Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Using Facebook beyond school

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2012 at 8:21 am

With the use of Facebook and other social networking sites being considered by many schools as a way to communicate with parents, students and others, I have tried to pull together some information based on user groups such as Safetynet on the best way to go about this. please feel free to add your thoughts and experiences to help others.

Using Facebook to keep parents up to date is a good idea but start by consulting with them, if they do not want it there is little point in setting it up

Putting information up for older pupils is fine as long as the information can be accessed in other ways e.g. Twitter, the schools website or learning platform for those not wishing to engage with Facebook. (There may be cultural/social/technical issues around this)

Using Facebook for directly informing or communicating with pupils under 13 should not be done, as this may be seen as encouraging them to use Facebook. I appreciate that you can view Facebook pages without logging on, but to like etc. you need to be logged in.

Putting information relevant to pupils under 13 for parental information and for parents to share with their children should be okay. In this way pupils may get reminders etc. by looking at the public page, but are not being told to use it. Think carefully about what you do put up in case it encourages students under 13 to join the site.

 Administratively, it is better to only allow likes on posts, as this ensures you don’t need to moderate it 24/7 (also there is the being responsible for comments on your site issue).

 A useful way of parents contacting the school could be through the messaging option, as long as this is checked regularly.

It would be prudent not to mention specifics when discussion trips etc., as there might be child protection issues around revealing where pupils are going and when, on a public site.

Ensure that at least two people have access to the facebook account at all times to ensure child protection when it comes to private messages etc. Possibly set up a new email address in our system to monitor this.

Ensure the site is kept active and up to date or it will become a a waste of time and fail to achive the impact you are looking for

Trips – If you are going to use this to feedback/update to parents about  these activioties ensure that the school has good risk assessments in place for the actual trip and covers the use of social media.

If you plan to add pictures of pupils, ensure your policy is clear and up to date, and follow the usual advice such as not to use full names etc. Again, you will need parental consent for this.

There is still a problem with pictures (even without using names) in that they can be tagged.  A good way of avoiding this is to have content of this sort appearing to be in Facebook whilst actually being hosted elsewhere and pulled in to sit inside Facebook – removing the functions that exist for all content hosted by Facebook.

 Have a look at something like www.facebook.com/barrowfordschool or www.facebook.com/whittleprimary – these were done with some tools developed by Social School Media.


Getting started with programming

In Uncategorized on March 27, 2012 at 8:07 pm

If, like many schools, you are looking to develop programming but aren’t sure where to start here are a few places worth a few minutes to look at;

Microsoft Kodu – Kodu is a new visual programming language made specifically for creating games. It is designed to be accessible for children and enjoyable for anyone. The programming environment runs on the Xbox, allowing rapid design iteration using only a game controller for input. http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/projects/kodu/

Code Academy – JavaScript is a programming language that grew out of a need to add interactivity to web sites within the browser. It has since evolved into an incredibly versatile language that is used for both client-side (within the browser) and server-side (code that serves web pages to users) applications – http://www.codecademy.com/#!/exercises/0


If, like many schools, you are looking to develop programming but aren’t sure where to start here are a few places worth a few minutes to look at;


Microsoft Kodu – Kodu is a new visual programming language made specifically for creating games. It is designed to be accessible for children and enjoyable for anyone. The programming environment runs on the Xbox, allowing rapid design iteration using only a game controller for input. http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/projects/kodu


Hackasaurus – Hackasaurus makes it easy to mash up and change any web page like magic. You can also create your own webpages to share with your friends, all within your browser – http://hackasaurus.org/en-US/

Scratch – Scratch is a programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art — and share your creations on the web – http://scratch.mit.edu/    Educators resource site – http://info.scratch.mit.edu/Educators 



ICT or Computing. Is this really what it’s all about, one or the other?

In Uncategorized on March 26, 2012 at 10:04 am

With all the fuss and discussions following on from Michael Gove’s seepech at BETT about the re-focus on the introduction of computing in schools, I tough people might be interetsed in this interview of Ollie Bray (Learning and Teaching, Scotland) http://bit.ly/A5AdCi at the NAACE conference earlier this year. If we aren’t careful we will loose sight of what we are about and spend all our time jumping from one thing to the next without really knowing why. There is a place for all the aspects he talks about without the knee jerk recation we are seeing towards computing. It has always been about the need to provide high quality learning , a broad and balanced curriculum and developing an understanding about how technology works, can be applied to help us and equally importantly when not to. I liken it a stage, currently Computing is in the spotlight and the other aspects of the subject are sitting in the shadows but they are still there playing a part and can’t be ignored. If we do we won’t do our learners any favours.

