Month: June 2012

Using Wristbands to Reward Achievement – (Resources included)

I was speaking to David Palmer, Head of PE at my school the other day. We were having a bit of a chat and I noticed something on his wrist.

It was a black, rubber writsband. On it was the school initials and the name of his PE club, Cross-Fit. I was curious so I had to ask him why he was wearing it.

David had come up with an idea of giving out different coloured wrist bands depending on what the students have achieved in his club. What a great idea. After all, we give out badges or ties. The great things about wristbands is that students love wearing them. They are actually a fashionable item to wear.

Some people will say that wristbands are not allowed in their school. The same could be said about students wearing their own badges or ties. They can’t wear their own, but if they have been given them by school, its fine. The beautiful thing about wristbands is that students wear them outside of school. Yes, you heard me correctly. They wear them with pride as something they have earned, achieved and worked hard for. There is no point having badges, certificates or commendation if the students do not value them. Lets differentiate what we offer our young people. If wristbands work, use them. If badges work, use them.

For Cross-Fit there are three wristbands to collect.

  • Red
  • Grey
  • Black

The document below will show you what they need to do in order to earn them.

About David Palmer:

David joined the Army in 1997, he spent the first 5 years as a tank soldier in the 1st The Queens Dragoon Guards, spending time in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq . David then competed for Great Britain as a Bobsleigh pilot for 6 years, living and training in Bath University. During this time he trained as a Army Physical Training Instructor, he then spent the rest of career serving as a PTI, operating for some time in Afghanistan. Having reached the rank as a Staff Sergeant, David decided to move into education. He has a unique and inspirational style of teaching and has made a huge positive impact on students lives.

Twitter: @DavidPalmer39

Film yourself in the classroom (Video)

I decided to do something today that I have not done since my training year. That was, filming myself in the classroom.

To give you a little background, I am away at the Guardian Computer Science Seminar and I wanted to set some cover my 1st year class. Instead of simply writing down a set of instructions I thought I would film the beginning of another 1st year lesson. I could then make this available to my class in my absence.

The students had already finished most of the Kodu programming and I wanted them to produce some documentation. The main learning objections had already met in previous lessons.

This is not the most exciting lesson you will see. I try to make the start of lessons more interactive, but because it was going to be used for another class (cover lesson) I had to try and make it a little more linear.

During this video, I do cover a few PowerPoint fundamentals. I wanted to cover all the bases to make sure my cover lesson went smoothly. This is also why it pans out like a seminar.

I was also very aware that I had a camera on me. It made me stutter a little, and act slightly differently. Very strange that a camera would make me respond like that as I am not a shy man.

So what did I think? Well, I noticed for starters that I do like repeating myself. I also have a habit of using the same words over and over again. In order to better evaluate my teaching I need to film myself when I do not intend to use it in another lesson. It would be more natural.

Any thoughts let me know.

Solar Walk iPad App – Quick Look (Video)

I have always been fascinated with the solar system and space. It may stem from me being a part-time geek and loving Star Wars when I was a kid.

On my iPad I have a few Apps that are pretty good. SkySafari, NASA HD and the Solar System ebook. However, I had not downloaded anything space related recently.

That was until yesterday. A colleague is going to be teaching astronomy next year and in the hope we buy some iPads I thought I would have a look at some Apps he could use in the classroom.

I came across Solar Walk and I have to say it is awesome. Defiantly a great looking, engaging, informative App for the classroom.

Because my current MacBook is a bit rubbish at the moment, I have used a video from the Gadget Show to give you an idea how amazing this App is. Luckily, I have just ordered a new MacBook Pro so my own video will follow soon.


Plan for Year 7/1st Year ICT – Sept 2012-2013

Every year since I started teaching I have re-written schemes of work. It is not that they were not good enough when I first wrote them (although I am sure some were not up to scratch) its just that ICT moves so quickly.

Next year I have some great ideas how to mix up the curriculum and take into account the current trends in digital education.

