Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Apps to Change the World

I am half through a English-Technology unit with grade 6s. They are creating Gothic Apps using App Shed. Here they can show off all the fantastic work they have done in English class, including their Vampire Survival Guide, Gothic Walking Tour of London, (an interactive map in the app) and more! At the moment they are up-to-date with their app in technology class and they are working on a piece of research work in English. Once this is complete students will add it to the app and present it to the class.

So that we have some activities to do in technology, we are taking a break from working on our app an we are dreaming up our dream apps! These apps are supposed to change the world! I am showing them apps that have improved my life and then I show them an app I have dreamed up, a pet for children who take medicine regularly.

Here is the presentation I am delivering to class. I created a MoveNote so that any students who are absent through illness or because of the tube strike will be able to stay on track!

Feel free to adapt the presentation for your own class. I am very excited to see the incredible apps my students dream up - what apps will your students dream up?

Monday, 28 April 2014


I did a guest post for the BrainPop Blog. You can read all about how we use BrainPop at my school here.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Pi-Camera Posters

Another two beautiful Raspberry Pi posters designed by Rob. I think my first pi-camera lessons will be in the next academic year, so I'll put the posters up during the summer holidays. You can find all our posters in this folder. They are high quality and are meant to be printed on A3 paper. Enjoy!

A video about the Pi-Camera Set-Up and more info about the Camera Module here.

What Pi posters should we make next?

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Whoop Whoop

I have been busy working hard during my holidays and now I am not only a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator, but also a Google Certified Educator. I am very proud of myself!

Google Calendar - Lesson Plans for Cover.

I'm spending my day off taking the Google Educator Exams, (I am a bit of a workaholic/weirdo). Although I use Google Apps for Education on a daily basis, I am enjoying finding out little tips and tricks through the courses. I had never thought about using Google Calendar to create and store lesson plans to provide for cover when I am absent - but it is great, and really quick and easy! The two videos provided are not too up-to-date, as one has not got the attachment feature and the second video talks about the event attachments as a Lab. The event attachments are a normal feature now, so I decided to create a short video showing you exactly how you can use Google Calendar for Lesson Plans for Cover.

Go Back in Time with Google Streetview

I thought this was a really cool feature! I'm excited to see how the area I grew up in changes, (it was full of empty warehouses and factories, and is now a commuter area full of 'luxury' flats). I think this will be great for a history or citizenship project too.

I really do need to embrace Google Maps/Earth/Streetview more. 

I intend on doing a town planning unit with students. This is for next year, so I only have a couple of ideas at the moment. I think we will watch parts of the Culture Show's Lego Episode, observing how people use Lego in town planning and we will design and print 3D buildings to arrange on a map as a class. I wan to possibly bring Minecraft and Pi into it, and I will definitely bring Google Maps into it! I guess we could look at areas they are familiar with, new build towns, garden cities, rich and poor areas, etc.

I also want to use Google Maps to get students to chart famous locations from books and historical events. I want to send them on a Google Scavenger hunt too, where they have to find my specific landmarks, but also examples of waterfalls, desserts, etc. As we are an international school I want us to pin all the places our students have lived too! We want to embrace Google Hangouts and chat with students across the world, so we can use Google Maps to research where they are from too. I also want to run a content where I give students a checklist as clues to a certain area.

How have you used Google Maps in your classroom?

Christian Schett shared this link with me through Google+ A fantastic resource for using Google Maps in the classroom! Google are really working hard on changing their education pages, as the last time I looked it was not this beautiful or well put together!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Google Sites for the Classroom

Today I passed my Google Sites Exam, so only have two more to go before I can call myself a Google Certified Educator! As Google is always changing it was a bit tricky sometimes as lots of the course materials and even the exam questions are out of date. I decided to learn by doing and also created tutorials showing how Google Sites currently works-they are similar to the course videos, but show all the new changes. Hopefully these are useful to you.

Creating your Google Site

Changing Page Order in your Google Site

Adding a Video to your Google Site

Adding a Form to your Google Site

Adding a Gadget to your Google Site

Adding your Calendar to your Google Site

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Raspberry Pi Posters

We are down by the coast for the Easter Weekend and while it has been raining Rob has been making beautiful posters for me! I think creating a 'cool' brand can really promote something and this includes lessons - hopefully these posters will get students excited about our upcoming Pi projects!

