I was lucky enough to be asked to discuss the topic of Coding in Schools with John Darvall on BBC Radio Bristol today, I think it nicely explains the importance of coding whilst contextualising it in the continuum of learning.
I was lucky enough to be asked to discuss the topic of Coding in Schools with John Darvall on BBC Radio Bristol today, I think it nicely explains the importance of coding whilst contextualising it in the continuum of learning.
It’s my penultimate sarcastic article for this term, where today I’m looking at something very familiar to a lot of us. It’s very pertinent
I get this a lot, I am forever having to wander over to the IT support guys, cap in hand, with a tear in my eye to beg for a bit more inbox space because someone’s emailed me a 1.2Gb video file and now I can’t actually send or receive any other email. Now with most emailing this isn’t usually a problem, if you’re sending messages across the interwebs then you tend to get an error and you rethink your strategy. but when an email goes across an internal system – like most of us have – then we can end up with us using email as a file storage area.
Sending any file larger than a few megabytes via email. If it’s getting above 4Mb do please have a think if there’s an easier way to do it. This could be a video, a zip archive of all the work for Y11 or just a REALLY huge PowerPoint file. Regardless, it fills my inbox with files that I sort of need but also are ridiculously huge.
I’ve just finished recording a lesson observation with my iPad, I’ve saved the file to my computer and I want to send it to one of my colleagues for a critique. Great! Very forward thinking! But there’s one problem, how do I get this file to them? I suppose I could stick it on a memory stick and walk down but come on! We live in the 21st Century so I’m going to send it through the internet.
So how best to do this? Well all other files I send by attaching them to an email. That’ll work right? Yeah, there we go, it took a while to attach it but now I click send and… boom! Done!
The biggy is that you email dissapears into the ether, it’s far too big. Your recipient never sees it and sometimes doesn’t know they should be expecting it so you might as well not have bothered.
Or, you could be more unfortunate and you end up clogging up some poor person’s mailbox with your huge file sizes. This means that person’s having to scour their emails for the ones with the biggest attachments that they can delete lust so they can send and receive messages again.
These files take ages to upload and download again, fill up massses of bandwidth that we could be using for other things and sit, unloved, taking up space in our email for an age.
If you ever need to move email providers then copying over these huge files will be a massive problem! They may not even transfer over. (Guess what we’re doing on Friday?)
There’s also another issue in that people start relying on their email client as a place to store their large files. People often moan that they’ve run out of space on their email server but have several emails of a huge size that they ‘need to keep’. If it’s that important to you make sure you download the file and save it somewhere!
Okay a few choices here. First always check the size of the file you’re trying to attache before you click send, you can do this very easily in Windows. Right click on the file and go to properties, if the files is bigger than 3Mb then consider using one of the other methods.
If it’s a file you need to send then consider using one of the websites that deals with sending big files between people, a site such as www.wetransfer.com will let you upload your large file and get a link to it sent to the intended recipient. This is great because I still get it in email, but the file is just presented as a link. Fantastic!
There is a problem there too though, because as great as that is we can’t guarantee that emailing sensitive information is being done within our data protection regulations. One thing to look at would be in using your school’s Google drive account; you just log in with your school email and password and can upload and share a file. Even better here because we’re using our school’s own system so we should be on safer ground with transmitting sensitive data.
Have a good think about the format though, in our example the video would be sent just to be watched. We don’t particularly need the person to keep the video so where do we normally go to watch videos reliably online? YouTube is your answer here; you can upload and secure a youtube video in the same way you can a Google drive document, if you’re using your Google apps for schools login then this is even better as you can share it with people just on your domain. It won’t show up in searches, no one will accidentally stumble across it but you can share the file in an efficient and easy manner with your colleague.
Above is a real example of our department’s secure storage of recorded observations, shared only with the oberver and observee so they can be referred to if needed.
If you’re using your inbox as a storage area for coursework submission, important files or the like then make sure you move those things out of your inbox and onto your local folder as soon as you can! If you need to have a certain set of files available to you at all times you may need to look at a solution like Dropbox or OneDrive (i.e. SkyDrive) or even using the Google Drive sync application with your Google apps for schools log in. Just remember that if you are keeping files in the cloud that you should be careful about sensitive files and data going outside of your School’s data protection policies. Using their provided tech, like Skydrive or Google drive usually makes this a bit safer.
