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.

TeachMeet East Lancs As It Happened

Last night saw the first #TMELancs at St Mary’s CHS in Astley.  It was a hot one, but we still had a turn out of over 50 people who shared some amazing classroom practice.  Firstly, thanks to everyone involved.

One word of advice, don’t apply for internal vacancies and organise a teachmeet at the same time! By 3.30 pm I’d been put through the interview process and was feeling more than a little frazzled, however, it was time to get set up.  Our student leaders were brilliant, organising drinks, guiding people in from the car parks and generally being a credit to themselves and the school.  The pies arrived and went down very well, despite the temperature of 27 degrees plus.

We videoed the event, and I’ve included the footage of the presentations here.  However, it was a very hot evening and we had a lot of fans in the room, which gave a lot of background noise.  I’ve done my best with the sound, but there were a couple that were inaudible. So apologies to Amanda Bennett & Chris Cox, but your videos just didn’t turn out.  It will be better next time, promise!

Julia Skinner – Improving writing using blogging & 100 word challenge

Then it was on to the presentations.  First up was Julia Skinner (@theheadsoffice) talking about 100 word challenge, blogging and how to engage pupils with a real world audience.  Her presentation can be found here. She also shared her site collating lots of school blogs.

Lee Parkinson – 1 second every day

Next was Lee Parkinson (@ICT_MrP) who played the master stroke of showing video of his kids (triplets – sir I salute you).  He also reminded us of the importance of reflection and how you can use technology to capture 1 second per day (a la Cesar Kuriyama) of your ‘moment’ as a reminder, whether that be as an educator or as a parent. Here’s his blog on the subject, complete with one of the video he showed.

Kate Davies – Demonstrating Progress

Kate shared lots of great images from her school of how staff are using displays to demonstrate pupil progress. Some fab examples that you can see here.

Frank Farrell – 3D Images

TMELancs3D

Frank (@FrankFarrell) gave out his 3D glasses (about £1 per pair) and talked about how he used freely available 3D images on the web to stimulate writing and discussion. His resources are here.

Emma Barnes – Socrative, Triptico & Twitter by a non geek.

Emma (@MerryEmB) began with a recurring theme of the evening – the transformative nature of Twitter on her classroom practice.  She then set a live Socrative quiz about the previous presentations, broke the wi-fi, and showed us Triptico, which she used to draw the raffle prizes. Her presentation is here.

Julie Bentley & Vish Kaplia – The Virtual Teacher

Julie (@julie_bentley) & Vish kicked off the second half by showing us examples of how they had created linked, differentiated and scaled lesson resources for pupils to access independently.  Their resources are here.

Graham Simms – Stories From Scandinavia

2013-07-09 18.34.38Graham (@GrahamRSimms) presented a really thoughtful piece based on his experiences of visiting schools in Scandinavia in the school holidays. He focused on the design of the learning spaces and the trust placed in the learners by their teachers.  His presentation provoked this tweet from @mattpearson:

Amanda Bennett – iTechno Club

Amanda shared her experiences of using Google Maps with learners to enable them to create an interactive map of their lives.  She also touched on the brilliance of digital leader programmes in schools.

Rosey Earl – Disguising Differentiation

Rosey (@EarlMiss) talked about her strategies for differentiated grouping with 6th form, and getting students to focus on the  ‘how’ not the ‘why’. Her slides and great ‘celebrity family’ group resources are here.

Alex Turner – How to get your school in the local paper

Next up, Alex (@alexicographer) gave us some useful advice about how to target certain papers and format news stories to ensure maximum coverage.  His resources are here.

David May – Y5 in SPAAACE

Possibly the most enthusiastic man in the room, David (mm_2312) told us about how Twitter helped him (his Y5 class were involved too, but I’m not sure who was more excited) send a science experiment into space. He’s definitely not looking for a new job though……. 😉

Chris Cox – Zondle

Chris (@MsCoxEnglish) gave us a demo of Zondle, an online quiz creator and showed us how she has been using it in English lessons.  A really nice focus on literacy and similar to MyMaths in the way that it tracks progress. Her slides are here.

Alayne Levy – Talking Tom Does Times Tables

Alayne (@typingadvice) finished the night off by giving us a great demo of how she uses the Talking Tom and Aurasma apps to teach multiplication. One simple question, and lots of ways to practice with built in interactivity.