My first unit is going to be on Sonic Pi. I'm going to teach students to code through Pi and eventually they will make their own composition and possibly a group/class project. This is the first poster Rob created and the little character is based on me! Excellent!

Rob made a variation where a teacher, librarian, code club leader, etc can fill in extra details, for example if someone is going to run an after-school club with Sonic Pi. We also created a white poster, as it might be a bit easier to print:

The next poster Rob made was an informative one labelling the different parts of the Pi:

and lastly a poster about designing your own case. We have one where you can add in extra details too, for example "Pick up a template from Ms. Dutton" or "Competition deadline May 31st." There are loads of templates for cardboard/paper cases online, including this one.

You can download A3 PDFs of the posters by taking them from my Google Drive Folder HERE.

Visit Rob's website to see other great things he has created here.
and of course, support Raspberry Pi!

P.S. This is my 100th entry! WHOOP WHOOP!

Friday, 18 April 2014

Introduction to Coding

During my time at Picademy there were a few people who had never done any coding before. I've done a little bit since I was a teenager (html for my Livejournal obviously), but also do not come from a computer background.

The first unit I taught on coding was a real steep learning curve, and I loved learning alongside my students. The actual focus of the unit for students was "How do I learn?" We looked at different learning and teaching styles and different websites and apps to learn code, including thinking about the audiences they were suitable for. They also thought about different educational needs, like support for ESL and Dyslexic students. Students learnt the basics of coding, then led a lesson for another year-group teaching them to code too!

Different types of preferred learning styles.

At the start of the unit each student was given a different app or website to explore. They then presented these to the class and as a group they selected the best ones for teaching their chosen audience (grade 8s taught grade 9 students, and grade 7s taught grade 6 students). I even gave them our school's lesson plan template and the five minute lesson plan from Teacher Toolkit.

Students in both grades decided to use a post-it note activity to show how much students learnt during their lesson. They started off by getting students to write their definition of coding, and then they did the same thing at the end! They also got them to write their perceptions of coders/coding, with students answering that it was difficult and boring, and ending saying how fun it was!

Here are the apps and websites they chose to teach with:

Grade 7 Teaching Grade 6

Students chose to use Light-Bot for their starter activity. They did the first few levels together and then grade 7s gave their iPads to the grade 6s and supported them through the next few levels. This game is highly popular, and although basic, does test their problem solving and logic skills well! It starts off pretty easy, but builds and becomes more complicated. We just used the first stage, which is free, but I know a lot of students continued playing Light-Bot at home after!

The main activity for the class was creating a game in Touch Develop's Hour of Code. The activities guide you through, highlighting any code you miss. You basically customise a range of games, including one where you have to make your character avoid hitting other objects and another where you have to tap any objects that come on the screen to make them vanish. Students chose the backgrounds, items and sounds, so we had some weird games at the end of the lessons, including ones with screaming kittens, beeping cowboys and operatic ducks!
This was a great activity as students really wanted to finish so they could play their games and show their friends!

Grade 8 Teaching Grade 9

Although Hopscotch is really aimed at younger children, this was a perfect starter activity. A grade 8 student explained how Hopscotch worked and demonstrated showing a game he had created. The grade 9s then had a short time to make a game, assisted by grade 8s. This was fun and most of them opted to create a game where they had to tilt their iPads to make their character avoid other objects. If I was teaching younger students again, I would definitely play with Hopscotch more!

The main focus of the lesson was getting students to do the computing/coding course on Khan Academy. Grade 8 chose this as they could monitor student progress on one screen, writing up the leading student on the whiteboard. Although they liked this competitive element I don't think it was a very successful website to use, as it really should be done independently without other distractions. Also they didn't have enough time to really get into it. As a tool for learning at home I think it is fantastic.

At the end of the lessons students sent out a Google Form to participants. They designed the forms themselves and they were used to check for understanding, but also to gather information about the parts of the lesson which was successful. As it was an MYP Technology unit, I needed to get them to evaluate their work and always try to get them to get some evidence to do this!


