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Saturday, 29 December 2012

People of 2012 Who Changed my Life

This year began as the worst year of my life. I was not sure at the end of January how I would be able to pick myself up and move on. At school, a friend said to me that you have to keep occupied. You've got to keep working at something. As a self confessed workaholic this was not a hard instruction to follow. I started by applying and being accepted for the Google Teacher Academy, and it sort of snowballed from there.

Here is my list of 'People who changed my life in 2012':

At google I met @Jamestsanders and @predacomdom who opened my eyes to a world of creative possibilities in teaching. You are both, super inspiring, don't ever change.

Through Google Certified Teacher status I also met @IanAddison @ZoeRoss @OliverQuinlan @Stevebunce all leading the way in innovative teaching in the UK. (If you are a teacher and do not follow them on twitter then there is something wrong with you!)

@Chrisleach78 Innovator of one of my favourite conferences ever, RethinkingICT. Anyone who invites over 100 people to their school to discuss the future of ICT education in the UK deserves a medal, but to do it in such a way to truly bring people together to really make an impact is worth a mention. Your conference opened my eyes, I am not alone!

@tonyparkin sat in the same room as me at RethinkingICT and has since become one of the people I most value the opinion of. He is a Yorkshireman so says what he thinks without mincing his words, which is right up my street. He probably thinks I am stalking him, the number of times we've been at the same events this winter.

This year I've spent much of my free time (as if such a thing exists) working on @GeekGurlDiaries and through this work I've met some fantastic people. If I had not met @SophDareE I'm not sure I would have continued in this endeavour. She is forward thinking and a credit to ICT education. Technocamps should be paying her double. Every teenage geek girl must want to be like Sophie. I know I do!

One of the first women to be interview for Geek Gurl Diaries was @ZoeFCunningham who supported my idea, and her company Softwire employ female software developers and testers who were also interviewed. Without women working in the tech industry it would be difficult to inspire young people to take a second look at those subjects in school.

@kimxtom was very quick to get in touch with me from the United States to share ideas and practices as we found we were working on the same kind of stuff. Girls in IT is a global problem, and Kim invited me to speak at the online global education conference to highlight this. Kim is forward thinking, fun, and an inspiration to me.

@traveller_123  otherwise known as Claire (another Googleoid) changed my summer for the better when she helped me spend two sporting weeks attending the London Olympics. I will forever be grateful for the closing ceremony ticket she got for me. You are awesome, FACT.

@tecknoteacher aka the Raspberry Jam Man! I admire any teacher who gets out there and does something rather than just moans about the state of education. Alan goes above and beyond this. I first met him in person at a London Raspberry Jam where we discussed the use of Raspberry Pi's and computing in general. Alan has an easy manner, and great skill at bringing people together. I hope one day to be able to teach programming like him.

I first saw @phalt_ speak at a Raspberry Jam that I watched online. I was struck by his Raspberry Pi project and his interest to bring it to schools. I was also annoyed by his statement that ICT Teachers were lame. (I may be paraphrasing here) so I contacted him to tell him so. For a university student this may have seemed really odd. In fact to anyone really, but Paul and I very quickly had an understanding. He introduced me to @Sponsorcraft to help fund some equipment for GGD for which I am eternally grateful, and we even met at PyConUK. He is one to watch world of ICT Education, I warn you. Hope to see more of him in 2013!

Through my work getting girls in IT, I met @codeboom and together we worked to develop @CASinclude, an arm of the Computing At School group. Laura is one of the nicest people in education that I've ever met. She has worked tirelessly on the Cas include website, wiki and on the CAS forum whilst being a full time teacher. I hope next year to work more with Laura as we take #include to the next level running a hack day.

I cant talk about hack days and not mention @Pegleggen. Gen is a charismatic computing teacher who introduced me to @Appshed and who is driven to improve education. I was fortunate enough to meet her at MozFest this year and I hope to work with her more in the future. She is experienced in running workshops for teens and I imagine has a fantastic relationship with all her students. I aspire to be half as good at my job.

One of the first people to attempt to teach an old dog (me) new tricks (Python) was @ntoll at PyConUK. No mean feat! I think together we highlighted issues with computing education for the Python developer community that could really benefit both parties of we work together. Thanks Nick for teaching me, marking my code, and pointing me in the right direction.

@Viacaput otherwise known as Sue Street has attempted through mentoring to open my eyes to my strengths as a teacher. I still doubt many of them, but I thank her for seeing something in me to nurture. I've been very lucky to spend time talking about my career with Sue and I hope to continue the discussion in 2013.

