Digital Education January 2016

ISSN 2049-9663

Formerly Computers in Classrooms. Now in its 16th year!
 
This newsletter has been sponsored by...

 
Dear Subscriber
 
Happy new year! I hope you have had a good rest, and are firing on all cylinders again!
 
Keep checking the subscribers-only area from time to time, because I upload things there without necessarily announcing the fact immediately. For example, I recently uploaded the Bett 2016 floor plan.
 
The address is http://www.ictineducation.org/digitaled-subscribers, and the password has been sent to you already.
 
Click here to view this email in your browser

In this issue...

Blast from the (incredibly recent) past
Competitions
Kindle subscriptions
ICT qualifications
Feedback
Articles
Interesting and hopefully useful stuff
An online conference
Will Twitter be radically changed?
Free and good quality illustrations
What is code?
Ancient algorithm
Book reviews:
Brown Dogs and Barbers
Learning with E's
Coding for Kids
Thinking Allowed on Schooling
Bett again
Bett 16 suggestions
My Bett preview
Maker attractions at Bett 2016
My courses
Useful tips
Searching websites
Keeping blogs up to date
Readers' blogs
New year predictions
Research Ed: Interview with Tom Bennett
A question of assessment
ResearchEd Tech
Sponsored articles
Review of Mathletics from 3P Learning – an online resource to improve and reinforce maths skills
Why Schools Must Realise the Risk of Tape & Manual Based Backups
Charging ahead: First wireless charging solution for classroom iPads
Getting pupils involved with real-world science
More on Logo
End bits
Share and share alike
Next issue, advertising and contributions
Contact details
Disclaimer
Copyright
 

Blast from the (incredibly recent) past

Right at the end of last term I sent you a newsletter, but as there is a good chance you had either left for the holidays by then, or were feeling too tired to think about it, I thought I'd bring it to your attention again. Here are the highlights:

Competitions

You still have a chance of winning a year's subscription to Grammarly, an online proof-reader and plagiarism checker, and a copy of The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage. All you have to do is send me an email in each case, but read the instructions here http://ymlp.com/zZzisS#grammarlyreview and here http://ymlp.com/zZzisS#ada.
Deadline extended! You have until midnight GMT on 11th January 2016 to enter these competitions, so do it now!
I extended the deadline for one simple reason: I wanted to give people a final reminder about the competition deadlines, but I wasn't able to get this newsletter out in time!

Kindle subscriptions

If you like reading my ICT and Computing blog, and my Writing blog, then you may be interested to learn that you can get them delivered to your Kindle. Details here: http://ymlp.com/zZzisS#ada.

ICT qualifications

I'm in the process of updating the ICT and Computing Qualifications document I produced. Kay Sawbridge, whom I interviewed in the last issue of Digital Education,  has kindly agreed to have a look at it before I make it available. While you are waiting for that, read what all the fuss is about here: http://ymlp.com/zZzisS#Goodbye.

Feedback

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to polls and surveys on various matters. If you would like to have your say, here's the list of things you can respond to:
 
·         My About page: what do you think about it? There is a poll there consisting of two yes/no questions. Please take a few seconds to let me know if you think it's OK.
 
·         Why did you subscribe to this newsletter?
 
·         What alternatives to ICT have you been considering? And what challenges have you faced implementing the Computing curriculum in general? Please take a couple of minutes to complete this survey.

Articles

The full edition of the pre-Christmas newsletter is here http://ymlp.com/zZzisS, but here are links to a few individual articles:
·         On the other side of the coin... This is a link to a humorous video about the world as seen from technical support's point of view.
·         Teaching iteration, by me.
·         The Computing Curriculum: Suffolk’s Interpretation – Update, by Kathryn Day.
·         Why I decided to study IT, by Annabel Sunnacks.
·         How I got into coding and why I think everyone should do it!, by Anna Shipman.
·         5 reasons there is a shortage of Computing at School Master Teachers..., by me.

Interesting and hopefully useful stuff

An online conference

A conference organised by and featuring students is running at the end of January. This is the Student Technology Conference, which sounds quite interesting but at the time of writing there isn't much information about who will be talking about what. Still, it's online, and worth keeping a look out for I think. Here's the link: http://studenttechnologyconference.com.

Will Twitter be radically changed?

There are rumours afoot that tweets are going to be expanded from a maximum of 140 characters to 10,000. I think one of the best features of Twitter is the fact that the 140 character limit forces you to be concise. I have a view that if you can't explain something in a single tweet then either the thing you're talking about is too complicated or you don't understand it.
What do you think?

Free and good quality illustrations

Don't rely on Google Images for copyright- and hassle-free photos. There are lots of high quality photos there for the using, and many are released on a CC0 licence, ie no cost, and no attribution. Have a look at this article for the low-down on where to get brilliant pictures: 10 ways to find illustrations for your writing projects.

