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).

Is it the ICT or the USE of ICT?

An interesting debate has been sparked on  the Naace newslist recently which was started by a document entitled “Toolkit of Strategies to Improve Learning” ( which is a paper which makes recommendations about how to spend the Pupil Premium and was produced by the CEM Centre of Durham University.

The debate has been rekindled into exactly what we should be focussing on to raise standards.  A lot of money was pumped into UK schools to improve standards, but the majority of that was used to purchase hardware and software.  The feeling of many people is that school standards will only be raised using ICT if staff are given high-quality training in how to harness the technology they have!  At a time when UK school’s budgets have been significantly reduced many Head Teachers are faced with the dilemma of shedding staff or significantly reducing CPD, in some cases to say NO to CPD at all!  Surely something is wrong here?


A little publicity

Following successful presentations at BETT on “CPD using Virtual Worlds” and “Primary E-Safety” by Nick and Carol, the Guardian has followed up on the CPD session with a short piece for their BETT special.  You can read the short article at if you are interested.


If you are  unaware of TED and TED Talks then it’s about time you found out more.  According to their website ( “TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences — the TED Conference in Long Beach and Palm Springs each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford UK each summer — TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Project and Open TV Project, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize.”  Their website has short video vignettes of hundreds of TED talks about a range of things (as described above).

Some of the best of the recent crop of educationally related videos include:

Sugata Mitra talking about his hole-in-the-wall computing project amongst other things – these can be found HERE

Ken Robinson: Changing education paradigms – an animated short video in which  Sir Ken Robinson lays out the link between 3 troubling trends: rising drop-out rates, schools’ dwindling stake in the arts, and ADHD.

John Hardy: My green school dream – this is an inspiring talk about a dream that has come true.

More from TED soon!



Naace’s ICT CPD 4 FREE!

At BETT 2010 Naace launched a new FREE website which allows you to sign up to complete online modules on ICT CPD development.  According to Dawn Hallybone “The training modules cover a range of topics including: assessment of ICT in Primary, ICT knowledge within the QCA Primary Framework and exploring digital resources. I think this is a great idea and credits can go towards the Naace online ICT Diploma”.  Enrol and give it a go – what have you got to loose?

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