I was fortunate enough to encounter @asbradbury from Raspberry Pi Foundation at PyConUK where he gave a keynote talk on the Pi. He, like many of the cast and crew of the foundation were very open to my ideas for teaching using the Pi. We kept over conversation going, and with his help I met and worked with @samaaron to produce a KS3 scheme of work. I'm excited to trail it in the new year! Alex and I continue to work on ideas for school and GGD but I'm still not sold on the robot arm Alex, sorry.

There are so many more people I could mention, but I think I'd be here forever. Thanks to you all for changing my life for the better. I am a very lucky girl to have met you in 2012. I hope 2013 is half as good :)

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Guest Appearance on Skirts & Ladders Website

I am always slightly baffled when companies and websites ask if they an feature me and my work, as I'm not sure I'm doing or saying anything revolutionary. "Girls need to represent." Nothing new there then.

This week Skirts & Ladders have featured this article on their website about me. I'm not sure that I really promote becoming an ICT Teacher on a careers website very well. It's a great job! Do it! You'll love it! Might be more appropriate.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Digital Heroes Awards 2012

I've been nominated for a digital heroes award by Talk Talk for my work on Geek Gurl Diaries trying to inspire teenage girls into computing, science, technology and engineering through the use of video. I'm happy to say that I have been selected as a finalist and voting is now open for you to help pick a winner!

Please, please vote for me and here is why:

Thursday, 25 October 2012

TechHeads, EdTech, & BSC Entrepreneurs

I attended my first ever meeting at the London branch of the BCS - Chartered Institute for IT. Just going to the London office made me very excited as you could imagine. I was there to attend the TechHead's meeting on the proposals for the new Ebacc (which is going to include IT... possibly... at this point who knows?) and a panel of speakers were explaining the opportunities to developer/IT start-ups that may be interested in developing products, resources etc to aid teachers.

I was invited along by Edward Baker, the organiser who, like many of us have been saying for a while, there needs to be a meeting of minds between the teaching community and the developer community. TechHeads is the name of the community he has created.

The panel of speakers at this event consisted of the fabulous Tony Parkin, Educational Technologist and self proclaimed disruptive nostalist @tonyparkin who talked about the problems that may arise from having ICT included in the new ebacc, Sue Street a Naace Fellow, national leader of ICT, and teacher, who rightfully said that she was concerned that including computer science so heavily in the new ebacc program of study could cause creativity to be pushed into a corner and forgotten about. Bill Mitchell, Director of the British Computer Society who explained a bit of the history of what had happened and why there is suddenly so much fuss over our subject. He talked about the new plans to stop all teacher training of ICT and the £20,000 incentive for CS graduates to take up teaching (Grrr.. where's *my* £20,000 for being an awesome teacher of ICT?) Bill also mentioned that the first draft of the ICT ebacc program of study had been delivered to Gove and that it takes up two sides of A4. Neil Mclean, Head of FutureLab Research Center, and Chris Johnson Principle moderator of ICT GCSE for OCR were also speakers and panelists.

I realize that the target audience of these talks were the developers, however I felt that many of the speakers played into the media and governments false perception that all ICT teachers are lazy idiots who know nothing about computer science and do not care about teaching it well. I got quite frustrated during the talks and was super happy when a fellow ICT teacher said during the Q&A everything that I was feeling. There is a danger here that meetings like this are going to alienate the very people who have worked hard, and are working hard to improve ICT teaching in the UK. I'm not saying that all teachers are great, but I know for a fact that there is some outstanding work going on in this country.

One issue that I think it being overlooked is that of time. I can teach anything, but until ICT is given more than 50 mins per week on the curriculum, it will not be taken seriously as an important subject. I am in a carousel with Music, DT and HE. History gets double the amount of time, and Core subjects like Maths, Eng and Science get four times the amount. The argument is not solely what we are teaching but how much time we have to teach.

The state of computer networks within schools is another major issue for improving the way ICT is perceived as a subject. The computers in my school are 8 years old, using software that is three versions out of date. Many programs we use (not Microsoft!) struggle to run. This is one of the reasons that the Raspberry Pi is so attractive as a low cost product that allows us teachers to bypass the network. Any new curriculum needs to take into consideration the condition of many school networks.

Anyway, That's my moan!

I'm really excited that the BCS are reaching out to the developer community, and I had a great chat with some people afterwards about helping them with anything they've got planned. I'm happy to test any ideas with classrooms full of students if it helps developers and teachers come together. I'm convinced, through my own work with the Python Community that working together can help teachers teach better, give developers a voice about what they think needs to be taught, and give students backup and inspiration to go forward.

