Archive for the Category ◊ ICT Co-ordinator Stuff ◊

The ICT Planning Menu
Friday, September 02nd, 2011 | Author:

I’ve wanted to write this blog post for weeks but part of me is petrified of what people will think. I feel like I need to justify some of it, so here goes…

In my school, ICT has been a stand-alone subject and I want to integrate it more into the curriculum. Currently I plan most of the ICT-based lessons and last year I taught some too. This year, I will be teaching very few of them as staff will be taking over the reins. So I needed a way of planning that was easy enough for people to pick up but would also give ideas too.

As I’ve mentioned before on my blog, I have also had a few people from other schools that have wanted to see what we’re doing with our ICT lessons so I wanted to make sure whatever we did was online and accessible to all.

I started thinking that Google Docs was the way forward but then I wondered about grouping the documents and sharing with the masses so I decided on a website instead. This is a Google site meaning I can allow others to have a look at it too if they like and some people can also edit and add to it in the future. So…an ICT planning website was planned.

How should it look? If you were designing an ICT curriculum now, what would be in it? What wouldn’t? What can be covered briefly? What needs time and depth?

I sat with a list of things that I wanted to do. I grouped them. I moved the groups around. I used paper. And post-its. Lots of post-its. It was only a few days ago that I finally settled on my 12 areas of learning (although if I’m honest, it’s 11 + ICT in early years – but it’s my site so sshhh)

I have based everything around a list of expectations for my children. This was an idea I had about 5 years ago at my old school. What would an ICT competent child look like when they leave Year 6? What skills would they have? What qualities? How do I get them to that point? Also, to keep on track, what would a Y2 or Y4 child look like?

Now I must point out, I am not really basing this on the National Curriculum. There I said it. There are a few reasons behind this.

  1. It’s old. Very old. Although some parts are still relevant, there’s stuff missing.
  2. It’ll change soon. Well maybe, depends on what the government do. If anything, they’ll want cross-curricular ICT I’m sure. No ICT as a subject means no money spent on it right?
  3. I can cover the ICT curriculum for KS2 in a few lessons so once that is out of the way, we have time to do what primary school teachers do best. Have lots of fun and be creative!

I still need objectives to hang it all on and until I write an assessment strategy for my school (after Oct half-term) I needed something else. We don’t really have one for ICT so I took the statements from an Inset day we had with Chris Quigley. I will be amending these statements to fit our school and my plans a bit as we move forward, but for the next few weeks, they’ll do just fine.

I have grouped the statements into three areas. Level 1-2, Level 3-4 and Level 5. The reason for this is that Early Years is separate and we teach Year 1-2, Year 3-4, Year 5-6. So the levels ‘sort of’ relate to the year groups. Yes, I know, Year 5-6 will be working at level 4-5 probably, but still. When you see the site, it should make sense. Having Level 4-5 statements would have meant that the Level 4 statements were on there twice.

I have also given a few sentences as an overview for each element too. This sort of introduces it and again, justifies why it is there and why I see that as an important area.

So I had my objectives and I also looked at some key skills that the children should cover to meet the expectations above. Now, how to reach those objectives?

For each area/element I looked at which software we had in school to help achieve it. I also included free website tools too. For example, in the area of Art and Image Editing I have included painting tools such as 2Paint, Sumo Paint and Tux paint as well as photo editing tools like MS Picture Manager and online slideshows like Animoto and Photopeach. Now, we won’t be using all of those all of the time, but the teachers can pick and choose the activities that suit them depending on the objectives they are trying to achieve.

So we have a tool e.g. photopeach, but now what? Along with a brief description of the tool, I have included video help files where possible (more are due soon), blog posts about the tool, examples of previous work, links to ‘interesting ways’ and lesson plans. Some plans are ‘an intro to…’ and others are ones I have actually used e.g. using Google maps to plot where food comes from.

