My 1st day back – Disaster! Software not working!

It was my 1st day back at school today (yes, I know most people went back last week) and  have been looking forward to delivering my new Kodu scheme of work.

Over the holidays, as I am sure some of you have read, I spent 2 weeks creating resources for it.

I had 4 classes today that I intended to deliver the 1st lesson to. Period 1 and the 1st class came in. I explained the project, the learning objectives and the purpose of using Kodu for programming. Now it was time to the next step:

“OK folks, now its time to open Kodu and have a proper look.”

It didn’t work! The software refused to start! Not a great first day back. Four lessons planned and I could not deliver any of them as I had hoped.

What can you do when this happens? Panic? Cry? Get angry?

You have got to be composed and think on your feet.

Luckily I have a number of resources and websites available in just such an occasion. I would advise every teacher to make sure they have the same. Most teachers, I can imagine, do already. One website that is really useful for KS3 is www.reviseict.co.uk, there are some great revision games on there for students.

By period 5, the 4th lesson I was supposed to deliver Kodu, it was up and running. The technicians were great and dropped everything to ensure the software was working correctly. I was a very happy man.

I have to say, I really enjoyed teaching Kodu. It is great fun and really engaging. The students loved it too! The feedback was great, plus many of the students stayed in at lunch to work on their programs.

After an initial disaster I finished work a happy man.

Is teaching computing an intimidating prospect for an ICT teacher?

Computing

When I did my GTP several years ago I did next to no training in computing. As we all know the curriculum was very much ICT based and that was fine with me. The skills I have very much fitted in with the curriculum I had to teach.

Things are now changing. Gove has told teachers that they don’t have to stick to the old curriculum now. Over the past year and a half I have been able to teach my own curriculum anyway, as I have moved to an independent school. But it’s very clear there is a need to teach computing in schools before KS4.

I agree this should happen, and its very exciting. However, it is also quite intimidating. I have spent almost 7 years (including my training) just teaching ICT with very little computing. Where do I go from here? Well, I have already started teaching visual programming using Kodu, I am also in the middle of writing a computer science scheme of work to be delivered next year.

My biggest worry is programming. The reason I didn’t choose programming at university was because I find it very difficult. For me it is like using a new language. I am very much of the opinion programming is not for everyone. Although, I understand it is very important.

I am sure there are other teachers like me who do not program. If the government want programming in schools they are going to need to stump up some money for training courses.

There has to be room for both ICT and Computer Science.

I would also very much like to rebrand ICT, for me it is old fashioned. Perhaps Digital Literacy would be more appropriate?

There are several teachers who I follow on Twitter working on Digital Studies. Is that the rebrand we need? I don’t think there is one answer but would certainly like to  rebrand ICT at my school.

This has been a very cobbled together blog post, so I apologise if it does not seem to very coherent. Over the next few weeks, when I have more time I would like to expand on my thoughts.

Easter Planning – Kodu Part 5 (teaching resources)

Kodu

I have finally finished all the resources for my Kodu scheme of work. Its taken a while but I must admit its been great fun.

All the resources will be uploaded to Edmodo so that my students can access them from anywhere with an internet connection. This includes their smartphones. Tutorial videos will also be made available to encourage independent learning.

Below are all the resources I have created.

Links:

  1. Kodu Objectives Presentation (SkyDrive) (Google Docs)
  2. Evaluation (SkyDrive)
  3. Peer Assessment (SkyDrive)
  4. Checklist (SkyDrive)
  5. Documentation Example (SkyDrive)
I hope you find them useful.

iPad mirroring on your Mac with the Reflection App (Video)

iPad screenshot

I first read about Reflection from the AppApvice website at the beginning of March. It looked great but I did not get round to downloading it.

A few days ago Gavin Smart, who I follow on Twitter recommended it on his blog.

This was the excuse I needed so I downloaded it. I must say, its really good. There have been a few issues, one of which was the App crashing when viewing photos in full screen. This does not always happen, and I have a feeling it may have something to do with my Mac.

I have always wanted a cheap and easy way to create iPad screencasts/video tutorials and I think I have found it.

The App can be downloaded from HERE and is $14.99 for a single licence.

I have knocked up a brief video overview of Reflection which you can see below. I used QuickTime to record my screen, but using something like Camtasia or Screenflow would be better if you wanted to create polished screencasts. However, you could always import your QuickTime video into one of these application afterwards.

Edmodo – Do you need to pay for a VLE? (presentation included)

I am sure that there are very few people who have not heard of Edmodo by now. However, for those who haven’t, or who are not sure what it is; I thought I would include a very brief overview.

Over the last few years I have used several expensive learning platforms and VLE’s. In my experience they have been overly complicated, time consuming and often did not do what the school wanted. Without going into too much detail, I know two schools who have both purchased a very expensive learning platform and instantly regretted it. Luckily they managed to get their money back. I can imagine these were the lucky ones.