If you are a teacher, a developer, someone who is interested in the opportunities that the new programs of study for ICT provide and want some input from grass roots teachers like me, please get in touch. We are all working towards the same goal.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Google Edu On Air: Student Eportfolios

Or.. How my carefully well planned on air inset session went wrong.

As part of Google Edu's second on air educational conference I offered to present a session on creating students eportfolios using a template within Google Apps for Edu. I had my presentation prepared, I knew exactly every technical part that I would need to explain and I had contacted other Google Certified Teachers who would really add to the session like @ZoeRoss19 who have expert knowledge of Google Sites and other apps.

How could it go so wrong?!

I know how... It was late on a Sunday, half the people I asked to take part were busy, y'know having real lives, and technical difficulties meant that Zoe could not join in. At 8.03pm after minutes of freaking out I decided to just do it all on my own. See video:

You can even pin point the moment when I start to just witter about nothing and James Sanders attempts to rescue me from myself. 

Eugh. Tragic. Oh well, I've taught worse lessons in my time as a teacher. Talking to myself is nothing new.

But seriously, I love sharing ways of doing things like this. If you have ideas on how I could do this better please get in touch. If you want any personal help setting up your eportfolios using GAFE, please get in touch. If you want to laugh at my ineptitude, please don't get in touch. 

Monday, 8 October 2012

Google Edu Conference On Air

On Sunday I will be presenting a session as part of the Google Edu Conference On Air

I will be explaining how I went about creating a template for my students to use within our Google Apps for Edu domain for their ICT work at KS3. We have over 600 students using google sites within GAFE to display their work in ICT lessons. I will discuss the problems that I uncovered through the process and had to overcome. I will also discuss the benefits and drawbacks of using a system like this. I will also explain our use of class badges and introduce you to

Please watch the stream online via my Google+ page, and post questions if you have any in the feed.

Monday, 1 October 2012

PyConUK and PythonEDU

I attended my first Python conference over the weekend of the 29th September. This is primarily a conference for programmers using the programming language Python, but this year the organisers have worked to include the teaching community as programming becomes more and more likely to appear on any plans for a new ICT curriculum in the UK.

I was not sure what to expect over the weekend, and as I took my seat and the mornings introduction began I realised that the geek to teacher ratio was worse than expected. I was constantly asked over the weekend if I thought that teacher groups knew about professional developer communities like the Python community? I guess not.

My first session was an introduction to Python for newbies. This was my first ever programming lesson, and as a teacher I constantly questioned how I would teach this to my students? Would I teach concepts and basic coding steps and then ask students to implement them in made up circumstances or would I flip this model and give students code through a project so they can understand its application before working out what the code is doing to understand how to program. (I'm not sure if I'm closer to a solution to this conundrum.) Python seems extremely easy to learn as a programming language. I come from a more scripting background so it is still difficult for me to completely understand it but I feel empowered to at least have a go. The best part of this session was that the organisers had placed experienced developers around the room to help us students when we got stuck. This was genius. I was lucky enough to have been sat with someone who explained problems to me in such a way that helped me to understand. This triggered an idea - why not ask the coders to produce screencasts, voice threads or videos for simple concept explanations or activities to aid learning. they could be uploaded *somewhere* and we teachers could use them to create lessons.

Later that evening there was a discussion between the chairman of the Python Software Foundation, Van Lindberg, the staff of PyConUK, and for some strange reason I was there too. We discussed the future of Python in education globally. I enjoyed this discussion as I think we are all working towards the same goal. I really think the python community has an opportunity here to have Python as the language taught predominantly in schools in the UK. The raspberry pi is going to make this the number one language and if there is a way to teach something in scratch and then mirror it in python to show kids the advantages and disadvantages of both it will be an even better education tool. 

On the second day I worked with Nicholas Tollervey @ntoll to deliver an 'Education Sprint'. After talking with many of the teachers on the first day it became clear that both parties needed to be brought together to tackle the problems faced by educators. The simplest way to do this was to start with statements or questions. We had the following:

  • What do the developers need to know from the teachers?
  • What do developers think students should learn?
  • What do developers think teachers need to know to be able to teach programming?
  • What ideas for projects that can turned into schemes of work can you think of?
  • Willing to help teachers?

After giving the attendee's time to write answers for each we started a very interesting discussion on each topic. By the end of the discussion we chose 5 project ideas and split into groups. One teacher per group of developers to guide the discussion to create a scheme of work or series of lessons. I think this was a really great process, I think it showed that both groups could collaborate well to come up with something fantastic, and I personally think that's what education is all about. Good things happen when you bring experts and educators together. All the projects have been put onto GitHub which can be found on Nicholas' blog.