During the unit I also got students to do some research and debate with the motion "This house believes all schools should teach coding." They all agreed, but debated well for either side of the argument. Students then submitted their notes, along with a reflective statement about their true feelings on the issue, so those who argued against could still express that they believed coding should be taught and why.

Other apps and websites students explored:

I used their Hour of Code before Christmas for the first time I was teaching code. I love this site. There are great videos featuring tech celebs, like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, as well as pop star Will I Am and basketball played Chris Bosh. The games are all ones students are familiar with, like Angry Birds, and the challenges progress perfectly. As a teacher you can set up classes, so that you can track student progress. When I did the Hour of Code, after a week lots of students had spent their own time working through all the levels! have also got a 'Code Your Own Flappy Bird' lesson, which came out shortly after Flappy Birds was taken out of the App Store. This is a really simple lesson, but great for an intro. I actually set it as cover when I was off sick. Here is the Google Presentation I used - the cover teacher didn't have to do anything, apart from join in! This is great for people who are new to teaching coding or a little bit scared to dive in.

Hakitzu is a great game were you customise robots then send them into battle. The way you make them act out moves is through code! It starts off really basic, giving you the lines of code and prompting you, but you can also progress to write the code completely by yourself!  Students can even battle friends! Kuato Studios, the makers of Hakitzu, came in to my school to test of their game when they released this version. They are involved in 100 Hours of Code and will come to your school too if you ask them nicely! You can see my guest blog post about their visit here.

Code Academy has a great website and which can easily and quickly teach you the basics of coding. It may not be as child friendly as some of the other apps and websites out there, but it is really useful. I would recommend this for secondary schools mostly.

This is another command block game, similar to Light-Bot. It's actually really similar as it starts off very easy, but gets tricky towards the end. I liked seeing students play this, as they really enjoyed it and helped each other with difficult levels! The best thing about this game is that it was actually created on the iPad through the app Codea!

Codea is the app that Cargo-Bot was created in. When you open the app there are loads of games that have already been made. As I'm new to coding, I can't write code fluently, but I can certainly manipulate already existing code! I went into some of the games and customised them - for example there is one game where you have to re-arrange letters to form a word - I obviously went in there and put rude/silly words and then played. As this app costs a bit of money, I think I will use it more to further my own understanding and will recommend it to keen coders. I may move onto using it with my class after doing another coding unit with my Raspberry Pi.

Another app aimed at younger students. However this would be a great starter activity. The students in my grade 8 who explored this as a teaching option loved it! It's really cute, simple and quite addictive.

Very similar to Kodable - Another great app for younger students or for starter activities!

I hope these have been useful. There is no shame in starting using drag and drop lessons/things with command blocks. They will still teach students the basics of loops, if statements, accuracy and all that other important stuff! They are good fun and change student perceptions of coding - this unit was my favourite unit so far, as it was so easy to teach, because the students enjoyed it so much!


Thursday, 17 April 2014


I have just come back from two days in Cambridge, at Pi Towers, and I am equally exhausted and full of excitement! I was given some free Pis after doing the Hour of Code before Christmas, but have had little time to play about with them, (teachers are always busy busy busy). I really appreciated having two days to spend playing with my Pi, hearing from experts and working with other teachers.

We were looked after by Carrie Anne during our whole stay. On the first day of Picademy we were greeted with lovely swag bags and put into teams [Go Team Minecraft!] We spent the day taking part in different workshops, learning the basics of Pi, how to use Sonic Pi, the camera attachments, how to control Minecraft by coding with Python on the pi and how to use scratch to control attachments (LED lights). We were given just the right amount of time to get to grips with the basics and to feel confident enough with going forward.

On the second day we listened to several talks including an introduction to the wonderful things Pis can do by Eben Upton, a further exploration of Sonic Pi and making music with Sam Aaron, information on the Pi community from Matt Manning, and an introduction to GitHub from Ben Nuttall. I usually hate when you get talked at, but this was in such a small room, and the talks were short and lively, so they were enjoyable and still useful!

