Monday, 27 January 2014

BETT2014 Highlights and heartbreak

It's Monday morning and my brain is buzzing after spending Saturday at BETT. I left my bag of swag (leaflets) at home, so will go through them later in the week and will post here again, but wanted to talk about some of my highlights.


There were lots of stalls with 3D Printers, but I thought Go 3D Print were the best, as they were friendly and honest and very approachable. I have been thinking about getting a MakerBot for a while but have not been swayed towards the smaller, cheaper Up Plus 2 3D printer. This comes in at £1349 or £1618 with VAT, and produces objects of the same quality as the larger MakerBot, but obviously at a smaller size. I don't see myself making any large items, so this does not mater at all to me!
Go Print 3D are not an educational firm, but part of a larger printer company - however they are moving more towards education and getting teachers to help them with lesson plans.

[I have a couple of ideas for units involving a 3D printer, including getting students to design a game, similar to Monopoly, but with our core values OR getting students to design buildings as part of a town planning unit]

Replay events bring old computers, from the 1980s, to classrooms, to teach students how to code, but also to give them an awareness of the history of computers and how technology is always changing. I thought this was rad and got very excited about it - apart from when they people on the stall suggested that I was brought up using these computers, and I had to tell them that "I am younger than I look." - which made everyone very embarrassed - (I was born in 1987, so not at primary/secondary in the 80s)

Speaking with Replay they told me that they do half day sessions with up to 30 students. I've since had a look at their site and they seem to do loads of cool sessions, including lots using games! I am going to find out prices for their visits and try and arrange one at my school, and will post details as soon as this happens!

WishTrac are the next people who got me excited. I met up with an ICT teacher from my old school and told him to take me to all the best stalls. WishTrac was a tiny little stall, a bit cluttered, so may not have stood out to a lot of people, but it was worth the visit! WishTrac were there to promote their Raspberry Pi kits...which were AWESOME. They had a whole range of kits starting from easy to difficult. These kits included making a traffic light, a buzzer kit and a quiz kit. They also have a CD rom with all the lesson plans, worksheets, presentations and other useful resources. The best thing is the kits start at £10.99!
I have just been awarded five Google Raspberry Pis for taking part in Hour of Code, so these kits will work perfectly alongside them!

I didn't manage to see many talks as I was only able to get to BETT for a short while on the Saturday. However I really liked Lanky Boi Ray's talk and have since become a bit obsessed with Touch Develop. He also spoke about taking students off the timetable for an appathon and think I may do something very similar at my school. At the moment I am teaching grade 8s to code and they will then teach teachers and parents. I am now thinking about getting them to design an afternoon where they whole school come off timetable and code! It is always great to see talks by educators who give you practical ideas and solutions. Next year I need to get to a lot more talks!
Ray has tons of resources for teachers - I have only just looked at a bit of his site and already have tons of things I can use in class! One of my students is doing a presentation on Touch Develop tomorrow and will be talking about some of Ray's resources!

I visited the Google stall to ask about the Google Apps Training and was happy to be told about a lot of changes to this. Google now have short, non-assessed courses, that educators and teachers can do online here. The courses cover everything from Google Drive to Digital Literacy. As I work in an iPad 1:1 school, where we have Google Apps and students use Gmail and Google Drive daily I am thrilled to see these changes.  I have been planning to get Google Certified soon and these lessons are a perfect training tool to get my ready for the tests! 

Uh Oh.

My only problem with some of the stalls at BETT was that they had really latched onto the idea that we need to promote STEM/coding to girls, but had done it in a really patronising way. It always baffles me why people have such low expectations of girls, who assume that they way to get girls involved is to talk about shoes and make-up!
The most disappointing experience of the weekend was going to Lego Education, which I thought would be my highlight. I went over to talk about MindStorms and other ways to use Lego, including using Lego Baseplates on the walls of my wall, but was shown the catalogue and was told almost straight away 'if you teach girls, you should buy this bundle with extra pink bricks'. I was actually really shocked that they said this and assumed that they thought I was a primary school teacher, (maybe as I was a young woman) and also that girls would simply want pink bricks. I felt a bit sick to be honest. I think I may have ranted at the person and started talking about how offensive the Lego Friends range is also...oh dear.