Somehow I ended up on a panel where I clearly didn't belong, but y'know need to represent! Luckily I was rescued before I really said what I think about the ongoing issues of education. lol.

I kept returning to the idea of having an online space where teachers, developers and students could access what they need from each other. I'm not really sure how to describe what I'm envisioning:

As the three target groups want different things it might be an idea to split the site into 3 categories: If you are a teacher click here, if you are a student click here, if you are a python guru genius developer wishing to help the first two groups because you are lovely click here.

  • Geeks can upload videos/screenshares/audio/voicethreads, or activities, or problems. They could locate schools via a search nearby asking for support, or advertise code dojos.
  • Teachers can use geek content to create lessons, we can share lesson plans, activities and schemes of work. Or search for geeks in the area willing to help out at different levels (1st, 2nd, 3rd line etc)
  • Students can find help to questions from geeks, or find other students to help them, find events to attend for them.
It's something I would like to work on, but I think I just have too much going on right now, especially if we are expecting an ofsted inspection at any moment. Perhaps some nice developer will help me out. *hint hint major hint*

At the end of the day I gave a lightening talk about trying to get the Python developer community to get involved by creating content that could be blended or flipped by teachers into lesson plans. It's difficult to get across what you are trying to under a time pressure. I tried to use my example of teaching to explain the need for a Python EDU portal but not sure I really did it very well. (you can judge by watching this video from 1.50.53 onwards) I'm trying to promote a way of doing things in teaching, not myself. The feedback from the community is that they wanted an inclusive community/group/mailing list/forum for teachers and geeks. Github is too geeky for teachers and CAS is too teachery for geeks (not my words).

The beauty of reaching out to this community of programmers is that they work on a open source principle that mirrors my own teaching. The python community listened to what I had to say and in many ways have responded. This has culminated in the creation of a google group called Python EDU for geeks and educators. I hope in some way teachers will see this as an opportunity to do something great. But currently, with this strange education climate this all could be a waste of time :/

P.S. Maybe the site should include a geek to teacher speak and vice versa translator for the lols.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Second Raspberry Jam

I know, I'm not very inventive with naming my blog posts. It's all part of my master plan to be able to find them in a rush. At least that's the logic I'm sticking with.

The Raspberry Jam at Mozilla Space in London was very different to the last jam that I attended. There was much more of a buzz and people were moving around the room looking at, engaging with pi projects brought in by people.

@MrLockyer @Jennyfer37 and I built on what we had started at the last jam, encouraging the community to help us create pi projects that we could turn into schemes of work. Stephen did this by laying out lots of card on a table and offering people post it notes to offer their help, technical advice, project ideas, and suggestions for what teachers and students should learn/teach. Jenny and I attempted to divert as many people as possible over towards the area to join us!

The most exciting moment for me, was when Richard Vidler arrived with a project idea that we had started to form at the last raspberry jam in a breakout room. He took the idea, worked on it over the summer, and brought in a document that I can start to turn into a scheme of work for teachers. And there was much rejoicing. I've already emailed the electronics club at my school to see if they want to be involved.

When I met up with SK Pang, he suggested that he could create a parts kit for the project to sell to schools. He also has a kit and a tutorial on his site for creating a traffic light system.

I witnessed a lego mindstorm education kit plugged into a raspberry pi, and after some tinkering from the community with a few lines of code they had it spinning and singing Mary had a little lamb. If you have lego kits laying about in your school, you could already have the makings of a great pi project. It must be fate, because when I got into work this morning, there was a lego edu catalogue on my desk!

So... epic.

Watch this space for pi projects and schemes of work coming your way. I'm going to set up a site page for teachers/schools/students/parents with projects and schemes of work probably over the weekend.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Eportfolio and ICT Badges Reactions

Today I taught one of my classes how to use the eportfolio template I had made for them and explained that they could make the welcome page of their eportfolio their own by including facts about themselves and images. (See my last post if you have no idea what I'm talking about!)

They seemed to really enjoy decorating their own pages, but I was disappointed that some of the students didn't want to customise it more.

Then I presented the ICT class badges and the idea behind them. I was surprised by their reaction. They really seemed excited about collecting the badges by unlocking them like achievements. This would be either by completing units or by demonstrating a skill. They can then proudly display the badges on their site. There was hushed whispers about which badge they wanted to get first and a lot of "Oh yeah I want that one". This bodes well.

