Sunday, 28 June 2015

BBC Make it Digital

On Saturday I had the opportunity to volunteer at the BBC Make it Digital Roadshow it Plymouth. It was brilliant! Lots of techy geekyness in one tent in the form of a collection of working antique computers (including the legendary BBC micro). Whilst in other tents there was everything from raspberry pi's to programmable Daleks.

I started the day talking about the raspberry pi and doing a spot of coding with members of the public to use them to record wind speed and rainfall. However, then I moved tents to program Lego Mindstorms based Daleks with members of the public. One observation made by one of my fellow raspberry pi-ers was that most of the interest in the raspberry pi's came from adults (guys in particular), whereas when I moved to the Dalek tent the youngest programmer was 3 years old! So in the space of 7 hours I saw everyone from aged 3-92 programming! How cool is that?!

The BBC learning team deserve special credit - their activities were superbly designed to engage all ages, and they used computing language, such as "algorithm" throughout. The BBC staff were brilliant throughout the day, I have never felt quite so welcome as a volunteer at an event, so thankyou BBC team!

The BBC Make It Digital roadshow continues, check it out here 

(all opinions are my own - not affiliated to the BBC)

Monday, 15 June 2015

The Great Tablet Debate

There is nothing that gets technicians and SLT and teachers riled up together quite like choosing the right tablet for both pupils and teachers. The market has three operating systems (in the main, with off shoots available) - iOS, windows and android/chrome. Aside from iOS, there is a plethora of manufacturers.

I've just got back from the Microsoft Showcase Classroom Roadshow, and to be honest I was blown away by what is possible on a £150 windows tablet. However, I don't wish to say one tablet is better than the other (and I, like many other teachers, have pretty strong opinions on the the matter), rather I want to suggest a few rules that might help in the decision making process.

1. Choosing tablets is rarely a department only thing, usually a whole school rolls out tablets as part of a cohesive IT kit strategy

2. Work out how you are going to use them - offline/online, one device per child/class sets, content creation/content consumption etc

3. Check you network infrastructure, particularly wifi, can handle the new devices

4. Decide how you want the tablets to interact with other digital devices in the classroom, this is probably the biggest deciding factor in OS choice

5. The golden rule- your tablets must be able to flex to accommodate changes in the future - you are going to be spending a lot of money and it better last. You don't want to discover the tablets are going to be no good 6 months down the line. If the technology doesn't help pupils learn, is there a point to using it?

Have fun!

Saturday, 6 June 2015


12 months ago when I was told I was to lead the STEM / Computing charge at school I eagerly bought 12 raspberry pi's, pibrellas and a couple of raspberry pi controlled cars, and we have used them, but not to the extent that I knew (or thought) we should be able to. It wasn't that I didn't know how to do things on a raspberry pi, it was that I needed to have the little bits of knowledge that I did have connected.

This is where Picademy comes in, I knew the Raspberry Pi foundation were running teacher training courses, and a year later (no fault of raspberry pi, just my disorganization) I was on one!

Picademy was awesome! To say it was the best CPD I have ever been on is not an overstatement by any means. There were two key components to both the days, no question is a stupid question and community is integral to innovation. This made all the difference and was created by the excellent Picademy Team.

By the end of the day my brain was melted. So much information in such a short space of time. Everything from minecraft, to physical computing, to python, to sonic pi, and then linking it all together! However, despite my brain now being a puddle on the floor, I learnt a lot, and that new knowledge was there for me to call on in day 2.

Day 2 was the best day in my opinion, after the information overload of day 1, day 2 was putting it into practice. It was the kid in a sweet shop situation all over again. The Picademy Team pointed us in the direction of various boxes of stuff (including Lego and gaffa tape!) and let us loose! It was so much fun! I was working in a group of two, other people worked individually but no one was left by themselves, unsupported. Teachers supported each other, Picademy Team supported, much Googling and looking things up happened, a true collaborative learning experience.

By the end of it all the teachers on the course became Raspberry Pi Certified Educators! I have to confess, I came home on the Friday and immediately added the Certified Educator Logo to the bottom of my work email signature. Next step is take what I've learnt, disseminate it to the rest of the STEM/Computing team at school and start to get the kids excited about innovating, creating and developing using the Raspberry Pi.

Thankyou Picademy team!

Monday, 1 June 2015

Pushing it in STEM lessons

We've had a few issues of late with engaging some of our KS4 pupils in STEM lessons. I was looking at reasons why and came up with the following-

  1. The "classic" STEM projects have become boring
  2. STEM has to be relevant or ridiculously fun to grab and engage EBD pupils
So how am I going to address the issues and get the disengaged reversed? Well I have a few ideas, here they are-

  1. Don't start a practical project the group cannot complete
  2. Use a project that pupils can relate to
  3. Only give out the required equipment/materials
I'll let you know how I get on!