So at some point I got really annoyed at all the Greenfoot resources out there in the world. They didn’t teach anything other than how to answer a specific question in a certain style, if that changed (say, the exam board updated their spec) then the students just couldn’t achieve the same results and – worse – just had not idea why they were doing anything.

Worse, most of the resources are out of date and based on the old specification, they’re also nearly all just screen recordings of Greenfoot which, let’s be honest with ourselves, looks like 90s Java Swing just had a good day. Even the ‘official’ resources are just some dude speaking over a screen recording.

I set out to make a comprehensive set of video lessons to replace this stuff and serve as a gold standard of what I wanted to be teaching when delivering OOP to KS4. I decided that videos had to have the following characteristics:

  • Must cover the content from the 2017+ spec (current) including everything asked for in the example questions given during training events
  • Explain WHY we were building things in certain ways, or why things were happening
  • As much as possible only use native functions (unless dealing with specific exam-board implementations) so the skills learned can be reused
  • Have purpose build graphics and animations to support dual coding and explanations
  • Make it scripted so that there’s not lots of pausing for code or thinking
  • Give it a bit of personality so that it’s not the world’s most boring video course

I hope I’ve achieved that with this video set. If you’re interested in taking a look please do, you’re welcome to use them for your lessons, self study or distance learning. If you’re not as concerned about OOP as I am you can skip the first video almost entirely.

There are another few videos to add but the primary content is complete and it now works as a complete course.

I have produced a mock question paper to go along with it, as well as a starter scenario file to get you going, which you can download below.

As ever feedback is encouraged and appreciated, and if you get some mileage out of my resources I can point you to my posters if you fancy making your classroom a little brighter and supporting the site.

 

Pirate Island Worksheet

Just the PDF worksheet styled like a WJEC past paper question. Includes mark scheme on page 2.

Pirate Island Resources

A zip file containing the images needed, the greenfoot scenario folder and a copy of the worksheet. This can be distributed directly to students.

YouTube Playlist

The link to the youTube playlist that contains all of the lessons. It will be added to as new sessions are completed.

I’ve been teaching programming in Computer Science for fifteen years and I’m always looking for ways to make it better. Most recently I’ve been focussing on how students can take better notes when learning the concepts of programming through code, and I think I have a working model for note taking when dealing with code examples.

There is compelling evidence that hand-writing aids in the retention of information, so it’s important to ask students to hand write their notes when learning about a topic and programming is no exception.

After lots of versioning and trial and error I’ve come up with a two-page (or one double sided print) to support students in clear and useful note taking when learning code.

The front of the sheet is designed for notation of code samples and includes:

  • 18 code lines with indentation guides to support the syntax of Python and Pseudo as well as properly formatted code in other languages
  • Line-by-line annotation to encourage clear, descriptive explanations of code blocks
  • Topic, Concept, Filename, ELI5 (explain like I’m five) and Keywords boxes to encourage students to think about and explain what they’ve learned.
  • RAG rating for instant access to levels of understanding

The back is set up for further analysis, including:

  • Trace tables to dry run algorithms and code samples
  • Notes lined section for students own notes about the topics
  • Sections for Date and the Programming language to allow for searching later
  • Cheat sheet to allow students to identify key parts of code that they can reuse later
  • WWW, EBI section to allow evaluation of their practice

I’d really love to see what you can achieve by giving these a go, print them out for your students and run your programming lessons as normal – hopefully you’ll see the same sort of improvements that I am.

Go on, grab ’em – they’re free! If you want to support my work and say thanks then consider buying my classroom posters.

Download A4 PDF

Download A3 PDF

These remain the copyright of lessonhacker.com and are licensed to you for use freely in your lessons without modification. They should not be edited, remixed or reused in any other way  and are definitely not for reuse in a commercial sense without written permission.

Since I’ve turned to the dark side, and been developing A-Level resources for Python, I thought I’d take a stab at putting some of the more important syntax into poster form so that I can distribute them around the classroom. They cover a basic syntax of everything you’d need up to, and including, using lists as if they were arrays (I know!).