I've printed a display of them for the classrooms and soon I can start to dish them out. Exciting times! I might have to think of more to keep the interest up.


Thursday, 23 August 2012

ePortfolios for KS3

This post is mainly for @computing_teacher and anyone wanting to know why I made the decisions I did about how my students would create and use eportfolios in KS3 ICT lessons.

So for a while now I've been contemplating having all my students create and use eportfolios in ICT lessons at key stage 3. This is for a number of reasons, firstly our students do not have exercise books, so how do we record that we are feeding back to our students. Before now we've used a word document to record feedback, but there was no way of telling if students were reading it or learning from it. Secondly, most KS4 qualifications have started to require students to put all their finished coursework into an eportfolio. Finally, I think it's a skill that all students should learn and understand as CV's move from being paper based to electronic in the future. Employers will expect some form of eportfolio to show evidence of work. In all industries.

For some time I've gone back and forth between using a blog or creating a website. Both have pros and cons. In fact I've changed my mind between them on many occasions but it always came back to the same issue. With Google sites within Google Apps for Edu, I can control the content and who see's it, therefore protecting the students from the internet and prevent the students from doing/saying something inappropriate on the open internet. Most blog sites are uncontrollable. Maybe for a small class its ok, but for nearly 600 students this was going to be a problem.

I decided that for Year's 7 & 8 I would create a Google Site Template for the eportfolio that they would be able to copy from within GAFE, and then edit to make it their own. As this concept of an eportfolio would be new to them it seemed wise to model what one looks like. I thought it might be nice for Year 9 to create a google site from scratch as they have already studied website development in year 8, and it would be more fun for them to make it completely personalised.

I designed and created a Google Site like you would normally but from my GAFE account. Once it was complete I saved it as a template, for students within the domain. It is now ready for students to access in the first lessons when we return. (After I explain it to my dept!)

In my next blog I will explain my ICT class badges, but as I am still developing these, I'm not ready to share them all with you yet. 

Yes Luke Skywalker is one of my students, and he is really whiney. He cries often.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Share Everything

One of the most surprising things to happen during the last term of a crazy school year where I transformed my teaching and status, was being contacted by a school in Portsmouth who had seen a scheme of work I had been trailing with my Year 9's through They asked if they could use it and have access o the online resources that went with it. Obviously they could only see the lessons as I laid them out for students to access through my blended learning model.

I said "Yes, of course, here is all the gubbins you will need."

I told this story to other teachers both within my own department, school and to teaching friends outside of school. They all asked the same question "Why did you just hand it over? Why didn't you ask for money?"

My answer "Share Everything."

I have an open source attitude to teaching. Firstly, education should be free, and every child should have access to the same resources. This obviously doesn't happen in any education system. The richest children will always have access to the best of everything meaning the wealthy will stay wealthy and the poor will stay poor (but that's a separate argument). Secondly, like open source coding, the collaboration of minds improves the software, everyone contributing a piece to move forward. If a few of my own lesson plans or ideas are a starting point, and then a teacher in Portsmouth improves them and then a teacher from Preston adds an idea, we ALL benefit! Let's stop giving our money to third party companies who don't know anything about teaching.  Stop teaching the curriculum, let's create our own curriculum. We are the experts in our fields, we should shape our own education system for the better.

Listen to this guy, because this is what I think I'm doing, and you should be doing too:

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Creative use of ICT

A few months ago I was asked to write a guest blog about creative use of ICT in teaching. That post can be found here.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

First Raspberry Jam

Last night I attended my first Raspberry Jam. An event for enthusiasts of the Raspberry Pi. A circuit board sized computer that harks back to the days of the BBC Micro on which you are able to program in Python to get it to do anything you want it to.

I bought a Raspberry Pi with the sole purpose of figuring out how I could create a scheme of work for KS3 that would engage students in the basics of computer science/programming. Something that would make them go away and think about getting their own pi as a way into CS. For anyone who doesn't know this already, I'm extremely passionate about improving the ICT curriculum so that there is a higher uptake of it post 16 especially by girls. (see

I took my Pi with me in my handbag into London to the Mozilla offices in the West End. When I arrived I realised very quickly that I was in a room full of men. They all seemed to know each other and were all demonstrating their achievements with the Pi. I instantly felt that I was not going to be the target audience of their talks. I resorted to hiding in a corner on my phone. Lame I know, but this is my default setting. Luckily I was joined by Jenny Gainsford @jennyfer37 (An amazing ICT Teacher that I was lucky to have trained with), and another teacher I had met at Rethinking ICT conference in June. Whilst Jenny and I caught up we were joined by a lady who wants to train to become a primary school teacher and is keen to get young people using the Pi to learn about computing. As we were chatting Alan O'Donohoe @teknoteacher (The main Raspberry Jam man) joined us and asked to record our conversation, he then asked if we would not mind speaking during the event to the group. This seemed to me like the best way to get our thoughts out quickly and in one go, even though we had nothing prepared and I knew Jenny and I were on the same page already.

