Sliced heads

Your Own Technology Survey (YOTS)

Do you know what technology your pupils have access to at home?

  • Do they have internet enabled mobile devices?
  • Would they be willing, able and allowed to bring them into school every day?

If you are thinking about BYOD or BYOT then these are questions you need to know the answer to.

The Your Own Technology Survey (YOTS) is a tool to help schools better understand the technology available to students, and how that technology might be utilized to enhance education.


What to do on a class blog

I’ve recently been asked by a number of teachers “what shall I do on my blog?” So this gives me an excuse to do list on a blog!

  1. Make a list! People love lists, pupils love lists, so make a list of something that is relevant to your class. But don’t make it too long (unlike this list!)
  2. Set a challenge. The main reason for using a blog with children is to help them learn and there are so many things you can learn through either writing a blog or reading and commenting on a blog. There are some really good challenges out there on the blogosphere already such as 5SC (Five Sentence Challenge) and 100WC (100 Word Challenge). It is very easy to set your own challenge, post a photo and ask the children to describe what is going on, or the story that might surround the photo. Give the first line or paragraph of a story and ask pupils to write the next page. Give the last line of the story ….
  3. Point your pupils at posts by other children on your blog or on other class blogs and encourage them to comment. It works best if they are give several positive, encouraging comments for each constructive criticism that they make. Suggest that they think about how they would feel if they received the comment that they have written.
  4. Celebrate your children’s work. It is so easy now to put a photo or video onto a blog, especially if you use a tablet such as an iPad with the WordPress app installed as I am using to write this post. Parents, grandparents from across the globe, friends and relatives love to see their children’s work online or to hear them reading their own work. And if you have a visitors map attached to your blog you have your next geography lesson sorted!
  5. Visit other blogs to get ideas. Blog dipping is a great way to see the best of what is happening on other school blogs.
  6. Join Quadblogging. Link your class blog to three other class blogs across the globe. You take it in turns to blog and to read and comment on other class blogs and this will give you loads of new ideas, give your pupils lots of opportunities to provide critical analysis of other work, and another geography lesson will be sorted!
  7. Perhaps the most important thing is to make the blog live, it needs regular input and feedback from yourself, the pupils and an audience out there. As David Mitchell says “A Blog needs an audience to keep it alive for your learners.” Sugata Mitra introduced the idea of the “Granny Cloud“, people “out there” who are encouraged to praise, comment, suggest and challenge via the blog. Why not build up your own community of cloud grannies to help keep your blog alive?

If you have other ideas do please add them as a comment!What to do on a class blog wordle

Hands up

hands-upBack in 2010 the BBC showed a short series called “The Classroom Experiment” where Professor Dylan Williams took over a year 8 class to test out some simple ideas that he believes could improve the quality of education. One of these ideas was to ban hands up when the teacher asks a question and instead choose students at random. To aid the fair and even selection of students he wrote their names onto lollipop sticks and picked them out at random.

thehatI was reminded of this programme today because my daughter, who is currently studying to be a teacher on a PGCE course, bought some lollipop sticks. And this triggered another memory, that of a free program called “The Hat” from Harmony Hollow Software which allows you to select students at random on the computer screen. It adds a slightly different dynamic to selecting students and also allows you to group students at random.

Obviously, if you have some difficult students you would have to be brave to use it to group students at random as Darren and Clive are bound to end up grouped together!

Anyway, I’ve found it to be quite a nifty and useful piece of software in the past. You can run it from a USB pen, you can load up different classes onto it, and you can use it to draw numbers or words rather than names. All in all, this software can provide that little bit of fun without distracting from the education process, it can fool students into blaming the machine rather than you and it allows you to try out the “no hands up” approach without lollipop sticks. If you try it out let me know what you think of it.

Power and social networking

In a recent article in Resurgence Fritjof Capra wrote:

To understand how power works in social networks, we need to distinguish between two kinds of power: power as domination of others, and power as empowerment of others. The most effective social organisation for power as domination is the traditional hierarchy, and power as empowerment is the network.

