06 Aug

Introduce your class to safe tech use: 8 things you should try!

Starting the new term with a new class is always exciting! Get them off to a good start with the tech in your classroom with a few simple activities designed to have them think about what they use tech for, and why! These activities are very easy to set up and might inspire you as well!



  1. Is everything they read on the internet real? Look at this Dihydrogen Monoxide site – it’s only water, but when will they figure that out? Read about saving the tree octopus here.. Take a look at Victorian Robots here.
  2. How safe are they online? Ask them to take part in challenges on Think U Know and find out!
  3. Create a paper computer! An intesting activity for the younger ones, naming computer parts.
  4. Take part in a collaborative blog challenge.Try the 100 Word Challenge here, or the Nrich Maths challenge here.
  5. Remind them about last years Hour of Code challenge, before the new one this year!
  6. Ask them… What do they use computers for? Create a joint class padlet on Padlet.com
  7. Build a paper cup robot, complete with instructions! Use the excellent lesson plan from csed.com here.
  8. Join in a #mysteryskype – set up a skype date with an unknown country! Find out more here


19 Apr

Teaching the internet…

to understand computer networks including the internet; how they can provide multiple services, such as the world wide web; and the opportunities they offer for communication and collaboration


A requirement in the computing curriculum for Key Stage 2 and I thought it might be helpful to share the experience of teaching this objective.

Asking the children about their experiences of the internet is always interesting. Inevitably you get a range of answers, but they may need some prompting to think of the actual instances of ‘communication and collaboration’ that it opens up. It could be the case that some of the children have never really used the internet beyond the odd search at school. Consider taking part in some collaborative projects prior to teaching this objective. Ideas can be found here. 

I began this unit with a quick look at the BBC Computing resources here.. there is a video which draws an analogy of birds nests and networking.

This then allows for an introduction to the language of computing – ‘network’ ‘server’ etc. It is interesting how many pupils are aware of the need for the ‘router’ to work (and may be able to talk about the router sharing information)-  but have not really thought about how we access the same websites from different places. Or how some pupils may have only seen a router at school, and so not really be aware of the network that sits behind it.

Bearing that in mind, you can then begin to get the children to role play a bit, and to discuss what happens if something doesn’t work.

We went on the ‘journey’ of  website – from an idea in the developers head (or a need from a school)- and then followed it down to some one typing in the web address. This in itself was interesting – as it gave the children the chance to consider how many different people were actually involved in creating a working website.

Finally we finished the lesson with the excellent ‘wheel’ from Simon Haughton’s site (the resources can be found here) – the differentiated ideas behind the paper internet – as well as the physical wheel allowed the children to put images to the vocabulary they had just learned, and think some more about the important role the internet plays in our society.



Main tasks:

  • Quick discussion around what they use the internet for, and what society uses the internet for.
  • Watching the video – comparing the internet with birds nests and networked ideas
  • Role play – the website must be moved from ‘developer’ to user at home. Where does it go? What role do the different parts play?
  • Paper exercise. Creation of the wheel, or the paper internet.

How have you got on with this objective? Have you met any glaring misconceptions?

28 Dec

Ubuntu in School – Part II

Putting Ubuntu on our old Windows XP computers was a way of trying to breathe new life into the machines – making them useable again. That post is here.

It has made machines accessible for internet based work – bur schools often need more than that. At the end of the term I think some questions need answering…

What did Linux do?

I put on most of the machines Linux Ubuntu – but it turned out that this was a little too power hungry for some of the machines. On the laptops it was fine, I downloaded and installed a few basic programmes – inlcuding this open whiteboard software, Open Sankore. On others we struggled, I tried a few very stripped down versions, including Puppy Linux and children’s versions such as Qimo and Sugar on a Stick. The computers worked very well with these, but they were older operating systemz and not easy to update. This meant that software we needed, such as up to date internet browsers were difficult to locate and install.

What can the machines used for?

Laptops with Ubuntu on can be used for most purposes – but as they were not connected to the school shared drives (we are moving over to Google Drive) – this limited the usefulness for some. However I envouraged the use as if it were a chromebook. An updated browser was therefore crucial. The educational suite, GCompris, was also on the machines, providing some basic educational based games.

What were the machines actually used for?

In practice, the machines have actually been used by children more than staff. The pupils find adapting to an unfamiliar operating system much easier and actually enjoy finding things to do. I put a choice of Linux OS on some machines and this may have been a mistake as it put people off experimenting. Easy access to the internet is key. The machines are in shared spaces currently and children will choose to use them.

What’s next?

Decisions need to be made – there are still lots of the XP machines around school!! The chromebooks have been more useful and so easy to pick up for pupils and teachers.

  • I’ve started using the Digital Leaders in school to review the use of the machines and share it with other children and teachers.
  • Time is a huge problem. Teachers need time to explore, and this year, with the huge amount of change is already proving a big challenge on inset and staff meetings.
  • I’m going to perservere – giving a new lease of life to these machines is very useful and I think pupils do need to experience other operating systems.











27 Sep

Why I’m trying Linux Ubuntu in school…

Our Digital Strategy is outlined here. Such a vital part of school life nowadays! I've been thinking of a way we could make use of the old machines which are spread around the school.


  • Teachers need to go online, often quickly
  • We are moving much shared work over to Google Drive
  • Pupils are therefore working on Google Drive on on their Google Site more
  • Budget!


So, my response is Linux Ubuntu – a version of Linux designed to be pretty much useable out of the box…However still stripped down and fast.

Admittedly you do still have to think about your tech support in school – proxy settings for servers and things are easily handled in the operating system – but you may come across some issues. For example I haven't created a server system…

Linux is an open-source operating system, which comes in many flavours. Built by a community which makes it super responsive to changes in hardware. There are so many different versions that it can feel a little overwhelming! I wanted one which the pupils and teachers would still recognise!


