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).


Report on the Oxfordshire TeachMeet – 8th December 2010

The Oxfordshire TeachMeet was held at the Westminster campus of Oxford Brookes (up Harcourt Hill above Botley).  The TeachMeet was chaired by Matt Lovegrove @mattlovegrove and organised by Matt, James Bird and Vital.  The teachmeet was also sponsored by a variety of companies providing food and prizes making it a social event!.  The evening started with us watching a short video created by BrainPop introducing what a TeachMeet is.  There were seven minute and two minute presentations offered by participants.

The first presentation was a 2 minute presentation by Alex Wilson @Alex_Wilson_ about Blogging with his class.  He has developed his class blog to improve home/school links with information for parents.  Alex said it had started as a wordy blog but since then they have developed the use of web 2.0 tools to make the blog more interesting. It is a teacher led blog currently with as much audio/visual content as possible including the use of storybird in class for a Christmas story.

Next came Helen Caldwell @iHelenC and Amy West with a seven minute presentation on Stories for all: tools to support literacy development.  They showcased a range of web 2.0 tools and digital resources to help reluctant writers including, answergarden, Rory’s story cubes (on iPod touch) simple diagrams, BBC Pinball (generates ideas), oneword, Story jumper, storybird, Tikatok (every child has a story), ZooburstBookr (uses flickr) issuu (ebooks from powerpoint), myebook (make multimedia books), memiary, big huge labs, comiqs (online comic maker) piclits (combine pics & text), ghotit (contextualised spell checker which reads out your sentences), Let Me Type (study bar of tools), word talk (text to speech for Microsoft word), power talk, read the words, natural reader (which is available as a free version or paid version). They also pointed out that pupils needed to start with a model – many ebooks are availalble including those from ebook searchr, “Inanimate Alice” (8+ multimedia), bookemon, tar heel reader (accessibility) and jog the web.

The next seven minute presentation came from Nicki Wise @aprimarynqt entitled “Creative ICT in my NQT Classroom”.  She talked about blogging, specifically her class blog, some of which was intended for children to post,  some of the blog was intended specifically for parental communication.  The blog is set up so that parents get email updates when things change.  She also talked about the other tools she is using including Wordle (literacy thought shower for characters), Speedtile (bookmarking favourites as a tile), 3×3 links (which she used to make a class homepage), Voicethread (used for collaborative poetry writing, talking homework and getting families involved in writing a “consequences” poem), Photopeach, Google forms (used by pupils for reflecting on their learning), QR codes (3D barcodes including information in the barcode), Twitter (for ideas)!

Fiona Henry @fionahenryvital presented on the use of Sumdog which provides free multiplayer games for maths & numeracy.

Then Philip Griffin @pilgram presented on Tudors and M-exploration.  He ran a Tudor exploration day with information released periodically throughout the day onto their learning platform.  Philip also used m-explore as an “online hub”  for treasure hunting around the school group using geotagged images displayed on an ariel photo of the school.

Next came a presentation from the TeachMeet chair, Matt Lovegrove @mattlovegrove.  His presentation was about his experiences of using Nintendo DSis in and out of the classroom to record learning experiences.  He found that using the DSis enhanced the curriculum.  He found they put the pupils in charge of what was going on to start with.  Many of his pupils already had experience of using DSis at home!  His school wanted to purchase digital cameras but they looked at the DSis as they offered much more than a camera including audio, editors as well as the fact that about half of the class were confident DSi users already.  He started with discussions about how they use DSis at home.  He took them to Warwick Castle to “capture” the day.  The pupils used them to record the whole trip and reflect on it, using their audio and image resources to help with recount writing later coming from their photos etc taken on the day!  They used the DSis to capture audio and images to support learning as a learning tool, all through pupil choice.   Images captured in lessons could be viewed straight from the memory card onto the classroom interactive whiteboard using an SD card reader for plenary sessions.  They captured photos of maths (tessellation lesson photos, mirror images etc.) as well as collaboration via pictochat!

The next presentation came from  Chris Leach @chrisleach78 via a video presentation on Gunpowder, Tweeting and Plot 2010.   Chris’ class used wallwisher to gather info,, Scribble maps, (family tree) and they used Twitter to tweet as Gatesby with timed tweet release.  He also used Polldaddy to poll the class on who should be the next king!

The next presentation was a 2 minute presentation from Fiona Henry @fionahenryvital on free web resource for statistics.  She demonstrated the wealth of information and the ease of manipulation available from gap minder world.  The site includes stats on anything by country.

Another short presentation from Eylan Ezekiel @eylanezekiel about a proposed new Twitter hash tag #positiveparent which a group of educators are planning to start using soon to advise on how to improve communications and outcomes by involving parents –  coming to Twitter soon!

Next came another video presentation, this time from Ian Addison @ianaddison on used to share pupil’s work.  Books created here can include scanned images so it is possible to create handwritten as well as ICT-created books!  You can also include multimedia (sound and images) too.  He also showed examples of a school prospectus also published by myebook using a PDF uploader!

Next was anther short presentation from Leon Cych @eyebeams –  A quick look at Symbaloo– symbol based links to websites.  He recommended the site as being good for younger pupils.  The site can be set up to share links but has the ability to stop sharing then start again with a different URL so the owner can control access to the links list(

Next came another online presentation from Doug Belshaw @dajbelshaw on Models of learning and all about adoption of technologies.  He talked about edjournal and asked where’s the learning in the use of technology?

Next came Row Martin who presented on the used of iPod Touches in the classroom, and asked how can I live without them?   She talked about her experiences of using them as a classroom learning tool, of pupil choice alongside existing learning & teaching.  More including a video clip can be found at

Next came a short presentation form Carol Rainbow @carolrainbow of the Curriculum ICT Team about Using SimplyBox to share web links.  She showed a short video demonstrating how easy it is to put together a ‘box’ of links based on the image of each website.  Visit and be free to search out the very well hidden FREE educational version (link at bottom of screen).

Next came a second presentation from Nicki Wise @aprimarynqt where she was Reflecting on learning.  She talked about her own recent experience as an NQT and the importance of hands-on learning where people have time for reflecting on what they have done and trying again.  She said that she had found that her memory was not reliable enough and that she had valued making time to reflect and record what you have achieved so she had started to develop this with her pupils too.  She has began developing Learning Logs for pupils.  She started with paper log which was completed every day on a sheet of paper for the week but she found that this became unmanageable so she had developed the use of google forms to gather and handle the data in a much more constructive way.  The Google forms have a public URL for data entry but private access to the data (login needed).  She stated that this needs developing further as she has experienced problems with access to hardware (roll on one device per learner!) so unlike the paper version the whole class can’t do at once.  There is also a second problem that the data doesn’t go with the pupil…  (Maybe she should investigate personal blogs as provided in the Oxfordshire Learning Platform?).

There were loads of desrving winners from the wonderful prize draw held at the end of the TeachMeet.  Thanks to all that contributed, presented, organised and donated to make it an interesting and enjoyable evening!  Keep an eye open for a repeat performance next year!

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