Social networking is about empowerment so should we not be using and teaching responsible use of social networking in our schools from an early age. In fact, with the movement of effective power from hierarchies to networked civil societies should we not only be teaching it but finding ways to practice it in our schools? Or are we already doing that? Your thoughts?


Fifty things to do before you’re 11 3/4

50thingsOne of my first blog posts on this site was about how little contact children have with nature these days and the impact it can have on their health and wellbeing. Last night the Country File TV program on BBC referred to the National Trust’s campaign to encourage children to get out of doors, they have published a list of “Fifty things to do before you’re 11¾”, a quick Google this morning brought up the list on the CBBC Newsround site along with a video report and the site that the National Trust have set up for their campaign.

The list is quite exciting and the activities would lend themselves to all sorts of classroom activities as well including literacy and numeracy. I’m sure that with a little imagination teachers would be able to tick off some of their required boxes whilst the children are happily ticking off some of their 50 boxes!

Of course, one of the big questions is, which ones have you been able to tick off, either before you were 11¾ or since then?

Me, I’ve got a couple to do still – where’s my GPS?

Books or e-books, that is the question


In Star Trek: The Next Generation Captain Jean-Luc Picard has a preference for paper books over digital books. Science fiction has now become science fact and we have access to small e-book readers such as the Kindle, and other tablets that we can read books on like the iPad that I am currently blogging from. The advantages of these devices does seem quite obvious to some of us – they are small, have long battery life, can carry huge numbers of books and documents including dictionaries, thesauri, text books and novels. It is easy to search for words or phrases and you can usually annotate your work. Added to that is the excitement and enthusiasm they can produce in students.

However, there is now some suggestion that Captain Picard may have something in his preference for paper based books. People who read paper may actually remember more! In an interesting blog post Maia Szalavitz suggests that there are issues in remembering not only what is in the book but also the names of characters. She concludes that "more studies will likely show what material is best suited for learning in a digital format, and what type of lessons best remain in traditional textbooks".

I wonder what Captain thingumabob would have to say?

Well Done! Blogging about your successes

David Mitchell, deputy head at Heathfield CPS in Bolton, found that of the children being sent to him, for every child sent for a positive reason there were 10 for negative reasons. In an attempt to change this he set up a “Well done – Show Mr Mitchell” blog. Pupils were told that the next time they were sent to him he wanted it to be for a good reason so that he could put them on the “Well Done” blog. The result? The “well done blog” has changed this around to one negative for every 10 positive!


I’m a great fan of David Mitchell, also know as DeputyMitchell due to his Twitter tag. If you get the chance to hear him promote his kids at a conference or TeachMeet I think you will be inspired.

Building Relationships

I remember a colleague once saying that education was all about relationships. Relationships with pupils, with colleagues, with parents and of course with your own family.

Since I started reading more about sustainability and well being I have realised that another relationship that is very important is the one with your school building and grounds. The environment that you work and study in affects you in so many ways. Are you going to feel comfortable or study well if you sit in a draught, experience lots of distracting noise, if you are surrounded by drab walls, don’t have a nice view out of the window, sit in uncomfortable seats for hours, if you have too little space because of overcrowding, if things don’t work, if it is far too hot, or you are in a massive building where it feels like you are just a tiny little insect? Are you going to respect the school building and surroundings if nobody else seems to care about looking after them and there is litter everywhere, if the windows are falling out, the roof leaks and doors don’t shut properly? Will you be bothered about saving energy by switching off lights and closing doors if the windows don’t shut and the classrooms are uncomfortable due to excessive heat or cold?

Yet despite BSF and PFI, global warming and financial crises, Ofsted and Academy status we are still planning to build schools that depersonalise us and don’t encourage us to develop a good relationship with them.

I’ve seen how new buildings and carefully developed school grounds can make a huge impact on behaviour and motivation of staff and students and how they start to respect the school fabric in a way they didn’t in their older buildings. The buildings can become part of the learning process as well as part of the learning environment, they can inspire learning rather than distract. And if the staff and students are allowed to have a say in the design of their new working environment then even better. Why shouldn’t students be aware of the process of planning a school? Let them know that someone has decreed that each student is allowed a certain area of floor space and why the windows are the size they are. Let them make suggestions as to how their learning environment can be improved.