For the rest of the day we played! I played about with the fortune teller code in python, creating a shouty P.E. teacher, ("You think you are tough, do 50 sit-ups NOW") and a code about Sonic Pi which told you the type of music you needed to create, (Horror, Sci-Fi, Disco) and I played about with the camera and some lights. I used a lot of this time to chat with other educators and to see what they were doing too - the most impressive was the attempt at a bullet-time video!

Proof of how inspired we all felt:

I've come away from the experience feeling really excited about my future Pi lessons. I've been pro-active and asked for a few goodies, including several books, wires, LEDs, cases and monitors and they seem to have been approved! I've also re-organised my library, The Hub, into more of a maker space, with a Lego corner, Raspberry Pi area, permanent green screen and an area to make Stop Motion Animations!

This weekend I am going to make three Raspberry Pi posters with my boyfriend, (who is a fancy-pants Graphic Designer). I'm also going to hopefully make a paper cut-out stop motion animation about Pi, (similar to my Dewey video) and then I will get onto my lesson/unit planning. I aim to do my first pi unit focussing on introducing pi, then creating music with Sonic Pi. I'm also going to stay as active as I can in the Pi community, posting on the forum and attending Jams, including CamJam in May.

I will of course share every single resource I make and will detail my adventures on this blog.

For now, enjoy this rad video "What is a Raspberry Pi?"

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Raspberry Pi Certified Educator

I am pleased to announce that I am now a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator. A blog post will be coming soon all about Picademy and then regular updates with Pi resources, including lesson plans, unit plans, posters and videos!

I'm not going to have a spare moment to do it as I have band practice tonight, I'm running away to the seaside for the weekend and I'm at work today and tomorrow, transforming my library, 'The Hub' into more of a Maker Space, with an area for Raspberry Pi, Lego, books and a beautiful green screen! I've also finally got my library management system, Koha, so will be busy cataloguing our physical collection over the next few days. No rest for the wicked!

A promise to you - Picademy blog post, Raspberry Pi resources and photographs of my beautiful new room soon soon soon!

Saturday, 12 April 2014

100 Best UK Education Blogs

I've been voted as one of the 100 Best UK Education Blogs! Whoop Whoop! Thrilled!

Lego Appreciation

I've been very busy at work, with writing reports, setting up our new library system, Koha, and sorting out the yearbook, as well as teaching, planning and marking! As always, I have a long list of things I want to do when I have the time - at the top of the list is to run a lego unit! I actually want to create a Google Drive folder with lesson ideas for various subjects, worksheets, videos, etc.  [Follow my progress here]. I have pooled together lots of Lego ideas on Pinterest, but want everything to exist in one space and one to add in lots of my own ideas! I have always loved Lego, so it seems like a no brainer that I should bring it into my classroom!

Although there are lots of lessons using Lego Mindstorms, I want to stick to running some brick based lessons. I might do a town planning unit, with students creating the different buildings, then as a group, organising where they go. I also want to run units where students create balloon-lego cars, create boardgames, create lego statues, create lego mazes and maps, create lego furniture and other homeware (pen holders, places to store keys)...and of course I want to make more stop motion animations with lego. I believe there are also lots of team building activities you can do with lego, so want to explore them in September with my new students.

I have a lot of Lego at school, including two large storage bricks and a storage Lego head, but need more! I want base plates, wheels, roof tiles and endless amounts of mini figures!

As soon as I have pooled together all my resources and ideas, I'll make the doc accessible for anyone with the link. Here are some pictures which have got me excited!

I've also been daydreaming about making my classroom a bit more Lego-y. I'm also moving house in June, so my boyfriend and I are planning to put some Lego into our new home!  I'm currently bidding on lots of base plates on ebay!

Also wanted to point out the Lego Education site. They offer school trips to Legoland, which include workshops, for students of all ages, from 5-18! I'm hoping to take students on a joint science and D+T trip next year, but am not sure which one - really I am spoilt for choice!

There's even a Legoland map for teachers!

Anyone I am totally in love and I am going to spend the day looking at Lego on eBay and Pinterest, swooning and dreaming of a Lego palace.

Play Well.

[Edit] Found some more Lego idesd on the Importance of Play page of the Association for Library Service for Children, including a resource kit for librarians.

Also - Here is the Google Drive Folder I am working on. I'll keep adding Lego Lesson ideas.