
  • A presentation about inspiring young people through practical learning from Maggie Philbin
  • Gensler - global architecture company sharing their research into workspace and learning spaces of the future
  • London Legacy sharing their curriculum based resources for Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
  • A chance to have a play with Sonic Pi and access the free scheme of work to accompany it. 

Friday, 1 November 2013

Running a Raspberry Pi Workshop for Young People

I've had a large number of requests on twitter to give details of my experience running a Raspberry Pi workshop at my local library during half term. I hope this post will give you the audience everything you need to do something better!


During the summer holidays I contacted my local libraries to see if they would be interested in running a Raspberry Pi workshop. Havering Libraries are fantastic at organising events for both young and old. Every month I attend my local library book club and this weekend a local library is running a craft event where I intend to buy some Christmas sticking fillers! I used the Havering Libraries facebook group to make contact initially and very quickly I was put in touch with the tech savvy member of the libraries who was really enthusiastic about the idea. This half term has been 'Geek Week' at Havering Libraries with a large number of events taking place. It seemed ideal to run a Raspberry Pi workshop as part of that, during half term. I am a secondary school computing teacher by trade, and such a profession allows me to be able to work with children as I have had all the checks to do so. I would thoroughly recommend if you have not had a CRB or DBS check through Stemnet


I have a set of roughly 10 Raspberry Pis, mainly due to the kind donation by RS Electronics a few months ago specifically for running workshops with children. I purchased 10 SD cards and added the latest version of Raspbian to them all. I borrowed 10 HDMI to DVI cables and a few headphone splitters from my school. Romford library has an IT suite with DVI monitors and they managed to get enough usb keyboards and mice, as well as some headphones together for the session. 


Running a workshop in my mind is different to teaching a lesson. I believe that workshop sessions should really be student led. After all they really want to get hands on and have some fun. I also insist that attendees set up their Pis themselves. This enables them to discover how easy it is to do, and you can have discussions about inputs, outputs and talk about the Pi as a computer. All the young people I have ever done this with have always enjoyed this responsibility, whether inside the classroom or during a workshop. Once set up you can discuss the difference between command line interface and the GUI.  

There are a number of activities that you can run workshops on:
  • Minecraft Pi
  • Sonic Pi
  • Basic electronics with GPIO
  • Scratch
  • Basic networking (see David Whale's blog)
Once setup I ran a sonic pi session. One of the great things about a sonic pi session is that it practically teaches itself to any age range or ability user. I showed them how to play a single note, a chord, how to add delays, how to iterate, before they went and discovered it for themselves. They spend an awful lot of time creating their music all by themselves. This allows you time to wander around and then give help to those who are stuck, or more challenges to those who are a little older or more experienced with code. I had two 15 year old lads in my session who had written some Python before. I was able to quickly demonstrate some sonic pi data structures or other different snippets of syntax to help them improve their code.

Could be some good ideas for workshops in here *shameless plug*:


In all honesty I was not sure during the session if the children were enjoying themselves. Only at the end of the two hour session did I find out that it was a success, when many of the children came to ask me if I'd do another session. I tried to find out what they would like to do and minecraft pi and scratch seemed to be popular themes. The library manager and other colleagues were keen to have me sign up to run another workshop. The feedback from parents must have also been very good. 


When I decide to do these types of workshops, I have no idea really what it will be like, other than that young people will do some coding. Each session is different, but one thing remains the same, everyone enjoys it and takes something away from the experience. If you want to run a workshop I say DO IT! You will not regret it. It's rewarding and fun.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

I wrote a book!

This year I've not only been speaking at events, attending meetings on the new curriculum, working with the Raspberry Pi Foundation to create a scheme of work, creating videos for @GeekGurlDiaries, helping to run CAS #include, and my doing my day job - teaching, I've also written a book!

Adventures In Raspberry Pi is a tech book designed for teenagers new to Raspberry Pi, Linux, programming and electronics. It is a full colour guide to get youngsters started in a creative and fun way.

That was the idea anyway! I felt that may of the books and tutorials available for the Pi assumed some prior knowledge, and were hindering getting young people started or keeping them enthused. I hoped that my book would go back to basics and point young people and novices in the right direction.

It is due for release on 22nd November 2013, just in time for Christmas! You can get a copy from amazon both in the UK and US.

Adventures include:

  • Getting set up and started with hardware & software
  • Using Linux (both command line and GUI)
  • Programming in Scratch
  • Creating graphics with turtle
  • Programming in Python
  • Programming Minecraft Pi
  • Creating music with Sonic Pi
  • Using GPIO and basic electronics
  • A final big project
  • Where to go to learn more

Hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Free Raspberry Pi Computing Scheme of Work

It's very exciting to be able to say that 'Sonic-Pi' is now available to download, as is the scheme of work that uses the software created by Dr Sam Aaron at Cambridge University that teaches the concepts of computer science using music. As a text based computer programming exercise, sonic pi meets many the of the points on the new computing programme of study, and is a lot of fun.

There is a great blog post about it on the Raspberry Pi Website. I recommend taking a look, why not? It's free!