One of the worst things you can do is email huge files to people. It’s pretty much the same as, for a laugh, ordering a shed to be delivered to someone who lives in a flat because they once expressed an interest in gardens. It’s not neccesarily a bad thing to do. but it reeks of bad taste.
So please stop and think, if your attachement is taking a long time to attach then is it too big? Is there a better way to send your file?
There probably is. If not then you’re getting IT wrong, and you probably need my book…
Welcome again to the always sarcastic, sometimes helpful, weekly whinge about people getting things wrong in IT. This week I’m taking a bit of a break from moaning because I think that I managed to adequately vent in last week’s monster 3200 word article (thanks for the positive feedback by the way), so instead I’m tackling something a bit more fun. Cool stuff that you can use!
There are loads of great online tools to help you with your teaching and learning, here are just a sampling of some of my favourites which will let you get immediately improved engagement and reduce your workload significantly, all whilst being free!
Based at http://byrdseed.com/differentiator/ this website is all you need to create useful, differentiated learning objectives which include all the hard work like suggesting the Bloom’s taxonomy command words to use, suggesting a series of tasks for you (meaning that you can do things other than PowerPoints and Posters!) and even suggesting types of content that you can set. This is suitable for any subject lesson and not just one in a computer room.
You can customise it to your hearts content so it works just as well for me setting a target about floating point arithmetic, as it does the Art department setting work about David Hockney.
I love it, you’ll love it, and it takes a lot of the hard work out of setting a bunch of differentiated objectives than if you were simply typing them up by hand.
I’m sure most people know about this, but edmodo (www.edmodo.com) is fast becoming my favourite online tool. It’s basically a much neater way of doing a VLE, and I’ve gone from being a complete Moodle fascist to becoming a bit cold on Moodle to the point where I think it’s not really suitable for purpose anymore.
If you want to collect and mark work online, set homework, quizzes, assignments and engage your students in a meaningful and straightforward learning dialogue then you can do so quite easily through edmodo with minimal fuss. It’s free to sign up for and use and, I feel, matches the style of a normal classroom lesson much better than any VLE ever has before.
What I like most about it is the fact that it is built for the Facebook generation, with plenty of notifications and a timeline of events so if you set work then all the students in your class get emails to tell them. If work is submitted to you then you get notified too! It’s got a great mobile app – when my car broke down the other day I was able to set work using edmodo from the side of the road and even marked a few before I got in.
If you’ve tried VLEs (like Moodle) before, and not been that excited by it then edmodo is for you.
Available from the John Cabot Academy Moodle page (http://moodle.cabot.ac.uk) and using the Lesson Toolkit menu button gives you buttons for all the question stems from Bloom’s taxonomy. When I’m questioning students in lessons I will use these to select random question stems and construct questions based on the ability of the student I am asking.
This takes a lot of the fuss out of having to remember all of the Bloom’s Questions whilst allowing you to develop your questioning skills to mastery level. It also allows students to create their own questions of differing levels with little prompting, they love the random nature of it and if the question isn’t perfectly appropriate to the situation then just click the button again. Score.
LessonNote (www.lessonnote.com) is an iPad app that allows you to make a meticulous record of your lesson observation. I love this, nearly enough to pay for the premium version but the free version is ace, you start a timer and then every note you take about the lesson is timestamped. This gives you a clear record of what happened in the observation when you’re discussing or feeding back with colleagues. As well as this you’ve got the ability to take pictures, create seating plans, make note of transitions between types of learning activity and even reference the students directly in your notes.
This is the number one tool in my lesson observation arsenal, it really allows you to engage with the learning in the lesson and have a copious log of what happened to review later when you create the write up. It’s also a really nice document to refer back to and remind yourself of everything that happened in the lesson even when circumstances conspire to schedule the feedback for a few days later.
This brilliant browser based tool (www.easel.ly) allows you or your students to create those fantastic infographics without fuss, and end up with extremely professional end results. We had tried to incorporate inforgraphics into our lessons for a long time before we discovered how easily this website could be used to engage students with the dryer facts and figures that they need to learn in our lessons.
This is great for visualising analysis of exam results, showing students population or PSHE data, or even looking at stats for characters in a book being analysed. It’s great for us as Educators to knock up an interesting visual aid with minimal fuss, helping engage our students and even allowing for some implicit differentiation for students with literacy or numeracy difficulties. Students also have a lot of fun in building this sort of thing, because it’s a nice creative way to display understanding – and they’ve very popular on the inter webs so have a bit of geek-chich too.