What is code?

What indeed? I came across a great article from Business Week called "What is code?". It explains things like what happens when you type a letter on the keyboard, and what different programming languages do, along with an explanation of algorithms and debugging. It's written in plain language and with humour.
At around 30,000 words it's not so much a blog post as a slim book. And it's free.

Ancient algorithm

Another interesting read, and one that is long enough to really get your teeth into, is Karl Beecher's Euclid’s Ancient Recipe. It carries the intriguing subtitle "The oldest algorithm still in use which dates back over two thousand years".
 
Not being steeped in mathematics, I didn't find this exactly an easy read, but it certainly made me think.
 
Karl Beecher, in case you are not aware, is the author of Brown dogs and barbers: what's computer science all about? Roger Davies reviewed that here, and gave it a whopping 5 out of 5.
 
I've reviewed it myself for Teach Secondary, and have featured it on my Recommended Books page. I've also included a thumbnail sketch in Quick Book Looks, below.
 

Good and bad IT lessons

I've started a new series called My best and worst IT lessons. In each article I describe what went well or badly, and analyse why, and what lessons I learnt.

Book reviews

Brown Dogs and Barbers

This book by Karl Beecher explains what computing is all about, and how computer science has developed over (surprisingly) a few thousand years. It's a good introduction to computational thinking, though I found it challenging. The reason is that it's very mathematical in places, and while the author makes a valiant attempt to get through to mathematically-challenged people such as myself, it is not always an easy read.
 
I also thought it was a shame that Ada Lovelace is absence from these pages, but the author did explain to me in a private email that he was trying to focus only on the hardware side of computing, while acknowledging how important Lovelace was. (Please note, he has given me permission to quote from our private correspondence.)
 
Having made those comments about the hard aspects of this book, I should mention that on the whole it is a lighthearted and easy read. I would thoroughly recommend it for any teacher (or student) who wishes to expand and deepen their knowledge of the subject.
 
Brown Dogs and Barbers (affiliate link)

Learning with E's

The author of this book, Steve Wheeler, is a man who is erudite, intelligent and incisive, and I know this to be the case because why else would he have asked me to read a pre-publication version of this book and supply a quote for the back cover?
It's always a bit nerve-wracking to be put in that position, because if the book in question turns out to be a load of rubbish, how does one politely decline?
 
Fortunately, that issue didn't arise in this case because, like the blog of the same name, this book provides plenty of food for thought. Not surprising, of course, given that the book draws on previously-published blog posts.
 
I found the book interesting because, unlike myself, Wheeler comes from a Higher Education background, and spends much of his time teaching graduate teacher trainees. So he offers a different perspective from teacher-written books.
 
Also, he is one of those academics who can make academic research sound interesting as well as relevant.
 
Topics covered include "measuring learning in the digital age", a curriculum for the 21st century and digital identies (which I found particularly interesting).
 
Definitely a book to buy if you want to be both enlightened and challenged.
 
Learning with E's (affiliate link)

Coding for Kids

Part of the "Dummies" series, this book got off on the wrong foot with me, I'm afraid, because I don't like being called a "dummy" just because I don't know something. Also, I'm fed up with hearing about coding, coding, coding.
 
However, I got over that, and discovered that the book is very useful indeed. It consists of 15 step-by-step projects, related to a programming application called "Microworlds". Fortunately, it comes with a trial version of the program, but in any case it seems so similar to Logo that you could probably adapt the projects anyway.
 
It's worth getting the book because the project ideas are quite good, and the terms of the trial version of the software are quite generous for educational use. Moreover, I found the projects not only interesting and innovative, but also with readable instructions!
 
If you want to be shown that a Logo-like program can do more than draw squares, this book is for you.
 
Coding for Kids (affiliate link)

Thinking Allowed on Schooling

I like the play on words in the title, not least because I get the impression that quite often "thinking aloud is not allowed or encouraged – far better to keep one's head down and try to get through the week without being too adversely affected by the latest mad idea hatched by someone whose only educational credentials is that they went to school once.
 
Mick Waters' is the voice of common sense, but based on a career in education that has taken him from working in schools to the top leadership levels both locally and nationally.
 
This is one of those books that you can dip into rather than reading from the first chapter to the last. I found the chapter in assessment and the one on inspection especially illuminating, with the former explaining how it all went wrong, and the latter making the very sensible suggestion that schools should be judged simply as being either good enough or not good enough (for an explanation of why anything else is so confusing as to be pretty much worthless in my opinion, see Levels in Computing? I thought they'd gone!).
 
The book is well-structured, setting out the issue, saying what has happened and why, and drawing on a range of educational research. Each chapter ends with a bullet-pointed section on what should be done.
 