We settled down to watch presentations about what others had achieved with their Pi, and as the evening went on I became more and more frustrated that there was a huge gap between what people are already doing with the pi, and how teachers are going to get this across to students within the constraints of time, money and the changes to the curriculum. Jenny and I were there to find people willing to help us create schemes of work that would get more young people into CS, because surely that's our combined end goal. Tom Hannen has written an excellent review of all the talks.

So when it was our turn to speak, we felt that we had a lot to say, even though we were completely unprepared. I started to explain our point of view, where we were coming from, and our passion for ICT teaching, and for engaging students in CS, especially girls. It's not easy to stand up in a room full of clever men and make a case for teaching and engaging girls. As soon as you mention girls in IT, there is often a backlash as everyone has an opinion on it. Unfortunately, I was heckled and told that we should look into getting it to "do some shopping". I died a little inside, and thought perhaps this was not the forum that I had expected it to be. Eventually the heckler demanded that he should be allowed to speak, so we graciously gave him the floor. I think actually he misunderstood what we were trying to say, and the reasons why we were there. By the end of the evening I think he understood that we both wanted the same thing.

After our little moment in the limelight, I wanted to crawl away and die. But something unexpected happened. I was approached by many different people from the audience who were keen to discuss ideas. They all said that they were impressed with what we had said and the passion that we had shown. They praised us for our courage, and offered help and suggestions to move forward. It was exactly the reaction I wanted. I was given business cards and contact details for people wanting to help. In fact so many people wanted to talk to me, that we had to move into a room away for the main room because people were trying to give their talks. I missed every speaker after us sadly. Sorry about that!

This morning I sent the following call to arms:

Thank you for your support at last nights Raspberry Jam in London. I am passionate about ICT as a subject and I am excited about bringing programming to students. However (as I hope I got across last night) I am frustrated that there is yet to be a project/scheme of work developed for teachers. It's frustrating because we were told the Pi had been developed for education, and we are constantly told all the great things that it can do (many of which I saw last night) but I need your help to bring that to our students.

What I am looking for from you is a six week scheme of work where students will work in groups or small pairs. I can bring the teacher part and develop lesson plans to meet Ofsted criteria. I can even provide amazing students to test any ideas/kit.

I've created this google document as a starting point for ideas. I've filled out the first bit as an example just to show you how it works for the non teachers. That's not an actual idea I just came up with something to populate the fields. I suggest you make a copy of the document by going to File>Make a copy then we could feed them back into one document before the next Jam?


* Time - I teach 50 minute lessons, once a week, how do we keep the engagement and learning.
* Money - Pi's may be cheap but we would need to buy monitors as all ours are VGA. We'd also need to buy SD cards and as was suggested last night we'd need money for any extra kit (breadboards, turbines, etc) This is the biggest issue. My school would not let me buy all this equipment. We would need investment.
* Non specialist ICT Teachers - unfortunately not all my teachers are specialists. Any Pi scheme of work needs to be easy enough for novices to teach or for me to be able to make screencasts/videos that they could play.

It would be great to go to the next Raspberry Jam in London with a step forward.

If you, dear reader want to contribute then please do. Together we can bridge the gap between engineers/enthusiasts and teachers.

Friday, 30 March 2012

IT Apprenticeships

On Thursday at 4.30pm I met my year 13 BTEC ICT National students outside the mcdonalds at Liverpool Street ready to take them to to attend a seminar on IT Apprenticeships that they offer 18 year olds as a way of getting into the industry.

Overall it was an excellent experience. The recruitment company spent time really engaging the students in understanding what it is like to work in the industry and more importantly what employers are looking for. We teach units of BTEC that involve employment in the sector but hearing it from a teacher and hearing it from a prospective employer are two very different things.

Students were asked to think about their characteristics and enthusiasm as well as their technical ability. Before students when on the trip they sat two tests, a technical test, and a customer service test. Unsurprisingly they did better on the technical test, but many of the brighter A* students did scored really badly. Sometimes I think as teachers we do all we can to help them pass and achieve, but we do not do enough to prepare them for university or employment.