So there we go, five interesting tools that may be worth a punt over the next few weeks. Give them a look, spend ten minutes with them and see if they’re something you’d like to use in your lessons – if so then great, if not then don’t be put off because there’s an entire internet of content there for you to use as you see fit!
I’ve covered this in
, but sending files in an email is a bit of an art. Size and type of attachment are important, most emails over 2Mb in size do not reach their recipients as they’re too big so sort that out first, the type is important because if you don’t select carefully then the recipient may not be able to open the file at all. One thing I would remind you is that if you’re sending a file then you still need to add some content to the email itself, even if you’re just saying “Here’s that file you asked for”, because that’s just courtesy. You probably wouldn’t drop a file on someone’s desk without popping a sticky note on it to say it was from you, so make sure you do the same with email.
There are myriad other symbols that people misuse, from the type of Quote marks they use, to replacing the word ‘at’ with an @ symbol. It’s even possible to include the degree (°) symbol really easily, in Windows have a look through the character map before you try and make up similar looking symbols because we’re striving for accuracy, and you have a wealth of symbols at your disposal. They all have a meaning and a use. Why not check out this brilliant guide to symbols on the computer to become as Picky and pernickety with it as I am!
It’s another week of sarcastic top-tips to improve your teaching and learning through technology. Innovation through technology, you could say. That’d make a great motto for a car company…
This week is a very practical, but almost simplistic way to add more technology to your lessons. You don’t need every student to be sat there with an iPad to make use of technology in your lessons, you just need imagination!
Gearing yourself up for a new unit of learning – you’re thinking about all the different activities that students could be doing in order to consolidate and present their learning. You’ve done posters, newspapers and scripts galore; but now you want something different, so you look online – maybe you search twitter – and find something cool.
This online cool thing is amazing and you really want to use it in your lesson, maybe you find an IT room or you take turns on the equipment in your room, but the students eventually are working on the cool online thing, struggling to make things work and taking a lot longer than they normally do for a similar activity. You grow disillusioned. You cancel the topic or only half-heartedly mark the work produced. The students never again see that really cool thing that you saw all that potential in, and next time you have the thought to do something cool and online you simply don’t bother. Retro is best, yes?
I’m teaching Oxbow lakes in Geography and I think if I see another poster of lake shapes then I’ll blooming scream. So I’ve found this really cool website where students can create narrated videos and share them with the world, it looks amazing and I’ve seen some other teachers on twitter raving about it, I must use it.
So I do my lesson starter, introduce the concept and start the students on planning their videos whilst the first to finish end up on the computers we’ve got starting to record. Problem is that the students are being really silly and recording daft things, they’ve got ‘comedy’ introductions and are using memes on screen. Some of them are stuck with using it, or there’s an error that makes them lose their work and they can’t recover from it.
Suddenly I’ve got a backlog of students asking for my help with the learning whilst I’m desperately struggling to show the students on the computers how to effectively use the software, everyone’s getting a little disenfranchised. I know, let’s call a halt to this as it’s going south and I’m losing the kids. I’ll set it as homework, there done, let’s move on.
A week later and students all seemingly had problems doing it at home, fair enough – it was going wonky in the lesson, let’s just assess their plans and move on. Next year I’m back to doing posters.
The key to this is patience, willingness for things to fail first time and commitment. I’d do exactly as I’ve done here but in the case where I’ve got limited in-class tech then I’d set the digital work as homework, doing a quick demo of it on the board (taking a few minutes of lesson time to show it off for the first time) and allow students who finish their planning for it to have a quick start on it whilst we wait for the class to catch up.
Intervene in silliness and be very pro-active about how important it is to engage with the learning, remember – to the student you’re teaching them about the software at the moment and you need to remind them that that’s not your job – all you care about is their ability to explain the content of the lesson using this slightly-more-fun medium.
Set expectations that you expect the work in on a date without exceptions, and when that work doesn’t come in then be merciless in your acceptance of excuses. Sanction those that didn’t do it regardless of the reasons because they will start to realise that digital work is the same to you as traditional work and will start to assign it the same importance in their minds.