This is an excellent book, and I highly recommend it for any teacher who wants to know more about what the research says and about what has gone wrong in certain areas, and why.
 
Thinking Allowed on Schooling (affiliate link)

Bett again

It's that time of year again: Bett in just over a week. I published a short preview of some of the products to be featured at Bett in the last newsletter. The link to that is here: 2016 set to be even Better
 
I've decide this year to not attend as many talks as I usually do, as I want to have time to look around and actually see some products! But I did look at the talks, and here is a list I came up with. It reflects my own interests, of course, and is not really to be taken as recommendations as such. Do check the Bett seminar listings for yourself, at www.bettshow.com. Anyway, here is my list:

Bett 16 suggestions

Secondary = Secondary Live Theatre
Primary = Primary Live Theatre
I've uploaded a Bett plan to the subscribers' area at www.ictineducation.org/digitaled-subscribers. (The password was sent to you when you signed up for the newsletter.) The plan shows the location of these theatres.

Wednesday:

·         Creativity and code: getting more girls in STEM: 10:30-11:00 Secondary
·         Long live learning, with Anthony Salcito: 11:40-12:10 Bett Arena
·         Minecraft in education: 12:30-13:00 Microsoft Learn Live 
·         Measuring progress: Assessment and the New Curriculum: 12:45-13:15 Secondary
·         Student authored mobile eBooks in Higher Education: 13:30-14:00 Learn Live HE
·         Tomorrow’s Teaching, Today – teaching a new generation of Computer Science qualifications: 14:15-14:45 Secondary
·         Increasing achievement with online formative assessment: 14:15-14:45 Primary
·         Life after levels: 15:10 -: 15:40 School Leaders Summit
·         Sweat the small stuff (gender): 15:30-16:00 Bett Arena
·         T & L Seminar: 15:45-16:45 Note: I am taking part in this discussion about innovation and 21st century learning in schools. Secondary

Thursday:

·         Engaging learners through assessment (HE): 10:30-11:00 Learn Live HE
·         BBC micro:bit: Inspiring a new generation of tech pioneers: 11:00-11:30 Microsoft Learn Live
·         Getting To Know You: Elevator Pitches From Emerging Edtech Start-ups: 12:30-13:00 Bett Futures
·         Tomorrow's Teaching, Today - teaching a new generation of Computer Science qualifications: 15:45-16:15 Secondary

Friday:

·         What's the point of EdTech in Schools? Drew Buddie: 10:30-11:00 Secondary
·         Making primary computing more exciting: 10:45-11:45 STEAM Village
·         What we really want from Ed Tech: 11:15-12:15 Bett futures
·         Top tech toys to transform your classroom: 12:00-12:30 Primary
·         Assessment: 12:45-13:15  Primary
·         The evidence based approach for measuring the impact of technology in education: Making better decisions based in evidence: 13:25-13:55 School Leaders Summit 
·         Life Without Levels: A Lively Panel Discussion: 13:30-14:00 Primary
Exomars – Space Robotics In The Classroom: 14:45-15:15 Dave Gibbs STEAM Village
·         Computing: what's working in schools Primary: 15:00-15:30
·         Life after levels: 15:10-15:40 School Leaders Summit
·         Ocr: practical ideas for teaching computer science: 15:15-15:45 Learn Live Hands-on

My Bett preview

This is what I picked up as being the main themes from looking at what's going on at Bett this year:
·         Visit Bett Futures to see innovative start-up companies who offer something a little bit different from the mainstream.
·         E-safety.
·         Getting girls into Computing – at Secondary rather than Primary level, which seems a bit late to me
·         Lego and other “maker” products.
·         Ready-to-use computer curriculum packages for primary especially.
·         Usually something new in the field of interactive products.
·         Coding resources.
·         Cyber security.
·         Security in general.
·         More varieties of tablets — preloaded with software?
·         All-in-one systems: curriculum resources + assessment.
·         Assessment apps for individual subjects.
·         General assessment “solutions".
·         Apps, mobile and multiplatform will be the norm I think.
Of course, I could be wrong!

Maker attractions at Bett 2016

If you're interested in getting your pupils to learn by making, there is plenty on offer at Bett this year.
Products to check out are:

Lego

Lego Education is hosting what they call an Innovation Hub, where teachers will talk about their experiences with using products like WeDo in the classroom. Visit stand E141 and book some sessions in the Hub.

Makeblock

This looks interesting, not least the company's slogan, which is "Construct your dreams". The product is based on the Arduino, and consists of mechanical parts, sensors and software. They are on stand B242.

