Friday, August 17, 2012

Sack Mabel and Doris?

This post has been a long time coming - I didn't want to rush it (like I normally do), but needed to give it some thought as it is an issue that I want to address. I know that I risk getting publicly shot down for my views, but they are mine and I would hope that they are respected. I am coming from a primary viewpoint here, so would appreciate the reader remembering that we are not employed to teach one or two subjects, but are (mostly) responsible for delivering all.

Rethinking ICT

I had an interesting time at the rethinking ICT conference earlier this year and met some hard working people who I have a lot of respect for. With the exception of a few that I had met before, they were nearly all twitter acquaintances, many of whom are doing inspirational work in education (and special mention must be given to Chris Leach who put this event together). At the end of the conference an expert panel answered questions from the audience. During this time I was stunned to hear the opinion that teachers should be sacked if they did not engage with new technologies*

My initial reaction was that it would be very uncharitable of educational establishments to sack teachers for finding an aspect of their learning difficult. Would we exclude a child who struggles or refuses to learn, or would we try our hardest to find a way of engaging them? Teachers get paid to do a job, I understand that, but technology does not come naturally to everyone and teachers have to keep abreast of  a multitude of new/recycled educational ideas each year. There is a lot to juggle. I thought about some of the people I have supported over the past few years, people who I have heard (and seen on twitter) being referred to as the school's 'Doris' or 'Mabel' (a derogatory term given to those who shy away from new technologies) and the opinions at rethinking ICT hit a nerve. A big nerve. So big that I felt compelled to challenge it by stating my disagreement of the expert panel's view. I was told that we wouldn't accept it if a teacher continuously failed to learn how to teach fractions*. My response to this was that fractions don't continuously break.

If I were told that I had to embed the Polish language in each curriculum area, I know that I would find it time consuming to learn and stressful because I would not always know if I were teaching it well. Imagine how I would feel the next year being told that the language had changed, to Bengali. One of my colleagues has no trouble with technology, but if he were told to include art in as many lessons as possible, he would probably not appreciate it! Likewise, I can read music and have always aspired to play the piano, but have not been able to devote the time to it. I played (one-handed) in assembly once and it was one of the most stressful things I have ever done. I know that these examples are not the same as embedding technology, but I am trying to make comparisons of the 'fear factor'. This is a fear of the new, the unknown and the things that could lead to public ridicule. Children as well as adults can be intentionally and unintentionally cruel with their frank opinions. Some teachers lack the confidence to put themselves in that position.

I myself never wanted to be an ICT coordinator; I find many aspects of technology quite dull. I have developed a passion for it because I am a curious person; I see the creative potential and the awe and wonder technology often brings and I want  slice of the action. Maybe it is slightly easier for me than some over 40s though, because I did computer technology at school (yes, it did exist in the 80s!) and I am not afraid of breaking things. I also had two children at a very young age and they had all manner of gaming platforms, remote control toys and then computers when they were older. My youngest son collected eggs at the weekend so that he could buy himself a laptop. I am not an advocate of the term 'digital native', but our children now have many more opportunities to engage with technologies than I did when I was young and the fear factor of 'breaking it' only arises when they are told by an adult things such as 'don't touch, you might break it'. Is this why they seem to learn more quickly? They are not afraid to try something new.

Yesterday I sat and watched Ruby, who is only just two, use an ipad. She had no fear and no anxieties and was happily expressing herself through mark-making. She was delightful! Conversely, trying to teach my 68 year old dad how to email and access the internet was incredibly stressful. He would not experiment, because he did not understand and his frustration quickly led to acute grumpiness. His fear was preventing his learning; he needed a lot of practise and repetition. So why do we expect our teachers to pick things up quickly and use resources straight away? I would challenge anyone who believes that teachers should be able to do just that, to attempt the same by learning a new musical instrument.

So what can be done about it? I would suggest that the negative opinion of sacking them be replaced with a more positive offer of support. Two methods immediately spring to mind: digital leaders and RiskIT.

Digital leaders.

Digital leaders are the best free resource at school to keep abreast of ICT. For example, when I introduced scratch and kodu at school, I knew that our hard working year 6/5 teachers would want their children to use it. I am ever aware of the hours that they put in and do not wish to add to their workload. Digital leaders are the perfect compromise. The teacher gets to join in the lesson, learn with the children and develop their confidence. Why not make a pledge to employ digital leaders and join our supportive network.


