Westminister Briefing: My Presentation on ICT/Computing and my Curriculum

Westminster Briefing

Westminster Briefing

On the 5th March I did a talk for Westminster Briefing for their ‘Computer Science in the Curriculum: Delivering Innovative Provision in Schools and Colleges‘ conference.

Unfortunately, I was only able to get there in the afternoon as I was teaching all morning. By all accounts, it was a great day and I certainly enjoyed the afternoon.

Below are the slides I used for my talk. They have lost some of their formatting when I uploaded to Google Drive, which is why some of the images look strange. Enjoy.


iPad Trial – Launching to Head of departments (Presentation)


After a lot of planning, we have just announced/launched our school iPad Trial.

At 16:15 on Monday 17th it all came together. The presentation and demonstration lasted about an hour. HoDs walked away with a shinny new iPad, lots of enthusiasm, plenty of ideas and an understanding of what we have set out to do.

They saw that our trial was well planned and had a vision and aims.

In a week and a bit we will officially launch our trial to the rest of the staff in a whole school INSET, which I am planning now.

Below is my launch presentation. This was originally created and presented on the iPad in Keynote.

I hope you find it useful and perhaps it will even give you some ideas.

Direct Link to Google Docs

Mr Britland’s Open Source KS3 Computing Curriculum V3: 2014-2015


I have been working very hard over the last few months producing my new Computing curriculum and it is finally ready.

Details below:

Feel free to download and use this curriculum. If you use this booklet, its projects or ideas and would like to make a donation for its continuing development, please use the link provided. I would like to keep giving this document away for free so any donation would be amazing. Please click to be redirected to my donation page.

This is now version 2 – DOWNLOAD HERE


I have added / amended the following:

  • Amended strand descriptors.
  • Added a new ‘How to use this Booklet’ section
  • New section on what software and websites are used, including free alternatives to paid software
  • Amended ‘Visual Programming: Kodu’ (Year 7)
  • ‘Computer Hardware/History’ project now called ‘How a computer works/computing history’ and now includes software. It is now taught in Year 7
  • Added ‘The Web: HTML5 and CSS3’ (Year 8)
  • Added ‘Networks’ (Year 8)
  • Added ‘Google and Algorithms’ (Year 9)

End products have changed for the following projects:

  • Stay Safe Online – Online guide using Snapguide
  • Visual Programming: Kodu – Screencast using Screenr
  • Your Digital World – Online presentation using

In Development

  • New creative projects
  • How to use an iPad to teach this curriculum

If you would like some help with creating your own resources or would like me to produce any educational publications, please visit

(New Projects Part 10) Visual Programming: Kodu – 1st Year/Year 7

This projects is an introduction to programming fundamentals using MS Kodu. Students learn how to create their own video games and get some idea how they are produced in the industry.

Project: Visual Programming: Kodu

Project Sheet (link)

Presentation (link)

(New Projects Part 7) Learning Blog

In September I intend to start a learning blog with my 1st years/year 7’s. If it is successful I intend to roll it our to all year groups.

Essentially I want students to have there own blog. Each week they will post an update. This update will be about what they have done that week, what they have learnt, an evaluation and any work they would like to post. They can also share their blog with their peers and get them to comments on their posts.

They would carry on doing this in ICT (or other subjects if they would like to get involved) throughout the lower school and upper school if they choose. Obviously technology will change over their time at school. Although, we can cross that bridge when we get to it and up date the learning blog when we need to.

Project: Learning Blog

Project Sheet (link)

Presentation (link)

Social Networks in Schools: How to Make it Work


As the use of social media in education increases so does the argument for and against.  The purpose of this article is to try and take a balanced view of both sides of the coin and also to look at some of the reasons why schools won’t engage using social media.  In order to achieve this Matt Britland (@mattbritland) and Alan Mackenzie (@esafetyadviser) have collaborated, with Matt looking at the curriculum aspects and Alan looking at any e-safety aspects.

The first step to understanding some of the issues was to create and Tweet out a link to a survey of 10 simple questions, the results of which were all saved to a Google Docs spreadsheet (put in public link).  Then, a further Google Doc was created to collaboratively write the article.

Clearly this has some restrictions; for example using Social Media (in this case Twitter) to ask for respondents to the survey would suggest that the survey results would be one-sided and in favour of social networking, however that didn’t turn out to be the case.  Additionally this is by no means an in-depth survey,  27 persons responded however their responses were quite diverse and gave enough scope to be able to understand some of the issues. (Results can be read here)

What is also important to remember is that schools and individual teachers are masters of their own destiny (with limits); in the same way that some schools are really pathfinding the innovative use of new technologies, some schools/teachers just don’t “get” social networking, some don’t want to get it, and no amount of coaxing or good news stories will ever convince them otherwise.

