Starting our Digital Leader journey

Things have been crazy, mad busy at school already this year. Getting the school ready for the ICT Mark assessment means I currently have my fingers in a lot of proverbial pies (and actual Raspberry Pis!).

One of our projects at the moment is getting a Digital Leader group up and running. This is something I’ve been really keen on ever since I’d seen a lot of chat and posts about it on Twitter (#DLchat) and from the blogosphere (namely Sway Grantham and Chris Sharples). After posting a few cries for help on Twitter and Google+, I managed to collate a wealth of helpful information about the Digital Leader network, and what other schools are doing with their groups.

I decided that a Digital Leader programme at our school is going to be all about empowering the children to take ownership of ICT and the Computing Curriculum. The DLs appointed will be given responsibility over maintaining the laptop/iPad trolleys for a start, making sure that they are put away properly at the end of the day, or deleting unwanted files from the Camera Roll. Having seen some fantastic examples, the DLs will also have control over their own blog (with myself being the all-seeing eye, of course!). I also intend to hold weekly lunchtime meetings for us to discuss ideas, review software and make tutorials for teachers and pupils to use in lessons.

Once we’re fully established, I feel the children would really benefit from a rota that allocates them to classrooms during Computing lessons. Here they can be ‘booked out’ to come and assist teachers during afternoon sessions. I’m also expecting the DLs to be my Pi-oneers as well once we have those up and running (watch this space for updates!).

So many ideas! I had to get the ball rolling ASAP. The plan for implementation became:

  1. Get staff on side with it – this was easy! The concept of having some extra hands when using laptops etc yielded big appeal!
  2. Publicise – a few posters and an assembly was all it took to get the children well and truly excited. As a junior school, the scheme was only open to Years 5 & 6.
  3. Applications – paper versions and online versions on the VLE means the application process is widely accessible. Parents were also encouraged via the school newsletter to help with applications at home. A realistic date was set and stuck to.
  4. Interviews – A 45minute task on Kodu followed by a 5minute chat with a judging panel (myself and the HT). The task was really interesting to stand back and watch. I definitely recommend it. Hardly any pairs finished the task completely but it was brilliant to see them working together. One child, who had more experience with the program, let their partner do most of the driving, They explained to me that, to help their partner understand the program, they used elements from Scratch to teach them. Brilliant! The 5min talk served little purpose, in hindsight, other than to add some kudos to the process, though it was nice to spend time chatting with each of the applicants!
  5. Final selection – No set quota, and positions awarded to the children who deserve the position. Shiny badge included! We really couldn’t decide between any of the candidates, so all 10 were offered a position. My DL team was born!

UPDATE: In total, we had over 40 applications, which was more than I’d anticipated. Interestingly most of these were girls (go Ada!). We have since split into two groups – the Online Team and the Tech Team, and they are all feeling like we’re a legitimate organisation with these new roles. The Online team has a main editor who calls the shots, and they deal with out VLE and, eventually, will sort out the online blog. Tech do all of the maintenance derailed above, plus the lesson help rota.

When school starts up again for the second half of term, we will fly into these roles straight away. I cannot wait to see what sort of projects the children come up with, and I will of course update this blog with updates as we progress. If you’d like to know more, please do let me know via the contact form on this blog.

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Using the Raspberry Pi for a temperature sensing project

A new experience for me this week – my first request for coding help! Someone from my fledgling list of followers have requested help with code for a temperature sensing project using a Pt100 sensor and a converter.

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I don’t have this equipment yet so have endeavoured to find the answer through a good ol’ fashioned spate of web searching and crowd sourcing. Luckily I have found the following information…

Here’s a link to a thread on the Raspberry Pi forum about using the sensor in question with a RTD-to-Digital converter.

And this is a blog post by Raspberry Pi Spy detailing code for using a digital thermometer with a Pi, which I’m sure could be easily adapted depending on the sensor being used.

Finally, here is another handy thread on the Adafruit customer service forum all about using the same equipment for a nanobrewery! All useful information that is still applicable for this reader’s project.

I hope this is all helpful for the reader, and anyone else looking for information on this particular project. I wish I could give a more hands-on response but am lacking in resources at this moment in time!

Let me know how you get on 🙂

@MissTurner101

#ElectionDay

  
Five years are over already – I can’t believe it. What ever party you support, I’m sure many people will be looking back on the last five years with the same thoughts as me. Where has the time gone?

Five years ago I wasn’t teaching. I had just met my wonderful partner, I was finding a new job towards the end of my Masters, I was preparing for a life changing trip to Asia. Half a decade on, I’ve eaten Pad Thai on a riverboat, I’ve worked in media, got a dog, bought a house and changed my career. I’ve even found a new passion for computing and tech I didn’t really even know I had! Moving to teaching was and is the best decision I’ve ever made. Workload and pitfalls aside, it is rewarding, fulfilling and always challenging. I live to get up in the morning and go to work and that is a huge thing to come out of this past five years, politics be damned!

