17 May

Computing in the Early Years (and beyond!)

Right from Key Stage 1 we are beginning to investigate simple algorithms and to investigate computer programs.  In reception and EYFS then,  giving children the chance to experience activities and objects which encourage the correct use of technology-  (experience the world around them) – is important. Think useful, colourful and fun!!

Bee Bots!


Often overlooked! Or tucked away in a cupboard somewhere without charge… For that reason I recommend this set of rechargeable and self contained Bee Bots!
Use with maps on the floor to link with topics – e.g Desert Island Treasure or Road.

  • Great for linking to topic maps and stories.
  • Versatile – link to instruction writing or leave as play


Remote Control Cars

Sounds simple, but these will encourage pupils to think in terms of instruction following, and develop direction, motor skills and control.

  • Can be linked to topics and stories in a similar way to Bee Bots.
  • Encourage group working and talking whilst play.



Make use of the whiteboard!

The 2 Simple City is a great environment for simulation and play. However it could be as simple as leaving your smart board software up there so they can play. However a quick search will find many online games aimed at this age group that can be linked to topics. Try Poisson Rouge or looking at the TES iBoard – some of which are free.

  • Use a rota for the children who are allowed on the whiteboard, maybe with a timer so that other children get the chance.
  • Many of these activities can also be left on the classroom computers.




Recordable Props!

I’ve really begun to like the wide variety of classroom props around that let you (or the pupils) record their own message. My favourite are the recordable pegs which let children record explanations and ideas linked to classroom work, or in storytelling corners. Gives a lovely personal touch to the classroom. You can also get little push buttons which allow you to leave oral instructions for activities, or children to practice their talk before writing.



Laptops / Tablet Computers

Discussions around ‘what’s best’ for younger hands / eyes / experiences aside try and think what would fit best within you school environment. I always recommend a mixture are available for the children to use – and for computers you can get some lovely smaller mice and colourful keyboards. On Android and ipad there are plenty of apps that can be used, and some very safe covers to protect from water / dropping etc. Plenty of the apps I’ve looked at here fit in well with early users, too.

Links – note there is a wide variety of shops / sites which sell this equipment! Recommended just to get started:


Focus Educational

The WhiteBoard Blog (because it’s fab for all whiteboard use!)

TES iBoard

Please leave a comment if you can recommend any other equipment / programmes for the early years environment!

11 May

Using Popplet

I’ve mentioned Popplet in lots of posts before – it is one of the most useful and versatile classroom tools I’ve come across. I thought a quick post dedicated to how we use it in the classroom might be useful!


It is both an iPad app and a web based app 

Getting started:

You can get into it immediately via the web app – you don’t need an account (though it is helpful – see below) – and the iPad app is also free to try.

There is a super easy to understand tutorial which guides you through the basics – great for sharing with staff and pupils!

Make good use of the ability to insert pictures, colours and text – it can make your mind-maps look really professional and gives a real sense of pride!


In the classroom:

Children can quickly create ideas for writing, which can then be displayed and added to as the lesson goes on.

Clever use of colour means you can easily model the different branches of mind mapping and get children to do the same.

With iPads children can create, and add to, their mind maps then use them as prompts for their writing.

The mind maps can be exported as images and added to class blogs.

But register an account:

Children can work on Popplets – and then share them across platforms to view each other’s work.

Quickly share a Popplet that was created on the whiteboard with individual computers/iPads

Share a class account and let the children access it at home.

Quick ideas:
  • Writing – mindmapping plot ideas and stories which can then be viewed by the children as they write. I have used this with the iPad Writing Project – and it allowed us to build up lots of different ideas for story plots and characters, and add to them as we worked. The children could even use this at home.
  • Vocabulary work – using as a topic web for key words, concepts, meanings etc.. Again, as it is so quick to do it can be added to as the topic builds up, and accessed whenever they need to.
  • Science – mapping out exploration questions, and linking these to answers as they go on. For example with a recent look at material properties we were able to collate pictures of materials alongside their properties as we went through the afternoon.
  • Research – especially for topic work / non-fiction writing – mindmapping can bring order to their thoughts when done properly and using Popplet means they will be able to access these again (and they will look good!!)

The Popplet Blog has some really great ideas for making use of all the features! 

10 May

Questioning in the Digital Classroom

A huge part of our day – much has been written about how, why, when and who…

Questioning crops up as pupil targets for improvement, on school development plans and in teacher lesson observations. A recent focus for us was whether or not our increased use of technology actually supported questioning skills in the classroom. We moved away from looking purely at teacher questioning, and looked at how we could get pupils to ask more questions in class, and indeed, move away from the simple, 'lower order' questions.

Here are our five top tips for using technology to improve questioning in the classroom!
  1. Confidence! Use microphones/video/iPads to allow pupils to rehearse their questions.
  2. Improving – group mind mapping ideas such as Popplet, or online 'whiteboards' such as Padlet will encourage pupils to build on their ideas.
  3. Restrictions – use technology that children are familiar with to restrict words/characters and focus their questions to what they actually want to say!
  4. Sharing! Both in the classroom and out of the classroom – Blogs / video / even on the iPad through the whiteboard – children can quickly and easily share questions with a wider audience now. Use YouTube or other Social Media to 'ask experts' or a school blog to ask the community. Not only does it refine questioning skills but it also teaches the positive uses for Social Media. See an example here with Padlet and Twitter!
  5. Subject based apps and specific questioning practice. There are plenty of mobile apps out there that support specific objectives, such as Super Duper's range for literacy questioning skills.

More ideas?

This excellent blog from @Langwitches showcases much much more than is discussed here! Including an excellent look at Bloom's Taxonomy and iPad Apps.

ICTEvangelist's Blog here has more great ideas!


08 May

Using Classroom Data – A Haiku Deck