So all you architects and school planners out there, when you go to visit a school to look at how it might be rebuilt or extended, go and sit in the classroom for a day, talk to the students and staff and get a feel for how you can help them improve their relationship with their learning environment. And when you go back to your environmentally controlled, plant filled, light and airy office just think about the environments you are creating for our learners for the next 40-60 years.

Where does all our food waste go?

I’ve always been shocked at the amount of food that is wasted and the huge environmental impact food production has. We grow food and transport it all over the world, often flying it thousands of miles and then transporting it by road for hundreds of miles only to throw half of it away because it is the wrong shape, colour or past it’s “best by” date. We eventually get the food to the school, restaurant, hospital or home, prepare it and then leave some of it on the plate. Next it goes into a bin to be collected by bin lorries that transport it miles to dump it into land fill sites where it decomposes to produce methane and carbon dioxide – more greenhouse gases – and because it gets mixed in with all the other rubbish it is of no use to anyone.

I believe that it is important for us and our children to understand where our food comes from and the real cost of producing it. Many schools are already growing food so that their pupils realise that peas and tomatoes come from plants and not tins or packets from supermarkets.

But it is also important to understand where our food waste goes and the impact it has on the environment. Some schools have started compost heaps to dispose of vegetable waste but this usually deals with a small amount of the food waste produced by a school.

A company called Ridan was a finalist in the Devon Environment Business Initiative (DEBI) awards for its Ridan Composter, a carbon negative device that can turn food waste into useful compost that can be used in the school grounds. There is also a cash saving in the money saved on disposal costs and the opportunity to teach young people how food waste can become a valuable resource.

The Resurgence article that introduced me to the Ridan composter tells of a school that installed a Ridan composter and then had an assembly about it in which the children sang ‘I’ve got a brand new Ridan Composter’ to the tune of the Wurzels classic song!

The Ridan website also includes more information about composting. If your school is interested in installing a composter you may be eligble for a grant from organisations like Biffa.

Autumn leaves

Hawthorn Berry

The winds of the last few days are causing the leaves to start falling and even though it is only September it feels like Autumn is on its way. As I walk around my local patch the hawes are ripe on the hawthorn trees, beech mast litters the ground and rowan berries are a brilliant bright red. All around us are the seeds of the next generation.

Many children are totally unaware of this. They don’t see the trees and the berries because they don’t know to look, they spend most of their time indoors. Richard Louv coined the phrase “Nature Deficit Disorder” in his book “Last Child in the Woods” and he uses this phrase to describe the alleged trend that children are spending less time outdoors and are losing touch with nature and the seasons. There are many reasons suggested for this occurrence and Louv says that this has profound implications for the health of future generations and the health of the planet. Attention disorders, depression and obesity all get a mention.

There is an increasingly large movement of people who take this work seriously and are working to get children outside and actively learning. One way is to take children out to gather the seeds of the local trees, identify them using books, databases, websites or other people, and then to plant the seeds. Hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel and beech all make good hedges and would make a brilliant green corridor if you planted them around your school boundary. They would also disguise those horrible metal fences most schools have – those ones that make the school look more like an open prison!

Besides fallen leaves, a lot of twigs and branches have been brought down by the winds. Rather than clearing them up and binning them, why not make small piles around the school grounds as insect hotels. A quick google will bring up lots of suggestions as to how to build them and how to use them to teach children about wildlife and food chains.

And all of this will provide opportunities to teach numeracy, literacy, art, …. and all those other subjects, and to tick all those curriculum boxes.

Noggin the Nog

The other day I was reminiscing with a young teacher about children’s TV of bygone eras. I was surprised how many of the old programmes were admired by a younger generation. I then remembered Oliver Postgate’s amazing Smallfilms especially Noggin the Nog. There is a lovely tribute to Oliver and his films on the Dragon Friendly Society website.