So far there are four posters, I’ve got them in my RedBubble shop if you’d like to buy them and support me. It’ll also brighten up your classroom considerably!

python-thumb-01python-thumb-03  python-thumb-02 python-thumb-04

Buy on Red Bubble Basics, Selection, Iteration, Arrays

I’m sure that some of you remember my post from last year: Print on demand for better Learning, where I explained the thinking behind my efforts to produce custom exercise books for my post-16 Computing students. Well, after a year of use and some very interesting impacts on teaching and learning we decided that it would be worth rolling a tweaked version of this out to the rest of our groups.

As such I have created a custom exercise book that both allows students to take notes in the Cornell style, as well as summarise and mark the notes; all this and target setting, planning, recording and analysis assessment have been incorporated into the exercise book. In short what we’ve got here is a generic, any-subject, any-level exercise book that focuses students and improves teaching and learning.

Please feel free to buy a copy from amazon (only £3.99) or download the PDF versions of all the files to construct your own, remembering that you must credit this site if you are using any of my materials, and then only non-commercially. Anyway, on with the blog post.

Lesson Learned from Version 1

There were a number of things we learned as a result of last year’s trial of the custom exercise books:

  1. Students needed more pages and flexibility for keeping notes
  2. Students needed simpler summaries of assessments
  3. Students needed more structure to planning and evidencing revision
  4. The self reflection and analysis contained too many similar questions
  5. A specific book per unit of work was a little too much faff
  6. We needed room to add marking comments
  7. Students needed a checklist of some kind before hand in
  8. Quality of the books needed to improve whilst cost needed to be reduced
  9. Use fewer explanatory or pre-printed pages as students just didn’t read them
  10. It needed to include the deeper questioning grid to allow use each and every lesson

Design

This year rather than do all that work in Photoshop, illustrator and Word (as I had done last year) I decided to just bite the bullet and use InDesign, I’d been teaching myself how to use it in order to write my tl;dr books so felt pretty adept at this. Using InDesign meant that much of my hard work from last year seemed a bit pointless and crazy as industry standard software is just so much more refined at doing this layout malarky.

I started with going for the biggest size that was still affordable to have printed, selecting the US Paper size which allows more room for content. Working on the cover first and following the style of before, but with more generic content: such as the blank box for lesson, name, etc. on the cover. I then added the deeper questioning grid to the back, reasoning that this on a glossy cardboard surface would allow us to use whiteboard markers on them when using the grids.

ExerciseBookGenericCover  deeperQuestioning Download the PDF

The next step was the front page, because this would be an odd page on its own I decided to use it to hold targets and summaries of assessments. This made the design choices easier and cheaper as I wasn’t wasting resources including an enormous copyright page, the page here holds potential summaries for 8 units which is more than we usually cover in one particular unit of work but allows it to be used by many different groups.

 Download the PDF

The next stage was to get into the nitty-gritty of what I wanted the note pages to look like, in using a larger size this meant that I could keep all the aspects of the previous notes pages that worked so successfully: the lines pages, the Cornell sidebars, the summary areas, date and title sections. In going that extra mile to improve this the new size actually gives us more written space than before. I added a RAG rating to each page for difficulty means that students can, at a glance, see which pages need revising more than others. The top also contains a ‘type of learning’ box so we can identify classwork, project work and homework for work scrutiny purposes. Finally there’s an area to identify if this is self, peer or teacher assessment to engage students with assessment in different ways.

At the bottom of the page we now have a finished-page checklist, so students can check they’ve done everything before they hand in a book for marking, a key for our Literacy and numeracy marking policy and areas for What-Went-Wells, Even-Better-Ifs and a response from the student. Making these a double page spread means that the space can be used more effectively.

NotePages NotePages2 Download the PDF

Rather than doing what I did last year, and trying to estimate how many pages students need per topic, I made it more generic and ‘classic exercise book’ style by sticking in 100 pages worth of this layout, plenty for any student to write notes on most subjects.

The next step was to produce the Revision planning, logging and assessment reflection pages. Again, 8 of these were added at the back in order to ensure that students could go through a complete revision exercise to practice this skill and evidence what they have done. The revision plan was split into a more specific table layout that asks the students to describe the type of revision methodology being used from our standard taxonomy, this was joined by a more generic week planner so students can demonstrate thought as to when and what they’ll revise.

