The BBC micro:bit

I returned from the Easter break to find 4 huge parcels containing 280 BBC micro:bits (one for each Y7 in school.  This is tremendously exciting!  I’ve had my teacher bit for, erm, a bit and have loved playing around with it, as has my 6 year old daughter and her friends (a small plea – MORE of this sort of thing please BBC – lots of other year groups and especially primary teachers would LOVE these resources).

2016-02-16 09.16.24

Little Miss Colley and friends investigating the micro:bit.

The Y7 micro:bit pioneers club have been writing some excellent programs such as a compass, a real life snakes & ladders and a magic 8 ball too.

Now it’s time to start introducing all of Y7 to their new devices.  We’ve made the decision to keep the micro:bits in school whilst we work through the 4 lesson scheme of work and give them out at the end once pupils have become more familiar with the devices and (hopefully) some fires have been lit.

As usual, I’ve been busy creating resources, so here are:

My YouTube playlists:

My microbit website profile – basically all the scripts that I have written.

The scheme of work and lesson resources.

Thursday 15th October 2015 – #EducationDay – A Day In The Life Of My Classroom

IB3 Classroom

This post is intended to show a day in the life of my classroom and share my lesson resources as part of Twitter’s international #educationday.  All of my resources are shared here using a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 license – you are free to us and adapt but do not sell them on.  If you want to ask me any questions before, during or after the day then please comment here or tweet me (I’ll be able to respond at break and lunch).  Thanks, and here we go……

Period 1 – 8:50 – 9:50 – Year 9 (age 13/14) Computing

Year 9 are taking their first steps into text based programming by learning Java.  In this unit of work we take a programming skill (such as selection) and split it into three exercises – a worked example in Scratch, recreate the same program in Java then try an independent challenge based on what they have learned.

Today the class are completing the Java worked example and starting the challenge for selection (activities 5 and 6 on the ‘contents’ page).

You can see my tutorial website for the students here

Download all the resources for the scheme of work here.

Matthew talks about his Java program:

Period 2 – 10:50 – 11:50 and Period 3 – 11:05 – 12:05 – Year 10 (age 14/15) GCSE Computer Science

I have two GCSE groups in Y10 this year, so this is two separate one hour lessons, not a double with the same class.  This week we are learning about data representation.  Tuesday’s lesson was about ASCII and Unicode text representation and (if it’s all gone to plan – I’m writing this bit in advance) today’s lesson is about representation of images. UPDATE – Y10 P3 have had one lesson on this topic. They will be creating pages on the class Wikispaces wiki to summarise their learning.  P4 have completed this work as they have had 2 lessons this week.  We will be starting representation of images with a very early Christmas themed lesson!

I’ve planned these lessons in collaboration with my ace colleague @Miss_Noonan88 and based them on the equally fab resources available on @clcSimon‘s great website.

Representation of text lesson resources are here.

Representation of images lesson resources are here.

Hamza and Steve talk about representation of images:

Heather talks about ASCII and her revision Wiki

Period 4 – 12:05 – 13:05 – Year 8 (age 13/14) Computing

Y8 are refining their Scratch programming skills by creating a ‘Virtual Pet’.  Here’s my example of the finished product.

This project consolidates their knowledge of input, output and variables.  We then use selection, loops, lists and procedures (blocks) to add extra features to their pet.  Learners will be adding extra characteristics (thirst/happiness etc) to their pet or using random selection from lists to make it speak.

The project tutorial website is here.

Download all resources for the scheme of work here.

Awesome female coders Katie and Maddy tell us about their Scratch virtual pet.

Lunchtime – phew!

Spent fixing case sensitive <img> links on my project websites that didn’t show up until I uploaded to the web server!

Period 5 – 13:50 – 14:50 – Year 11 (age 15/16) GCSE Computer Science

Y11 are currently doing their Controlled Assessment, so unfortunately I can’t share examples of work in progress.  They are using Java to code a memory game which generates a grid of nine or sixteen words read in from an external file.  After 30 seconds, the words are randomised, with one word replaced with a different one.  The user has to guess the words that have been removed and added – they have three tries.  Here is the AQA exam board specification for the project.