Micro:bit

The exciting new kid on the block is, of course, the BBC Micro:bit. This is a tiny computer that is many times more powerful than the original BBC computer that inspired a generation of pupil programmers over thirty years ago. If you're attending Bett on the 23rd January, consider registering to take some pupils along to take part in the crowd learning session in the Bett Arena.
 
There are other talks and demonstrations too, far too many to list here. To find them, go to www.bettshow.com, hover your mouse over "What's on", and then select "Full seminar agenda", then use the search bar there.

Minecraft

There are sessions going on in both Microsoft Live and in the Primary Live Theatre. As with the micro:bit, search for them on the Bett website. There are plenty to choose from!

My courses

I'm running some courses on assessing pupils in Computing in March, in Birmingham, Liverpool, London and Bath. Here are the links: Birmingham, Liverpool and London; Bath Spa.

Useful tips

Searching websites

Quite often, the search engine on a website isn't as good as Google is at finding things. Rather than search the site directly, go onto Google and then in the search bar type "search term" site: www.sitename.com, eg:
"education technology" site: www.exampletechnologywebsite.org.

Keeping blogs up to date

Frequency

If you have a blog, keeping it up-to-date is quite hard to do when you have other commitments – you know, like a job and a family. From my own reading and research, I think one needs to blog a minimum of one a week to keep people's interest in it. Two or three times a week is better.

Consistency

If you can only write a blog post once a week, I suggest publishing it on a particular day of the week, and sticking to it. If people know you are going to be publishing something every Tuesday at 8:30 am, say, they are more likely to stop by and read it. I have to say that I don't always do this myself, but then I am an Oscar Wilde fan. He said:
 
I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.

Scheduling

Another blog-related tip is to use your blogging software's scheduling facility. That is to say, if the only time you can write a blog post is at odd times of day and on odd days of the week, for ten minutes at a time, then save the blog post each time as a draft, which means that it won't be published. Then, when it is completed, schedule to go live next Tuesday at 8:30 am (or whatever).

Coping with your next inspection if your school is pretty awful

I think I may have discovered a useful approach to handing a school if things aren't going too well. Basically it involves having an arrangement with another, much better, school, and convincing the inspection team that your school is in a different location – the other one, in fact.
 
This idea was inspired by an article called "The future of outsourcing", in which the writer, Martin Stockton, relates the following experience:
 
"I once encountered someone who hosted a references site visit to a service centre in China that hadn’t been built yet and did that by ‘borrowing’ another service centre, paying for it to be rebranded for the day and rebadging all the existing employees there. The guests were taken through a whistle-stop tour, not encouraged to talk to anyone out and ushered out with minimum fuss. They were successful and the client signed the contract and by the time the project went live, the real service centre had been built and nobody fully grasped what had happened."
 
Now, you have to admire the sheer audacity and brilliance of that!
 
Disclaimer: if you try this and get imprisoned for fraud and banned from teaching for life, don't blame me. I gave this example for information purposes only.

Readers' blogs

Several subscribers to this esteemed publication have blogs, so I thought it would be nice to bring them to the attention of other readers from time to time.
 
Shyuejinn Maa's Cute Language Learning blog hasn't been updared since October 2015, but contains some interesting material about the structuring of language. There are also instructions on how to install a bookmarking application called SpeedDial, which I hadn't heard of before.
 
Fiona Beal has a couple of interesting blogs. Her eponymous Fiona Beal blog hasn't been updated in a while, but there is a very useful index of Web 2.0 tools: Webtool index.  Her school blog  is bang up to date, and contains some very useful information, including a link to an article about using Microsoft Office in clever ways in teaching.
 
Finally, Tim Cross also has a school blog called LAT Learning Technology. While not updated frequently, ot does contain some useful information. In particular, I liked the infographic summarising the school's research into laptops vs Chromebooks. Incidentally, Tim was one of the panellists in a seminar I chaired last year at Bett, but that isn't why I selected his blog.
 
That's it for this time. Do you have a blog? If you haven't already let me know, click on the link at the bottom of this newsletter to update your subscriber details.

New year predictions

I never make predictions because I have an aversion to being proved wrong, but as usual there is a crop of articles saying what will be coming in the next year or so. Here are a few that caught my eye:
·         5 K-12 trends to watch in 2016
·         Horizon Report 2015
·         Higher Ed thought leaders forecast 2016 trends
·         The K-12 Marketplace: What to Look for in 2016
·         10 Products From CES That Will Impact the Classroom

Research Ed: Interview with Tom Bennett

Late last year I attended my first ever ResearchEd conference, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Until then, I though that as so many events I have attended over the last year or so have been so lacking in buzz, that the fault must lie with me. Perhaps I was, as a relative so succinctly put it, "buzzed out".
 
However, Reseacrh Ed proved to be the sort of conference I remember: speakers who were their to promote useful ideas and food for thought, rather than only themselves.