One thing I wanted to move away from was the ‘everything is taught in 6 weeks’ mentality. Some things will be done in one lesson, some might go on for weeks. It is up to the teachers to decide. I have started including lesson plans from last year on to the site and from now, any ICT plans I write will go on there straight away.

Ironically, the thing most lacking from the site at the moment is the ICT planning! I will be adding planning ion the coming weeks but I wanted to get the main layout and feel right first and to be honest, it took me longer than I expected. Mainly due to time, Fifa 11, holidays, sunshine, me getting distracted…

So there we go. Did I need to justify the layout and my ideas? Who knows. Maybe it won’t work and it’ll have been a waste of time! I know some people will like it and some won’t! I find that planning is quite personal and can be difficult to share sometimes. But hopefully the site will be useful to someone else out there.

Questions I’ve had from people who have seen the site

What about cross-curricular links? I will be adding an idea bit too, but that will come a little later.

How will we ensure coverage? As I said, the National Curriculum is easy to cover. Most ICT coordinators should be able to prove they have covered it if anyone comes knocking. I want to extend my children beyond the NC and I’m not that worried if some things are repeated. Providing the children have been assessed and the work is differentiated, it won’t matter if they use a tool twice in two years. The outcomes and expectations will be different.

How could you forget about that tool? There are a lot of tools out there, particularly for digital literacy and art. I haven’t included everything, but I will add others later. I have tried to stick to things we have in school or that I have used.

Your early years section is a bit rubbish isn’t it? Yes…give me a week and I’ll make it better. I needed to get KS1/2 ICT sorted as they needed their planning first. Early Years is on the to do list. Honest! E-Safety is also due before the end of September.

If you have any comments about the site, feel free to email me, tweet me or reply on this post. Please remember that this is a site for my school and our needs first, if it doesn’t match yours then I’m sorry. If it does, then feel free to use it as much as you like! (If you do use it, a little thank you or hello will go a long way!)

Oh and the website? 

To finish, I must say a huge thank you to everyone who has seen the site and given feedback so far and a big thanks to Bev Evans for making the wonderful logos on the homepage!

Programming in Primary
Thursday, August 18th, 2011 | Author:

Following on from appearing on BBC Click I have been invited to attend a meeting to discuss the place of programming in the primary curriculum. In our school we use 2Do It Yourself to create games and this started in KS2 but in June we made simple games with KS1 as well. Next year we will develop this further and introduce Kodu and Scratch across the school.

So my question is, do you have any game design or programming in your school? What do you do and from what age?

If you have any examples that I can share with the audience next week it would be very much appreciated!

Online tools
Sunday, August 14th, 2011 | Author:

One of my summer jobs is to manage accounts for children on a variety of online tools that we use in school. This ranges from Google Apps for the children’s email and documents to Class Pet for their maths activities. It also includes sites such as Purple Mash, their WordPress blogs and new tools such as Voki Classroom and Zondle which I am keen to try next year. The thing that has struck me while I go and manage these accounts is just how different the tools are and how they approach the username/password creation in different ways. Another thing that has struck me is that the best customer service often comes from the “little people”. I have had great customer service from Zondle and we don’t pay them a penny! I’m not saying the paid-for content support isn’t good, but I’m amazed at the support for free tools. One thing to remember is that often in a primary school especially, it is a teacher that is creating these accounts and nota network manager. So simplicity is key.

Right…so when we manage the accounts for these tools, what do we as a school need to do? What do we expect? What is the minimum that should be in place? For me, it is about barriers. What are the barriers that will stop my children (and possibly more importantly, my staff) from wanting to use the tool. I have hopefully only selected tools that I think will suit our school and our children so that is half of the battle. If there is a tool that I don’t like, or I don’t see us using, then I won’t create accounts for the whole school.

