Archive for the Category ◊ General Thoughts ◊

Are you ready for seconds?
Saturday, June 16th, 2012 | Author:

Are you prepared for a child blogging about your school? What if the Never Seconds blog had happened in your school. What would you have done? How would you have reacted? Would it have been able to happen at all?

For those of you that have been under a rock for the last month, Never seconds is a blog created by a 9year old girl in Scotland with the purpose of rating her school dinners. Each day, she takes a photo, uploads it to the blog and gives the meal a score. Oh and she also happens to be raising money for charity (£45,000+) at the same time. She’s quite a girl is our Martha. (As an aside…@digitalmaverick tweeted and asked what if she had been rating her lessons rather than her lunches? Would we all be so supportive?)

This week, her local council banned her from taking any more photos as the publicity was getting a bit much for them but after a huge amount of support from the public and Jamie Oliver, the council changed their mind and Martha is now allowed to post once more. I have to say that I think the council have made a brave decision in changing their mind and fair play to them.

But the question remains, what would you have done if this happened in your school?

Now it must be said in the majority of schools, I would imagine that Martha wouldn’t have even been allowed to have her own camera in school, let alone in the dining hall to take photographs! So credit should go to the school for allowing her to be proactive in the first place.

I’m not sure what I’d say if a child asked me if they could take photos to share publicly. I think I would give them my permission and blessing but would the teacher in me want to check and approve what they were doing first? It also got me thinking…Do my children have their own blogs outside of school? Should I know about them? Should I check them?

We have been thinking about providing children with their own blogs, but my aim is to use these to share learning but maybe, just maybe, it will promote the use of blogging and the children will want to setup their own too for non-learning things. I know that since I’ve used Twitter in lessons a few children have created their own accounts, so maybe their own blogs are inevitable. Maybe I should praise it because if they’re blogging about something, anything, that they are passionate about then that should be encouraged? It sure has made me think about what we currently do and what we will be doing from September.

In a time when I am looking at how I teach, assess and share ICT across my school, Martha’s story has thrown loads more questions my way and although she’ll never know it, she has inspired me to rethink some plans for my school.

So, thank you, Martha. Enjoy your lunch.


ps: Steve Wheeler also blogged about the Never Seconds blog here.

Saturday, April 21st, 2012 | Author:

I use screencasts all of the time, mainly on Under Ten Minutes ( to record how-to videos for a variety of different tools. I usually use Camtasia as I have used it for a number of years and I also have a full license. I love Camtasia and the TechSmith team…but I was researching free alternatives for a thing I’m doing and that led me to a discovery.

Screencast-o-matic ( sounds like a made-up product that shouldn’t work. But it does. Brilliantly.

You simply accept the Java plugins, set your mic level and then adjust the box to the size of recording you need. Press go, start talking and then stop the recording when you’re finished. You are then presented with the option of downloading the resulting video or uploading it directly to YouTube. I did that and the result is below.

Screencasts for free, without any installation at all. Genius.


Category: blogposts, General Thoughts  | Tags:  | 3 Comments
Useful Websites
Saturday, April 14th, 2012 | Author:

I am writing a guide for Primary Teachers and I am including a short section to showcase some websites that they might find useful. This does not include blogs as there is a separate section for teacher blogs. These could be sites that help with lesson planning, ideas, discussion, anything really. I am open to ideas!

So what sites would you include? and Why?

Thank you!

ReThinking ICT #ICT500
Sunday, April 01st, 2012 | Author:

This post is a response to Chris Leach’s invitation to write 500 words about Rethinking the ICT curriculum. Others including Miles Berry and @grumbledook have also blogged their thoughts.

Chris is also hosting an event where we can come together to share ideas and thoughts. Details can be found here. My comments below relate only to the primary curriculum as that is what I do! (it’s also over 500 words, but hey…)

Writing about my thoughts for changing ICT is a difficult process. On one hand I think that there isn’t much to change, after all we can teach ‘anything we like’ at the moment. I’ve taught children to make greenscreen videos, we’ve discussed and used Twitter in the classroom, we’ve Skype-d with Santa and we make our own games and we haven’t been chastised for this. We weren’t really following the National Curriculum, but all of those things we’ve done can be linked if you try hard enough. On the other hand, we need to do something about the schools who ‘do Office’.

I’ve written before about changing my ICT curriculum and to be honest, all of it can be covered under the current National Curriculum and all of it can still be used under whatever new curriculum comes out. I just looked at what I would want my learners to have. I want them to know that there are a range of tools out there that do the same job, or different jobs or a bit of a mixture. I try to include ‘new’ stuff like blogging as well as traditional stuff like ‘being able to do a presentation’. But when we present we work on how to present and not just how to add animation and effects. It’s all very subtle changes but that’s what will work. My planning is slowly moving on to – I don’t think it’s groundbreaking, but it might help someone.

I don’t buy into this current craze of wanting a huge emphasis on coding and programming in the curriculum. Yes it should be included, but it shouldn’t be the main driver. Children today want instant results and the thought of spending hours writing lines of code before seeing an end product would bore many of them, and their teachers. We use 2Do It Yourself which is a fabulous way of including game design with a bit of coding as it gives the children a graphical view of their game instantly. They can design it, try it our and refine it as they need to. For us, this is the building block before they move on to Scratch and Kodu.

Another problem is the staff. Teachers are worried that they need to know how everything works before the children can use it. How many teachers in a normal school would want to learn programming to then pass it on to the children? Now in an ideal world the teachers would be happy not knowing how something worked and giving the children the chance to explore and learn for themselves, but we all know that this doesn’t happen. One day maybe, but we’re not there yet.