A year or two ago a friend of mine introduced his KS2 pupils to Noggin and showed them how to do this sort of animation and now that I have been reminded how wonderful the stories are I thought I would share the ideas with you.

There are some good websites for introducing Noggin including the following:

Creating animations like Noggin the Nog used to be very time consuming with the camera technology available at the time. With modern computers, cameras and software it is much easier though it can still take some time. Successful animation in the classroom requires careful planning. Pupils need to tackle something that is achievable in the time available and with the resources at hand. To do a project like Noggin the Nog it may be an idea to get the whole class involved in producing a short storyboard and then splitting the story into short episodes that small groups can work on. Each short episode can then be stitched into the main story.

There are lots of suitable software packages available that can be used to do this sort of stop frame animation including:

These software packages will work with most USB webcams and with some more sophisticated cameras. The most versatile webcams I have come across so far are the Hue webcams which are webcams on a flexible neck; the best range of cameras are the Sanyo Xacti (but their tripod bush is right next to the USB connector – derrr!)

If you would like to discuss animation in schools further, would like training or help with an after school or holiday club involving animation do please contact me.

And of course, you mustn’t forget Ivor the Engine! 

Bike Week

Besides being Green Transport Week it is also Bike Week. I think we all agree that it is a “good thing” for our young people to take more exercise, that it is good to be fitter, less overweight and that the exercise boosts our sense of wellbeing as well as our physical and mental performance.

As I am committed to trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle I try to cycle to as many of my schools as possible. One of the things I notice is the provision that the school has for locking up bicycles, scooters, etc. They vary from nice covered cycle racks and rails at the front of the school proudly proclaiming that in this school pupils and staff are encouraged to use their bikes, schools where there is a cycle rack or two hidden around the back of the school to schools where there is no provision at all and I have to find a suitable fence or post to lock up to.

One of the obvious issues is funding – schools are having to be very watchful of their pennies and may find it hard to justify spending on a cycle rack. But if it is a good thing to encourage our children (and staff) to take more exercise then I think that we should be at least trying to provide the facilities. With this in mind here are a few sources of ideas and funding for installing bike racks:image

  • Sustrans – an organisation promoting sustainable transport. They have a good website providing ideas on how to encourage pupils and parents to think about how they travel to school. They provide a series of information sheets including funding ideas and an e-news that you can subscribe to for the latest funding alerts;
  • a number of manufacturers of bike shelters provide advice on funding including Miko Engineering and Able Canopies (n.b I have no connection with these companies, they just happened to be top results in Google!)
  • there are many organisations who will provide grants towards projects such as installing bike shelters, in particular Biffa have a small grants scheme. You have to be within 10 miles of a Biffa operation and the website has a search facility where you enter your post code to see if you meet this requirement.
  • if you are looking at installing bike racks why not involve your pupils? They could do a survey to find out who does / would / wouldn’t cycle to school and why; where the best place for a cycle rack would be; how it might blend into the school environment rather than be an eye sore; produce publicity material to encourage cycling, etc.

And if you do decide to go down this route, why not get the pupils to follow the progress by keeping a diary or blog on the VLE? There are also an increasing number of devices and applications that you can use on phones to show your levels of exercise, why not use a bit of competition and technology to encourage more exercise and do some data-logging and numeracy at the same time!

If you find any of this useful do please let me know and hopefully I will come and lock my bike up to your bike rack!

bMobLe–Keynote 1–Andy Hutt


Andy is an ex-teacher (not that he has ever stopped teaching) and works directly with schools and educational providers to support a more creative, efficient and effective use of ICT.  He spoke on Creating Creativity and gave us “Reasons to be Cheerful”. He asked “Is Creativity a good thing?” and “Are you a Creator or a Consumer?” He even suggested that whenever we talk about creativity in the classroom Sir Ken Robinson is an elephant in the room – or more likely, a sumo in the room!