Here’s the killer – no matter what happens make sure you use that same lesson format again with the same class within the next month or two. You’ve given up some of your lesson time to teach some of the usage of the software, time that could have been used delivering your content. Why repeat yourself? Students have now all experienced using the software and should be able to create better content using it with less help.
Show them Outstanding examples of the work produced last time, make a big deal of which pieces are showing off the content of the lesson better than others and make sure to keep stressing how important it is that content is king!
The type of sustainable use of technology in the classroom depends upon the amount of resources you have available and your tech-savviness. More than anything, though, technology needs to be used to support teaching and learning of the content you want to deliver. It should not be shoe-horned in to any lesson for the sake of it. So you need to develop a way of working with technology in teaching to diversify the variety of activities you can offer students to expand on their learning and ideas.
If you ever find yourself running around a lesson, baffled by the tech and the learning falling apart because of it then you’re doing IT wrong, and if you are, maybe you need my book… which happens to be on sale!
It’s the first week of the new term and I’m back with my weekly dose of sarcasm masquerading as an informative email to improve teaching and learning with technology.
This week I’m sharing something that’s a very small thing, but that makes a massive difference to your professionalism as an educator, and your thoughtfulness as a human being.
Attaching a PowerPoint file to an email and clicking send. That’s lovely, you’ve sent me something useful. Problem is that I opened the file on my phone and what I’m seeing looks nothing like the original, and text is overlapping, images are in the way of important information.
Honestly, it’s unreadable. So now I need to get to a computer, with a compatible copy of PowerPoint, in order to open the file you’ve sent me. I’m probably not going to remember and realistically all that lovely content you’ve sent me is now lost to the ages…
What if you’re putting a letter to students up on Moodle, edmodo or on your website? Is it a good idea to write that word document, get it all styled up and simply published to the web? Well… no. It’s not. This relies on everyone who wants to read the letter having a compatible version of a piece of software that costs the best part of £100 installed simply to see some text you’ve written. Worse still is the fact that now I’ve released an editable version of our official letterhead to the public, so anyone can very easily make a formal looking, headed letter with whatever content they want.
So no. It wasn’t a good choice.
My students are going on a trip, we’re taking them to the National Computing Museum to see Colossus. It’ll be cool. I’ve written a letter in Word, which I’ve had put into our School’s letterhead format and I’m ready to print them out and distribute them.
I’ll also need to put them online though, and maybe it’d simply be easier if I emailed them to the parents and put a copy on the website. Easy! I’ve got the word document here on my computer, I can click attach in my email client, find the file and – hey presto – everyone’s got a copy.
That was easy. Right?
Two choices here really. The first, and most simple is to simply copy and paste the content of the letter into the email, or the webpage. Reduce the amount of clicks that a user needs to make to read your content and they’re more likely to read it.
Realistically though, you’ve spent ages formatting that letter so that it looks ace, let’s simply turn it into a PDF file and send that out. That’ll keep your formatting, images and tables exactly as you want them!
PDF (Portable Document Format) is something you’re bound to have come across already, it’s an uneditable, locked document that looks the same on any device that it’s opened on. Think of it as an electronic print copy of your work, and by turning your letter into a PDF you ensure that everyone and anyone can open and read the document that you’ve sent and know that they’re seeing exactly what you’ve designed and not some awfully rendered aberration.
No amount of me whining here will stop people posting fully editable, huge files in emails and on websites, and it won’t ever stop people sending me documents in Microsoft Works format that I then have to spend half an hour converting just to read. However, what I might be able to do is get you guys to think twice about how the format of the documents you produce reflects on your professionalism and what you expect the recipient to do with the document.
It’s easier, better and fancier all around if you only send editable documents to people who actually need to edit them!
So please, use a PDF instead of a PowerPoint and put the content in the email instead of attaching a word file.
Otherwise you’re doing IT wrong, and if you are, maybe you need my book… which happens to be on sale!
Welcome to the festive-fifth in the weekly series of top-IT-tips, where I layer sarcasm upon a genuine desire to to get everyone using technology to enhance teaching and learning.
For the last passive-aggressive article before Christmas I thought I’d tackle something seasonal.
Allowing students that have completed work to entertain themselves with whatever they can find online, with social media sites being blocked by most schools this normally translates to students ending up playing flash games whilst all around them are focussing on the work at hand.