Some of my pupils should attend university as they are more academic by nature, even though they have sat a vocational ICT course at sixth form. But an apprenticeship for some of them would be an excellent career route. Justit are offering an excellent scheme which will place our students with some fantastic employers, help them to become accredited and enter employment in London.

I hope to take the current year 12 students next year to see how well they do. I like the idea of sending out students that I have taught directly into the workplace, especially as I have come from a 1st/2nd and 3rd line support background, before turning to the dark side and becoming a teacher. I always try to make sure I teach the technical side of IT in a way that they will recall later if they take that career path. It also helps that they are such lovely kids, that they should be personable, polite, customer facing, happy workers!

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

A Lesson on Copyright

For two years I have taught year 12 the importance of copyright law when creating graphical images for their coursework. I decided that this can be quite a boring subject and the criteria asks for students to think about how copyright laws will affect their own work. How would they feel if someone used their work.

I find copyright and plagiarism a difficult topic to tackle with this generation of young people. For them the internet has always existed. Using images from google images, or copying and pasting from wikipedia are the norm. Many of my KS4 and 5 students regularly record themselves singing a version of a pop song and upload it to you tube. This is a grey area at best, but a great topic for discussion.

Anyway back to my lesson...

I put the students into small groups of two or three, and explained that each group was their own toy company, designing the next big thing for children. They were to draw their design and write brief description of what it is and what it does. I've never seen 16 and 17 year olds so excited over kids toys. After approximately 5 minutes students were asked to finish their ideas and turn their papers over so no one else could see it. I then told the students that during the night their designs had been stolen, and each group had to pass their drawings to the group next to them. They then had 1 minute to steal as many ideas as they could. After a minute they passed them onto the next group and so on until they got their papers back. They then had a few minutes to add the stolen ideas to their own toy to improve it. We then all feed back by explaining what their original idea was and how they had improved it by stealing ideas from others.

This activity, as bizarre as it sounds, actually led to some fantastic discussions about what would happen if one group went to market before another, and really brought out their feelings towards having their work stolen. We were also able to cover the idea of intellectual property, and how its covered by copyright in the UK.

The end result was a written report on copyright and graphical images. All students passed this criteria first time with minimal corrections at the end of the double period. Creative, engaging tasks can lead to the right outcome, however barmy they seem at first.

Todays toys included:

  • A doll based on Dappy from NDubz called "Dappy in a nappy" (it had its own theme tune)
  • A dog toy that at first looked like a normal dog which transformed into a bodybuilder dog with a six pack that flies
  • A helicopter that had a camera on it so you could film whilst flying, and...
  • A pet rock (Yes I did tell them this has been done before, but they wouldnt have it!) They gave it a Pirate and a Ninja costume pack.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Google Teacher Academy UK April 2012

Friday evening I was sat at home, watching Jackie Chan fight evil, hitting refresh on my school webmail at least 50 times a minute, waiting for an email from Google to tell me I was in or I was out of this years Google Teacher Academy.

I had started to apply mid January when I happened upon a tweet that mentioned it. There was a lengthy online application form to fill out and every applicant had to make a one minute video about 'Classroom Innovation' or 'Motivation and Learning'. Pretty vague titles I thought. so I decided to approach the video based on the application blurb that said

The task is designed to demonstrate your technical ability, your resourcefulness, your commitment, and your unique personality and interests
"Unique personality" thats me alright. Whilst I lay in bed trying to get to sleep, I started to have ideas about a stop frame animation video that would include all my interests, and hopefully highlight my kooky personality. I started to work on my video in secret, using post it notes, and cut out pictures. After a while other teachers would spot me taking hundreds and photos and ask me what I was doing. "I'm making an animation about myself, I'm vain like that."

Unfortunately the computer I was using to put all the images together wasn't great, and the more images I added the clunkier it would become. Like all artists I did not complete my video, I simply abandoned it when I ran out of time.

After I uploaded my video to youtube, I started to watch as many of the other applicants videos as I could. 600 people are said to have applied this year for one of 50 places. (25 for UK educators and 25 for overseas). BIG MISTAKE. I started to realise that my video was a little too kooky, and perhaps not educational enough. Oh well. It was worth a shot.

At about 11pm on Friday 24th Feb, I decided to stop waiting for the email and go to bed. Twitter was a hive of activity under the hashtag GTAUK, with applicants speculating as to when the emails would be sent out.

At about 5.30am on Saturday I rolled over and checked the time. At this point I should have gone back to sleep but instead I decided to check my emails on my phone. BIG MISTAKE No. 2. There it was...