Why did you start Research Ed?

Because I was frustrated with the poor relationship between the research and the teaching communities. Because there was great research out there that was ignored, and oceans of snake oil that were getting into classrooms justified by the claim 'the research proves x'. I wanted to bring those communities together, get them talking to one another directly, raise the research literacy of the teaching profession in  the process, and try to get a bit of order into what was essentially a jungle. 

Are teachers becoming more ‘savvy’ when it comes to evaluating ideas and gurus’ pronouncements?

A little. Social media has driven a small but emerging community of practitioners who aren't happy with doing things a certain way because they're told to. That community is still a fraction of the whole education community but I'm optimistic about the future. But too many educators are still attracted to fads and fashions, to ideas that appeal to them on an emotional level, and to what I would call false edu-prophets. So we still have some way to go. 

What’s the underlying philosophy of Research Ed?

Teachers are important participants in the educational research ecosystem; and teachers have the power to empower themselves through active engagement with the research communities. 

What (if any) are the general trends or lessons emerging from the Research Eds in different countries?

That's something I've become very interested in. The first observation I would make is that the UK is actually pretty far down the road compared to other territories- I think we have the beginnings of a robust community of debate and engagement. Other territories I've launched researchED have their own strengths and unique qualities, but I think that the research debate is still relatively niche, and not yet in the mainstream of teacher consciousness. I hope we can change that. Everywhere we've gone, I've seen huge interest in researchED after the event, and we've been invited back now to dozens of cities- I can't keep up with them all!

What next for Research Ed?

This year we'll launch in Amsterdam (January) and Sweden (March). We plan to go back to The US, and Australia, plus launch a series of regional UK conferences, and the national one of course in September. We want to start driving our researchED online forum to become a real meeting place for teachers and equators interested in sharing ideas and challenging one another. We've started to put together a researchED Award ceremony, which I'm very excited about, plus I want to expand the website so that it becomes an even more valuable resource and one-stop shop for teachers. Plus we're in talks to hold researchED in South Africa and possibly Germany. So we're not busy.

Why Research Ed – Tech?

Because the use of tech in education is one of those areas that has been overrun with false claims and overcooked promises. Which is a great shame, as tech can clearly offer many possible advantages to learning environments. But it doesn't help anyone to promote tech use irresponsibly and in inappropriate contexts of usage. So it's an area ripe for a sober examination of what works, what doesn't ,when, and how we find out more. researchED Tech was a great success, and I'm in discussions right now about putting together an even bigger event with the same theme next year. 

Will you be running other subject specialist Research Eds, eg Research Ed – Music?

Yes, this is absolutely a direction we can take- the beauty of the researchED concept is that it's so fluid, and there are so many directions in which it can go. We've got a Maths and Science event next year, and this year we've run three English/ literacy events. No plans for Music yet, but give us time. 

Anything else you would like to add?

This is an extraordinary time to be in the teaching profession, and an extraordinary moment in history. I think we have an opportunity here to drive real change in education, for the benefit of all, by huge collaborations between teachers, researchers, academics, policy makers and intermediaries. It's like we're dragging ourselves out of the Dark Ages into some kind of New Enlightenment. I can't wait to see where it takes us. 
Tom Bennett tweets as @tombennett71.
 

A question of assessment

One of the sessions I enjoyed at the ResearchEd conference (see above) was Daisy Christodoulou's session on assessment. What I found most interesting was her suggestion that questions be used instead of Levels. For example, in mathematics, what is ¼ + 2/3?
I like the idea of this approach, but it does come with several caveats in the fields of ICT and Computing:
 
First, it presupposes that we all agree on the order of difficulty of different concepts. A glance at two or three Computing taxonomies and schemes of work would disabuse most people of such a notion.
 
Second, a really good question would help the teacher not only ascertain whether or not the pupil knew the answer but, if they didn't, where the source of their difficulty lay. My impression is that this is more straightforward in maths, where you might be able to say, for instance, that an incorrect answer to question X indicated a lack of understanding of number bonds. I'm not sure that we have a universally agreed understanding of the process of learning about computing to be able to say that sort of thing.
 
Third, if we all go around making up our own questions, we will have not solved the issue of a standard measure of understanding and progress.
 
Fourth, unless I have misunderstood the argument, categorising pupils in terms of whether they can answer particular questions sounds an awful lot like using Levels to me.
 
Mind you, I'm not knocking it. The right questions can provide a window into the pupil's understanding or lack of it. It's an approach that was used to good effect in the Economics 14-19 Project thirty years ago, and in 1990 my wife designed a set of materials for discovering which bits of maths education and understanding a person has missed out on. She has used it to good effect more recently too.
 
