My return to the CAS Conference for its 9th year

After around five years of absence I returned to the 9th CAS Conference held in Birmingham today.

I was hoping for new ideas and a chance to catch up with people and I got both.

Now, cooling off in the garden with darkening skys (it is nearly 11pm) I have spent a few hours reflecting on the day…

The day started really well.  I boarded my train, bacon roll in hand, and made my way to my reserved seat to find none other than Phil Bagge sitting in the seat opposite.  Phil was one of the CAS people I met at my first CAS conference and I’ve pinched his ideas and shown his jam-sandwich-robot video to teachers ever since.  We had a lovely chat about work and life and I tagged along with Phil right up to the University.

The opening sessions were thought-provoking…

Mark Guzdial introduced us to three keys to improving computing teaching:

  1. Prediction – the power of asking the pupils to make predictions help them understand and remember more
  2. Sub goal labelling – making it obvious (almost decomposition) what we are doing
  3. Instructional design

This gave me my first take-away – trying to include Sub Goal Labelling in future resources and planning

The first breakout was on CAS’s Project Quantum with Miles Berry.  Again someone I’ve known for years and who I’ve quoted and also used his YouTube videos around the new computing curriculum with teachers in the past.  One thing he mentioned that really got me thinking was about hinge points/questions after around 20 minutes of teaching was something new to me and a definite second take-away.

Taking time to check real understanding at appropriate times within a lesson before moving on is something I probably don’t conciously focus on enough.   Project Quantum was interesting, a quantatitive online bank of quiz questions that can be used to assess pupils knowledge and understanding of Computing, but currently heavily biased towards secondary.  It made me want to contribute more primary-level questions…

The second break-out I attended was with the aforementioned Phil Bagge and Mark Dorling.

They have been working on a project around attitudes.  What makes a good Computing Problem Solver…

Phil’s resources and animated explanation and description made me want to try these ideas out straight away (another take-away).  I will certainly be introducing them into my teaching from September, if not before.

After lunch I attended a rather poorly attended session on streamlining assessment using tablets.  Will Franklin took us through Formative, Socrative, Kahoot and Plickers also mentioning Google Forms and Class Kick.  Although there was little really new here for me, it did server to reaffirm my ideas and prompt me to spend some time developing Socrative particularly which also made me think a bit more about Hinge points too… so another take-away!

The final breakout I attended was with Steve Bunce and Mark Dorling (again).  This was a look at how to move pupils from a block-based language (Scratch) to a text-based language (such as Python) via something like Snap.

The plenaries in the afternoon started with Miles once more recapping Project Quantum, but with some interesting audience participation!

The Second plenary was a very interesting and engaging talk from Chris Ensor of the National Centre for Cyber Security who talked about his organisation’s changing role since World War 1 and the modern challenges.  He talked about how they are hoping to encourage and support a new generation of security experts (and programmers who understand the absolute need for code without holes) through things like the Cyber First bursary scheme.

The day was rounded off by a charming and highly engaging session from Linda Liukas.  She’s describes herself as an author, storyteller and computer scientist (and more).  Author of the growing “Hello Ruby” book series.  Her storytelling style had the whole lecture theatre of 300+ people spellbound despite the heat and left me with even more to think about (and an Amazon bill for books).  A superbly engaging way of introducing young children to Computer Science and I can’t wait to share it with a reception teacher I know!

Thank you CAS for a great event, thought provoking and invigorating (and excellent value).


The promise of Learning Platforms

My first introduction to a learning platform came way back in 2004/5 as far as I can remember. At that time I was a primary classroom teacher and we (all of the schools in the County) were presented with a Learning Platform and told that this was the future and we were expected to use it…

We were told it offered unparallelled opportunities for personalisation of learning, collaboration and anytime learning extending the learning well beyond the school day. We were presented with an empty box and some instructions…

Looking back

In hindsight (and isn’t that a great thing to have) I think they were ahead of their time, ahead of the technology and ahead of the connectivity. Looking back from here (more than ten years later) I wish I was being given that Learning Platform now…

In 2004 not all homes had a computer and certainly many didn’t have the internet. Now everyone has an online connected device, and in most cases children have their own. What could I do now with truly personalised learning and collaboration?

So the Learning Platform’s time has come but most have gone…

That could be blamed on the change of government and the sudden disappearance of the money for and obligation on schools to have a learning platform. It might have been the right decision for the majority then but some schools could see the Learning Platform benefit and stuck with it.