The main barrier for me is the username and password. How do the children access the tool in the first place? We have lots of sites and tools and these are listed below. I will discount some free sites such as Photopeach because although we have a username per KS2 child, this isn’t really managed by me. The fabulous guys at Photopeach created these accounts for us and each account is as if the child went and signed up themselves rather than being managed by a school admin console. I’ll also ignore BrainPop because this is one login for the whole school.  So what do we have in school and what am I trying to populate with accounts?

  • Google Apps for Education
  • WordPress Blog
  • Purple Mash
  • Class Pet
  • Manga High (free)
  • Zondle (free)
  • Voki Classroom
  • J2E
  • Pearson’s Bug Club
As I said, some of these are free, some are on trial and some we have paid for. It’s a bit of a mixture but still, children need accounts or a way of accessing it. For some tools it is just KS2 that will need accounts for now. For instance, in Voki Classroom there is a limit of 200 accounts per teacher, well we have 180(sh) KS2 children so that’s enough accounts for us.
I do have to say that not all of these tools are used all of the time, every day in every year group. When the children access them through the Google Apps page, there is a brief description, a help video and reminder of the format of the username to help them (and staff).
Now usually usernames are created using a CSV import. The list of users was exported from our SIMs database and I can then move and re-arrange it in Excel. I even went through and changed Daniels to Dans if they wanted me to. Each online tool will want a CSV with slightly different information such as last name or surname – although these are technically the same, the system will want the columns named correctly. Sometimes you need an email address to sign-up to these tools and that is provided through our Google Apps accounts. (A quick help video for creating CSV files is here)
As there are so many different tools and so many potentially different logins, what do I want from an online tool?
  • I want to choose the usernames
  • I want to choose the passwords
  • Ideally a school specific login URL or page would be great (especially if there is a school login to remember too!!)
So why do I want to choose the usernames and passwords? With so many tools I think it is important that the usernames are simple. This should follow the naming convention for your school network. I know some schools have the year children joined the school and part of their name e.g. 08ianadd If this is the username I as a child am familiar with, great. In our school we use firstname.lastname to log on to the computer. The management of which year group they are in is done behind the scenes on the server. So I want all usernames to be the same for the online tools too. Unfortunately WordPress doesn’t allow ‘.’ in the usernames without a plugin (which I might look into) so we have firstnamelastname for WordPress at the moment.
Now I know some tools such as tutpup provide random usernames and logins like pinkflamingo2456 for e-safety reasons but I am comfortable managing this within my own school through talking to the children and educating about using their name. It will never be linked to pictures of them and they’ll never be able to be contacted either.
Some sites like Bug Club and Voki Classroom do offer the ability to print out bookmarks or cards with login details on it, but I don’t want to have to print them all out for every different tool!
With so many children accessing certain online tools there are bound to be duplications so it is understandable that usernames will need numbers etc after them. Some tools get around this by including a ‘school ID’. This can be linked to the school’s name or can be random. As a school called ‘St John’, lots of the variations are taken already. Adding a school ID is an extra step, or barrier, to logging in to access the tools. This is where the school specific login page comes in.
We have two of these, one for Purple mash (here) and one for Manga High (here). These are the links that my children go to when they want to access these tools. It then knows that they come from our school and they just put in their username and password. Simple. One less thing to remember. I have to also say that both Manga High and Purple Mash tick every box when it comes to simple creation of usernames and passwords.
What has struck me when creating accounts is which companies have really thought about the user experience, which really haven’t and which ones are open to ideas about ways to change it for the better. It is refreshing to hear a developer say that these ideas make sense and they will look into it. One piece of advice that I would give any teachers that are doing something similar is to question the company when you find a barrier. Don’t just take what they say as gospel. Offer suggestions for how it can be improved, they will often listen.
Oh and I know someone will mention single sign-on tools but in my two years as a VLE consultant and my year back in school since, I am yet to find or be shown a tool that actually works properly and is affordable.
So which online tools do you use? Which ones are flexible and allow you to choose the logins and passwords? Have you even thought about it before or do you just have a variety of different logins for different tools? Am I being too picky and controlling? I’d love to hear reactions from teachers as well as from software companies.
An ICT Coordinator’s Guide
Sunday, July 17th, 2011 | Author:

I was thinking this morning about an idea I had and I think I’ve found a way to make it even better. I think.

