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!


21 Sep

Collaboration Inspiration..

Whilst pupils tend to be enthusiastic about the use of technology in the classroom particularly whilst it has that ‘brand new’ aspect – finding projects to keep involvement going is not always easy – not to mention stretching pupils who may have got the coding and computing curriculum covered.


This post then is nothing but a signpost to collaborative projects which can help take your pupils to the next level. Collaboration can develop all kinds of skills – including a reflective and evaluative approach to your own learning. For pupils, the chance to ‘debug’ programmes is a Key Stage 2 Objective – whilst the opportunity to share your work with the wider community can force a more detailed and critical approach.

Many of these projects are incredibly easy to get involved in – and most require a little work from both ends – if you need any help and advice just ask!

A word about e-safety : It goes without saying that anything that is part of the wider internet will contain links, comments and images you can’t always control. Best way to tackle this is to ensure your children are e-safety savvy. I talk about this here. 

Blogging Projects:

I talk about the value of blogs here.  A great way  to develop literacy skills and to develop and understand ‘digital etiquette’. Many schools will have web presences and blogs can either be a completely separate addition to this, or enhance this provision. It can be hard to develop a sense of audience though and that is where collaborative projects can work so well.

QuadBlogging – a more formal approach which puts groups of classes into and asks schools to ensure they not only post, but comment. It has been well received and I have seen it go from strength to strength!

Digital Leader Network – a shared blogging platform which, whilst giving your Digital Leaders a platform, could just as easily be used for a class project. Details regarding how to get started can be found on the site.

The Blog Exchange – a new site aimed at building mutual audiences. http://theblogexchange.wordpress.com



Creative Projects

Whilst I wasn’t sure if this was the same as blogging, I’ve included these as a separate category as they can be much more individual than blogs – in fact these could be used by targeted groups to support confidence and practice key skills!

100 Word Challenge  – a great idea with some really fantastic responses. A writing prompt is displayed weekly – which other pupils are then invited to comment on – it’s a good opportunity to give pupils an audience, create a competitive atmosphere if need be and teach digital etiquette skills!

DigitalTeacherLink.Com – this time linked to specific projects such as Scratch games – register at this site and your pupils can then request ‘testers’ for projects and then act on the feedback given. A really unique chance to put pupils in the seat of ‘game tester’ (or indeed developer)

Film Club  – I’m a huge fan of Film Club – if you’ve not come across it you can probably guess what it does! The great thing about the site though is that members of Film Club can post reviews of films, with ‘star’ reviews winning prizes. A real audience – and the chance to win things too!


Finding Partners

Of course sometimes you might want to set up a collaboration that is a bit more ‘permanent’ – The British Council Schools Site do an excellent job of forming partnerships – and I can recommend browsing through their ideas for activities once you have found a partner.


Further Ideas:

Sometimes you just want to be able to set something up that will get the whole school thinking! YOu could try a school ‘book review’ blog – browse Woodlands Junior for inspiration! Federations and Academies can easily create shared blogs – photo / short stories – anything really that will allow the pupils to share ideas!

Further Reading:

Using blogs to collaborate and share – reading.org

Igniting innovation in education through collaboration – Edutopia

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18 Sep

Digital Strategy Afresh!


The challenge of a new school setting also brings with it a fresh approach to digital technology – it's no longer an option to just ignore this part of your school. Leaving servers running old operating systems are unreliable can leave files wide open and slow systems just won't cut it for the teachers of today.

What to do though when budgets are tight?


So, a time for a different digital strategy.

First think through what we want to achieve… The techology should support teaching and learning.

  • Create, enhance and support the delivery of a wide range of curriculum experiences
  • Save time, support teachers and allow for the easy sharing of resources and ideas
  • Equip pupils for computing in line with the curriculum, give them skills to support their future learning.

We've decided to go for a chromebook approach – one that means files can be shared between pupils and staff and means collaborative working is super easy. Early signs are good – the pupils are incredibly keen and all staff are on board! Hopefully it will allow us to develop a greater breadth of experiences. Remains to be how effective it will be – and evaluations will have to be done against some very specific criteria.

This also means that we are looking at a greater use of online tools – and there are plenty out there – to enhance the curriculum provision.

Mobile provision has also been thought of – android tablets will allow children to experience technology out of the classroom and we have the odd iPad to support specific needs.

What does this mean for a stretched budget?