Third line support for learning

In Uncategorized on March 21, 2012 at 8:30 am

Using technology within a classroom has always had the implication of one of two things;

  • Teacher-led activity through such things as interactive whiteboards and other whole class teaching technologies
  • Student focussed activity which has in many cases meant students working individually on activities such as the research and production of content or presentations

Is there a third approach within which the technology acts as a tool to support learners with access to a range of learning materials?

 If we consider how many of us learn best, we do so in 3 main ways;

  • By doing and experimenting (sometimes called playing!)
  • By reading instructional material such as handbooks or text books
  • By being shown and mentored by a peer (including the use of video resources)

 In many cases it is often a combination of two or three of these that provide us with the knowledge we require and how to apply this to complete tasks or activities. This is often very different from the learning experience that our students where within a class there is a single resource and approach as to how the students will learn. This is where the technology provides a unique learning tool and brings a third approach into learning. Rather than either a single device or the 1-2-1 device approach, we have a small number of devices deployed in the room or with easy access so that students can do on needs basis. The key here I feel is providing access to a range of resources, this could simply be a list of web sites and resources that provide access to alternative learning approaches described above and the style be used in the classroom. For example




http://www.apple.com/uk/education/itunes-u/ (You will require iTunes installed)

 By having access to these, any student who is struggling to come to terms with the required learning or need additional support, can access the same knowledge and skills but through an alternative medium and a different approach. This also provides the opportunity for them to work more independently.

 In the case of teaching ICT, this approach could be applied possibly more so where students tend to have an increased access to technology and as such these resources. What needs to be said is that this does not remove or replace the role of the teacher but allow them to re-focus what they do in the time available, making better use of there ability to act as the primary tool for intervention rather than just as ‘first line support’. In the current climate of Ofsted and the focus on learning and behaviour if we can empower students to develop not only knowledge but also the capacity to learn and allowing the teacher to focus on assessing students and helping those who need it the greatest.



All or nothing – why do we think this has to be the way?

In Uncategorized on March 6, 2012 at 8:06 pm

I have just had 45 minutes browsing the web randomly following some interesting links which we all know is a great way to waste some productive time! Anyway I was reading an article that was commenting on flipped learning. If you have never come across this, it is a way of reversing the learning experience where students look at a lecture (or at least the knowledge bit) before they arrive in class. Once they arrive they are set on to tasks where the lecturer acts as a mentor and supports them through the application of the knowledge in examples and activities. I am not criticising the comments as they are an opinion and we need people to have these but what struck me was that in many cases of adoption of new ideas we so often go to extremes and see these things as the ‘next great thing’ and try to replace everything we do with this. We are in fear of throwing baby out with the bath water if we aren’t careful, surely we need to evaluate the best approach to teaching something rather than simply trying to teach everything through the same approach.  The best teachers are those who have good subject knowledge, understands and can apply a range of strategies, understand technology and how it can impact on learning and the most important bit can apply these critically to learning. (Take a look at TPACK http://mkoehler.educ.msu.edu/tpack/  if you want to know more)They know when to apply flipped learning and how to achieve impact through it in the classroom but also know when not use it. Lets’ not get drawn into a ‘one approach works for all’, it’s all about use what is right for that learning.

For more information on Flipped Learning follow the links below



Social bookmarking to support learning

In Uncategorized on February 2, 2012 at 12:09 pm

How often have we found really useful websites and resources and then forgotten where we put them? Have you ever  had students come up with some great resources and they can’t remember where to find them? Using a class web-based social networking site could help to solve this and provide some amazing additional benefits. Students can submit resources that they found helpful as they researched a project,  learnt a new skill or revised for a test – by doing this it provides not only different resources that could suit a variety of children but also allows for great discussions on validity and accuracy of data on the web. For example you could ask each child to find a resource or site that would help others in the class to get ready for a test, certain sites may be agreed as no-go such as Wikipedia so it can help to get students to look elsewhere and find other reliable resources. These resources would then be available both in and out of school for all students and provide student-led, differentiated resources that they have identified as being useful. After all who do the students listen to most, teachers or their peers? I’ll let you decide that one for yourselves.