For me, today has been all about looking back on the last few years and thinking about the ups and downs. It’s obviously not all been smooth sailing, life isn’t like that. So what went well, what didn’t? What is in my control to change? Is it all about putting an x on that ballot paper?

Teaching gives us the opportunity to do more than that. We have a daily opportunity to affect the lives of our students, their confidence and self-worth. We can give them inspiration for their future paths, encourage them to question and reflect, be good role models, show them how to find excitement in life and learning. What a huge responsibility. This may sound self-important to some, but it is so much more about understanding the potential our roles in the classroom can have, rather than simply dismissing our days as “just another job.” There are many articles in the press about failing schools, ‘whining’ teachers, Ofsted horrors, it’s so easy to lose sight of why we started the job in the first place. Even myself, a mere few years in, have at times thought “Am I up to this?”

Whatever the outcome is tomorrow, I intend to start the next five years with my best foot forward. Battle through the marking, put up with the box ticking, grin and bear the jokes about school holidays, because it is so so worth it, whatever is thrown at us. After all, teaching is a privilege, not a chore. The ‘bad bits’ really aren’t that bad. Let’s put an emphasis on creating exciting and engaging lessons, getting to grips with new technology, having fun with our students! 

That’s my cheesy, soapbox moment over, anyway. I’ll read this back when I feel a bit low and remind myself about why I’m doing this. I hope it’s a helpful read for others as well. 

That’s enough serious talk. Happy Election Day everyone and have a wonderful five years!

#picademy8 project – Buddha Babbage

So this week, Picademy changed my life. That may sound dramatic, but it really was an amazing two days of CPD that has awakened a new understanding and enthusiasm for computer science. I learnt so much about coding, hacking, robotics that my head was spinning on my drive home! For any educator involved in teaching the computing curriculum, I really cannot recommend Picademy enough. The team at Pi Towers have an infectious passion for the subject and you are guaranteed to come away with new ideas, perspective and friends. 
So that’s enough gushing – onto the real stuff! Part of the two days involved us taking over the reins and developing our own projects using the Raspberry Pi. After talking with another Picademy attendee (@mvnorwood) about his idea for a display that could draw from an RSS feed of inspirational quotes on demand, we soon delved into a discussion about all the things this could be used for – news updates, weather, facts about topics, maths questions. What if these quotes could come from a cuddly character? Buddha Babbage was born!

 

Babbage waiting to be wise

   

BUDDHA BABBAGE 
Resources needed:

  • Raspberry Pi 
  • Male to male jumpers
  • Male to female jumpers
  • Button (we used one from CamJam EduKit)
  • 2 breadboards (1 large, 1 small)
  • LCD screen (we used 16×2 2-line screen by Starfun)
  • Potentiometer
  • A Babbage (other bears are available)
  • Electrical tape
  • Card
  • Paper cup or other stand

NB: You will need a lot of jumpers. It takes at least 12 jumpers to connect the breadboard to the Pi, three for potentiometer and two for the button. 

Assembly:
The first thing we had to do was check the LCD screen worked. To do this we found instructions in the wonderful Carrie Anne Philbin’s book Adventures in Raspberry Pi. After wiring the LCD screen to the Raspberry Pi (all pins from the screen except for 7, 8, 9, 10) we typed used Carrie Anne’s Adventure9 git code which you can find in her book, or you can run another test program. 

    
  

NB: Make sure you connect the potentiometer first! This was vital as we thought the test had failed until we realised the contrast needed turning up! Doh!

We then connected the button to the breadboard. 

Next – the code!

 

Message me if you want the code sent to you

 
This photo shows the code we used – largely pinched from other bits of code we found, it worked really well and the results are great for a small amount of code. This code worked after having pulled the Adventure9 git before during the test.  You may need to tweak it. 

The inventory line contains all the phrases that we wanted to be randomised for Babbage to say. You could change these to be anything you want!

The final step is to pop the button under Babbage’s top so it’s under his Pi logo, and set up the screen with card on a stand so that the wires are hidden. 

To improve this, I now need to work out how to make the process repeat itself after a longer period of time, perhaps with another loop, so that Babbage is always waiting for someone to push his tummy. You can also adapt the code to pull info from an RSS feed. 

What ideas can you think of for using this project? Perhaps a character who gives up to date news headlines? 

If you fancy having as much fun as I did, and you’re an educator, then you must sign up for Picademy@Google and Picademy South West! You won’t regret it!

 

#picademy8 graduates looking super

   
Happy hacking!

  

I am now a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator! You can be too!