I started using Edmodo a while ago and I have not looked back. Its fantastic, does pretty much everything I want, its easy to use and best of all its free.

Some will say its simply a stripped down VLE, I would say it is just streamlined.

Perhaps it is not as advanced as many paid for products, but how many schools actually utilize all the features found in these?

Please have a look at  presentation below. (Click here for the formatted presentation on SkyDrive) It should should give you a brief overview of what Edmodo can do. Hope you find it useful and perhaps it may save your school some money.

Blux Movie – Great new iPad/iPhone HD Video App (Video Clip Included)

Blux Movie

I have just stumbled across a great new video App that really takes advantage of the camera on the new iPad/4s. Its called Blux Movie and allows you to capture HD video and add effects to it in real time.

The effects are pretty sweet and I can imagine there will be more coming.

Once you have captured your movie you can save it to your camera roll. This is awesome as you can go ahead and edit it in iMovie. I can imagine you can create something that looks fairly profession.

As well as saving to the camera roll you can upload to YouTube or Facebook. You can also transfer your video over WiFi.

It is free for a short period of time. If I was you I would download it now!

Have a look at the very quick video I captured using it.

Let’s bring hip hop into the classroom Part 1

Solitary Confinement

Hip hop gets a bad rep, its seems to get blamed for everything from young people swearing to knife and gun crime. I have been listening to hip hop for over 20 years and I have not been mentally scared or turned into some sort of knife wielding, gun totting criminal.

In fact, hip hop has helped mould me into the person I am today. I have learnt about politics, different cultures and religions, crime, love, death, war and much more.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes hip hop can be very hard to defend and I will admit nowadays there is a lot of rubbish around. Perhaps thats just me being a hip hop snob?

The fact I listen to hip hop often comes as a shock to both students and other teachers. When I am asked by students what music I like, I usually get this response:

“Hip hop? But you’re a teacher!”

Yes indeed I am! Which is precisely the reason I feel that hip hop can be used in the classroom to help teach anything from English to Politics or citizenship.

This is not a new idea. In fact a teacher I follow on Twitter who has the handle @infernaldepart (well worth following) used the song Ill Manors, by Plan B in one of his lessons recently.

I asked him why he used the song, this is what he said:

For those who have not heard the song. Have a listen. Its a cracking tune and has some very important things to say. Although, no doubt the message will be misinterpreted by many.

My intention for the second part of this post is not to provide teaching resources, lessons plans or schemes of work. Instead it is to simply draw your attention to a musical art form that can be used to educate our young people.

I am going to choose one song to write about. Its written and performed by perhaps the best group in the UK at the moment Rhyme Asylum. The track is called Holding On from their 1st album State of Lunacy. I will break down the song and highlight some lyrics that can be used to stimulate discussion in the classroom.

Have a listen before I publish the second part of this post, which should be in about a week.

Enjoy and make sure you listen to the lyrics.

Be sure to look out for the second part of this post.

Easter Planning – Kodu Part 4 (how will I teach it?)

Kodu

Ok folks…almost finished now.

Before we get into how I plan to deliver the lessons, I always like to think what independent learning skills my students will need to use and develop.

At the beginning of project, I then make it clear to the students that they will need to be independent and tell the the skills they will require. Some of the skills are:

  • Resilience
  • Reflection
  • Questioning
  • Noticing
  • Using your imagination
  • Empathy and listening
  • Imitation
  • Logical thinking

Many students have some of these skills already, but often struggle to identify when they are using them. These are also skills that can be developed throughout this project.

So, how will I teach it? Well, for the majority of time the students will be teaching themselves.

I will do the following:

  • Show them the MS promotional video
  • Show students Kodu in action using a game I have created.
  • Explain the learning objectives and learning outcomes. These will be available to students on Edmodo, so they can be viewed at anytime.
  • Make it clear to students why we are using Kodu.
  • Make exemplar documentation available on Edmodo so that students know what sort of thing I expect.
  • Ensure students understand the assessment criteria.
  • Deliver basic programming skills (students can also use the in-game tutorials.
  • Explain how basic changes can be made in settings.
  • Make tutorial videos available. There are great videos on the Kodu website.
  • Make learning resources available. (PDF, PowerPoint, video, images)
  • Inspire students
  • Help develop ideas where necessary.
  • Supply self and peer evaluation templates.
  • Assess student work using Edmodo.

As mentioned in the previous post, the idea is for students to be taught basic skills. It is then up to them to learn the more advanced skills. They will be given the resources to do this, and it will require some trial and error as well as logical thinking and patience.

Now, I know a lot of teachers who specify what needs to be done in each lesson. This of course is fine, but, I struggle to do this. I much prefer having more freedom and I don’t specify what must be taught in each lesson. Just as long as the whole project is covered. This may mean more weekly planning, but it works better for me.

Over the next few days I shall produce some resources and share these in my final Kodu post.