If you want your teachers to use new technologies, adopt a whole school approach such as  RiskIT. This strategy encourages and empowers teachers to explore ICT in a safe environment without making them feel pressured or ridiculed. I will definitely be promoting this next year in our cluster schools. I will not explain it any further here, but please read Jan's post by following the RiskIT link.

Other methods of support that are commonly used in school could also prove useful: 1:1 support, small group work, peer tutoring, modelling, lesson observations.

And finally - we need to stop negatively labelling our teachers! Self-fulfilling prophecy? Does our low expectation = low output? It's a hard enough job without people in the same profession being negative and knocking you down. Instead of questioning their 'inadequacies', maybe we should be asking ourselves if we have been teaching 'Doris' and 'Mabel' properly and giving them appropriate support. I don't just mean chucking a manual at them (could you learn to play the saxaphone that way?) I mean proper, personalised support. I feel that it is my duty as ICT coordinator to find out what our teachers know, what they need to learn and how best they can be supported to do so. Spending a little time reassuring them and ensuring that appropriate support systems are in place is essential. At our school it works well, because it is a supportive team. If someone struggles, we pull together to help them.

* that was the gist of it, I cannot remember exactly what was said. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Hackasaurus x-ray goggles

I had learned about hackasaurus x-ray goggles at the google academy in April, but like many things never got round to playing with it. I was reminded of this free tool at the Naace Hothouse by Doug (@dajbelshaw) so decided then and there that I should make time to play during this holiday. I was further inspired by Ant's (@skinnyboyevans) great blog post and his thoughts about using this tool in KS2. 

I intend to use this tool with my digital leaders. I like the idea that they will be learning about what 'hacking' means and I know that it will generate discussions that will help them understand more fully about copyright, privacy and internet safety issues. It is very easy to use and you really don't need to understand much coding to be able to play with this.

So, I had a quick go today, starting with grand ideas that were inspired by some of the photos that I have. My first hurdle was getting my photos to replace the existing ones, as I kept getting the 'broken photo' icon. I failed to get photos from dropbox or flickr to work (so failed to become an Olympic gold medal winner), but managed to use an old photo from facebook. The photo then dictated the kind of website that I wanted to alter. I am not sure why the other urls did not work, but will endeavour to find out. It shouldn't be a problem for my digital leaders though as they can use blog photos. 

The thing I like about this is the thinking that the digital leaders will have to do. They need a photo. They may have to stage this. They also need a story to accompany the photo, then they need to find a website that lends itself to their photo and what they want to say. I will encourage them to consider themselves as Olympic winners, famous inventors, scientists, historical figures, actors or singers etc. What a great way to get them writing!

So here is my tongue in cheek effort!

Click to enlarge

Update on 24/02/12

I have had another play before a recent enrichment morning and became the new Emile Sande as well as joining Dick and Dom in the bungalow. My digital leaders wrote a post on the digital leader network, although their work is not shown on it unfortunately.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

My appshed app!

It's not amazing, but it's a start. I thought I would share my first app so that you can see what it looks like so far and maybe it will help you think about its potential. I am thinking of using it with my digital leaders in the first instance, so that they can create an app about themselves. I can also see how this can be used within my work in the cluster, to get boys writing. It will definitely compliment any inanimate Alice work.  

The appshed edit screen

Ipad view

Take a look at it!

If you haven't got a QR code reader, you can access the app here, though it does look different on a laptop/PC.

There are a few hitches that I need to look at more carefully - like losing some of the text on each side of the page. I'm sure it is easily rectified once I know how!

I would love to know what you think!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Some links from my twitter favourites

So finally I have had time to skim down my countless favourite tweets and look at some of the resources that I have saved. I thought I would share them as there are some spectacular resources here! Acknowledgement is given to the tweeters who shared the links - not necessarily the authors of the sites/blogs that are mentioned. This is only a sample of the many that I had favourited, but hopefully there will be something that will catch your eye as you scroll down.

It's nice to have a bit of thinking time!


The digital studies wiki shared at #rethinkingICT by the wonderful @teachesICT @sharland and @infernaldepart

@dajbelshaw Mozilla open badges and create and play text adventures (the latter looks more like a ks3/4 resource to me)

@itdirectorscut blockly a visual programming language like scratch, from google

@russellwareham 36 resources to get your children programming

@HywellRoberts Chaos in your town - hilarious fun 'blowing up' your house/neighbours (sounds terrible, but is great fun if you want to blow up your school!)