Of course, once they’ve planned revision they’ll presumably go and do it. To check this a page of revision logging is presented, in a new more specific table format that once again uses the revision taxonomy to push the students to revise in an effective manner. At the end we ask the student to summarise and WWW, EBI the actual revision they’ve done so that we can review it after the exam.

Assessment reflection follows a very similar pattern to before, with fewer, more differentiated leading questions and opportunities to force students to reflect upon their achievement and produce a plan of action. Student would then be asked to fill out the overview summary at the start of the book.

AssessmentPrepLogReview AssessmentPrepLogReview2 AssessmentPrepLogReview3 Download PDF

So, one more page to go. Last year the calendar was extremely useful, but if this is to be as generic as possible and be less work to create next year then I can’t have year specific pages. In thinking this through I realised that what students really want is to be able to write down key dates rather than having an actual calendar, thus I went for a much more generic, box based design so that they can be reused year-to-year.

KeydateCalendar Download PDF

Printing

If you’ve read my previous article then you’ll know that I’ve previously used Lulu.com to print this stuff, which is great because they allow you to create projects that don’t necessarily have to be for sale everywhere and meet a load of guidelines. However, the quality of their paper is not quite as nice as that from amazon’s createspace and me being a bit of a stationery snob decided that it would be nice to have better paper for the student’s notes. This has benefits and drawbacks: the benefits being that the cost was reduced slightly, now coming in at £2.99 rather than over £3 as before, but because createspace is designed for publicly available books sold through Amazon you need to adhere to a number of guidelines in producing the document. This is the reason the phrase ‘Exercise Book’ exists on the cover as the title of the book being on the cover is a requirement of the createspace process.

However, after all that and getting the samples ordered I ended up with a beautiful exercise book that does all I wanted it to do, then we got the full order in.

IMG_3105.JPG IMG_3106.JPG IMG_3107.JPG IMG_3109.JPG IMG_3110.JPG

Is it worth it?

Well, I’d say so. The difference we saw in the quality of both notes and revision last year was astonishing; and that was with a first attempt at streamlining the process of students making notes and reflecting on assessments.

It’s got to be better than buying 50 books of lined paper and expecting the students to organise themselves. It’s got to be better than expecting students to make their own plans with no guidance. It’s got to be better than giving papers back and asking them to think about what they needed to do better.

Yes, it’s much more expensive than bog standard exercise books but the beauty of this is that with a small investment of time and a little more money you can have books that are personal and specific to the way you teach, mark and reflect.

If the time investment’s too much for you then please just buy a few copies of mine and give that a go – at £3.99 a go it’s probably not there for the hundreds of people in your KS3 classes but it’s certainly affordable for KS4/KS5. Give it a go!

If you make your own let me know how you got on, I’d love to publish other examples here.

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”

I recently gave a presentation on our ‘Massive Data’ project that we have been pioneering in the last term. The idea is simple, I want every student in every class to have an accurate mark with detailed feedback from every single session so I can use this ‘massive data’ to see trends and fine grain information about all the learning happening in my class and department.

The presentation at TMClevedon was well received and can be watched in full by clicking on this link; lots of people have asked for the slides, they are embedded below. Please excuse my hand drawn slides, they are very much a product of the fact that I am now bored with PowerPoint.

If you have any questions please contact me and I’ll be happy to help you out on your road to massive data.

Massive Data Presentation

I produced a revision skills handout / poster for use in my parents evening. Please feel free to steal it and reuse it as you want, I’d appreciate a mention for my efforts but otherwise – go mental! (Click the image for the original)

Revision Skills Handout

It was originally designed to support parents and students in revising for the F451 and F452 Computing examinations. The intention was to hand it out and use as a discussion point in the sessions. We’ll see how well it works.

As an aside, I took all of the images from thenounproject.com which is a brilliant resource, however I was a bit naughty and lost the file I was keeping all the attributions in – I apologise to thenounproject contributors and will endeavour to add attribution when I’ve got five minutes locate the original icons.