How could learning platforms work now?

At a time when children seem to be voraciously absorbing YouTube videos on anything and everything and play apps and are often left to entertain themselves it seems a shame that this ‘informal’ learning can’t be steered by something a little more formal.

Imagine a modern “Learning Platform where teachers ask children to blog about the things they find out about online? Why can’t teachers take the children’s interests and extrapolate these to help children to learn AROUND things that interest them? My girls (10 and 12) are interested in lots of things on YouTube, mainly around Minecraft currently but I know they have ‘learnt’ about hair care, hair styles, makeup and beauty tips and far more. Why can’t these ‘interests’ be harnessed to get them to reflect on their informal learning and to guide them towards learning other things through their own interests.


We live in such a connected and accessible world why are most schools ignoring this and pressing on with teaching grammar!

Sometimes I wish I was back permanently at the ‘chalkface’, responsible and able to make decisions for my group of children. Would I be brave enough to grasp the nettle and truly personalise their learning?

The Blogging Revolution Comes to Oxfordshire?

Following the really well received Blogging Keynote from David Mitchell at LWT2012 we felt it would be useful to share some of the information and links. What makes anything like Blogging or Podcasting really come alive is to give it a REAL audience and purpose. Blogging by publishing into a vacuum (ie onto a site with very few viewers) soon dies and is very unsatisfactory for all. To get around that, the biggest issue, David Mitchell founded a site to partner up groups of schools into clusters of four schools so that they could take it in turns to blog about focussed issues of things of interest as a major focus for a week, then spend three weeks as the audience for the other schools. The language work invovled in being an audience is still massive, and again with a real purpose and also with the abilty to write back well thought out comments, questions etc. Almost like pen pals but on a different scale! Since LWT2012 we have already heard from many Primary schools who are setting up blogs for children as young as Year 2. Many Oxfordshire schools have since started to create their own clusters to support each other with audience and purpose, many within school partnership or geographic areas. If you are struggling to set up a cluster of your own or if you need more schools to join you then please feel free to email the Oxfordshire CC Curriculum ICT Team and we will see if we can help schools find each other!

For a more global picture though we would highly recommend Quad Blogging!   Below you will find links to some other sites where you will find more information.

David Mitchell’s Blog can be found at His school blog can be found at


QuadBlogging – The defibrillator of the blogging world!

 A defibrillator: To deliver electrical energy to the heart to stun the heart momentarily and thus allow a normal sinus rhythm to kick in via the heart’s normal electricity centre.

QuadBlogging: To deliver electrical energy of a global audience to the heart of a blog to allow a rhythm of excitement to kick via the blog’s widening global audience.

Imagine four schools that had a partnership/agreement that would mean that for a four week cycle, each school’s blog would be the focus for one week out of four. Each school in the Quad would spend some time visiting the blog of the school for that week, leave comments etc. After that week, another one of the four schools would be the focus and this would be repeated for the four week cycle and then repeated. It wouldn’t take the pupils long to work out that during their week, they would get a boost in visitor numbers and comments. This would give a real focus to have posts online ready for this bulge in visits. During the other three weeks, pupils get to visit and comment on other blogs in their quad. Pupils being pupils, they would also venture out of the quads and visit other blogs that are linked.

Text taken from the Quadblogging Website at where you can also find out more about how you can QuadBlog too!

To blog or not to blog…

I guess that is the question.

Having spent the day in the hospitality of Creative Blogs at their FREE blogging event at the Silverstone study centre today I find that I am inspired to blog, but more importantly to share some of what was said and shown at

We heard from Bill Lord (@Joda5), David Mitchell (@deputymitchell)  as well as Creative Blogs John Sutton and Peter Ford. (@peterford)

Rather like a teach-meet several attendees shared their own school blogs.  The most important thing about blogging isn’t HOW it looks or how it compares, it seems to be firstly the AUDIENCE and then the actual content!

Bill Lord’s own blog has a post sharing some excellent examples and lots more information at

Quadblogging seems to be an excellent way of developing audience and a super idea being championed by David Mitchell (in is spare time!)

We will be creating an School Blogs page on this site very shortly so please get in touch if you would like us to add your school to our list!

Thanks again to the Creative Schools team for a great day!