We have finished coding on the project, the class are either completing test plans, testing or annotating their code listings to explain the programming techniques used.

The end?

So that’s the teaching part of the day done.  Next it’s a departmental meeting for about an hour and then home to see the family.  Once the kids are in bed then there are about 50 pieces of Y9 work to be marked.  Hope you’ve enjoyed a day in my classroom, it has served to remind me what awesome students I’m lucky to work with.  Until next time…

Andy

Go on, Google me…..

“You’ve got a website Sir?”

Yes I do, and Facebook, Twitter and quite a few other social media outlets.  Some of which I allow to be public. However, before I go all Nathan Barley ‘self fulfilling media node’ then let me share with you the key line/learning point from all of my e safety lessons and staff training sessions.  Concentrate now, here comes the science bit…

When you post something online, it’s ACTUALLY ON THE INTERNET.

(Well, technically the World Wide Web, but I’ll put the Computing pedantry on hold just this once.)

There, sorry for shouting but it is quite important.  This story is the reason I’ve been compelled to post.  I’m also lucky.  I got to go to school, college and (especially) university pre-Facebook. Very dodgy hair.

The newest generation of teachers didn’t, nor did they have the benefit of learning from mistakes made in the digital arena by previous generations.  They are the pioneers/lab rats depending on your point of view.  It also seems increasingly easy to forget that the Web is only as private as you choose to make it, and even then less so than you think, so here’s my point.

We need to model digital citizenship for our learners.

There’s no point in being an ostrich, that horse is out of the bag, the cat is behind the cart etc etc…  Have a blog, tweet, be on Facebook but if you choose to make it public then be nothing but professional and positive.  Post your best stuff, celebrate successes, admit to failures in an ‘I’m going to learn form this’ manner and definitely definitely share resources and good practice.
Now for the really important bit – leave the arguments for non public arenas please. I’m absolutely sure that I don’t want to see my kids’ teachers engaged in a slanging match on social media. Think of how your 140 characters could look to others unaware of intended inflection, humour, or other underlying meaning.  For your own sake too, you’ll probably get Googled pre-job interview.

So I encourage my classes to Google me!  Risky, but I’ve taken precautions. They did once find a ‘Mr Colley’s fit’ Bebo group, but it was (predictably) about a different Mr Colley INA different school. However, it did spark some interesting chats about knowing what’s online about you.

I have a website (but you already knew that given that you’re on it!), I’m Mr Colley and it’s about teaching.  My Twitter feed is the same, an extension of my professional life. If I want my learners to take their place in a digital society then I should try to give them an example of how to behave and leave a trail of good stuff for others to find.  My personal online presence is well locked down, and even then I’m careful about what I post. Never the twain shall meet.  In the wise words of Egon Spengler:

“Don’t cross the streams”.

I know I’m probably preaching to the converted here, but if like me you’re involved in any form of pastoral role or ITT then please pass on the advice.  This needs to be more than an assembly and a few Computing lessons a year.

Safer Internet Day 2015

I’m happy to report that my school is taking part in Safer Internet Day once again this year with all forms having assemblies and performing activities in registration around the theme of ‘Building a Better Internet Together’.

In addition, I run my ‘E Safety for Parents’ evening, and here are some of the resources from the night.  Please share any original work using  a creative commons share alike license.

Amazing Mind Reader – a video that really makes you think about what to post.

Orange Digital Dirt – one of my favourite videos about digital footprints.

My Slide Deck – here are my slides from the night.  If you prefer, here is a link to the PowerPoint file – IS for Parents V3.

Websites

ThinkUKnow – Your (and my) one stop shop for advice for parents and pupils.

The Parent Zone – a great site with an especially good free magazine about digital parenting.

