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.


Uncovering the secrets of effective feedback (well, trying to!)

After a stellar summer travelling China, I’ve come back down to Earth with a bit of a bump, and reality rears its ugly head once more. A new school year has begun and I, like many others in teaching, have been busy beavering away with a new year group and a new classroom! It is very much back to early starts, coffee by the bucket load and, of course, all the marking. There has been so much to do without unpacking and organising the room. I can’t believe how much stuff I’ve amassed already. 

Now I’m in Year 6 (gosh, don’t they write a lot!) I’m trying to make the process of marking and feedback as quick, easy and meaningful as possible. It’s so easy to let things slip when there’s so much to mark and I want this year to encourage my children to be critical and independent learners, especially as they prepare for secondary school. 

I’m building in plenty of opportunities in lessons for pupil self and peer assessment, using success criteria checklists or other types of prompts. I’ve also found marking alongside the child very effective for helping students understand what I’m looking for. Today I tried a game of Success Criteria Bingo which was very handy for seeing how many children already grasp the features that go with our current writing genre. We will use this form to mark against under the visualiser as a class tomorrow. As I am beginning to embed AfL strategies in the classroom, I am finding some new limits to my experience! 

One problem I tend to have is coming up with feed-forward tasks when I’m marking. I feel like the ones I come up with are so uninspiring! After hours of searching online, I’ve not been able to find any examples or ideas to steal either. If only they gave us a list when I was training! So this blog post is, in part, a request for help and advice, but also an opportunity for me to start my own bank of examples to make marking that little bit quicker! 

As and when I find/dream up new feedback tasks, I’ll tack them on to this list. They can then be put into a document for your downloading pleasure, once I have enough of them. In the meantime, watch this space…

NB: These are just examples! Feel free to change numbers, unit of measurements etc. 
Feedback tasks


  • Write your own word problem that requires…to answer it. (e.g long division)
  • How many m in 5km? 
  • Why is this calculation wrong?
  • Write a sentence explaining what you have learnt in this lesson. 
  • What would you do differently tomorrow?


  • What other words can you use here instead of ‘angry’?
  • What will you do differently tomorrow?
  • Write a sentence explaining what you have learnt in this lesson. 
  • Write a summary of what will happen next in the story. 
  • Punctuate this sentence correctly. 
  • Use the connective ‘until’ in a sentence below. 

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.


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 🙂



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


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. 

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!


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

My newfound iPad organisation…

Today I’ve been busy preparing spreadsheets for my class facts and figures. I am utterly fed up of looking at messy handwritten notes and lugging around a huge planner all the time, so have decided to keep all of my levels etc on my school iPad. Obviously once my school moves away from levels it’ll need changing, but right now I am extremely happy with my new, streamlined life. Hopefully, my days of misreading my scrawl in progress meetings will now be a thing of the past!


Look, it’s all shiny and smart!

If, like me, you fancy bringing your markbook into the 21st century, please feel free to download the templates below for maths, reading and writing. I’d recommend setting a password for these files just in case your beloved tablet falls into the wrong hands!

The pie chart is intended to show proportions of each fine grade in your class, and the Reports tab allows you to see each child individually. The ‘Progress’ tab is currently set up to work out sub-levels progress between KS1 and Autumn levels, as that’s out starting point in Year 3, but this  can be easily changed to reflect your own set up.

The spreadsheets are for use with the iWork Numbers app, but I have attached them as .xlsx below. If you would like them in .numbers format, message me using the About page contact form and I will forward them on to you. Being a bit of a n00b in terms of formulae (it’s been a long time since I regularly used media budget spreadsheets in a former life!), I’ve not quite ironed out the finer details on these sheets so any advice on how to improve them would be greatly appreciated!

Writing level template

Reading level template

Maths levels template