This seems like a good idea initially, it gives the students something to work towards, the “if I can get my work done faster I can go on games!” attitude is something that does actually work to motivate students to complete the work at hand. Well yes, but students do end up rushing the work to get there and this builds an unrealistic expectation that they can ‘go on games’ whenever they happen to have finished some work. You may think this is harmless in KS3, but students’ expectations are solidified in that time and they expect to still have ‘game time’ in KS4 and KS5.
All I’d ask is this, in a normal lesson would you allow them to go and do whatever they wanted when they’d finished their work? Students tap dancing and playing tennis next to people furiously trying to finish an essay? No? Then why do we find an exception when we sit in a computer room?
It’s nearly Christmas. Students have worked really hard and there’s only a lesson to go. I know, I’ll be nice to them just before the holidays and anyone who finishes the work from last time will be able to go on games. This is great as the next piece of work they’re starting is quite fussy so I need to explain in in detail, and then they’d forget, so I’d have to do it again when they get back from the break.
Better just to do that, surely. It’s the end of term, they’re only watching videos in other lessons, aren’t they?
Why not just start the new piece of work? Yes you might have to talk through it twice, but students will at least be learning right up until then end. If you want to be nice to them then don’t give them any homework, come on, we’re teachers – we should teach!
Okay, so actually you want something a bit more festive and fun, then why not let the students access pre-selected educational games? There are plenty of websites that pass content quizzes off as video games where students have to answer questions to build up enough points to play a few minutes of Pacman, and that’s totally cool, as students are still learning or being assessed.
Honestly though, if you’ve thought through your differentiation properly then you should have a never ending, exciting task for your high ability students to be engaged with – a task that’s open ended enough to last you if that student has completed all of the work they need to have done. Relying on games to keep your students going needn’t be a thing you have to use.
Now my students are working right up until the end of term, they’re not switching off and when they go to their next lesson then that teacher will benefit from the students still being in work mode. I’m stopping holiday creep (where students switch-off earlier and earlier) and demonstrate an extremely positive work ethic. Without them being used to playing games then they won’t expect it, and if they don’t expect it you can teach more ensuring the student gets the most benefit from their time in school.
I’m no Scrooge, but letting gaming into you lesson without an educational reason is going to impact negatively on your students learning and your ability to set taxing, entertaining lessons towards the end of the term. Over time this holiday creep will write off entire weeks of time. If you aim to stop that now then you’ll have much more in the way of usable teaching time when you need it more.
Students that are not expecting to go on a game when they finish their work will be more likely to extend and stretch their learning, improving their attainment in the process. You’ll also find it easier to manage the computer classroom for the rest of the year because expectations will be that the computers are for working and games are frowned upon.
So try being a gaming miser, and don’t use it as an incentive, because it’s unsustainable.
Otherwise you’re doing IT wrong, and if you are, maybe you need my book…
Welcome to the fourth in the weekly series of top-IT-tips, officially the world’s most sarcastic effort to get everyone using technology to enhance teaching and learning.
This week I’m tackling something deep seated in our culture.
Letting the students get away with doing very little work when completing researching or ‘writing a report on’ type exercises; and not taking the time to identify when work is being simply copy-and-pasted off the internet in any form. Students start to get a little lazy with this and eventually you find that you’re telling a year 10 off for doing the exact same thing in their GCSE coursework.
What we’re really doing is reinforcing the idea that homework is quick, easy and requires very little engagement of cognition on the part of the student – and then they really do have a valid argument when they ask us, “What’s the point, Sir?”
Instead of setting a task that is just called ‘research’, I’d be better placed to explain what I mean by this and what I expect. Finding information, and copying and pasting it is acceptable as long as it’s referenced and they have summarised it in their own words afterwards. Why not set the primary task being to evaluate how trustworthy or accurate the source they have found is and justify that? Let’s steal the idea of primary and secondary sources from our friends in the History department and get the students to really think about where they’re getting things from and what value they’re adding to them.
This is a first draft of a brand new levelling poster and system that combines the new national Computing curriculum model for KS3 and KS4 with our schools change to GCSE grades instead of levels (here, an H corresponds to level 2, G to 3, etc.). I am hoping that you either steal it and do what you want with it, or help with some constructive criticism on the level descriptors, these have been created based on both the curriculum and different Bloom’s levels to develop the students as learners as well as great Computer Science practitioners. Continue reading “Computing Levels Giant Poster”