06 Jul

Computing in Primary – One Year On!

Inspired by a tweachcode chat idea I thought I'd review my experience of the primary computing curriculum so far.

Of course I'm aware that I am obviously more exposed; having a site like this, on twitter and regularly in contact with other teachers regarding digital technologies. Which is why I firmly believe that we cannot let the momentum die – different schools have different experiences and the teaching of the skills can be patch when you look at a wider area.


A few thing stand out:

  • Primary and Secondary are talking more.

I see this collaboration on social media, more dialogue and overlap. However my experience of schools is also that secondary colleagues are reaching out, and through the great CAS network they are sharing the expertise they have. Of course there is much to do, I worry that secondary won't be able to build on the work primary do as the experiences won't be similar. But it's a start.


  • Primary colleagues are embracing the new…

It's not easy! Assessment changes, whole curriculum shifts, SEN changes and new terminology across everything.. Primary teachers are heroes right now, yet every time I've delivered Inset, or have spoken to teachers they are taking it all in their stride. I've had enthusiastic uptake for Hour of Code, Code Club, internet safety day, paper internet classes and all sorts! Stuff that could easily be the straw that breaks the camels back for many teachers.


  • Money is sloshing around!

Some of it is admirable, companies linking free resources to the curriculum, (Scratch and Google Apps to name two), some of it is well intentioned, but misses the spot and some has come across a bit 'gimmicky'. However money has been thrown at it, mainly because it is a bit techy and trendy I feel. Products such as Raspberry Pi's (or the hundreds of other robots that are on the market) and 'big ideas' such as Code Club and Apps4Good. Of course some money could be misplaced – and schools do need good advice, especially when it comes to consultants and 'experts' in the field!


The future?


Is looking good, if a bit patchy. Some schools have taken this on and are developing links with their curriculum, building on knowldege already there and beginning to grow expertise in their own strength. Of course the momentum needs to be maintained – and a consistent approach is needed from primary schools. Networks such as CAS need to be shared and teachers need to be encouraged to examine what else is out there. Of course, like everything else, this takes time – something in short supply now!

10 Jan

Don’t Forget… e-reading!

As part of a review of the year it occurred to me that there were plenty of apps, programmes and ideas that shouldn’t get lost over time, but are often overlooked. So I thought a ‘don’t forget series’ might remind teachers of what is out there.

Number 3 : E-Reading


Strange, I know, but with the number of devices in a typical school these days it’s easy to forget that every single one of them could be used as a platform for books. The iPad and Guided Reading Post is still, after nearly two years, one of the top read posts of this site- so I know that people still see the iPad as a platform, but there is so much more you can do with computers, laptops and chromebooks.

On tablets the Kindle app is great for books – books can be cheaply bought for the app, and it allows notes taking, book marks and the usual tools such as a dictionary and read-aloud.


  • Talking Stories – great for language, vocabulary, creativity

With headphones children can access a wide world of story telling – most of it incredible high quality and usually free. Start your search here, at the ever excellent Woodland Junior Site, Many of these stories come with games to play alongside – such as the excellent Clifford at Scholastic. The Children Books Online site also offer an ever changing selection. The quality can vary though, so do check. There is an excellent site, currently free,  – Storyline Online which offers books being read aloud on video. A slightly different approach, but with great results.


The Comic app by Made in Me – Me Comics



  • Just books

There are, of course, options of just accessing books – and whether it is leacing an open book on the computer for children to access or setting homework there are many to find. Some can be American-English, so always have a read through first (or get older children to review them for you!)

Children’s Storybooks on MagicKey


  • Creating books

On iPad, books can be easily using apps such as Book Creator – but there are other ways of creating images and adding sound – such as Explain Everything. Some apps also allow you to create books within them  – Collins Big Cat are great examples of this. Some paid services such as Pearson TikaTok also offer a platform for children to write and be published.


Some ideas:

  • Older children, or digital leaders, can review books and then share them with younger children.
  • Often the authors site will contain extracts, or section read by the author – these can be a great way in to a story.
  • Check with any reading schemes you use – they often have online areas to share books.
  • Sites will also offer books in other languages – great for practise!
  • Share with parents! What you find useful in school may be just what a parents is looking for!



Scholastic Storia

An excellent article here by the British Council

A digital Frankenstein

Oxford Owl

Storyline Online

11 Oct

Online Safeguarding – who is responsible?

Another day, another online data leak. Yes we know, we really shouldn’t expect online storage to stay private any more… We are working hard to educate children, parents and the community. However Snapchat’s leak caught my eye because of one of the ‘facts’ that went with it. It said that around half of the users were under 17, sites seem to differ on the precise number but they all seem to agree that around half of the users are under 18. Therefore, for the purpose of child protection, and safeguarding they are children, vulnerable.

Think about that, this company knows that half of it’s users are under 18. It has recently been valued at over $10 million based on it’s potentially lucrative user base. What then does it have to do as part of it’s responsibilty to these children? I know what schools have to do, what youth groups have to do; the training; the form filling in; the checks. I also know what would happen if schools managed to leak data at the rate at which these companies do – and it would not be okay to say ‘but we told them not to use so and so…’.


What then do these companies have to do? It seems, nothing – it seems that it’s okay for a company to make a huge amount of money from children, and have no corporate responsibility to those children.