Although I found Daisy's talk interesting and stimulating, I was disappointed that she failed to mention the efforts by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to make Levels and Level Descriptors more accessible. The QCA did this by creating a website called National Curriculum in Action. That was based on the idea that rather than tie yourself in knots trying to explain, say, what a sparrow looks like, you could simply show people a picture of a sparrow.
 
The NC in Action website had example of pupils' work at different Levels, with a commentary such as "This piece of work addresses the requirements of Level 5 because it contains ... and the pupil has .... It also shows some elements of Level 6 because...., and some aspects of Level 4 because...".
 
In other words, although I agree that the problem with the old Levels was that different people interpreted them differently, there were fairly objective yardsticks available that served to standardise interpretation as far as possible.
Daisy blogs at https://thewingtoheaven.wordpress.com/ and is on Twitter as @daisychristo.

ResearchEd Tech

As an experiment, Tom Bennett ran a small but perfectly formed version of ResearchEd that was focused on technology in schools. He very kindly invited me to talk, and I chose to look at why educational research is almost always poorly reported in the press. This phenomenon, which isn't unique to education, can be explained without resorting to conspiracy theories or nefarious practices. Not that I would rule such things out....
 
Other speakers at the conference included Bob Harrison, Donald Clark and José Picardo.

Sponsored articles

If you would like to support this newsletter, which is not costless to produce and send out, there are several ways of doing so: using my Amazon links to buy books that you would buy anyway, advertising in it, or through sponsored articles.

Review of Mathletics from 3P Learning – an online resource to improve and reinforce maths skills

By Ruth Sivarajah – deputy head at Langafel Primary School.

Ruth Sivarajah, deputy headteacher at Langafel CofE Primary School in Longfield, Kent, reviews 3P Learning’s Mathletics online digital resource which aims to increase levels of pupil engagement, confidence and motivation and improve results in Maths.

Langafel is an average-sized primary school with 280 children on roll from Reception to Year 6 (10-11 year-olds). Pupils in Key Stage 1 and 2 (see the National Curriculum Overview for an explanation of these terms) are taught in mixed-age classes. The proportion of disabled pupils and those who have special educational needs is above average because the school has a specially resourced provision for 17 pupils who are diagnosed as having autistic spectrum disorder.
 
We started using Mathletics some five years ago as part of our ongoing effort to improve results – a mission we have since accomplished with our SATs level 4s up from 73% to 94% (including 40% level 5 and 17% level 6) in five years. We also needed to answer parental requests for a resource we would recommended they use at home.
 
The main appeal of this resource is its adaptability and detailed approach to differentiated learning. The teacher retains lots of control and has the facility to tailor the work to suit individual needs, by ‘secret-setting’ - selecting activities matched with each pupil’s abilities.  This allows us, for example, to give lower- ability pupils work from a subset below without the child being aware of it and, therefore, with no adverse affect on their confidence. Also we can see on our screen when pupils finish their work and then re-set tasks accordingly – without needing to hover over pupils’ shoulders!
 
It offers us a wide range of activities, tasks and challenges to improve fluency in core competencies, including the ‘big 4’ operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, along with shape, algebra, geometry, logarithms, conversions and much more.
 
Progress-tracking is easy and immediate. Mathletics has very obviously been created and developed by teachers – that attention to detail shines through. Key among the many teacher benefits are comprehensive assessment and reporting tools. A built-in diagnostic testing feature marks assessments in real-time and provides teachers with detailed information on their class and/or individual pupils. Usefully this includes a recommended work plan of Mathletics activities for each student, targeting specific curriculum outcomes.  This makes it easy for us to benchmark or track improvement and create individual learning pathways.
 
It’s great that we can see children’s confidence and love of maths increasing as they become so involved with the competitive elements of the resource. But it’s also good that not all activities are games set against the clock – other exercises require pupils to think deeply about a topic, with the support of the on-line ‘teacher’ to explain if they get stuck.
 
The fact that lots of the activities look the same is great for our autistic children who really enjoy the familiarity.
 
The amount of time we spend using Mathletics varies – but roughly teachers use it every other week.  Often a teacher will set a task, which could be asking children to do some work prior to the lesson or after the lesson to consolidate their learning. It is also used during a maths lesson to reinforce an individual pupil’s learning or sometimes for whole class teaching. We’ve had a lot of success using the songs, ‘Times Tables Toons’ to help our children master mental multiplication.
 
As a teaching tool we are more likely to pick and choose what suits our lesson plans, rather than to use the in-built tools which allow teachers to create a lesson by forming a series of activities.
 