Useful links


Ideas for using social networking

As engaging as computer games

In Uncategorized on January 24, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Let me start of by saying that I am not one of those who advocates  that all teaching should be done through a games environment but I do believe that games do have their place in education but like all things it is the ‘right tool at the right time’. Those of us who have watched children and teenagers in particular will be very aware how engrossed that they get when inovlved in computer games. They will play for hours and often not making any real progress, probably trying the same level or activity time and time again, yet if we compare this to the way that they approach work in schools we dont seem to get the same approach. So my question is why is it that they can focus on these activities for sustained periods of time (in many cases longer than is really healthy!), accept failure as part of the process, show a willingness to keep trying until they get it right and the the determination to succeed. Aren’t many of these atributes the same as the ones we are looking for in learning? If the answer is yes then how do we harness this? I don’t believe that playing computer based games or simply by  putting content on to the internet will solve the problem but i think that if we are going to turn children into life long learners we need to find a way to make learning as engaging as computer games appear to be.

What are the key features of these games that engage students – challenge, interaction, immediate feed back, rewards, progression, competition (perceived or otherwise) and success. If teaching can harness some or all of these features then I feel we have a chance of engaging learners in the same way that the games do, we have to move away from a ‘TV’ approach of delivery. Again those who have teenagers will be very aware that they don’t engage with TV unless they other things going on and are often not there most receptive in this mode, try asking one what the show was about or see how long they will actually concentrate without doing something else  such as text, BBM or check out Facebook.

What students want is to be stimulated, engaged and challenged not just to be static, passive receivers of content. So lets take a lead from computer games and lets see how we can  apply these principles to what we do and see what difference that makes.

Developing digital literacy – secret champions

In Uncategorized on January 17, 2012 at 9:20 pm

As we move further into the digital age, we see more and more students using the internet to source information and create documents using this information. In many cases this has been done with little or no thought about the valididty of the content or the recognition on the ownership and intellectual property rights. If we are not careful we will have developed a ‘copy and paste generation’ who will loose the capacity to question or challange anything. Look at the growth in the use of sites such as Wikipeadia and yet we now see colleges refusing to accept anything refernced form this site due to the nature of the way it is managed. If we are to avoid the potential risk of students falling foul of plagarism or simply believing that ‘if its on the web it has got to be true’ then we need to get pro-active to providing them with the tools and the thinking capacity to undertsand the web and the content they find. Alan November tells an interesting story about a student called Zac and how he fell foul of this lack of understanding  and although it is an old tale, it is becoming even more relative in the current climate. Follow this link to find out more. This highlights the issue that we are seeing and my question is how do we go about making students ‘digitally literate’. In mant cases we have a disjoint between what we would deem normal literacy and digital literacy as they are seen as two separate entities yet in many cases they are closely linked; reading content, making sense of it, validating it and identifying bias are all skills that someone who reads newpapers or researches would be expected to perform when using books and in many cases this activity would be supported by librarians and those who work within these kind of facilities, so why not get them to develop the same approach to the digital world. After all we are seeing many schools renaming the resouces to such things as Learning Resource Centres with greater numbers of devices in them with internet access. So doesn’t it make sense to work with these people to create  literacy champions who can address both real virtual worlds and transfer their knowlewdge of both to the students they work in real contexts rather just leave it to the ICT department to do a short course as part of a scheme of work. In many cases they will be able to support students to make sense of what they are looking at and think about what they present rather both in class and in their ‘libraries’ and help them move away from the Wikipeadia dependent culture which we are in fear of developing.

Useful links

Designing Libraries: Learning for a Lifetime

Developing digital literacy

Thinking about learning!

In Uncategorized on December 26, 2011 at 9:24 pm

Welcome to my thought’s! The aim of this blog is really for a place for me to put my thoughts on education and how technology can possibly influence and affect the may that students learn and teachers engage with them. For too long we have used the latest technology simply as a replacement for the last one and simply done the same things with them. Take the pencil, this has been superceeded by the desktop, the laptop, the netbook and I am sure the new generation of mobile devices. As Alan November has so eloquently put  that these devices have simply become “the $1000 dollar pencil”. We need to look at the needs of learners and how we can use the amazing opportunities that new technologies bring rather simple how it can replace the old ones.