By that time, it was hot and sticky, but people were still really positive. I think that’s a testament to the enthusiam generated by the presenters.  I had a presentation on standby in case we ran short, but we didn’.  If  you’re interested, it’s here.  I loved the wide range of techy and non techy tips on offer, and had a great night. I think people got a lot out of it, as shown here:

I’ve tried to cover as much as possible, but you can see all the #TMELancs tweets below. Enjoy! I did!

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It’s all objective

By Mykl Roventine [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Mykl Roventine [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I’m trying to simplify my thought process when planning. I’m getting it down to a few key questions:

  • What do I want them to learn?
  • How do I know where they are?
  • How do I maximise the learning in lesson?
  • How do I know what they’ve actually learned?
  • How do the kids know what they’ve learned?
  • How does this affect the next lesson?

I reckon that as long as I can answer those questions, I’m doing OK. Increasingly, I’m becoming convinced that a lot can be covered by setting great objectives and success criteria, and then getting the kids to actually engage with them. For me, great objectives:

  • Are accessible
  • Are non judgmental
  • Are in pupil speak whilst not shying away from subject language
  • Give opportunities for multiple entry points to learning

This is where I’ve found techniques like SOLO invaluable. It has helped me to scale the difficulty in my lessons and provide a clear ladder for learners to see what they have to do to progress. I wasn’t getting that from level descriptors, and there isn’t really such a thing as a ‘C’ grade spreadsheet skill or even exam answer at GCSE. In the exam, if you bodge the ‘give’ or ‘state’ questions then you’re a bit stuffed as there aren’t a lot of opportunities to earn the marks back. I’ve adapted SOLO for both practical and theory lessons, but it’s gone best when I’ve given the kids input into the process and let them own the objectives. For example:

Y8 Scratch

Dead simple. Learners write their names on a post it and stick it to the board next to the relevant SOLO symbol. Actual descriptors were displayed on the interactive board, so I’ve included them here. Some stickies fell off so they wrote their names up instead. Used my shiny new ipad to photograph the board at the start and end of lesson and reviewed it with class to show progress.

This meant that they actually had to think about where they were on the framework and get up out of their seat to commit to action. Better than switching off whilst sir reads from a PowerPoint.

20130606-204144.jpg 20130606-204153.jpg

Whilst this was great, it didn’t really provide multiple entry points to the learning.

Y10 GCSE – Gaming Topic

I did the same thing with in class objectives and learners self assessed in class, but for homework I split some practise questions by SOLO level.  Learners had to attempt two ‘consolidation’ questions from the stage they were at and one ‘challenge’ question from the next stage up. This really helped to ‘call out’ those who just moved their post it to keep me off their back, and inspired others to push themselves and try more ‘challenge’ questions.

Objectives/success criteria

Homework questions


So, I suppose it’s not just about objectives. It’s about differentiation, accessibility, expectations, cunning planning, useful AfL relationships and all the other myriad things that make teaching such a varied and fascinating art.  What I do know, however, is that planning and sharing really clear criteria with my learners in meaningful ways has seriously improved the sharp focus of my lessons.

TeachMeet East Lancs is go!

TeachMeet East Lancs Logo

I’ve run quite a lot of large and small scale INSET over the past few years and tried a lot of different training strategies.  However, the two things that teachers always tell me that they find the most valuable are:

  • Time to share ideas
  • Chances to observe each other.

So when I heard about TeachMeets a year or so ago, I was fascinated.  It’s a really simple yet effective idea. I found out that #TMBolton was happening near me and signed up, but life got in the way and I had to pull out.

More than a year later, I’ve still not made it to an actual TeachMeet.  I love the sharing culture and exchange of ideas that happens on Twitter, and but I hadn’t managed to follow it up with any real life sharing.  So, inspired by these great posts my @ICTEvangelist and @Gripweed1, I decided to bite the bullet and organise one. It’s time to bring the CPD to me! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

TeachMeet logo

I’m being ably assisted in this venture by the wonderful @merryemb and the other ASTs at work.  There is already a rather large ‘to do’ list, but we do think that we’ve sorted the pies, so that’s the important stuff taken care of.

So, if you teach/work in a school in Wigan/Manchester/Salford/Liverpool/Bolton or just fancy a bit of a journey, please join us on Tuesday 9th July.  And bring a friend. And share this post with everyone you know. It’s here:


You can sign up below, or on the TeachMeet East Lancs Wiki Page,  join the Facebook group, tweet me at @MrAColley or email TMELancs@smchs.org.uk.

If you can’t make it on the night, the hashtag is #TMELancs and I’m hoping to live stream the event, more of which in later posts when we’ve figured out how to do it!

I hope to see you there. If not, bagsy having your pie!

AC