Spicing Up Text Based Programming

It’s been a while since my last post.  I’ve had my head down working away at the demands of teaching KS3 computing and GCSE computer science for the first time.

Without a doubt the toughest learning curve has been teaching Java to my Y9s, where class sizes are that bit bigger and they have had no experience of text based programming.  When they get stuck, they get stuck.

We started off the year with the grand idea that we would convert my old spreadsheet quiz unit into a Java based quiz, so we produced a whizzy tutorial website.  However, in practice, it was a bit too high level, and my classes, whilst being keen to do well needed more careful scaffolding to enable them to take their first steps in text based coding.  I was spending lessons running from one problem to the next as I hadn’t helped students develop the resilience to solve issues on their own before calling for me.  Combine this with a new piece of software (Eclipse) with it’s own set of folder management issues with multiple students using the same machines lesson after lesson and I wasn’t able to step back and see the big picture in class.  I needed to tweak the lesson structure to provide more built in support and free me up a bit more to challenge and support where it was actually needed.  The way I did this was though a three step process.

Here’s an example of how I taught loops:

Step 1 – The Human Computer

Five *ahem* “volunteers” were chosen to be the human computer.  Then I brought out the chocolate digestives (lots more volunteers next lesson!).  I set the variable ‘biscuits’ to five and we munched our way through the code below.  Whilst doing so, we discussed how we could code without the loop to achieve the same result.

BiscuitLoop1

Step 2 – The Worked Example  

Students were given the code for a program using loops (loosely based on my adventures on the M6 with two small children in the car during the summer hols).

DoWhile

Step 3 – The take away menu.

This, I think, is the best thing we’ve done with this unit.  Nicking an idea from Ross Morrison-McGill (@teachertoolkit), I created a differentiated take away menu of independent tasks for students to apply the skills.  They are graded against the Nando’s spice rating menu, with the spiciest involving skills not taught in class.  Here’s the loops example:

NandoLoops

This approach has worked much better, breaking down programming into discrete skills and  giving learners chances to apply and embed as well as a sense of ownership over their independent tasks.

To look at the whole unit, along with fully resourced tutorial website, please visit my Dropbox folder.  All work is licensed under Creative Commons non-commercial, share alike. And enjoy!

#CompEdUk – A hashtag is born

The new curriculum seems to have fragmented the Twitter community of ICT/Computing teachers into several different discussion groups.  I’ve been running out of space on my tweets trying to use all the hashtags to cover all bases.  Various hashtags being used are:

  • #ictcurric
  • #computing
  • #compatsch
  • #digitalstudies
  • #compsci

In an effort to provide a focal point or the discussion (and leave us some characters left in our tweets), a few of us on the CAS forums have suggested the use of a new hashtag for Computing related tweets.  It is *drumroll*

#CompEdUK

Please join the discussion and collaboration on Twitter by simply searching for the hashtag or including it in your tweets.

Update – The Power of Twitter

After finishing this blog post, I started publicising the hashtag on Twitter.  Less than 10 minutes later, Alan O’Donohoe (@teknoteacher) tweeted with this series of FREE webinars for computing teachers. Instant free CPD. How’s that?

Computing At School ‘Switched On’ Magazine

My article for the Computing At School magazine ‘Switched ON’ has just been published in the Autumn edition.CASMag

The article deals with differentiation in Scratch programming.  My bit’s on page 10, and I’d heartily recommend reading the rest of the magazine too. Here’s the download link: Switched On Autumn 14

I have now finished resourcing two Schemes of Work using the 4 step differentiation technique outlined in the article.  Follow the links below for to grab a copy from Dropbox.  I’m just finishing off running the Y8 unit and am very happy with the progress of my learners – using variables,  selection and loops in Scratch and debugging & discussing how their programs work with key terms.  Any feedback or suggestions for improvement are more than welcome.  Please use the resources under a Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution, non-commercial, share alike license.

Y8 – Virtual pet in Scratch (based on a project by Marc Scott – @coding2learn)

Y7 – Binary converter in Scratch.