What I've done

Installed Ubuntu on a few 'choice' machines – they are old Dell machines – with either 500MB or 1GB of ram. As we're moving away from the shared network they are not connected to the server. I've created some 'crib sheets' detailing what they can be used to do – and installed some simple education software (and a few games!)



So far

Ubuntu has proven surprisingly resilient – it certainly speeds up the machines it is on – connects quickly and provides consistent access to the internet. Downloading chrome lso helps in terms of our cloud based MIS system! I'm waiting to see how it goes with the adults in school! Biggest learning curve seems to be moving away from using MS Office.


And next…

This – I'm looking into some of the child-friendly operating systems – aiming to explore the range of apps and the different organisation.


I'll keep you informed! Would love to hear if you've had any experience of this!


30 Mar

Social Media in the Primary Classroom?

Prompted by a recent twitter chat for #ukedchat which examined social media in the classroom, I began to think about just how relevant this is for our Primary schools.

It all starts with the curriculum…

Interestingly, in Key Stage 1, we are asked to cover this:

communicate safely and respectfully online, keeping personal information private, and recognise common uses of information technology beyond school

Let's consider:

Communicate safely and respectfully online

Seems straightforward, part of e-safety and online bullying. I have been developing a scheme of work for internet safety here – lots of this can be covered within schools PSHE curriculum.

Keeping personal information private

This is an area that will need some work, and the development of social media that children may access makes this all the more important. It can be taught, rote style, as in 'rules', but modelling this with a school account, and teaching them how to make comments can be much more powerful.

Recognise the use of information technology beyond school

A tough one. There is no doubt that any access to technology is modelling this, however we have little control over what they can access at home and beyond. Also, we need to have access to this in our classroom, which is often easier said than done!

The key Stage 2 curriculum involves a little more:

understand computer networks including the internet; how they can provide multiple services, such as the world-wide web; and the opportunities they offer for communication and collaboration

describe how internet search engines find and store data; use search engines effectively; be discerning in evaluating digital content; respect individuals and intellectual property; use technology responsibly, securely and safely

Here we have the notion of 'communication and collaboration' and the idea of 'using technology responsibly' – again modelling the use of social media seems to be key.

Do you ask your pupils to contribute online? Do the classes have shared blogs that they use?

Do you model how you find information? Ask the pupils what they use?


So what, practically can we do in the classroom for these 'social' elements of the computing curriculum and should it include recognised Social Media? I think the key here is that the staff and school have to model how these technologies can be used. If the school team are reluctant, begin by trialling an open 'showcase' type blog (best work blog for example) – or investigate some of the 'education blog' services. Piloting a school twitter account, or a facebook account for linking with authors, for example, can also be useful.

Some sharing element can also be useful, for example a school Scratch account, where the children can view others' work and comment on it.

Technical support will be needed, particularly if you are finding sites blocked. See my Digital Strategy ideas for more.


There are some key questions we need to consider here:
  1. Is it okay to set homework which involved an online element?
  2. How much prior knowledge to parents have? How explicit should home/school agreements be?
  3. How much can we expect from teachers? Should updating a homework blog really be part of our PPA expectations?

Note, it is no longer about using a computer programme to complete work, but more about the 'connected' – can we expect our children to have internet access at home?



Ideas to get started…

The type of Social Media that we use can have an impact too, I recently used the school twitter account to ask Astronauts questions about the ISS. The children contributed these questions to a Padlet on their blog and I tweeted them. Undoubtedly a great use of social media, giving a learning experience they wouldn't otherwise have, and learning how it can be used responsibly.

I've used class blogs built on blogger, which the children can leave comments on. We teach them how to leave them, but stress the e-safety aspect continously. It's really important that any issues are dealt with immediately, a responsible adult needs to monitor the comments.

Programs which let you contribute and collaborate, sharing a link, can be used to great effect. I've used Popplet (for mapping ideas) and Padlet – but many more are out there.

There are plenty of services which offer a closed VLE type of experience, if privacy is a concern, consider trialling one of these. They have their downsides, but many schools still make use of them.

If you need some ideas to get started – this may help:




20 Mar

Creating a Simple Quiz with Scratch

Finding different ways to bring Scratch into the classroom has been a focus for me this term! Not that we haven't found it interesting, or fun, but I have been looking for ways to build it into the curriculum and to make it something that can be (at least a bit) cross curricula..


So, for STEM week this year (the annual Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths focus – info here) I set our Year 6s and Digital Leaders a challenge – design a science quiz and build it in Scratch.

Use of Scratch for this required two new (for this group) skills:

  1. The 'variable' concept
  2. Debugging and quality assuring

The 'variable' concept becomes incredibly straightforward the minute you use it – on the online version it is 'data'. Put simply, create and name the variable (e.g score) and then, when certain answers are inputted, add to the variable.

Begin by using the 'condition' like in this example – 'if, else'

Then extend it by adding the instruction to change the variable:

(Thanks to code-it.co.uk for the images I forgot to take!!)
All of this is lovely and simple so far, but it does lead to some deeper thinking by the children. A science quiz may not always allow for an easy and recogniseable answer – the children were forced to think about how the answer would be inputted e.g. Using letter input for a multiple choice quiz, 'true and false' or even precise one word answers..

This led us nicely to the 'debugging' side of things… Using the online account the children were able to look at each other's quizzes and find any problems. This led us to have a go at changing the input for the questions and the way it scored. They very much enjoyed 'tweaking' an example that I put up there… (above)


All in all this took around three hours, and as I said the children were able to use Scratch slightly at the beginning. It is very simple, definitely, but the children were quickly able to find better ways of running quizzes. Using sprites, for example, as multiple choice buttons.