New phone. Time to review some apps!

Blogging  this directly from  my  new  phone with the WordPress App. While I’ve always loved macs, I tend to prefer Android  to iOS and I’ve gone for a LG this time.
Any new phone is a time to review some apps and widgets. So far I’m really pleased with the SwiftKey keyboard,  especially the built in additional languages,  including  Welsh.
I’ve installed Firefox as well as Chrome as it’s increasing  becoming  my browser of choice on the Mac. 
I’m looking forward to catching  more from Google + with their widget and maybe being able to keep on top of my feedly account with theirs.
Pushbullet looks interesting,  although  I’m waiting to get my repaired Mac book back before I give it a whirl.
I think I’m going to need a better way to collect items of interest I found from various places on the Web.  I might give pocket a go, but recommendations are welcome.
I’m also looking for a twitter client with a better widget.  The built in one seemed to be permanently full of ads.  Trying Hootsuite again for now,  but again I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Besides that Google Drive,  Evernote,  instagram,  Dropbox and the Kindle  app are ready to go.  I’ve downloaded  the Flickr app and may start trying to make better use of that service.  I also just downloaded ‘Prey’ as a security system.

What else would be on your list of must have apps?


Fall of a bike. Get straight back on


So I broke the chain. Ten posts in, but last night, having been away all week, I just couldn’t bring myself to get off the sofa and open the laptop. So, I’ll start the count again and see if I can make it beyond ten this time.

What I have learned over the last ten posts?

1. I need to have some ‘spare’ posts ready to go for nights like last night. I’ve got half finished things, but I need a bank I can just copy, paste and publish.

2. It’s easier to keep up the blog if I’m also keeping up to date with my feedly account. Other people’s blogs give me ideas for posts of my own or links I can share.

3. I need to do a better job of turning my own ideas for posts into actual posts. Lots of what I’ve posted in the last ten posts have been links to other content. That’s useful, but as a proportion of posts that’s probably a little higher than I’d like it. I’ve got a Google Doc full of first sentences and badly written paragraphs. I need to develop some of those.

4. When I started blogging, I was blogging for me. While that’s still true I think I’m getting a better sense of blogging for a reader. That’s certainly true in terms of links I’m sharing, and watching the graph of hits and the retweets come in provide a sense that it worth doing this, not just for me but because someone else gets from this what I get from some of the blogs I read.

5. I should consider doing more list blog posts.


Image credit: Juan Cortez – CC Licensed on Flickr.com

Zen Pencils (day 10)


I’m away from home this week doing training up in mid-Wales, and this evening following a great walk around Aberystwyth I’m eyeballs deep in various sharepoint geekery trying to answer questions that have been posed to me over the last few days.

As a result, I really wasn’t sure what I was going to write about tonight. At one point I nearly decided not to bother, but I popped open Feedly, flipped through my ‘misc feeds’ folder and found an update from Zen Pencils.

I’ve been following the site since it started. On a fairly regular basis Gavin Aung Than produces a cartoon strip based on a famous (or less famous) quote. The site is up to 177 strips now (this week’s is one I hadn’t heard before from Frida Kahlo), and it strikes me that many have the potential to be great starters for discussions with students. Not all are completely suitable, either because of the language in the quote, or perhaps in some cases the images used, but many are striking and often give me pause for thought.

You can review some of the post popular strips at this page. It’s interesting looking back through some of these, many of my favourites are quotes that I didn’t know well before. As good as this Carl Sagan one is for example, nothing for me beats hearing his voice against that original photo of the ‘pale blue dot’. Perhaps an exception to this is Gav’s take on one of my favourite poems, ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost.

Go and check out the site, and leave a comment below either if you find a quote you really like, or if you use the site with some of your students!



Who you gonna call? The E-safety helpline (9)

Safer Internet

We spent some of today’s training day talking about the various ways that schools can make sure their e-safety policies and practices are up to date (there are a range of links and resources in the E-Safety section of Hwb that are free to access even if you teach outside Wales).

The discussion moved on to what you might do in the (hopefully unlikely) event of an e-safety incident.

Luckily, the Safer Internet Centre runs a professional helpline for just these incidences at http://www.saferinternet.org.uk/about/helpline

They say:

The Safer Internet Centre has been co-funded by the European Commission to provide a Helpline for professionals working with children and young people in the UK with any online safety issues they may face themselves or with children in their care. We provide support with all aspects of digital and online issues such as those which occur on social networking sites, cyber-bullying, sexting, online gaming and child protection online. The Helpline aims to resolve issues professionals face about themselves, such as protecting professional identity and reputation, as well as young people in relation to online safety.