For the sake of clarity and to save this becoming too long we have had keep this fairly concise; some of the questions and answers could be individual blogs as they generate discussion from multiple standpoints.

Definition of Social Media and Social Networking

Definition is from

1. A network of friends, colleagues, and other personal contacts: Strong social networks can encourage healthy behaviors.

2. Computers .

a. An online community of people with a common interest who use a Web site or other technologies to communicate with each other and share information,resources, etc.: a business-oriented social network.

b. A Web site or online service that facilitates this communication.

How Many Social Networking Services Are There?

That is very difficult to determine; of course we all know the popular ones: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and Edmodo to mention a few.  Wikipedia lists 199 social networks ( but I suspect there are many more than that and it all depends on what your own interpretation of “social” is.

A couple of interesting facts :

  • Social networking sites have increased 6% year on year.
  • Pinterest is the fastest growing social network with a growth of 4377% between May 2011 and May 2012; Twitter grew 58% and Facebook just 4%.

What uses are there for social media in education?

There are many uses, for example:

  • Using Facebook as a “broadcast” account.  This is a one-way communication from the school to parents, an information portal if you like.  This is a great use of social media for many reasons including: quick, easy, cheap, most parents will have an account, saves on “lost” letters on the way home, saves printing costs.
  • An increasing number of educational institutions are using Facebook Pages for promotional reasons. This is another way for schools and universities to market themselves.
  • Schools are beginning to use Facebook groups to communicate with students. This is a very powerful tool for sharing information and collaborating with students from a safe distance. Facebook groups do not require members to be friends with each other. Members of the groups can exchange files, links, information, polls and videos very quickly. Anytime someone contributes the group its members will receive a notification. If you have the Facebook smartphone App these can be pushed to your device.
  • Facebook Pages can also be used to create a central page for students and teachers to share information.
  • Twitter, like Facebook, is also being used as a “broadcast account”. This often links to an RSS feed from the website that automatically tweets a news article when it is published on the website. This is great for parents on the move and keeps them up to date on the latest happenings at the school.
  • Teachers have been setting up subject or class Twitter accounts that students can follow. The teacher then tweets information related to their class. Some even set homework via Twitter.
  • Pinterest is becoming popular as a virtual pinboard. It is great for sharing web resources that students will find interesting or relevant.

We should not shy away from using social media in education; it is clear from our survey that many senior managers are worried about abuse. However, if you have experts in your school they can provide a safe and secure framework for its use; they can create training materials and guidelines that teachers and staff can follow to ensure everyone knows what they can and cannot do. The great thing is that many people know how to use Facebook already, and Twitter is so straightforward it would not take long for people to learn it.  If there is no expert in school, seek advice, either from another school or from external expert.

I think it’s important to embrace social media as it is the primary way that young people communicate, alongside text messaging and instant messaging. Much of the time we force students down the route of email. Do we do that because it is easier for us? In my experience of using Facebook groups with students they pick up communications far quicker than email.

It is obviously not always appropriate to use social media, the important thing to remember is to use it where it seems fit. You do not have to ignore email or your VLE altogether. Ask your students. Would they like to have some way of communicating via social media? If so, what is best for them and the school?

Another issue that was raised in our survey was the fact that using social networks can encroach on students and staff members personal space. I can completely understand this, one of the many reasons for not using a personal profile for Twitter, Facebook or whichever social network you choose. Having this second profile gives the staff member some space. The same cannot be said for the student, as in general they do use their personal account. That being said, the students I have spoken to don’t see this as a problem so long as the teacher is not too ‘loud’. Twitter could be used to simply share useful links related to teaching and learning. It can be very unobtrusive.

As mentioned in the bullet points above the social networks could be used as broadcast accounts. This is perhaps the “safer” option, especially if all communication is outwards to the rest of the world rather than used to respond to questions.  Twitter is especially good for this as it can be linked to the school RSS feed. This is a huge time saver and reduces the need to keep tweeting news. However, the Twitter account can still be used for bespoke tweets by the Head or nominated member of staff managing the feed. If you are clear in the profile that it is for broadcasting information only, it will not look rude if you do not reply to tweets.

Schools also worry about inappropriate use not only by students, but staff as well. Most schools filter social networks which leads to the question that promoting the use of social networks is hypocritical when we do not allow them in school. You could argue that this is true. My personal feeling is that we need to teach both students and staff appropriate use; by banning them in school we are not teaching anyone anything. I am a realist and understand that most schools will not suddenly unfilter Facebook or Twitter for students. This is not a massive problem for me as communicating through social networks is actually better for use outside of school. Whether this is at home or at lunch or break. Many students are using smartphones to check their favourite network so filtering them in school makes little difference. In fact by filtering we have even less opportunity to monitor whether they are being used appropriately.