Teaching Children About Staying Safe on the Internet

This week we have something new on BuzzingEd – a GUEST blogger…  Natalie Hunter grew up wanting to be a teacher, and is addicted to learning and research. She is fascinated by the different methodologies for education at large today, and particularly by the advent of online education.

Teaching internet safety is both a challenge and an opportunity for parents and educators. Children are increasingly active online and are more likely than ever to encounter some dangerous situations. Learning how to handle these events will not only help them stay safe but also teach them critical thinking skills that will be useful throughout their lives. Instead of worrying about the safety of ventures onto the web, the adults in a child’s life need to teach him or her how to avoid danger and how to deal with uncomfortable situations when they arise.

Some parents and teachers simply use parental controls to limit a child’s access to internet sites that may be inappropriate. However, this does not teach children to think for themselves, and it will not necessarily keep them safe on the web. Today’s youngsters are generally more computer savvy than their parents and even their teachers, especially if they go to school online and have a familiarity with that sort of interaction. They learn from other kids how to get around barriers. The best way to keep them within safe boundaries is to teach them to think before they type.

Another skill that every child should learn is how to summon aid when she feels threatened. They need to know that getting help right away is the correct thing to do, and that they need never feel embarrassed about having done so. In the end, each child’s safety depends on learning guidelines for security and being able to apply them in any situation. This is the education the children cannot do without.

For children ages 7 to 10, the BBC has developed an educational site about web safety that parents or teachers can use with kids. This site has a mnemonic for teaching internet safety associated with the word “SMART:”

S: Keep Safe. Don’t give out personal information such as name, address, any telephone number (including mobile), email address, school name or friends’ names. Keep passwords and nicknames undisclosed. Make up a screen name that isn’t related to any real life information. Don’t send text or photo messages to people you don’t know, because your mobile number goes with them.

M: Don’t Meet Up. Never agree to meet an online friend, even ones that are longstanding. If this isn’t avoidable, take a trusted adult along.

A: Accepting Emails Can Be Dangerous. Always delete email from someone you don’t know. If you do open an email that says something that makes you uncomfortable or tells you to download something, tell a trusted adult. Likewise, don’t accept text messages or open links on a mobile phone from people you don’t know.

R: Reliable? People on the web may not be who they say they are. Information you get in a message or find while using mobile phone might not be reliable.
 Think of how easily you can play pretend on the internet; how much so for anyone else!

T: Tell Someone. Always tell a trusted adult straightaway if you feel uncomfortable or worried about what someone said online. Report the person if there is an alert button on the site. Then log off and leave the website.

For older children and teens, you can visit the website of the Washington State Office of the Attorney General for a set of age appropriate tips on how to avoid harassment, victimization and exploitation online. The discussion covers commercialisation and other issues that teenagers may not be aware of. This is a good educational site for children and adults alike who use the internet and are not aware of all the implications. Another site parents and educators can use to teach internet safety is The site includes videos and lesson plans for primary, intermediate, middle school, and high school classrooms. The site is sponsored by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (U.S.A.).

Much of internet safety depends on protecting privacy. With adequate and reliable information, parents and educators can work with children to develop safe and appropriate ways of using the web. The skills gained in this process are vital for internet safety and can also carry over into other areas of learning. Thinking critically and applying sensible rules will help children stay secure not only on the web but everywhere they go.

An Educational Vision for 2020 (or 21 things that will be obsolete in 2020)

There’s a very thought-provoking blog post by Tina Barseghian at which details her ideas of what will be missing from the 2020 school.  It prompted Steve Wheeler to reflect himself and to turn to his PLN (Twitter) to debate this which in turn prompted Steve to blog at

Take a look at these visions of future schooling and see if you agree!

Reflections on Learning Without Frontiers 2011 part 2

Some educational bloggers have been extreamly busy getting their thoughts and ideas down, this post brings you a few of these links.

Ewan McIntosh has been very busy, not only has he been posting his thoughts on Karen Cator (as posted HERE) but he has also been reflecting on a great sound bite “Stop sorting children by their date of manufacture” which is a post relecting on the experience of the newly formed Essa Academy who have provided hand-held devices to ALL students and staff.  He has also been reflecting on the session presented by Dr. William Rankin where he outlined Quite possibly the best virtual learning environment in the world.  Ewan has also been busy sharing ideas for handheld translation tools as details in his blog post Mobile As A Lens On The World: Word Lens instant translation as well as taking a look at iPad for Learning for All the Wrong Reasons.

More posts following LWF to come soon!


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