I have had quite a few people ask me for help this year with being an ICT coordinator and wanting to see what I was doing or wanting some ideas of where to get started. The main reason for this is that I spent two years training teachers across Hampshire to use a learning platform and I also used to drop in lots of other tools too. I have since gone back into school and have spent the past year improving ICT in lots of different areas. In my experience, ICT is one of those subjects that tends to go to either the geeky teacher or the young keen one (they’re young, they know about this computer stuff). Although there should probably be a team of people doing it, we know that this is often not the case and people can be left on their own to run a massive subject. But it’s more than a subject, it’s also (rightly or wrongly) making sure all of the hardware is working, working out why the projector in the hall has stopped working and being asked how to use the photocopier!

So I had this idea of writing a few blog posts to help new ICT coordinators get started. There might be something out there online already but I haven’t seen it. But then I had a better idea, why not combine some of the best ICT coordinators I know and get a crowd-sourced guide instead? Imagine having an article written about ICT assessment with lots of examples to get teachers started?

I don’t know how this will look yet, I like the idea of a book/pdf that can be downloaded but then I also like the idea of a site that can be constantly updated. What do you think? Would this be useful to people out there? Or am I thinking too big and really all we need is ‘ten top tips’ for new ICT coordinators?

So what do I need? Well I’ve started a Primary Pad here: for you to add your ideas or feel free to comment below or email/tweet me. If you could help share some ideas of things you do, link to your resources or write something to introduce an area, let me know.

Internet Filtering
Wednesday, July 06th, 2011 | Author:

This weekend here in Hampshire, all of our schools (I think) transferred from the old internet providers, BT to Virgin Media. It was interesting as Monday and Tuesday caused all kinds of filtering issues with Youtube being allowed and Twitter not etc. Interestingly Google+ was also blocked a mere 3/4 days after people got on it! It’s been a dodgy few days but it all looks very promising.

Now prior to this weekend there were 2 1/2 choices for Hampshire schools. They could be on the primary filter, the secondary filter or the 1/2 option is if you knew a bloke who knew someone who could tell you the other filter. We used this one. It gave teachers Youtube, Twitter, Flickr and Facebook but not Google Images. We mainly used it for Youtube and Twitter. Now this back-door way has been closed and we have the choice between primary and secondary.

You might think it is an obvious choice as we are a primary school but we want our children to be able to access things like Google images (now available!) and potentially YouTube too. So we made the change. And the change was good.

Today I taught children for the first-ever time using Google Images. We were making maps to show where food came from e.g. rice, cocoa, coffee and they were able to find images online and link it to their maps. It was great! The only (very minor) issue was when one girl searched for coco instead of cocoa and got some women in bikinis. We’d already discussed what to do if children say inappropriate pictures so she did the right thing. She told me, we searched for something else. Simples.

How long will this be turned on? Who knows. I know there will be schools that complain about Images being available and the fact their children can’t be trusted. These schools will always be the ones with problems. I am a firm believer that it is all about education. My children will go home to a (probably) unfiltered internet connection and will see dodgy things now and again on YouTube and the like, shouldn’t I be teaching them about how to use these sites properly, effectively and safely?

Luckily, from the Autumn term we will have complete control over the websites we allow and block for all children and staff, this is currently a stopgap, but it will be interesting to see how long it takes for Google Images and YouTube to be turned back off.

What does your school do? Do you get Images? YouTube? Would you want them? Or would your school prefer them to stay blocked because it’s safer?