@rhp123 ideas for using minecraft in the classroom

@TomBarrett 80+ google forms for the classroom

@edtechtoday safe social networking sites for kids (has anyone tried any of these out?)

@simonhaughton create a simple angry birds scratch game (I've tried it out and it works)

@jobadge curriculum framework for ICT from CAS

@ictast innovation and QR codes in the primary school

@rhp123 50 web2.0 tools for schools

@SimonBainbridge   screencasting tools for schools

@mberry A recording of his #rethinkingICT presentation 'An open source curriculum'

Teacher well-being

@TomBarrett work-life balance a crowd-sourced resource that includes lots of other teaching tips

Brilliant books

@PosPositive  50 books with a positive message

@imaginationsoup 75 character-building books


@langwitches digital storytelling

@Cherise_Duxbury games to teach aspects of writing. From TES, I think these are the ones that Cherise uses during livewriting sessions.

Useful ipad links

@syded06 ipads and parental involvement

@janwebb21 the ipad as a tool for education - a case study

@rhp123 Report says giving iPads to Auburn kindergartners increases test scores 

@itdirectorscut a friendly guide to deploying ipads in your school

@EIKe199 A girl can live by apps alone

A scoopit page by @DavidMiller_UK

Scandinavian schools

@JackCWest A BBc report about Finland's educational success

@Cherise_Duxbury Swedish schools abandon the classroom


Amazing art

@dughall water and ink

@dughall make an avatar of your tweets

@dughall 50 best street art work selected in 2011 (truly amazing!)

Useful edu links

@knikitea steps to success in maths: securing progress for all children

Top blogs

I like this from @ktvee because it provides lots of food for thought.

Enabling environments shared by @marc_faulder has lots of ipad news

@teachesICT one of the digital studies crew has a blog here

@matthewbritton ICT in education

@normal_for_jp his forest school weebly should inspire you to get outdoors! I also love this little gem on the web 50 things to do before you are11 3/4

And finally, this was shared by @ChrisMayoh, @Dughall and @digitalmaverick. If that doesn't persuade you to watch, nothing will! What an inspirational and creative child! (It has given me an idea for school too!)

Friday, August 3, 2012

My favourite #naace #3mhothouse takeaways

The hothouse linoit was created to store links to everything I have learned, but I thought I would pick out some of my favourites and explain them in a bit more detail.  


A masterclass with @TorstenStauch

Appshed was my favourite take-away from the hothouse as it was something very new to me. I was very impressed with Torsten's masterclass as he showed a range of ways it could be used in education, but learning that it was free was the icing on the cake for me! I like the fact that it works well with google docs and, although I don't understand it fully (I need to play with it to do that), I know that you can embed google docs and set up live polls using your app. This was demonstrated beautifully by Torsten and I'm sure it will not be difficult to learn.

 A chance to make an app came a bit later in the conference, with much appreciated support from Emma (@squiggle7) who had managed to collar Torsten for some 1:1 tuition! It quickly became evident how user friendly this is and @skinnyboyevans showed me how film clips (of his adorable son) can easily be embedded. Yes you need to play to learn, but there are helpful explanations across the site. It really is user friendly. Emma has written a great blog post about this app and I believe will add tutorials soon. Likewise, @skinnyboyevans (who I'm a little in awe of as he manages to write comprehensive blog posts and be a daddy to 5 children) has written a brilliant post with some really good ideas for using appshed.

For now, I have started to make an app to showcase the digital literacy project that I have been involved in (as in the picture above), for the purpose of learning how to use it, in order to teach others. I think it is too difficult for my year 2/1 class, but I know that my digital leaders will love it!

Digital literacy

I shared information about inanimate Alice by @katepullinger during the speedshare. It deserves a mention here because it is a fabulous free online resource to get children writing, using a range of digital assets. You can read some of the chapters on the website and find some free promethean IWB resources too. A great way to inspire writing, using ICT. For some more inspiration about school projects, check out Kate's digital literacy work with a school in Ipswich.

Kindles in the classroom

A fantastic idea shared by @squiggle7 whereby children save their writing as a pdf to be read on a kindle (or an ipad in our school). What a great way to provide an audience and a good use of google docs too. You can read Emma's post here. Thanks for the inspiration!


@Cherise_Duxbury set up this amazing livewriting resource using coveritlive to live blog. Children are given a stimulus, which can be audio or visual (photos and films) from which they start to write. They then help one another to uplevel their writing. Cherise's children then copy their completed paragraphs to their own blogs. It has had a huge impact on the children's writing. @mbrayford has been another key promoter of this and has run some great sessions that my digital leaders and year 6 children have been involved with. A great idea and a great resource!