What about e-safety?

Social networking raises many obvious and some not so obvious e-safety concerns in schools.  e-Safety from the context of school governance is much like health and safety; the responsibility of the school and its’ staff, governors and parents is to mitigate risk by reasonable endeavour.  In much the same way that technology should not drive the curriculum, e-safety should not be your showstopper (in most cases) regarding innovation.

Regardless of what we do there is a risk involved; driving to and from work, lifting something off the floor, and as I found out recently to the detriment of my back, keeping fit!
Driving a car – we get in a car, drive it and we are steadily given more freedom on faster roads by the instructor.
Lifting something – we are shown to bend our knees.
Keeping fit – warm up correctly and maintain correct form.

In all of the above examples we are taught to be safe by “doing”, not by sitting in front of a Powerpoint.  (Actually that’s not strictly true, there is sometimes a little bit of theory first, but you get the gist).  In the same way I don’t promote sitting in a classroom and “teaching” e-safety because it is difficult to teach something which is constantly evolving; certainly you can discuss the risks (predators, bullying, personal information, trolls to name a few) but a fundamental outcome of e-safety is to empower the user from a young age to enjoy  technology through safe use.  Again going back to the driving analogy, practicing your driving skills and risk assessing hazards becomes second nature; this is a life skill, not a lesson.

The three fundamentals that I work to:  policy, liability, safe use.

Safe use – We need to dispel some of the ridiculous myths and scaremongering which seem to prevail with many internet “experts”.  On an almost daily basis I am reminded that all our children are in extreme danger, that predators are hanging around every corner of the web, their bank accounts are going to be continually emptied and the Nigerian government person who kindly emailed me to say that she needed to shift some funds because they had too much is really a scam (  Incidentally, I still haven’t had my cheque!  Of course I am not belittling the facts, I am acutely aware that every time I get into my car and drive there is a significant risk to myself and others.  I am also fully aware of internet risks, and that’s the point:  I am aware of them and I risk assess against them.

Liability – schools need to understand liability; in other words what could happen if I don’t do something, or if I don’t do something correctly.  A good example of this is internet filtering.  When a filter is simply used to block websites (and I have seen some horrifically restrictive policies) you are wrapping the child in cotton wool.  It is detrimental to the education of the child and is detrimental to the teacher in so many ways.  On the other side of the coin there are many that call for schools to have no internet filter.  From a liability perspective this is impossible for a school (although I have seen it done).  Illegal downloads, illegal images etc. would put the school at huge risk.  Don’t use filtering as a tool to block – use it as a tool to manage.

Policy – Only when you understand safe use and you are aware of the liability to the school can you wrap this up in policy.  Policy is simply your school rules, written in easy to understand language (age appropriate) and understood by the whole school.

Social networking has all the same risks as the traditional online safety risks.  Many of the e-safety reasons cited for not using social networking in school are understandable because the risks are simply not fully understood.  This is because of a lack of awareness, which in some cases will be down to scaremongering.  This then culminates in the inability to risk assess because some schools don’t know what to risk assess against, and how to mitigate those risks.  I have written a brief document for schools titled “Twitter for Schools: Policy, Liability, Safe Use”.  It would be better to download this instead of reiterating everything here but the bottom line is this:

If you do want to use social networking in school.

  1. Start off small and don’t take bigger steps until you are comfortable.  For example use a broadcast account as a parental engagement tool (Facebook and Twitter are both good for this).
  2. Engage the parents first, nurture them along with you and I think you will be surprised the positive effects this can have.  Tell them what you are doing and why, e.g. better engagement, up to date and quick communication, cost saving (printing and letters), urgent messages (school shut due to snow) etc.
  3. Discuss what you wish to achieve with all school staff and why.  Discuss the tools you will use and who will use them.
  4. Set boundaries of use in regards to appropriate/inappropriate.
  5. Risk assess – note all the risks that everybody raises (regardless of how silly or unlikely some may sound).
  6. Expand the risks and mitigate them all (if possible).
  7. If you can’t mitigate, is it a red or amber risk?  If red there is a problem, if amber can you mitigate using reasonable endeavour?
  8. Wrap all this up into a social networking policy and cross reference to other appropriate policies (i.e. AUP, Behaviour, Bullying etc.)
  9. IMPORTANT: Before you start, engage all staff with an e-safety awareness session.  If you can do the same with parents, great!  If parents sessions at your school are poorly attended try to get the news out using alternative means.  You could always send out a parents online safety newsletter.

It sounds a lot, but it isn’t once you’re in the flow and others are onboard.

e-Safety: Dispel the Myths, Promote the Positive Use of Technology.

If you are not following Matt (@mattbritland) or myself (@esafetyadviser) on Twitter please do, say hello and ask questions about any of the above.  We’re pretty friendly!

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.