Congratulations! You have been selected to participate in the Google Teacher Academy - London. After reviewing your application, we believe that you have the experience and passion necessary to positively impact education in your region, and we are excited to have you join us.
I was so shocked I was in, I fully screamed into my pillow for 3 seconds. I then tweeted my success, thinking that many of the people tweeting the night before would also have good news. Sadly, this wasn't the case, many were tweeting that they had not got in. I instantly felt guilty for celebrating. I had no idea what an achievement it was to get into GTA.

Within hours of announcing my triumph on twitter, I went from 61 followers to 108. My G+ account has exploded with action also. I'm not used to popularity in any sector. I feel extremely overwhelmed. I hope Google have not made a mistake picking me!

Friends and colleagues keep asking me "What does it mean?" "What does it involve?" I've been trying to explain about collaboration with other like minded individuals, and the opportunity to be introduced to new ways of using web technologies, but many look at me blankly.

I hope the conference on April 4th will be everything I hope it to be, and I can bring back some great ideas for INSET.

I'll keep you all posted.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Creative Learners

I've decided that I like PLTS. I think it's quite a good starting point for any scheme of work in ICT.

I'm part of a teaching and learning group at my school. Today we had a discussion about PLTS. The best part, for me, was the demonstration of a lesson activity in which we were treated like the students. It was an English Poetry lesson, and instantly I was struck with fear, when I saw the white board covered in words that had been jumbled by and was asked to try and work out what the poem might be about. Being dyslexic, this is like my worse nightmare, especially being surrounded by well educated teachers. However I found after a while that it was ok to just have an idea. That I was not going to be judged by my answer as the activity was to get students to think creatively about the poems they are studying, to put their own interpretations forward.

We went on to then look at the poem after discussing our different ideas. We were asked to decide how the narrater might be feeling and to find a quote to back it up. The teacher then wrote these feelings on the board. This lead onto s further discussion about wether we thought that the narrator was male or female. It was really enjoyable.

It reminds me that when I come up with what I think are strange over the top creative ideas, that it is ok. I'm trying to make some of the more boring criteria more interesting giving different types of learners a chance to succeed.

Recently we have been teaching year 9 about communication. One of the lessons main objectives is to be able to give technical information to a non technical audience using ICT effectively. In the past the lesson has involved every student writing a presentation to explain how to access email from home. I then have to sit through every student giving the same presentation to the class. The KS3 Co-ordinator and other members of the department started to discuss ways in which this task could be improved. Through discussion it was decided to change the task so that students may choose any content for their presentation as long as they give technical information to an audience. I gave this task to a top set and a bottom set of year 9's with excellent outcomes.

Presentations so far include:
How to chat up girls
Rules of cricket
What not to wear
How to cheat at school
and How to play Battlefield 3.

I'm going to be so well informed after I watch all these presentations. I feel like my students are more engaged and that creativity does have a place to engage my students. After all, students should have some fun, right Mr. Gove? *sigh*

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Evaluation Lessons

I am a great believer in reflecting. Hence the blog. One of my favourite parts of mt GTP was my weekly training in plans in which I would reflect on my teaching experiences over the week. I try to deliver a good period of reflecting in all units of ICT that I teach, especially at KS3. Lately I have started to wonder if there will be a place for Evaluation in the new ICT curriculum.

If reflecting and improving was really regarded highly by the department for education they may realise that bring back logic and programming to the curriculum could potentially be a step backwards. I have already overheard ICT Teachers talking about going back to flowol, databases and HTML to meet the needs of the changes. How is this going forward? How is this improving ICT? I call on the more creative ICT teachers on the school to collaborate quickly to think of something new, and more engaging for all, before it's hijacked by laziness. Let's reflect on what we know. Logic is good, lets teach it in a fresh way. Flowol is out of date. Scratch is too babyish for older year groups.

On Monday I have a planned a lesson for Year 8 to reflect on the websites they have designed and created. I am going to use peer assessment to guide their reflections. In this 50 minutes lesson I need to teach the students how to evaluate, and produce evidence of it. Sometimes in ICT it seems like the skills we teach don't always match the lesson. I need my students to preview their websites in an internet browser, screenshot them, and paste them into powerpoint before receiving feedback, implementing the feedback, and taking more screenshots to paste into powerpoint to demonstrate the changes. Is all this a little too confusing for 13 year olds?! As well as learning the skill of reflecting and improving?

Plenaries are a time for reflection. What have we learn't today? The honest answer on Monday will probably be "how to print screen" and not "how to improve my website based on feedback from my peers".

I have to ask myself at times like this... Is what I am teaching still worthwhile?