Programming in school

Before I talk about the free resources on the web, I would like to point out that there are some great apps for the ipad too. It was questioned recently on twitter and I was pleased to be able to give a list of notable resources that can be used to cover this area of the ICT curriculum, from EYFS to KS2 and beyond.


I love kodu, but during one of the workshops @ChrisMayoh found that there is a new mars edition, which led me to also find some fab Olympics kodu stuff! Very appropriate at the moment!


Shared by @largerama

Robomind is a free educational programming tool that will help you familiarise yourself with the basics of computer science, by letting you program your own robot. It is a great introduction to programming techniques and compliments other programs I have used such as scratch and star logo


I am very familiar with scratch, having first been introduced to it around four years ago in a G&T ICT session. It is a great free progamming tool with some fab ideas and resources on the main site here. I always use the scratch cards to start sessions and to be honest rarely take my own learning beyond simple games, such as marble racer, fishy games and angry birds. I wasn't in the masterclass at the hothouse, but I know that others were impressed with it's application across other subjects. The youtube links from the masterclass can be found on the hothouse linoit and are worth checking out.  I probably won't explore that further at the moment, because time is limited and I will not use it with my infants. There are some great tutorials here and here that I will show my digital leaders, so they can work independently (flipping the classroom?)

Popcorn and thimble

So here is an admission of my laziness. I like the sound of these two resources - popcorn and thimble - shared by @dajbelshaw, but I think I will learn about them alongside (or from) my digital leaders. The projects in thimble look great. You can make your own animal, animated avatar and have a rant (!) amongst other things. Popcorn will enable you to make 'cool web-base media'. A great resource for my digital leaders to explore I think.


Greenfoot is a resource to help you teach and learn java programming and was described as the next step on from scratch. I have yet to explore it, but thought it was worth mentioning. Likewise, yousrc is a free resource for app programming. You can see examples in the showcase.

3d tin

3d tin looks a little bit like sketch up, but for making objects rather than buildings. @dughall has blogged about it - and 3d printing - and has said that it is intuitive with an interesting 'social' element. It is another useful tool that I hope to explore fully with my digital leaders next year.

iTunes U

The last thing that I would like to share at the moment is itunes u for edu. It is a free resource that will enable you to build your own educational courses. It is another resource that I will be exploring fully in the near future!

In the next post I will explore the naace ICT curriculum framework. What an inspirational conference this was!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Digital leaders at the Naace 3mhothouse

The digital leader network

Like many others I filled in the online form to attend the Naace hothouse, hoping to network and extend my ICT knowledge, skills and understanding. I was asked by Jan to provide a 'workshop' on the digital leader network and, apart from being a bit stunned, was delighted to be given the opportunity to spread the word again. The reason for this? In my view digital leaders are the best free resource in schools - a resource that could potentially have a huge impact on ICT development. I am passionate about this; passionate about creating sustainable solutions for keeping up with developments in an ever-changing area of education.

The workshop proved to be popular and became fully booked, leaving Nick Jackson (whose digital leaders recently led a teachtheteachers meet) without a place. This turned out well for me as it was a great way to get him up front and sharing his expertise. When I realised that Chris Mayoh was attending the workshop, I decided it would be silly preaching to an expert, so asked him to come and share his wisdom too. It proved to be a good idea as we were able to show how digital leaders are being employed in both primary and secondary. We each brought different experiences to the session and of course a change of pace is always good. You can view my prezi here, watch @ChrisMayoh's digital leader interviews here and @largerama's prezi and one of his films here. Of course these do not capture the discussions that went on, but they paint a picture of the work that is going on in our schools.

Before the session I had the idea to ask others to leave a pledge on the digital leader linoit. This would give some indication of the impact of the workshop. Incidentally, at the end of the session I asked how many teachers already had digital leaders in their schools. Two hands went up. The response to 'Who will employ digital leaders now?' was quite overwhelming. I am not surprised though. I think between us we showed the impact of a free resource available in all schools.   

Please add your pledges!

The digital leader network collaborative blog has grown in a very short time and has proved to be a good place for teachers to showcase their digital leader's great work. That is the whole purpose of the blog- to showcase, support and inspire others so that they may too employ digital leaders in their schools. Although my initial ideas about the network were very grand (linking schools across the UK and beyond) this is a solid start to spreading the benefits of having digital leaders.

