30 Jul

Clear walls = Clear mind!


This Tweet: 

This reminded me of an ongoing conversation that I have with teachers. Not just about tidying classrooms (don’t get me started on cables!) – but about their walls. It always seems to me massively counter-intuitive to suggest that classroom walls should be covered in stuff. Over the years I have argued with many head teachers who were convinced that every spare space of wall should be covered in, well, something vaguely connected to learning.  Lists of things to have; topics to be covered and how it should be set out.

This year when I planned my classroom I asked the children what they wanted on the walls – what they liked, what they used and, importantly, what they remembered with their eyes closed. Their current classroom is pretty typical – lots of grammar and punctuation hints (Y6) – topic ‘best’, maths working wall etc etc.

In a nutshell they could remember very little of their classroom wall when they were not in it! They felt proud of their work being up – and they wanted more of it. They found the vocabulary useful but could only really tell me ‘two or three words’ – and they really did not notice or remember any of the posters / extra displays (friendship reminders, class rules etc)

Those children who are coming to my classroom last year requested three key things.

Firstly they wanted their own space – in the school library we have a ‘proud of’ space for each Y6 – and they really, really liked this. I use it as a kind of ‘blog’ area.

They wanted words up that they can’t spell. Tricky this, as every child will find different words helpful, but they told me they can manage to keep it updated… Y6 also wanted grammar… same reason I guess.

Finally they liked the ‘polished’ displays… and we’re proud of their work on them, and they wanted to keep those. Interestingly,  not everyone, but enough to warrant me mentioning it!

Everything else… they were not bothered.

For me, I need a working wall, they might not remember it afterwarss, but somewhere to display the process we are working through is very useful during lessons and it certainly helps me organise my planning.

And finally, a special mention for the interactive display screen which they loved!


22 Aug

My top edtech tools 2015


In all the fuss and fizz it’s easy to forget that some digital technology tools are actually both time saving and incredibly useful – this is the tools I’ve turned to this year..



Google Drive – this has been a perfect introduction to cloud computing for the whole school! A great way to share resources and information and easy to keep track of whole school documents such as Teaching and Learning Policy!


Skype – a fantastic resource, one which I have written about many times! This year we continued our exploration of #mysteryskype.

An online MIS – years back I remember thinking that having a fully integrated MIS that handles everything from bus lists to behaviour notes, lunch menu and assessment data was the stuff of dreams… Having one means staff can access it for their classroom, registers all online means no paperwork, all information is kept together and is up to date. We use scholarpack, others are, obviously, available!

WordPress – sounds obvious right? But WordPress continues to be a top tool for me – building new class blogs, my own blog and even the school website (with help!).

Scratch – still top on my list for coding, creativity and challenge! Other apps and programs are catching up, but the resources are there and the children really enjoy using it!



Haiku Deck – so useful, so easy to create on and fantastic for those ‘guess the news story’ picture assemblies!

Finally an honourable mention for an app (there are many apps that I make use of!) Pic Collage – a great app for combining pictures, sharing and printing quickly them and easily.

And next year?

We’ve just started a Kindle Project – time will tell if this proves useful!

Go Animate is proving very popular with the pupils, will that still be around next year?

The digital platform MakeWav.es with their Online badges are also incredibly useful for keeping track of what the digital leaders are doing. Can this be used in other ways across the school

Which tools have you found useful this year? Please share!
25 Jan

Planning for the future…

Recent posts about development plans (like this one) has made me think about mine. As part of ours, a digital strategy is key.

Some thoughts on long term digital strategy:

  • It’s impossible to plan too far in advance, a 3 yr development is not really a long time, but lately it feels as though everything in schools is changing on an almost monthly basis. For tech, this is no different.
  • Consider staff implications and CPD – would time be better spent investing in training that changing the provision?
  • What are the curriculum needs (now that it’s here!) – will other subject areas require tech?
  • What will really become obselete? Will companies stop supporting their ‘free’ services?

What will be on my long term plan?

  • A pause! There has been lots of change recently, once the IT infrastructure works to my satisfaction we will pause!
  • A mix of devices, with a mixture of operating system. Whilst the bulk of pupil use is through google drive and google apps I think it’s important that children experience a range of operating systems.
  • Free services, such as google, will be important.
  • Regular tech support and advice will be budgeted for.
  • A mixture of android tablets (cheap and accesible) with iPads (quality of apps and intuitive)
  • Windows in the classroom, ubuntu in shared areas, chromebooks and some laptops. – This is in part to get rid of Windows XP.
  • Robots / beebots / lego – and CPD to use them correctly.


I will upload the development plan once done – but would love to know what is going into your long term strategy!