Apart from having my heart broken by Lego - the weekend was great.

You can also listen to the TES Ed Tech Special Podcast - where they interviewed people at BETT.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014


I have lots of plans!

I deleted all my units for the rest of the year so that I could rewrite them.
Now we have:

Grade 6
Currently doing the BBC School Report, (my lesson plans can be found here).
March-AprilCardboard Challenge! Students will build a cardboard arcade inspired by the documentary Caine's Arcade, using resources from the Imagination Foundation's Cardboard Challenge
A Food Tech unit, probably a picnic themed one or one relating to a book they have studied this year.

Grade 7
Currently doing a unit where they learn to code and then teach our grade 6s to code, (my lesson plans can be found here).
A Food Tech unit. Students will created an edible cinema experience, (inspired by Edible Cinema). Here all students will be off timetable and will watch a film together. There will be lots of small dishes and a menu telling you exactly when to eat the dish - these will be inspired by food in the film or things happening in the film.
Guerrilla Gardening! Students will learn about Guerrilla Gardening and will make seed bombs and plantable paper. We will also start a small herb and vegetable garden!

Grade 8

Currently doing a unit where they learn to code and then teach teachers and parents to code, (my lesson plans can be found here).
Cardboard Challenge! Students will build a cardboard arcade inspired by the documentary Caine's Arcade, using resources from the Imagination Foundation's Cardboard Challenge.
An App Shed unit - where students get to design and create their own apps. There will be a theme to this, but it is undecided at the moment.
I will be doing a project with the maths department. Students will create a blog as their favourite mathematician, it will include videos, a fake Facebook and Twitter feed, and hopefully we will get the different mathematicians interacting! Although this might sound a bit dull for some groups, it is something that the grade 8s will love, get excited about and they will produce very interesting blogs!

Grade 9

Currently doing a food tech unit - this however is top secret - I will post more information after our event.
I will be doing a joint project with the maths department, where students will code Arduino robots! We may also look a bit at how robots are benefiting the world, with special attention played to these rad Paro Therapeutic Robot SEAL PUPS - make to keep elderly people company!
An App Shed unit - where students get to design and create their own apps. There will be a theme to this, but it is undecided at the moment.


Why BETT Why?

I was really excited about BETT, and in a way I still am, but this has really put me off. I thought the organisers has a bit more understanding of what teachers want, but by booking Gove they have shown themselves to be out of touch.  That picture makes me feel a little sick.


On Monday evening I went to a hack event at Google Campus by AppShed. Here educators and PHP developers met to see the new changes to AppShed. I found that it was quite difficult for the AppShed team to address the audience as they had both techie and non-techie people, but it definitely lit an AppShed fire in my belly! Some of the information delivered went a bit over my head and there was a lot of jargon, however they did manage to show the basics of building an app, and the things I didn't understand I have confidence that I will understand soon! AppShed provides a lot of resources for using the site, all with easy to understand language and step by step guides here.

I have built an App creation unit into my next term for both grades 8 and 9. Grade 8 are very techie and spend a lot of time coding anyway, so they will have a short four week unit, (followed by a unit I am delivering with the maths teacher) and grade 9 will have an 8 week unit.

I will share the lesson plans once I have them, but at the moment I am still looking for ideas from other educators. Some of the ideas I have already include creating an app for the school, creating an app about the International Baccalaureate, creating an app to assist and welcome new students or an app to promote a charity or to raise awareness of a particular issue. I also thought of getting students to focus on one topic they have learnt in another class and create a revision app for that, with links to videos, websites, worksheets, iBooks, etc. I'd also like to look into themed fun apps, maybe a time travel app or a super hero kit?

Please share your ideas. At the moment I am buzzing with tons of ideas, but nothing stands out to me yet!

AppShed offer a school subscription, which allows students to monitor student work and chooses when the apps are published online. As a very small school I will start off with the free account, as I can easily monitor my students in class and they are a pretty sensible bunch. I'd like to know more about the educational site, but at the moment it doesn't seem necessary for me. AppShed offers tutorials through their YouTube channel and it has a whole range of tutorials and other resources to help you get to grips with it, through their Learn page.