  • We still have a 'traditional' server set up – so staff will need more than a chromebook – thinking about use of interactive whiteboards etc.
  • Pupils will get to experience many devices – what does that mean for progression of skills?
  • Will infrastructure need more support? How will the wifi cope?

There is more to think about – it certainly seems that chromebooks and google classroom can support many of the skills. I'll keep you informed…


06 Sep

Classroom Collaboration – what you can try straight away!

Classroom collaboration was cited as one of the key reasons to begin using technology in the classroom in a recent (and quick) question and answer session….

There are many, many ways to get your pupils to collaborate more, and obviously using tech is only one strand of this. From role play, drama, team games and problem solving; once you get your pupils used to the different roles and the collaborative techniques of listening and working together it all becomes so much easier. How then can digital technology help?

An incredibly effective way to get collaboration is through a classroom (or school) blog. If the school is reluctant to get involved with this there are plenty of ways that you, as a class teacher, could get involved. It is very simple to start a blog through a free service such as blogger – and then use it in class to get children to collaborate on ideas such as storytelling or problem solving. Children can add their contributions in the classroom.

Give a voice…

A side effect of collaboration is that there will always be some children that are not heard, or who dot get to contribute. Programmes which allow for pupils to get involved without standing up in front of their classmates, or even saying anything, can be useful.


This example from educationismylife.com .

A simple idea is Padlet – and I’ve mentioned this lots on the site already – Padlet allows you to create a very quick whiteboard space which can be added to by clicking. You could set up a Padlet during a lesson with a question -and leave it on the computer for them to contribute to. For example – different ways to start a story, or solutions to maths questions. Using that Padlet’s code they can also contribute from home or through a different device in the classroom. I have already shared several examples of this – this post here looks at the use of Padlet for questioning.  However it has many uses – and even more so if you have a classroom blog which can be accessed from home-  groups can work on Padlets for different concepts, science planning and questioning for example. You can even password protect the Padlet so only children from your class can contribute.  The use is limitless – and a great way to get contributions from your pupils.

Popplet is another collaborative tool – allowing the group discussions to be contributed to, and accessed by anyone with the code for that popplet. It is also an app, and a website -so again if you have more devices in class the children can contribute as they see fit. I have used this versatile tool when story planning, allowing children to take their story off in different branches whilst we watched on the whiteboard. Again – I have written about Popplet before – and their are many examples of it’s use to be found!

Be creative…

More creative forms of collaboration were also mentioned by those advocates of technology in the classroom – a group working together to create something. iPads and tablet devices work brilliantly for this kind of thing – whether working together around one device or sharing and adding to their work. Obvious contendors for the iPad are Book Creator, Garage Band and Explain Everything. Garage Band is a particularly powerful tool – for example creating a radio advertisment with voice and music can be a powerful group task and the results using this app will sound impressive,


These apps are all incredibly easy to get started with and easily share the work within the tablet systems. But computers and laptops can be just as good for collaboration: Google Drive is another great way for pupils to contribute – registering your class as a user (either with a class email, or a temporary made up one) and when the pupils log in they can all share work and contribute to it. Of course, if the infrastructure is there you could register indiviuals in order to better control their work. This presentation has lots of ways to get you started!

Online apps such as Scratch also allow for collaboration – saving the class work, (or your example) on there lets the children take what you have created and then ‘tinker’ – indeed improving and debugging forms part of the KS2 computing curriculum anyway and Scratch is a perfect way of doing that.

General Tips

Just getting started with collaboraton can be tough in a primary classroom – it will only work if children are aware of the point of the collaboration and the behaviours expected!

  • Begin by giving roles – for example within a science lesson you might have a ‘recorder’ ‘analyst’ ‘equipment manager.
  • Demonstrate and be a role model for how you expect the groups to work -e.g. you might have to take part as a member of a group and then refer to the class for solutions when problems arise. An example might be a maths puzzle – one person may be the ‘accuracy checker’ – and then ask teh class what happens if you find a mistake? What should you do?
  • In the beginning have a tight hold on the technology – for example a blog where each group is to record their end result – model how you expect it to be used.
  • Then ‘loosen up’ – once the children are aware of the different tools at their disposal let them choose – for example how they present their art project is up to them – and the key is that they don’t have to make use of any digital technology at all!


I hope this helps – other common uses for technology came out of the twitter chat, and I’ll explore those later! Thanks for reading – feel free to comment!