04 Jan

5 to avoid….

Those edtech mistakes you need to try to stamp out…

1. It worked for one, so lets buy thirty…

I've seen this over and over again. One teacher, usually keen and a bit tech savvy, found something that worked very well. Perhaps a new tablet, a specfic laptop or the next new classroom equipment. It worked for them, so we buy a class set, or one for each class. Then there is surprise when issues occur, when there is not as much use from other teachers (or no use) – connectivity issues as the school's creaking wifi struggles.

Always test put purchases in the 'least likely' class, link pilot studies with teachers who are looking for a specific outcome and, if possible use suppliers who will let you lend equipment first! (This worked a treat with our chromebooks).


2. Don't ask around….

Someone, somewhere will have tried that new idea of yours! It is a mistake to try something without asking other schools, other teachers, or even twitter – #ukedchat. Locally there may be companies that others have tried with better services, deals (e.g. A 30 day trial on equipment), nationally there may be common pitfalls that can be avoided!


3. Forget about the teaching…

All too often we are given technology as an answer to a problem that didn't exist. Don't forget it is about the classroom, the children, the teaching! Is there an issue with connecting your schools to others? Do the teachers need to share what's happening in their classroom? Does the technology need replacing? Can the pupils easily access their work? What is it you actually want out of your technology?


4. Lock it down…

Schools, once invested in expensive technologies, can (understandably) be reluctant to let them loose on the whole school. Whilst it makes sense to emphasize how it can be used safely, and how to properly look after such equipment, it is a mistake to put people off of making use any new technology or services. With new online services educate pupils, parents and teachers on e-safety. With equipment build into the budget some loss and demonstrate proper use at every opportunity. Teachers who are confident can be good role models for this, and sharing 'what works' in staff meetings is a must!


5. Ignore the pupils…

The pupils in schools can be involved at every stage of technological investment – from consulting to training on the use of anything new. Consider starting with what they already use at home, if you are considering investing in new technology this is a great way to get ideas. New services can be reviewed by pupils, helping you to decide what might be useful in the classroom. This also applies to parents, who can be involved in similar phases.



30 Dec

Catch up on Coding

An inset plan for Primary Schools….

Coding has now been in Primary Schools for a term. This post looks at how you could spend an hour or so reviewing teacher resources and ideas which for teachers to check their knowledge.

Key Resources:

The Computing At School Progression Chart can be found here.

Somerset Authority site here has great links and ideas.

Specific language use for Scratch from Somerset

Planning and progression support from Simon Haughton’s website

A really easy to read mini-book by Simon Haughton.

Digital Storytelling – royalty free resources and other ideas here.

Ideas, map packs and resources for beebots here.

Barefoot Computing – excellent resources and ideas here



select, use and combine a variety of software (including internet services) on a range of digital devices to design and create a range of programs, systems and content that accomplish given goals, including collecting, analysing, evaluating and presenting data and information

Begin with a look at progression – specific focus on language and vocabulary.

Starting with EYFS: – Key ideas here revolve around providing opportunities to talk about technology- using age appropriate vocabulary and language.
Some ideas are here

There is also a consideration about language and vocabulary for teacher knowledge- this site here is a great source of information.

2. Teacher knowledge – where to start! What is coding?
This is a good time to consider what coding actually is – and how much we, as teachers, are confident with the teaching of it. Good online starter activities can be found here – at code.org. A discussion around why we are teaching coding would be useful – will it support other areas of the school curriculum? Are we teaching discreet units- or should it feed into other areas of the curriculum? Much of this will be school specific, but there are some obvious links…

It is also important here to stress that we need to model the good use of technology as well. Consider how often we use technology as part of our professional and personal life. Do the pupils in your class see this? Have you used apps such as Skype to connect your classrooms? Started emailing with other schools? Collected ideas and thoughts with a service such as Padlet? These type of activities are super easy – but model how technology can be used to support learning.

3. Linking our curriculum with Scratch, and Espresso Coding – iPad apps and on paper!
Digital Storytelling
Beebots – a huge fan of bee bots  – they can be used for maths, literacy and exploratory activities. (Video from TTS)


Other areas to look at – how the internet works:


Download (PDF, 619KB)

4. Taking it further….

Unit plans: Consider how specific areas of your curriculum can be used to teach the computing curriculum. There are many great ideas in the resources (above) – and an example from a previous year (below)

Download (DOCX, 47KB)



Subject Coordinators, or particularly interested teachers may wish to take on further study for coding – Code Avengers offers free introductory courses. Future Learns excellent MOOCS also offer a free teach computing course. 

How is the computing curriculum settling in at your school? We would love to hear!





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!