Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Teachers work too hard!

School holidays are a great time to start thinking about the new school year. It occurs to me that most people have a period of reflection on December 31st when we look back on the year just ending, work out what was gone well and, perhaps, what could have been improved on. We make resolutions for the new year to help us in the drive to make the next year even better than the one just ending.

As teachers we have an additional opportunity for this process of evaluation and quest for improvement because in our planning for September ( Nottingham we return in August) we do exactly the same thing. Teachers are amongst the most reflective of all professionals, always striving for more from themselves and constantly looking for ways to communicate in interesting and exciting ways.

For those people out there who still think that teachers spend six weeks somewhere exotic every Summer without a thought for their work I can verify that this isn't the case; I have a steady stream of emails from teachers throughout the break asking for advice or wanting to book a session with me. 

To every teacher I have worked with last year I congratulate you on the amazing work you do everyday in the classroom. You deserve a fantastic holiday.
Please stop emailing me and thinking about work!

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Moving Forward Together with Computing

Courses to equip you to deliver Computing lessons in your school

These courses are aimed at NQTs, TAs and more experiences teachers who may lack confidence in delivering all aspects of the new computing curriculum.

The courses provide a unique opportunity to develop computing curriculum expertise and become more confident in the classroom. In a day we shall break the computing curriculum down and look at all the different aspects of computer science, digital literacy, safety and computer theory.

These courses are deliberately scheduled at the start of the year to have maximum impact.

The dates and target audience are:
KS1: Led by Jan Gray on Monday 26th September 2016
Lower KS2: Led by Janet Simner on Tuesday 27th September 2016
Upper KS2: Led by Janet Simner on Friday 30th September 2016


For more details, including booking information, please click here  or contact Janet Simner on 07957206921  or

Friday, 27 May 2016


The year 6 class at Rufford Primary School have just successfully completed their project for this halfterm. I can take no credit for the planning and execution of the majority of this; the class teacher has run the project alongside SATs and the residential experience that followed. She commented that making the fairground models acted as a great stress reliever and that pupils were able to be really creative.

When the project was first mentioned I suggested using our Crumble Boards (Redfern Electronics) to program the fairground models. I have to admit that I didn’t know how we were going to achieve this but it did seem like a great idea! The class have already used Scratch extensively and are going to use Kodu next half term but the Crumble Boards offered a great opportunity to program for a real purpose. You can watch a video of their work here:

It was fantastic! It was great to see children showing respect for the equipment, putting their circuit work into practice, solving problems and applying the programming techniques that they had used previously. They also enjoyed it. We could have used a battery pack to power the rides but the crumble boards allowed us to do much more including change speed, change direction and add lights.

We will definitely do this again. 

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Using Codebugs at Rufford Primary School

In the past on February 3rd 2016 I wrote about visiting BETT and seeing “codebugs”, a small device that can have programs downloaded onto it. In case you want to read more the relevant URL is

This little device is proving very successful at KS2. The programming tool is accessed on their website; this appears to be more reliably accessed on Chrome but is usually OK on Internet Explorer. New programming blocks are being added all the time which encourages children to explore.
I am not using this tool to introduce the programming requirements of the Computing curriculum; I prefer to use Scratch, Scratch Jr and a variety of other apps and websites for this. What is really exciting to observe is how easily knowledge previously gained is used in the Codebug environment. The commands in the IF and LOOPS folders are readily applied and any different terminology used creates opportunities for discussion.
The programming tool uses an emulator to test programs before downloading them onto the device. This has been a very successful medium to identify the testing process and separate it from the execution phase. Children find it exciting to use the emulator but excitement reaches a new level when they use the device.
Like most teachers I have very few original ideas but I excel in adapting those made available by other people. My lessons, depending on year group, prior programming experience and time, usually follow these ideas:
  • Drawing sequences of characters and designed sprites on the 5x5 LED matrix, using WAIT to allow them all to be viewed
  • Scrolling a string on the screen
  • Looping, either a set number of times or while a condition is TRUE
  • Incorporating inputs from the 2 buttons and using sleep to delay the start
  • Making choices depending on which button is pressed
  • Downloading onto the device
I then use a couple of ideas from the Codebug website:
  • Does this object conduct electricity?
  • Making a steady hand game
I don’t have any of the hardware add ons for the device. However, I have added the colourtail in the emulator and programmed that. This was very successful in revisiting variables and using them to create light patterns. I hope to try using sound soon if I can find some headphones!

I have experienced some problems using the programming tool when numbers become detached from blocks and can’t be reinserted. Children currently have to bin the whole block and replace it.
I’m prepared to forgive the shortfalls of the device in being used on battery power rather than connected to the computer because they are really appealing and cost effective, although I have to share devices which is a little inconvenient.
If you haven’t tried using this little device that give it a go. They are very favourably received by children, opportunities for the application of knowledge previously acquired is a real strength of the device.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Computing Coordinator Conference Summer Term 2016

Moving Forward Together with Computing 

You are invited to join us for our our Summer Computing Coordinator
Conference on Monday May 23rd 2016 at the Top Valley Centre.

The linking theme will be “Awesome Websites to engage and impress”. We all become entrenched so this is an opportunity to take some new ideas back to your school. As usual there will be a mix of sessions including a variety based on programming at KS2 and also ideas for digital literacy at KS1.
The day will be structured with whole group linking sessions on the main theme and longer breakout sessions where you can pursue topics of your choice. All the presenters are teachers based in the Nottingham area; we want to support you in developing the computer curriculum in your school.
For more information about the event please click here or contact Janet.
Nottingham e-Learning Community is part of Nottingham City Council, Children and Adults