Well worth keeping a note of. A link can be found in the ‘Schools’ section of the Hwb E-Safety Zone.


What might Digital Literacy / Competence look like in terms of lessons? (day 8)


While we’re waiting to hear what the Welsh Government’s response will be to the Donaldson Report, it was noticeable how many companies were tweeting within 24 hours of the report’s publication that they could provide your school with a solution to ‘Digital Competence’. Best of luck to them, although you might want to ask them what this week’s lottery numbers are going to be as there is no official definition of what this will look like yet.

What we do have though is one of the resources created for schools in Wales by the South West Grid for Learning as part of the Hwb Project – the Digital Literacy Resource. This provides a series of outline lessons for each year group from reception to Yr 10 that cover 8 areas of ‘Digital Literacy’, each one with resources, and mapped back to the Literacy and Numeracy frameworks, the PSE and IT curriculum and suggestions for how you could use Hwb+ to deliver the lessons (although you could equally use J2E, Office 365 or another online tool of your choice).

You can find the resource via Hwb (either search for ‘Digital Literacy’ in the resource section or follow the links via the E-Safety Tab). Or you can click here to go direct!

The site contains downloadable pdfs and Word files for each year group.

If you’re either an IT coordinator or PSE coordinator in Wales and you haven’t had a look at these yet, get yourself over there now. If you know and IT Coordinator or PSE Coordinator send it to them quick sharp. It might save them so much time they can take you for a drink to say thanks!

Nb – A version for the English curriculum exists here

There are a number of other E-Safety tools and resources available to schools via Hwb, including the 360 Safe Cymru tool self review tool for schools. You can find them all by going to Hwb and clicking the E-Safety button.


Copyright free images for teachers and learning (7)

I wrote this yesterday, but struggled to get it online from my mid-Wales hotel. I’m going to post it now, and add the images tomorrow!

There are few things that annoy me more than an image in a teacher-created resource with a big watermarked copyright sign in the middle of it. We (quite rightly) pick up attempts by our students to plagiarise other people’s work, but in the closed nature of schools, and with the ease of access to Google images, teachers either don’t know or don’t care that they are committing exactly the same offense.
It’s never been easier to find images that you can legally use. Here’s a few ways:

Through Hwb
If you’re a teacher in a school in Wales you can log in to Hwb, click ‘Resources’ and choose to search ‘Image Quest’ – this is the image library from Encyclopaedia Britannica and you have access to these images for use in your lessons and resources (as do your students)

Flickr – Flickr.com
You can search for ‘Creative Commons’ images in Flickr, which include images uploaded by many museums, libraries and archives around the world.
Wikimedia Commonscommons.wikimedia.org
All the images on Wikipedia (and many others) are gathered together in the Wikimedia Commons library. Just like the articles on Wikipedia everything here is licensed for reuse
Even Google itself lets you filter the image search for images that it believes are licences for reuse. From an image search click search tools > usage rights> and select one of the options (I tend to just go for ‘licensed for reuse).

This can be frustrating as the image that caught your eye may well disappear once you apply the filter of images only licences for reuse. You can add the filter before you search, although Google haven’t really made it that easy – from the Google Images home page choose ‘settings’ in the bottom right of the screen and then select ‘advanced search’. The final option in the second block (narrow your search by…) is license.

(As an aside, while you’re at it you can filter just large images to make sure they don’t break up when you fill your powerpoint slides with them…)

And there’s more.
A quick search for ‘Creative Commons Images’ brought up a number of other libraries that look promising including:
(This last one contains a good overview of what ‘Creative Commons’ is any how it’s different to Copyright)


As you can see, there really is no excuse for those pixelated, watermarked, obviously copyright images in resources anymore!


I have mostly been reading… (6)


A few things that stood out this evening when I reviewed the starred items in Feedly. The full list is at http://ihavemostlybeenreading.tumblr.com/. I just need to work out how to get StaffRm recommendations in there…

Want to share knowledge organisers?

Following some recent conversations about ‘knowledge organisers’, this post by James Theobald contains a link to a shared Google Drive where these are being crowd sourced. Both an interesting idea and a great way of sharing the load.

Ideas for Teaching Better. All In One Place.