**Edit: I have just had word that Google Images is being switched off tomorrow, 3 days after being turned on, because some schools want it banned. Ridiculous isn’t it? They should be ashamed of themselves. I would happily meet with every one of those schools and tell them they are wrong.

Updating Google Apps
Saturday, May 07th, 2011 | Author:

Just a quick post about updates really. It’s weird, I spent two years training teachers to use the VLE in Hampshire and we had to test updates thoroughly, schedule them to happen during holidays just in case something went wrong. We also had to update all documentation and training guides to ensure people knew what was happening and what had been updated.

How things change.

I have lost count of the number of updates that have happened to Google Apps since we started using it (properly) at the end of February. How have I been informed about them? Almost by chance.

Updates have probably fallen into one of a few categories:

  • I saw a blog post about a feature coming soon (follow @gappsupdates on Twitter)
  • I noticed it on the calendar (which also tells you how to enable/disable it)
  • I accidentally found it
  • I missed it totally

How has this changed my experience? It’s mostly been very useful as the updates have been great improvements. This includes the ability to upload folders to Google Docs or have separate pages in a document. Generally you only find out about a new update a week or so before it goes live (if that!).

The nicest update recently? The ability to granulate the level of admin control. Once you have gone into Organization and Users, you can select a user and assign different privileges. Previously giving someone admin control meant that they had full admin control and could change anything and everything. Now, I can let me teachers change the password of the children in the school, but not change domain settings. Very useful. Especially as it means they don’t need to ask me to reset passwords!

I do like this way of managing updates but it does make me wonder how it would work across an entire authority. Training guides are also difficult as things change and update regularly. Children seem unaffected, but how would teachers cope with constant change? Should I update staff every now and again to tell them about the useful updates?

Digital Leaders (mk2)
Monday, April 25th, 2011 | Author:

I wrote before (here in fact) about my digital leader project. I originally chose 12 children and then gave them jobs etc, some stuck to their jobs and blogged loads and some got bored and wanted to go out and play football. So I am starting again. It is such a great way of engaging children but I was new to it and I didn’t focus enough. I need to make sure that they also benefit in gaining new ideas and trialling new things as well rather than just being asked to do the same thing over and over!

I have created a new form and listed the main jobs on there. The children can tick the ones they are interested in and we can start there.

Why will it be better this time?

The form will get emailed to all children – No ‘but I can’t access the form’ issues we had last time. I had’ed the link and some couldn’t access it because they tried googling it rather than typing in the address bar.

I know the jobs I want them to do – last time I had an idea, but now I know. I also have plans for them to attend at least one teachmeet and present virtually at 3 others (including kidsmeet). They will be busy!

I have tried and not succeeded before so I am better prepared this time (note, I haven’t failed, just not succeeded as much as I wanted to)


It is well worth trying in your school if you’re not already!

An ICT Policy
Friday, April 15th, 2011 | Author:

I wrote way back in July last year about my need to create an ICT policy for my school. I felt that it would make sense to have one policy to encompass ICT, e-safety, social media and anything that I thought I would need. So I tweeted and emailed people that I thought would be able to help and share and many replied sending their policy or the one created by their local authority. I then spend time brainstorming the features of my policy and using bits from different policies that existed or writing it myself if I couldn’t find it.

This has taken a while. It is only now that I am in a position to share it with you all. I have also made lots of changes as we have learnt more about blogging, Google apps and other systems throughout the school.

Now, I have never written a policy before so I am a little nervous about sharing it, but I am hoping that if one school finds it useful, it will have been worth sharing. But a few things…

  • Children have helped to write the KS1 and KS2 acceptable use policies
  • Relevant parts will be shared with parents, staff and governors in the coming weeks
  • I have written this with the ICT Mark and 360Safe guidelines in mind, we may not go for these awards but felt it useful to try and reach the standards that they set

So here it is, the link is below and I have embedded it if you would like to read it. Huge thank you to the very generous people who helped me along with the process.

Updated January 2013 – St john’s ict policy