In our main school children love the ‘live play’ element – a powerful real-time mathematical “race”, especially as it’s been developed so that they can play a classmate, a school mate or a child on the other side of the world. Winner’s names appear in the on-line, worldwide ‘Hall of Fame’ table, or in the UK Top 50. Its computer-game elements are much loved by pupils who each create their own avatar which they can kit out and really make their own by completing maths challenges and activities to win achievement points to exchange at the on-line shop.
 
Overall our children love the element of competition and the rewards – the ‘gold bars’ introduced recently have gone down a storm. At school we print out and laminate the certificates and badges that they earn, present them in assembly and display them around the school, which makes them all the more special and meaningful.
 
Mathletics has definitely helped to raise the profile of maths here, increased the confidence of our children and improved our SATs results. Most recently, following three Ofsted inspections which judged the school as ‘requires improvement’ – our inspection in March 2015 judged the school to be ‘good’ in all areas. I’m a big fan and rate Mathletics 9/10.

Why Schools Must Realise the Risk of Tape & Manual Based Backups

By Ronak Patel, Redstor

Schools, like other organisations, have critical data that they need to securely store, protect and manage. With the introduction of new technology being used by schools, increasingly underpinning the curriculum, a school’s digital assets have never been more important. Despite the importance and criticality of this data, a large portion of schools still do not have a thorough backup regime in place. Many are still utilising and relying on traditional manual or tape based solutions. In severe cases, there is no backup process at all!
 
More and more importance is given to a school’s Management Information System (MIS) data and rightly so but the curriculum data is still not considered as critical by schools. With students doing more work digitally and the new computing curriculum firmly in place, schools now need to ensure they are placing the same emphasis on protecting their curriculum data as they do on their MIS data.
 
Furthermore, the media has recently been inundated with horror stories whereby schools have had their confidential data lost or compromised. These media stories have only highlighted the importance of ensuring school data is securely stored and managed.
 
Within the past few years there has been an influx of new technologies being developed within schools which have helped change teaching and the way students learn. Gone are the days of a handful of PCs and the occasional interactive whiteboard. Nowadays, schools are using new technologies to provide students and staff with more interactive ways of learning through better connectivity, collaborative working and unlimited access to online resources and tools.
 
Therefore making the task of data protection more difficult, is the never-ending data growth being experienced by schools. This challenge is further exacerbated by the need to ensure that the measures taken to ensure data security and integrity are in line with schools’ legal obligations. With schools needing to comply with the Data Protection Act, the Schools Financial Value Standard (SFVS) and guidelines provided by the Information Commissioner’s Office, it’s clear why many schools struggle to fulfil their obligations.
 
In primary schools, where often little or no IT expertise is available, backups are usually undertaken by the school secretary or the School Business Manager. How confident are they that they can restore data when it really matters and how long are they spending managing the whole backup process – can this time be better spent elsewhere?
 
Taking data offsite for disaster recovery is seen as vital in the event that there is a complete data loss at the school but just taking backup tapes/media home or even leaving them in a fireproof safe poses a real risk to the school and their data. Backup media is very rarely encrypted so the data can easily be read or intercepted by a third party. This potentially provides unauthorised parties access to sensitive and/or critical information about the school, their students and their staff. Unfortunately we have all seen instances of this in the news, resulting in very negative publicity for the schools and genuine concern for those to whom the data relates.

Charging ahead: First wireless charging solution for classroom iPads

(Press release)
 
ClassCharge is revolutionising the way schools charge iPads in the classroom, as it announces the launch of the world’s first education solution for wirelessly charging iPads in the classroom. 
 
ClassCharge is set to change the way iPads are used in the classroom and supports schools in making the most of their investment.
The revolutionary and cost-effective wireless charging solution simplifies the charging of tablets in schools, removes the headache of bulky, expensive trollies and reduces the inconvenience of lost chargers and broken connectors.
 
With a range of wireless charging and storage units and classroom-ready iPad and LearnPad cases, the ClassCharge range offers schools a simple and easy way to convert existing devices to utilise the huge benefits of wireless charging.
 
Nik Tuson, managing director, ClassCharge, comments: “We’re excited to bring our ClassCharge technology to iPad schools. We’ve experienced great success with ClassCharge for LearnPad with over 12,000 devices now being charged wirelessly in UK schools and the eagerly anticipated iPad option is set to revolutionise the way iPads are accessed and charged within the classroom.”
 
Nik adds: “It’s great to be the first to introduce this new and exciting technology into classrooms and see it have such a positive effect on teaching and learning.”
 
To find out more about ClassCharge and the bundles available, visit www.classcharge.com or email sales@classcharge.com.

Getting pupils involved with real-world science

Jessica Armitage from LEGO Education discusses how teachers can get children involved with hands-on science that addresses key global issues…

There are currently 1.4 billion people in the world who have no access to electricity. 66 million children go to school in the morning having had no breakfast, and in the UK alone around 400 kilograms of waste is thrown out per person in just one year. These are just a few of the challenges that our generation and the generations for years to come must face. However for each of them, it takes just one good idea to make a critical difference.
 