Here is the video for his presentation, you may want to move about 20 minutes into the video in order to skip the introduction

Watch live streaming video from bmoble at


Web link to video –

Andy has a blog at and a website at

Future News – 2027

What will life be like in 2027?

The New Economics Foundation (nef) have produced a pack of four newspapers all set in 2027, each from a different climate change scenario. The aim of the newspapers is to help us to think about how climate change will affect our communities, organisations and families, and what we might do in the next few years to help tackle climate change. These articles would be brilliant conversation starters in a number of subject areas including geography, science, english, general studies, etc. Clipboard01

And there are some very entertaining news items in there as well. Do you know what Tony Blair will be doing in 2027? Read and see!

Google enhancements – Wonderwheel

Well it’s the Easter holidays in Leeds (rather early and very confusing) so I thought I would try and catch up with emails, read a few blogs and play with a few tools. As a result I have just found Google’s Wonder Wheel. It’s an additional tool available from the Google search page – if you type in your search criteria and click search and then choose Wonder Wheel from the options under search tools you find a mindmap style diagram with further suggestions for exploring your topic. A good example of this is if you type in “victorians” it gives you a wheel like this:


You can then follow the link that is of most interest to you. Obviously, this can really help pupils find relevant information as they are normally presented with millions of results and have to sift through them. Wonder Wheel can help them to find relevant information more quickly. Unfortunately I can’t find a link that goes directly to a Wonder Wheel search. More information is available about Wonder Wheel at the Wonder Wheel site with a nice blog entry on Ian Anderson’s useful Undertenminutes website which tells you more about ways in which to use Google.

Department for Education National Curriculum Review

There are about 750,000 teachers in the UK. Apparently, whenever the government do a survey about 1200 respond.

After years of being told what to do teachers are suddenly being given an opportunity to decide what they think should be in the National Curriculum. It’s not the easiest of surveys but that shouldn’t put us off participating.  Our voice can make a difference – look what happened when the government tried to sell off the national forests!

Have you responded to the Department for Education National Curriculum Review yet? All responses must be submitted by 14 April 2011.

Flat Stanley’s International Adventure

Flat Stanley is taking a trip around the world visiting schools – virtually! If you want to know more see his website. At the time of writing he is visiting a school in the UK. There is huge potential for lots of creative work here so have a look and see if you can invite Flat Stanley to your school!

TeachMeet Leeds 2011

TeachMeet Leeds 2011

Jon Farley and I are organising a TeachMeet in Leeds on May 12th at 6pm at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in the Congreve Room. A TeachMeet gives teachers the opportunity to share the inspirational ideas that they have tried out in the classroom and found to have helped their children learn. They are usually fun events as well as educational and we are planning to have a raffle, quiz questions with prizes as well as the presentations by teachers. Jon and I had a good planning meeting last night (down at pub!) and we are very excited about the event. We have some good sponsors who are paying for the venue, catering or prizes or supplying equipment for the evening.All we need now is teachers with their inspirational ideas. So, if you have something that has worked well for you in the classroom involving ICT in some way then why not put together a two or seven minute presentation? You can use whatever presentation format you want including PowerPoint, keynoteprezislide rocket,280 slides, you could just talk, show something from the web, hold up a poster or you could sing a song (well we are in the Playhouse!) or do something different? Classroom practice, cpd, course planning… pretty much anything you think can help others. The important thing is that you get your message across.

If you want to know more or to book to come then go to the TeachMeet Leeds 2011 pages or contact me.

Pupils as teachers – Digital Leaders

An exciting way of teaching teachers how to “do” ICT is underway in Bradford at Bowling Park Primary. Chris Mayoh with help from James Langley (Education Bradford’s Curriculum ICT team) have started a “Digital Leaders” programme. This involves the pupils showing the teachers what resources are available, what can be done with them and how to use them. They even had their own mini Bett Show! You can see more on Chris Mayoh’s website.

And if you think it is good and inspiring, why not leave him a message to say so!

If you want to know more see MrStucke or the Vital website where there is a course about Digital Leaders. If you come across any more inspiring use of Digital Leaders do please let me know!