Tom Sherringham’s blog is one of my ‘must-reads’. This is an excellent summary of his teaching posts from the last three years of blogging.

Self-esteem, Self-efficacy for Science, and Ability Grouping

There’s so much good stuff over on StaffRm I could do one of these posts dedicated to stuff posted over there alone. This from James Mannion is worth checking out both for the approach and the findings.

Scaffolding: what we can learn from the metaphor

I first saw David Didau talking about scaffolding in the video of his talk on Slow Writing at ReasearchED. This post develops some of those ideas a little further. It’s one of those things that sounds so obvious once you hear it – the thing about scaffolding is that you should have a plan for taking it down.

(Bonus David Didau – How to get assessment wrong – seriously this guy is producing an embarrassment of riches at the moment)

Should schools count the opportunity cost? (Spoiler: no)

While I still think the concept is a useful one to consider, this from James Mannion again (on his own blog this time) makes an interesting analysis of when a concept is taken too far.


Should we start comment coding our teaching resources? (5)


***File under random pondering***

Flicking through Twitter this evening I saw a cartoon linking to this article about the importance of adding comments to code.

If you’ve never tried a bit of coding yourself, one of the options when writing code is to add comments for others who may look at the code, but which will be ignored by the computer. A thought occurred to me that perhaps it would be useful to have teachers add their thoughts and ideas to their resources – not to be read by the class, but to explain their thinking to other teachers who might be then using those resources. Especially as we encourage teachers to share their resources via Hwb.

Powerpoint has an obvious feature in the ‘notes’, but I guess an extra sheet could be added in Word (the comments feature may confuse people who aren’t used to using it).

I’m planning on going through my old resources over the next few days to update the resources section here, so I might try and give it a go…

Image credit: Twitterank Disclaimer Comments by theritters. CC Licensed on Flickr.

If it were my home (day 4)


One of the ways I’m going to be able sustain this posting-every-day malarky is to have blog posts sharing links to online tools and resources that I either use myself, or have seen recommended.

If it were my home comes via the excellent ‘Free Technology 4 Teachers’ blog maintained by Richard Byrne. The site allows you to compare two countries on a variety of measures, but what makes it stand out is the personal language it used to describe the comparisons.

Wales isn’t mentioned separately, but if I compare the UK to Mali (picked at random) I find that..

Mali vs UK

It also provides a map showing the size of one country overlaid onto the other


I haven’t used this site in any detail (there are options to compare disaster impacts as well as discuss with other user which country you would rather live in and why), but it looks likes one that might be worth exploring. It strikes me as being a very user friendly way of bringing the reality of life in different countries into the classroom for a range of ages as well as presenting lots of chances for ESDGC and numeracy.



Computational thinking – probably not as tricky as it sounds! (Day 3)

Barefoot Computing poster

Computational thinking is something I’ve heard about before from Tom Crick and others, but often struggled to get my head around. With a growing number of primary schools in Wales looking at using J2Code through Hwb as a way of delivering some kind of computing to their pupils while we wait to see what our new curriculum will hold, it’s an area I’m aware could easily be overlooked. While pupils can still get lots of enjoyment and doubtless a better understanding of some elements of programing and computing, it strikes me as something that can be made something much richer, deeper and more worthwhile if underpinned by an understanding of computational thinking.

One of the sessions I attended at this year’s TLAB was from Jane Waite from Barefoot Computing. This group is run under the Computing At School umbrella and provides training and resources to schools in England, but also to anyone who chooses to sign up to the site. I came away from the session with a much deeper understanding of the kind of things we mean by Computational Thinking, and the fact that many teachers are already doing many of these kinds of activities without knowing how they fit into this particular bracket. The image in the header of this post is of a picture I took of one of their posters.

Jane described Computational Thinking as being made up of six concepts and five approaches. These being:


Logic (predicting and analysing)
Algorithms (making steps and rules)
Decomposition (breaking down into parts)
Patterns (spotting and using similarities)
Abstraction (removing unnecessary detail)
Evaluation (making judgements)


Tinkering (experimenting and playing)
Creating (designing and making)
Debugging (finding and fixing errors)
Persevering (keeping going)
Collaborating (working together)

If you’re looking at developing computing at any level, then I’d strongly recommend giving some thought as to how you’re underpinning it with computational thinking. It’s certainly an area I wish I’d made much more explicit in my teaching as KS3 classes explored programs like Scratch. And if I were you I’d head over to Barefoot computing, sign up and have a look at what they have to offer.