It may be a pupil in your class that grows up to develop these ideas, however to make sure they have the skills and the drive to achieve this, as educators, we must help them to find their talents and foster an enthusiasm for science and innovation.
 
Children are naturally curious and enjoy exploring the world around them. Their imagination is their greatest resource, with 98 per cent of five year-olds testing as creative geniuses. Yet this is often lost in the first few years of school, with that number falling to 32 per cent by age 10. This is often most prominent in STEM subjects, as the nature of the curriculum means that a great deal of work is theoretical, trying to show the way the world works on paper or a screen, rather than implementing active enquiry.
 
In order for children to really engage with STEM subjects, teachers must bring creativity and play back into the classroom as well as showing them the relevance of what they’re learning in a real-world context. We developed WeDo 2.0 to give pupils the opportunity to get hands on with their learning, taking scientific concepts such as evolution, earth and space, engineering and physical science, and letting them design their own solutions to problems.
 
By getting hands-on with their work, children are far more able to understand the practical applications of the theories behind it than they would be just writing formulas and drawing diagrams. Implementing a cross-curricular approach within this also helps to demonstrate the links between subjects and allows children to see where their skills can be used in other activities and lessons.
 
Another key concern for many teachers is how to introduce computational thinking in the early stages of primary school. It can be very difficult for young pupils to understand the practical applications of computational thinking that they are expected to learn when they can see no tangible outcomes. With WeDo 2.0, pupils can add sensors and motors to their creations and use a drag-and-drop system to write programmes to control them in various ways. This provides a visible outcome and also lets the science behind their solutions really come to life. The software also comes with a recording function, allowing pupils to capture photos and videos of their work to share with their peers.
 
Teamwork is one of the key skills that we value, not just in education, but in all areas of life. It is through integration of a variety of ideas and talents that truly innovative ideas can grow. Fostering teamwork skills from an early age is essential, especially within STEM.
For example, one pupil may be more confident in programming, whereas another may have a mind for engineering and how machines work. The combination of these two talents will help them to design and build a solution, as well as allow them both to see the positive outcomes of their efforts. There is never only one right answer; solving problems together will allow pupils to explore issues surrounding the topic that they may never have thought of on their own!
 
Returning to the global issues as mentioned at the beginning, scientists across the world are working to solve many of these issues every day. However, before they succeed in finding an answer to these problems, they will have to exercise a great deal of perseverance to design, trial and test ideas until a solution is found. Showing children that failure is a part of this process is essential, as without a level of fundamental resilience, the first stumbling blocks in a project may cause them to become disheartened and disengaged from the subject in the future. Supporting children through setbacks and showing them that they can make alterations and improvements to their ideas will help them to address their weaknesses and develop strategies to overcome them.
 
From a teaching perspective, it can often be difficult to see beyond the measures needed to prepare children for assessments, as pressure from government and parents can lead to a focus on ‘ticking the boxes’ of the national curriculum. In reality, this hands-on approach to learning, where pupils are able to have fun with the subject and enjoy their lessons, actually helps them to learn better.
 
One of the best ways to foster engagement in children is for teachers to find their own inspiration and enthusiasm for the subject through active enquiry. By trialling your own solutions and exploring the areas that interest you, you will be able to deliver truly engaging lessons where your excitement of the subject will transfer naturally to your pupils.
 
By making science tangible for your pupils, they will be able to develop a deeper understanding of the subject and the issues that surround it. This approach will also raise attainment by providing children with the ability to process information in various subjects, both within their lessons and when it comes to assessment. More importantly, the ability to get hands-on and see that they have the ability to make a difference in scientific projects may lead to aspirations of a career in STEM from a wide range of pupils with different abilities. Your classroom could see the development of the scientific minds that will go on to change the world, and we should give them every opportunity to make that happen!

More on Lego...

(Press release)
 
LEGO® Education announced LEGO Education WeDo 2.0, a hands-on science and computing solution designed for primary schools. The unique solution combines the LEGO® brick, classroom-friendly software and engaging projects based on National Curriculum objectives to teach key stage 1 and key stage 2 pupils essential science and computing practices and skills.
 
LEGO® Education Brings Science and Computing to Life for Primary School Pupils with WeDo 2.0
 
LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 is available today on iPad, Android, PC, and Macs. Chrome Books support will be available in the second half of 2016. For information on how to implement LEGO WeDo 2.0 in your school, or how to transition to WeDo 2.0 from WeDo, visit www.LEGOeducation.com.
 
For further information please contact:
Alex Maher (Alex.Maher@mangomarketing.com)

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