I will be taking some of what I have been doing this year and expanding on it.

This blog post will not be massively detailed, but will include some brief notes on what I intend to teach year 7/1st years come September.

Autumn Term

During the Spring term this year my 1st years created blogs using Edublogs to blog about how young people can stay safe online. This worked out brilliantly and the students loved it, even those who do not enjoy English. Not only did it teach students how to safe safe online but it could also be used by other to learn from.

This year I am going to get my students to create a learning blog during the first few weeks. The plan is that they will update this every lesson and document what they have learnt, rather than just using it for the stay safe online project. They can then take this blog with them throughout their time in KS3 and even KS4/5 if they choose. Hopefully, after a few weeks adding a blog entry will become second nature and they will not need reminding.

1st Half Term

  • Setting up student blogs
  • Searching the internet

This will be ran by at the beginning of term and will be delivered by the new learning resource manager/librarian. It will also teach students  how to use the library system.

Office Applications/Cloud office applications (Google docs)

I know many believe that all student know how to use office applications from birth, unfortunately they dont. There is a difference between being proficient and stumbling through the application. In order to make sure students know how to be productive users of office applications I will spend several weeks going through these applications.

As well as the usual MS Office application, students will also sign up to the Google Docs application. I want my students to be aware that there are other alternatives as well as teaching them about cloud computing. Why use the cloud? What are the pros and cons etc. Students can then decide which tools they use themselves.

Second Half term

  • Continue with the office Applications/Cloud office applications

For a few weeks after half term we will continue with this project.

  • The Digital World and how to stay safe

I have not quite decided what form this will take. Last year we used a blog to document what we had learnt. As we will be adding blog entries every lesson I would like to do something different. Perhaps an e-book? I want to do something exciting, engaging and immersive. I may use iPads to get the students to work in groups and create a video in iMovie. We can then put the video on our school website.

Essentially, in this projects students will learn about social networks. What they are, pros and cons and how to stay safe using them. We will also cover all other aspects of staying safe in a digital world. The thinkuknow website is a great resource. I would also advise everyone to go on the CEOP training courses, they are brilliant.

Spring Term

  • Game Design using Kodu

Kodu has been such a success this year that I am going to stick with the same format. This time I am going to buy 28 XBox controllers and turn my classroom into a games studio. It’s going to be awesome.

I will also go more in-depth into how real video games are design/created and talk about Unreal Engine and CryENGINE.

In the future I would also like to start to use UDK (Unreal Development Kit), just need to find time to learn how to use it.

Kodu Scheme of Work

Kodu Video Tutorials

Summer Term

I did App design with my 1st years this year. However, this was coming up with ideas for Apps and then designing them and creating screen mock ups using Adobe Fireworks. It was great and the students loved it and learnt a lot about Apps, smartphones and tablets. This year I want to take it to the next level and use App Inventor.

I have looked at this before, but did not get around to learning how to use it for one reason or another. During this term I went to an old colleagues house (@alecwaters) and he showed me it in action and I was suitably impressed. My kids are going to love it. I still intend to do all the planning and mock ups but this time actually create the App.

What I have to do

  • Write new schemes of work/learning
  • Buy Xbox controllers (I have one)
  • Buy some cheap Android handsets

Once I have written my new schemes of work I shall post it on my blog.

I hope you like what I have lined up for my students next year. If you have any questions let me know.

Is it time to rebrand ICT?

This blog was originally published by The Guardian on 30th May 2012 and is an update of a previous post on this blog.

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. 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 has been made very clear there is a need to teach computing in schools before KS4.

I agree this should happen, and it’s very exciting. However, it is also quite intimidating. I have spent almost seven years (including my training) teaching ICT with very little computing. Where do I go from here? Well, I have already started teaching visual programming usingKodu. I am also in the middle of writing a computer science scheme of work to be delivered next year. This will teach students how computers, smartphones and tablets work.