Also, people often say “my 3year old can use my ipad, but at school he won’t be near a computer til he’s 6” or whatever are missing the point. Yes your children can use a device, but in school we often just have PCs. Until schools have a range of devices to allow children a chance to explore different things, we will be ‘stuck’ with using PCs. And why don’t we have a range of devices? Often it is money. However I know a school that has bought a whole set of ipod touches but isn’t letting the staff or children use them yet until the staff are trained. Again it comes back to staff confidence which the more I think about it, the more I think that it could be the biggest issue.

How do we get our staff confident and comfortable trying new things?

How do we get them willing to let the children potentially fail first, and then succeed later?

How do we keep them informed of new developments and new websites to help them? Many of them won’t go on Twitter (I’m the only one in my school on it)

In this time of change and uncertainty, I don’t worry about schools with people like me, leading the ICT and finding out about new ideas. I worry about schools like the one I visited last week. They had very recently had an ICT inspection from Ofsted who has graded them good with outstanding features for ICT yet when I spoke to the children about ICT they said we ‘do Word, PowerPoint, Excel and sometimes if we’re good, drawing’. Those are the schools that we need to support and focus on. They need to be shown the light and shown the way forward.

How do we do that?

I don’t know. Answers on a postcard…oh wait, stamps have gone up in price, just comment below. It’ll be free.

aye-pads, tablets and netbooks
Monday, March 26th, 2012 | Author:

Ok, so it’s sunny outside..that means some blue sky thinking. I think.

I’m thinking about a scheme similar to ones running in many secondary schools already where pupils can buy/lease a device by paying monthly over a number of years. In my mind, netbooks would be great, but if you’re spending £300-£350, then obviously the ipad comes into play too. But then if you’re talking tablets, you might also want to investigate the Android ones too. There should probably be a small mention for Chromebooks too at £300, but for that I could almost get a ‘proper’ laptop/netbook which could be used for animation, movie editing and game design too.

So, before deciding on a device I want to decide what it will be used for and why I want it. To do that, some context is needed. We have 9 classes (if you don’t include Reception who have a few desktop PCs) using  68 netbooks. There are also 18 or so desktop PCs in the corridor for children to access and a suite of 20. The suite will last another year at most and as it only holds 20, doesn’t get used much (once/twice a week) due to class sizes of 28+.

The netbooks are great and I am totally converted after thinking that I would hate them. They have decent-sized screens and they boot up in 5minutes. Battery life is 4-6 hours too. So the easy option would be to have a scheme where children can buy their own netbooks. I could image them very quickly using the system we already have and life would be simple.

But then what about the tablets? As I have never really played with an i-pad (except for a bit of browsing and a bit of a play in a shop once) and never used an Android 3/4 tablet, it’s best to list the things that I want and then hopefully some lovely people will leave comments to say if it is possible.

  • The device needs to be able to sync with others so that if I download apps on one, they go to all devices. (do I need to think about licensing???)
  • They need to work through our proxy settings
  • Will there need to be multiple accounts setup so that when they are used in school the child sees the ‘school’ apps but when they’re at home, and it becomes a home device, they can install angry birds?
  • Can I therefore stop pupils from purchasing apps in school?
  • Can I ‘force’ a certain look on all devices e.g. making a maths folder and a science folder with relevant apps inside?

Of course there are also other questions that are more teaching and learning, than techy:

  • Will my teachers want a range of devices in class?
  • Will they want to have different activities being done by different children at the same time?
  • Will children want to use it so much that they forget how to write? Will they be allowed to choose when to use it and when not to? I don’t want it being a flashy way of doing their times tables!!
  • Will we use it for a range of different stuff often enough? If it’s just going to be a ‘research’ machine for finding out information, why not buy a Blackberry Playbook for £170? (and this has Flash)
  • What if only 5 children in a class sign up to the scheme? Will this create haves and have-nots? Will this be a problem? Should I just buy a couple of ipads for each class and avoid the issue?

Ideally I’d like a couple of devices to play with for a few days but I have no idea how to go about this. I tried a few places and it wasn’t in their policy to let me have shiny things to play with in case I broke them.

There is obviously the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) argument too and I think we could allow this providing it worked through the proxy settings.

So, am I being ambitious? forward-thinking? mental? Would/could/does this work and how do I go about trying? I’m not a Distinguished Apple Blokie so I’m looking for something that any teacher can go and do. Comments, questions, rants, opinions are all welcome, so please help if you can!

Google Apps Webinar
Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 | Author:

Following on from the session a few weeks ago that looked at Google Apps, we have repeated the webinar. These webinars were in conjunction with Vital ICT and they have also been recorded. If you have any Google Apps related questions, feel free to get in touch.

Click here to replay the webinar.


Edit – When you click the link, you will be asked to download a file from Blackboard, opening this file will then play the webinar.

Can you really trust Wikipedia?
Monday, March 19th, 2012 | Author:

Some people say that Wikipedia contains a lot of nonsense and that some of the stuff on there just isn’t true. But did you know that there are teams of people who go through and check it for accuracy?

Here’s an interesting graphic that was shared with me. So, don’t write off Wikipedia as ‘just a load of made-up content’. It can actually be very useful.

There is also the Simple Wikipedia here:


Solving a problem
Saturday, March 17th, 2012 | Author:

In our maths lessons we are trying to include more problem solving opportunities. The idea is having a range of one-off stand-alone lessons that can be done with mixed ability classes on any area of maths. Ideally starting with year 3-4 (7-9 year olds). This will also help me as I float from one class to another as PPA cover.

So, if you have an idea or something that has worked with your class, feel free to share it using the form below! I’ll collate these and blog them again later.