We must do something about this. There must be a way that we can force these companies to take some responsibility for their ‘customers’. A look around the internet and you find several examples of Snapchat in particular being warned about leaks and possible security issues. Facebook had similar issues, thought it is impossible to find out from any of these sites if they have any policy at all to the teenagers and children which use their sites.

Maybe the answer is fines, responsibility for the leaks. Maybe it is statutory guidance and training, and a names safeguarding laision officer. Perhaps they’d find a way to ensure all users were over 18 if legal action accompanies it. Maybe it is impossible without some sort of international guidance, but you cannot deny that these corporations are letting this happen, profitting from it and then walking away from it with no accountability at all. I really think we will look back on this era of child exploitative social media in horror.


Further reading:





08 Aug

Ed Tech – What actually works in the classroom?

I asked a simple question on twitter and reddit – and was amazed at the number of responses!

I was interested in what people thought made the use of Ed Tech worthwhile, and any stories that came about from the use of technology in the classroom. I’ve put a list of any mentioned resources and devices at the bottom of the post!

I have organised this in five key areas – it’s worth mentioning though that this is quite loose! It is interesting though that whilst these areas were mentioned in a variety of ways, I didn’t hear much about ‘engagement’ or ‘motivation’ – areas which are traditionally signalled as reasons to get technology in the classroom. I’m actually pretty pleased about that!


Without a doubt the top outcome that was mentioned. Collaboration seems to be key. And with all interested parties. Collaboration with parents, with other schools, with ‘hard to reach’ parents (for whatever reason). Collaboration with an ‘end purpose’ and, of course, pupils collaborating to create. Blogging, using various platforms, was mentioned as was cloud services such as Google Drive. The technology varied, from online creation such as Book Creator to the use of ‘portable’ devices which would support collaboration. Teachers seemed to value the possibilities.


Access and Special Needs

I have talked about how great I found the iPad for Educational Needs so it came as no suprise to read all of the great stories about how we are using technology in the classroom to adapt it to the needs of our learners. The trusty Smart Interactive Whiteboard was mentioned here, both for the use as an interactive and accessible screen and also as a display mechanism for images and video. The use of images and games for areas such as Vocabulary, Social Stories and supporting specific needs. Capturing non written evidence and sharing achievements was also mentioned.


Feedback and Guidance

The feedback and ‘immediacy’ of using technology was also mentioned, cameras in the classroom for evidence, screencasting using apps such as Explain Everything. The classroom Visualiser was mentioned as an excellent way of sharing work and offering up feedback (including group work). Flip cameras were mentioned, as well as the use of photographs for evidence.


Accessing other resources

Technology as a gateway to a whole range of other resources was also mentioned by many – authentic foreign language resources for example, websites such as the science PHeT site which provides video and virtual experiments. Resources and ideas that just wouldn’t be available otherwise. It’s worth considering that the ‘internet’ as a gateway was mentioned – a decent bandwidth was mentioned by some – how often do you rely on the internet in your classroom?

What did people mention?


Google Drive – mentioned by many!

Book Creator (iPad)

Lucid Charts

Office 365


PHeT Site

Explain Everything (iPad)

KidBlog Dot Org (blogging platform)



Scribblenauts (iPad game – used for vocab)


Mentioned devices: visualisers, smartboards, flip cameras, iPads, portable devices, Chromebooks


A huge thanks to all who answered my questions, retweeted by tweets and generally got invovled! Definitely for me one of the biggest reasons to get involved in technology for educational purposes!!

It will be interesting to redo this small survey next year and check out the changes!

Thanks for reading – feel free to leave your comment – I’m sure things have been missed!


24 May

New Curriculum Update – Six tips!

This post follows on from this which charted the beginning if our new curriculum journey.

Since then we have spent several staff meetings reviewing and working on our curriculum map. Here I thought I’d share six points that have worked!

Remember – keep what makes your curriculum special! What are your drivers?

  • Create a working party!

It will be far easier to get all involved!

  • Link the literacy curriculum to books (and damn the genre recommendations!)

The literacy curriculum can look a little ‘bare’ – and there is plenty of grammar and punctuation to get in there. Spend some time assigning books to year groups and topics – something that will give a focus for the staff.

  • Give staff time to be creative!

Giving staff an overview of expectations for the new curriculun means that you can then sit down and decide how the map will look – e.g. An extended study in history could be a look at War or the Ancient Civilisation you study in depth could have some connections to an already established partnership country. Give them this and then let them discuss creative topics!

  • Share resources – little and often

There are lots of resources and ideas out there – share these:

The Historical Association are currently building unit plans and resources
The BBC are conntinuing to create and share great resources for history
The Geographical Association – lots of ideas and resources (membership)
Human Evolution (BBC)
Information from Geogspace about Geographical Enquiry
Computing and coding
  • Make expectations explicit for core subjects!
Many of the changes will require some thinking about the aims for the end of the year – maths / english especially. Share these and start the conversation over how we can fit all this in. For example will you have a ‘World Week’ with quizzes and competitions to share (and assess) geographical knowledge? Do staff know enough about the history they will be teaching? What challenges might there be with the new expectations for maths?
  • Start the conversation about assessment….

There is an excellent post here by Heather Leatt which sets out what we know. Talk to cluster schools and begin to think about the language the school will use for assessment. We can’t use NC levels, so what should we do? We’re working on end of year descriptions for foundation subjects, and looking into how we can pass that information up so it’s not lost in transition!



Other information and links you may find useful:
Headteacher Update Article
Michael Tidd is single handedly introducing the new curriculum here...


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!