Is this enough? Like many ICT teachers I do not have a lot of curriculum time compared to other subjects. It would be a shame if state schools were forced to drop ICT and only deliver computing because of a lack of time. In fact, we would be doing our students a disservice.

Like many others I need guidance.

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 learning 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 is a danger that if teachers need retraining, courses will be supplied by large corporations like Microsoft or Google. Can we trust them to give teachers the training they need or will they simply take the money and create training that directly benefits them?

However, over the last few weeks I have been using Codecademy to learn Java Script and to become more proficient in HTML and CSS. This is free and has been fantastic. Hopefully, this will allow me to deliver more programming next year. Perhaps we do not need to pay for training and we can train ourselves?

If all students were taught to be programmers throughout their school lives would we find masses of them out of work? There are only so many jobs available. The people who will benefit the most will be those paid to write computing courses.

There has to be room for both ICT and computer science.

Students should able to choose between the two, certainly at KS4 or 5. After all students are able to choose which languages they learn or sciences they study.

We need both to be exciting and engaging. Teachers in different schools need to be sharing resources and schemes of work. Many are already, certainly the teachers I know. If we are to change the way ICT is perceived we need to be constantly evolving. If we want to incorporate computer science into schools we need innovative ways to teach it communicated to all.

Conferences like the Guardian Teacher Network’s Teaching Computer Science in Schools are important ways for people in education to get together and discuss what the future holds. These are great as long as teachers are allowed to get time out of school. I fear many may not.

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 I would certainly like to rebrand ICT at my school.

In conclusion, I am looking forward to including computer science into my curriculum. It is intimidating but a great opportunity for personal development. Now I must find the time to teach myself what I now must deliver. Finding the time in an already incredibly busy job may be toughest task of all.

“I use my Mac for…” MacFormat Interview June 2012


I was lucky enough to do a very brief interview with MacFormat for this months magazine on what I use my Apple devices for.

Have a read below and I would also pick up the June edition as it has got some great stuff in.

Social Networks in Education (Survey)

The use of Social Media in educational settings is beginning to show terrific benefits. Many schools have already grasped some of these benefits, but many more are struggling to come to terms with the ideology of social media and how it best fits; a number of reasons can be cited e.g. Lack of strategic incentive, a lack of (or the myth of) technical know-how and concerns of e-safety to name a few.

Matt Britland (@mattbritland) and Alan Mackenzie (@esafetyadviser) have joined forces and are going to write a collaborative piece to tackle some of these issues. The outcome of this article will is:

To give examples of the type of Social Media services available.
To indicate the benefits of Social Media and give examples of good practice.
To mitigate some of the e-safety concerns of using Social Media in an educational environment.

If you wish to add further comments that aren’t identified in the survey, please email Matt and Alan as follows:

The answers you give in the survey questions are a building block to this piece of writing; Matt and Alan would like to thank you in advance for your contribution.


Should all Students Learn how to Touch Type?

Are we preventing our students from being productive users of computers by not teaching touch typing? I think perhaps we are.

The question is; who teaches it and when will it be taught?

My thoughts are that it should not be taught in ICT lessons. Being able to touch type goes beyond ICT and is for many, a requirement for everyday life. But then, who does teach it? I don’t have an answer I am afraid, but would love to hear people’s opinions.

Should students have this skill before secondary school? Do we need to teach it at primary level, and can we expect students to be able to adopt these skills so early on? I see touch typing as asking students to write, without actually teaching them how to use a pen.

With the amount of work students do on computers I think that this skill is vital.

There is no doubt in my mind that many students (and teachers) who would find learning this skill very boring. I am pretty sure we can make it exciting. Especially with the adoption of gamification.

I am not suggesting that typing is now more important than writing, only that it is a skill that warrants teaching.

However, after saying all this, I cannot touch type, but I wish I had been taught. (I am quite fast, but not as fast as I would like to be) It’s on my list of things to do.

There are many schools, I am sure, who do teach touch typing. If you do I would love to hear from you. At present I am trying to see if I can work this into the curriculum myself, this maybe the biggest challenge.