So my pledge is to try and emulate Chris Mayoh's success in Bradford, in Norfolk. I would also like to host a digital leader 'kids meet' (this should have happened last year) and hopefully get our children to the Bett Show. This can only happen with support from others - and once again my twitter PLN come up trumps with their enthusiasm and drive to make this work. Yes there are a few 'negative disruptors' out there (see a great post by Jill Duman), but they are a very small minority and are easy to ignore. Nobody in this project has claimed to be the owner, initiator or leader. It will be a successful project because of its collaborative nature and because it is a good idea!

If you are interested in learning more about the digital leader network, come and join in #DLchat on a Thursday night at 9 during term time. You will meet inspirational tweeters who have been there right at the start of this project: @ICTevangelist @ChrisMayoh and @MrsMeeks64. You will also come across hard working tweeters who have given up a lot of time and put a lot of energy into this project - @aknill @largerama @traceyab1 @gr8ICT @ashmrkenyon @mbrayford @mikeyjohncarr amongst many others.

Acknowledgement must also be given to @ICTmagic and @eslweb who often help out with archiving, @JenniH68 for her hard work with edmodo and @kristianstill, @MrStucke and @bobharrisonnet for their continued support and inspiration. Thanks also to @janwebb21 for giving us the opportunity to spread the word further.

Please add your pledges!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Naace 3rd millennium hothouse

I'm yet to blog properly about #rethinkingICT  (partly because of its timing) so thought I should blog about the 'hothouse' as soon as possible. This will be a very potted version - my highlights.

The reasons I was happy to give up a couple of days of my holiday (again) was because I know how inspired by other's achievements I am. They make me want to become a better person and to carry on learning. Discussions throughout the two days have challenged my views, changed some of my opinions and  given me a lot of food for thought. It was great to catch up again with awesome twitter 'giants' Jan, Tim, Dughall and Drew and to meet twitter friends like Emma, Nic, Ant, RobertCherise (who I feel I have known forever!) and Chris (the funniest and most intelligent/inspirational 'youngster' I have ever met!). I include their names here as great people to have in your PLN, if you do not already have them. They have all certainly inspired me over the past couple of days.

I thought @ohlottie's idea of using linoit to take notes at #gtauk was a great idea, so I used it initially as a reminder for me, then decided I wanted others to add to it as I couldn't be in two places at once. There are hopefully lots of useful links on it for others to learn from. Thanks to everyone who contributed.

The thing that will have the biggest (immediate) impact on my teaching
came from the appshed masterclass from . I intend to use this with my digital leaders and show our key stage 2 teachers too. Other notable learning aspects for me were @dajbelshaw's Mozilla gems - popcorn and thimble- which I will play with during this coming week. He also reminded me of hackasaurus, which I had learned about at #gtauk. Don't get me wrong, there was lots of amazing stuff going on throughout the two days, but it would appear that I am quite 'up' on the ICT front. It's always good to know that you are keeping up/ahead of the game. There were some great scratch workshops including an
impromptu one from @dughall and @digitalmaverick, which resulted in standing room only! @largerama showed us robomind - an alternative to scratch and a resource which I will definitely use in school. There was also a workshop showing how effectively ipads can be used to create multi-media presentations to promote your school. Programming seemed to be one of the key aspects of the hothouse and of course the raspberrypi was shown - and its value explored. I'm pleased that I have purchased and played with one and will blog about that at another point.

The speedshare (teachmeet) was a great way of hearing snippets of good practice from other schools - and a lot of great practice was showcased.

Naace's curriculum framework will no doubt prove to be a valuable resource that I can use to develop our school's ICT curriculum. The more I think of it, the more I believe that ICT is so fluid, that spending hours writing detailed plans is not the way forward. Having a bank of quality resources and sharing ideas for embedding their use is a more profitable way to continue to develop ICT in our school. This could be done through 'learning community' style staff meetings whereby staff are expected to take 1 minute to share an example of how they have embedded ICT. This could be done every other week, setting a standard and ensuring good practice is shared. In our school that would only take 10 minutes out of each staff meeting. A worthy investment of time. It was great that a headteacher from my cluster - Carol Green - was at the hothouse, because we had discussions about holding cluster teachmeets, which she can promote at head's meetings.  

I hope you find the links on the linoit useful - I know I will keep referring back to them! Please add to it if you have any links that I missed.  I will write a separate post about the digital leader network presentation, because I think it deserves it!