Using QR codes for display

In a recent attempt to engage children more with our topic display, I’ve given using QR codes a go. I found the idea a while ago on Mr P’s marvellous ICT blog (my bible at the moment) and thought I’d give it a go. I was amazed by the results!

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Many of the children had seen these codes around but had no idea what they were, and had just let them fade into their periphery. They were amazed at the way these codes could bring up websites or text, for example, as if by magic!

We chose some of our favourite websites about our topic and created QR codes for them and now they are proudly displayed on our topic board. These have proved so helpful for quick reference during various projects, as well as providing useful tasks for children as extension tasks. During our last open afternoon, the children were desperate to show their parents these ‘magic codes’, and many parents have now had to download QR scanner apps onto their phones for future use!

Now that I’ve trialled QR codes with classroom displays, my brain is swimming with the potential for further projects. What previously struck me as a fairly useless ad gimic is now proving to be a real hit in terms of pupil engagement. They love them! At our recent school trip to the zoo, the children were spotting the QR codes in between rushing to see the meerkats and elephants.

I’m feverishly gathering inspiration from various sources online. Top ideas for future projects at the moment are:

  • A learning scavenger hunt with each code revealing another clue – could be perfect for consolidating learning at the end of a topic
  • Creating a guided tour of the school for visitors – perhaps just on the displays to help explain the process/story behind the work
  • Prompts in maths – maybe code on table could reveal success criteria/method so chn can look if their stuck but ignore it for extra challenge
  • Literacy books – could reveal definitions of word classes etc at back of book if they need it? Or connectives word banks?

Where to start? As it is the end of term next week, I love the idea of organising a scavenger hunt to consolidate the learning at the end of our current topic. I better get cracking on the clues!

Signing off x

iPads in my classroom

I love my iPad – such an obvious thing to say as a teacher, as I know so many people are using them in their daily practice. I have my own personal one, but have also been issued one by my school to use in class. I use them for everything at home; shopping, note-taking, scheduling, banking, research, planning, organisation, writing, listening, watching. But why don’t I have such a range of school uses? It’s such a great resource, so how do I use it more?

At my school we have a bank of iPads to share with other classes and they are not always readily available so I have been increasingly looking for ways I can use my own single iPad effectively in the classroom. Here are some of the ways I’m using it at the moment (beyond web browsing!):

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1) The first use, which you’ve probably all heard of, has been as a visualiser. I’ve recently found Alan Peat’s iVisualiser to be the best way of doing this. I love how you can annotate photos of children’s work easily, and I use AirServer to show this on the IWB. The highlighter tool is helpful for enforcing our pink and green marking policy. The children can also come up to the front and underline areas for improvement or of success. Before this app, I was awkwardly using the camera function, though the children loved it when they’d accidentally get caught in the crossfire and end up projected on the whiteboard!

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2) Another way is to help facilitate the writing process. Some children can find it helpful to use the app to draw their ideas before writing. Why not use paper? Using an app like ShowMe means children can draw slides of pictures, developing their sense of story structure, and these can then be shown to the class via AirServer – my trusted ally! I’ve found this is doubly effective when it has followed storyboard activities, with children arranging parts of a story and then using the iPad to sequence their own.

Apparently ShowMe also provides the opportunity to view other slideshows that people have created and uploaded. I haven’t looked through the options yet but this may be a helpful function for small group activities or extension tasks for high abilities.

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3) Another quick use of my iPad in lessons is as a dictionary or thesaurus. If a child uses a word like ‘nice’, for instance, I might hand them the iPad and ask them to look up the word and then find alternatives.  Cue AirServer again where the screen is projected on the IWB for the rest of the class to use! Likewise if we come across a word in reading that we don’t understand. We bring it up on the iPad and show the others the meaning. I often use the Dictionary.com app for this (free version, see above). We would talk first about the words that would better fit their sentence.

Before the weekend I heard Alan Peat at one of his workshops mention a website where you can use synonyms in the classroom. Visual Thesaurus is a subscription service that creates maps of synonyms for any word you search for.  Alan Peat suggests getting the child to do this, and then print it out. You can then highlight several of the most appropriate words and staple it alongside their writing. I’ll definitely see if I can start doing this in the classroom, I hear they offer a 14 day free trial!

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4) MyScript Calculator is another good app I like to use in maths for whole class discussion. If we are looking at mental maths calculations, children using this app to write a number sentence with their finger on the iPad and see it turn into typed numbers. You can then choose whether to automatically solve or reveal when you click. This app is helpful for keeping up engagement when we are going through  answers, but it would be helpful if it worked for column addition and other non-linear calculations!

This isn’t a huge list so you can see I need some inspiration! I have a few apps that I sometimes use on a 1:1 basis but nothing that is firmly embedded in my practice. I will keep scouring the Internet for ideas and trying them out. Ideas welcome!

– Miss T