Friday, 16 December 2016

Website Spoofing in Year 5

As adults we are aware that some websites are not what they pretend to be. When shopping online we check the validity of sites and the record of marketplace traders. We have learnt to recognise whether or not a government shop is what it claims to be. We use safety precautions when accessing our banks online. 

In order to help our pupils be more aware of internet falsehoods we looked at some spoof sites. My favourites are and Pupils were all initially completely convinced by these sites: Knowing that so many spoof websites exist will help pupils be aware that some websites are not what they pretend to be and help them to stay safe online in the future.

All pupils in year 5 then created a spoof website. We used Weebly Education, a free tool with teacher management, to create and host the sites. Pupils are really proud of what they have achieved in a relatively short time.

These links will let you look at some of their sites. I hope you enjoy them. Remember, the products that they advertise are not available for sale and that penguins don’t really like eating Big Macs and going on holiday in Spain!

Friday, 25 November 2016

Hour of Code

The Hour of Code is a great opportunity to get your school coding. This year it takes place from 5th - 11th December (which is also Computer Science Education Week),

New activities have been added alongside a filter tool that will allow teachers to find the best activity for your classroom.

For those who have never done the Hour of Code before be reassured that it’s a really straightforward: anybody can participate, no experience required, and it only takes an hour.

For veteran coders, there are new lesson plans that let you guide pupils through more complicated activities.  
Take a look at the website for new activities and how to sign up.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Courses in Computing

We have several courses running at the Nottingham eLearning Centre which may be of interest to you. I’ve attached the course diary so that you can distribute details to colleagues and I’ve also attached the flyer for the intensive day courses.

The September day courses are usually really popular but there are still spaces on all of them at the moment. They are a great opportunity for teachers or TAs who are new to the profession who would like to review the computing curriculum for their year group, try the activities and get lots of teaching ideas for all aspects of computing. They are also really useful for teachers who have changed year groups and are looking for new ideas appropriate for their new class. Bring a memory stick so that you can copy the curriculum documents and all of the resources.

We have changed the format for conferences for computing curriculum leaders this year. The day conferences have been replaced with half day network meetings each half term. It has become increasingly difficult to book enough rooms to offer the wide range of breakout sessions, hence the change. I hope you will still be able to support us and attend. In the first session we are also going to skype a company that offer free hire of 3d printers to primary schools which sounds really interesting.

A new venture is the Derby hub. We meet once each half term at St. James’ Junior School near the City Centre. We are a relatively new group but thriving. If your teachers would find it more convenient to travel there then please get in touch. The details of the meetings are on the Course Diary.

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.

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.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Stop-Frame Animation at Cantrell Primary School

I recently spent a wonderful time at Cantrell Primary School in Nottingham. In year 4 our focus was to explore stopframe animation on the theme of A Roman adventure. We used iPads and the Zu3D app. Children worked in pairs having already made their plasticine models.

Setting up the stage and workspace is key to success in stop-frame animations. Our stages were a collection of old computer boxes with an A3 image blutacked to them. To raise the characters we used a pile of books covered in sugar paper and the ipads were supported vertically using a stand fashioned from a copier paper box lid. A bit Heath Robinson but it works and is cheap!

If you are unfamiliar with the Zu3D app it will be helpful to know that it has a really easy to use interface and in addition to capturing and editing frames it is possible to add music and sound effects, record voice overs, add and edit titles and subtitles and add speech bubbles. We didn’t explore the ability to group frames and the copy, paste and reverse them. The class were completely engaged by the task, collaborated well with their partners and met a really tight deadline to complete their animations. The results were fantastic!
Thanks-you for inviting me to your school to lead this project. You can see some pictures of the day by clicking here
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