Thursday, 31 March 2016


Academics communicate at speed. Their vocabulary is technical and extensive. Their life experiences are very different to the average year 5 pupil. They have different education experiences and expectations. All of this makes it surprising that I have long advocated the use of Skype in the classroom; each time I use this medium I see new advantages.

Today at Rufford Primary School our year 5 class skyped Dr Ross Church from the Department of Astronomy and Theoretical Physics at Lund University in Sweden. The topic this half term has been “Space”.
We organised the morning by having three sessions: a classroom session on how to conduct yourself online and remain safe, a session about Dr Church and his work and we finished with an open Q and A on anything about space.
Technically, the Skype call was not without difficulties as the video quality was variable so we finished the session using IM to ask any outstanding questions. The children were really tolerant when the video quality deteriorated. They were genuinely interested in Dr. Church and what he shared with them. They listened carefully and were able to respond with follow up questions. They really liked having their questions answered immediately by an expert; they voted it better than books and Google. Terms like “Spaghettification” and the importance of looking for plants on stars and planets will be remembered for ever.

We would all like to say a huge “THANK-YOU” to Dr. Church for sharing his time and expertise with us. It was a great end to our Space project. 

Friday, 12 February 2016



We started the digital leader group 2 years ago at Rufford Primary School. The members are drawn from each class in KS2. It’s interesting to see how pupils from different year groups work together and learn from each other. The original members were chosen by teachers but we have switched to having an open application system and hopeful Digital Leaders (DLs) are interviewed by a panel of pupils. Using this method, we have just recruited 6 new members.

The responsibilities of digital leaders are to help teachers, pupils and visitors with any IT problems they might have. They are skilled at connecting computers and tablets to the various boards and LCD panels around school. We meet after school once a week where we explore different things. This year we started by looking at online quiz tools. Each DL made a resource and delivered it in their classrooms. We have also learnt about cryptography and made some videos using greenscreen technology. Next half term we will be using the sublimation equipment to make mugs and trying out the codebots.

It’s a privilege to be a digital leader. It’s also a privilege for me to work with them. They are a lively, articulate and committed group. I see them grow in confidence as they learn new skills and contribute to the school community by helping others.  If you haven’t started a group at your own school then give it a go. Yes, it’s extra work, but the benefits more than outweigh this.

I hope you will find time to watch the videos that they have made. We welcome feedback and any suggestions you might have.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Breakfast Seminar in March

Cath Marsh from Clicker is hosting a FREE breakfast seminar in our region on March 15th. The focus will be improving reading and writing with Clicker 7, the award-winning literacy support tool. We really hope that you will be able to attend.

From planning, to writing, to proofing - Clicker includes all the tools your pupils need to succeed. New for 2016, Clicker 7 builds on previous versions of this much-loved software to provide the ultimate cross-curricular literacy toolkit. iPad apps also available.

The seminar is from 8:15am to 10:00am and the details are below:
Nottingham Breakfast Seminar
15th March 2016
Nottingham Village Urban Resort, Brailsford Way, Chilwell, Beeston, Nottingham, NG9 6DL

For more information please click here

Wednesday, 3 February 2016


I was fortunate to be allowed to attend BETT in London last week. The exhibition provides an opportunity for companies to showcase the products that they have created to support schools using technology. It’s a huge affair and increasingly attracts companies and delegates from Europe and beyond. In addition, there are seminar areas offering a rolling program of drop in talks. In my experience the most useful of these are given by teachers showcasing what they are doing in the classroom.

I attended a talk on using Minecraft in the classroom. It alleviated any concerns I had and enthused me to give it a go. I just need some money to buy the edu version and a school to work with! Rising stars are bringing out some materials later this year and there is a free sample to download from their website. This explains really well how to manage Minecraft so that it provides a safe environment for children in school.

I also attended a talk on Power Bi in the Microsoft area. This is a free downloadable tool or part of Office 365.  I’ve looked at this before as its tagline is” bringing data to life” which definitely appeals to me. The talk wasn’t useful to me as it was geared towards academy trust management but I still think it’s a useful area to explore.

Some products really excited me. Codebug is a cheap (Surprisingly it’s cheaper to buy this from Rapid Electronics than directly from Codebug) programmable device with a 5x5 LED display. The programming is done using a web tool and it’s powered by a watch battery. At £12.50 each I’ve already ordered some for my digital leaders to have a go with. I recently used some crumble boards at Carrington School and was amazed by how easily they applied their programming experience gained in Scratch to another drag and drop programming language. One of the most impressive things I’ve seen this year. I have high hopes for the Codebugs.  

If you are an iPad school you probably use the Explain Everything App. They now have a resource (annual subscription) which allows simultaneous editing by pupils of a file. A bit like a wiki but using all the wonderful features of Explain Everything. This really impressed me.

Sometimes you see something at BETT that isn't relevant to your role but you can see it's usefulness nevertheless. This was the case when I visited the VEO stand. They have a tool that can be used in lesson observations. Observations are videoed using a tablet and key moments are tagged using a variety of fields (eg, type of questioning, type of activity)f or later reflection. Targets can be negotiated on the basis of the data gathered and teachers can be paired with colleagues who can support them. I have passed the information onto a colleague but if you are looking for a tool to help with observations this might work for you.

Another useful thing about BETT is that you can look at things and decide that they would not meet your needs, thus saving your school money. It would not be appropriate for me to mention those here! If you get the opportunity to go next year I would recommend it. Careful choice of seminars would be great CPD.

Monday, 25 January 2016


Last week I had a wonderful time working with the year 6 class at Carrington Primary School in Nottingham. Having recently purchased some Crumble Controller Sets from Redfern Electronics we tried out all sorts of programming and electronics activities. The lesson notes can be found by clicking here 

Wall display created after the session.
We started by connecting some LEDs to the boards and then programming them to switch on and off in different ways. Previous  experience with Scratch meant that the drag and drop interface in the Crumble programming tool was readily understood by the class. It was impressive how easily they applied their knowledge to the new interface.

We progressed to using the sparkle lights; pupils cooperated by connecting them in long chains and also programming them in different sequences. We then added a push button switch.

We finished by experimenting with the traffic light module. First programming an individual one and then combining laptops to control both directions of traffic and finally all 4 points of a crossroads. Our intention is to have a follow-up session attaching the crumble controllers to some crumble bots and programming them.

Evaluating the session we agreed that the learning objectives had been exceeded in all areas. I was impressed at how reliable the equipment was and how well it performed. The class really enjoyed the session as it reinforced and extended their programming and knowledge of electric circuits. They were extremely creative in solving problems and celebrated their successes.

Thank-you Carrington for inviting me to join you.
Nottingham e-Learning Community is part of Nottingham City Council, Children and Adults