If you'd like to find out more about AppShed you can visit their Twitter, Website or YouTube channel.

If you want to find out more visit them at BETT. I'll be around on the Saturday - if you want to meet up tweet me.

P.S. I got a bit distracted during the talk and knocked this app out. 

Guest Post at Kuato Studios

Before the winter break we took part in Hour of Code using both and the app Hakitzu Elite Robot Hackers. I was lucky enough to have some people from the Kuato studios visit our school to work with our grade 7 and 8 students.

I wrote a blog about it over on Kuato Studio's site. You can read it here.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Decimals to Fractions

In my last school we had a fantastic educational YouTube Channel ARKVega, set up by one of our vice principals Ben McCarey. I created lots of videos for it, including a very awkward maths video! Basically I show you how to turn decimals into fractions while rambling on about pizza!

TES Resources

Following on from my last post, I have tried to change the way I am writing my lesson plans completely. At my school we deliver our courses through iTunesU. In here I have all my lessons, but they are written with the intended audience being the student. I know exactly how I will teach each lesson and have the resources within the course, but if I share it with another educator, they might not be able to bridge those gaps. I have now started writing out my lesson plans in full, using the different points from the 5 minute lesson plan, including 'The Big Picture', "Stickability' and 'Key Words'. Although I do fine without these, I find that it is useful for me having the key words written out.  I also know that if I want to re-teach a unit in a few years time, it will help me having the full lesson plan. 

Most importantly it helps me to share my resources with fellow educators.

I had taken a bit of a break from uploading resources onto TES, but I am now back! Have a look at my lesson plans for my Coding Unit Here and my lesson plans for my BBC School Report unit here

Here are some other lesson plans, posters, resources, etc that I have uploaded in the past.
They aren't as detailed as my new lesson plans, but they should still be useful!
Feel free to change/adapt these as much as you want. Some of these are from 2/3 years ago, so probably need some updating! If you use them, please leave a comment or rate them.

Thank You


Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Five Minute Lesson Plan

I am sure you have all seen the Five Minute Lesson Plan created by Teacher Toolkit, but have you actually used it? It is one of those things that I often retweet or drag on to my desktop, but have never actually used. However, it's a new year and time for some changes!

Although created to help teachers create lessons quickly, especially last minute, it can be used for more detailed lesson plans. I deliver all my courses through iTunesU and have the main objectives and resources on there, but they are written for the students. I use the Five Minute Lesson Plan to complicate these lessons, putting them in teacher friendly terms, helping me to understand my own objectives and to have a stronger sense of the class' structure!

As I am teaching two grades a unit on coding, where they will not only learn to code, but will teach coding, I have started to think more about how I plan my lessons. I've gone back to basics and have been looking at lots of resources shared with me over the last few years and have found the five minute lesson plan to be the most useful. I have added it into the course I am teaching and will get students to refer to it when planning their coding lessons and tutorials.

At we are at the start of a new year, I have started using it myself. I think that people who have been teaching for a while automatically cover all the elements from the plan, but by having them written down in front of me means I definitely make a more conscious effort to check that students are learning exactly what I want them to learn, and within the lesson.

For me, the most important thing is to think about the key words, as I often just assume students already know these or pick them up easily. By noting down the words I want students to learn I can refer to them throughout my lessons. I am thinking of using them in a short test at the end of each unit, where students create their own glossaries with them. It would be done in the same format as a spelling test, but with more time for them to write down the definition.

By writing down how I differentiate will help me too, as I can refer back to this after a lesson and question if this is really working or not - If not, I can look at other ways to differentiate.
By documenting my lesson plans I can take them with me when getting advice and ideas from other teachers, even those who have not observed a lesson I am having trouble with.

Lastly...I am hoping it helps me with my handwriting! I do everything on my iPad or computer, so my handwriting is horrific! Writing out my plan a few times a day should help improve this!

I am going to try and continue using the Five Minute Lesson Plan for the next few weeks, just to get me back into good habits. Let me know if you have used it, or have your own similar resource.