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This half term my Year 4 group are looking at their local area and the important building in and around Bradford. To celebrate this in ICT we took some time to do some amazing art work using Photoshop. An expensive program I know, but something like will do the same thing.

They took a picture of the building they wanted to recreate, added a new player over the top, and started drawing over it. When they had finished their line drawings they took away the original photo leaving their work behind. Simple but very effective. Some of the children then started to add colour or tone using the ‘colour picker’ tool. This was a great way for them to choose the right colour, rather that the usual stockpile.

As a way of further enhancing the children’s learning I had them use a stylus on the screen to do their drawings. When using a finger on the touchscreens it’s hard for them to be accurate, but by taking the ink out of an old biro you get a really cheap stylus that they love to use!

Please like/share/comment, I’d love to give the pupils your feedback! 

With just a few more days for those hideous SATs it’s almost time for the pent-up energy of year 6 to be released! Time for them to run free, and at the tender age of 11, start to reminisce about their time at primary school. Sometimes this comes in the form of a year book signed by everyone they’ve ever met, or an awkward assembly showing off their talents….

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I like to escape this hell, and bring in some nerd-tastic work at the same time. I do this by getting the pupils to create a gallery or museum dedicated to themselves (feed the ego!) on Google Sketchup.

I start off with the pupils creating an empty building. Planning out their layout; how many rooms they want, materials and textures they want to use, etc. This can often take a whole lesson as I like pupils to create a few so they can choose their best. I also tell them to create the empty shell without a roof. This makes it easier to add the pictures and 3D items inside. The next session usually consists of photo collecting and editing. They go around the school looking for amazing work they have created, memories and favourite staff, before editing and re-sizing the pictures on PhotoShop. The final session utilizes the Import tool on Google Sketchup. It’s intended purpose is to combine 2 sketchup models in one file, but you can also bring in jpegs. Pupils import the images and place them on the walls of their building, before adding labels and signs like a real gallery.

As an extension to this pupils can animate their route around the gallery and add a commentary afterwards using Windows Live Movie Maker. Almost like a behind the scenes tour!

What do you like to do in these final moments with year 6? How have you used the import tool differently? 

After an utterly miserable and stressful morning my afternoon brought me back round to feeling human again! It was one of those afternoon where you remember why you got into teaching in the first place.

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Lets forget about the morning and concentrate on the good! I got into ICT club after school to find that the entire network was down (again) apart from a few admin accounts. I instantly saw this as an excellent learning opportunity with the Makey Makey boards, either that or it was just the excuse I was looking for to get them out again!!

Every week the year 5 & 6 digital leaders, along with some amazing adult helpers, take a group of year 1 & 2 pupils and working on their ICT skills. They lead the learning and have regular meetings to think about what they want to cover in that half term. Pupils teaching pupil, fantastic to see!

This week, with the network issues, they took the lead and explain how the Makey board works, and what kind of things that can get it to control. Then moved on to showing them how the board can be used with a simple soft pencil and a lot of sketching. Working in small teams they created the pieces, then took turns (hard enough on a good day!) at connecting their pictures and playing a tune on a piano app I created.

Their understanding of the board, and how is actually interacts with the computer, was fantastic in the end. They understood enough to know that they all conduct electricity, and therefore could all join together to complete the circuit and make a sound. So we even saw some team work! As you can see in the pictures above the atmosphere in the room was brill, and really hit the spot with the latest buzz phrase at school at the moment; ‘Pupils have a real thirst for learning’.

The final highlight at the end of the lesson came when they showed me their mucky fingers! The board works best on this activity when you use a really soft pencil. They higher the graphite in the lead, the better it conducts (I use an 8b pencil). This meant that after 30 mins of running their fingers over the drawings they were covered! Finger, palms and sleeves all shimmering in silver!

What’s your best example of pupils teaching pupils? Do it always work with activities like this? Please like/share/comment!

Makey Makey Magic

May 12th, 2014 | Posted by AlwaysComputing in Lesson Ideas - (0 Comments)

This week I was lucky enough to arrive at work and find a box of 5 Makey Makey sets sitting on my desk waiting for me. Obviously this was VERY exciting, and all my other plans for the day were instantly thrown out of the window. Within an hour I had made myself a little Pacman controller (very rock and roll). Within 2 hours year 6 had made themselves a game-pad out of card and staples to work with Kodu. And within 4 hours a group of year 3 pupils had made some amazing musical art. The creativity in my room  was amazing.



After a day like that I HAD to take the box home and tinker in my office for a few hours (much to my wife’s annoyance!). I spent some time looking online at what others had done with the Makey Makey boards and took inspiration from fruit! I made myself a wonderful working piano from grapes! Really simple to do, and it looked great. I started off with the simple Piano app on the MakeyMakey website and a hand full of the fruit!
I began by connecting the board to my computer, plug-in and go, no need for drivers or installation. Then connecting my crocodile clips to the corresponding places on the Makey Makey board. Before finally attaching the opposite end of the clip to the grapes. The key to making the board work is having a grounding wire. You need to be holding this so that you complete a circuit when you touch the fruit. I hope my little diagram explain this better than I just did, and yes this is the scrappy plan I did before putting it all together! The Makey Makey board is essentially a keyboard override for your computer. Anything you can get your keyboard to do with an app or website can be done on the Makey Makey board. When you complete the circuit the board tells your computer you have pressed the key. Easy.  I could have made this much more advanced by adding a whole bunch of grapes (pun intended) to create my own full piano. If only I knew how to play a tune on it!

When working with the children at school I have been starting off with the app on my screen rather than the tech in my hand. Whether it’s downloading something from the MakeyMakey website, or building one for myself on Scratch. You need to have the software for the hardware to work on! This is something that can be great to do with kids. With year 3 I gave them the musical app, they had to come up with the art work to connect the board to. To challenge why KS2 pupils a bit more, or to begin with my Digital Leaders, I plan on getting them to build their own musical sound effects using Scratch.

Relatively cheap technology like this really can inspire both children and adults with the coming changes in the curriculum, my pupils spent a whole day programming without even realising it! If you have used the MakeyMakey boards, or are planning on, please get in touch and share your creations. Happy Computing!

Hang on a second, just let me blow the cobwebs off my keyboard. It’s been almost 3 months since I last found a little bit of time to write a post on here and I’ve been letting it slip! 7 weeks ago my wife gave birth to our beautiful first baby, Abigail Elizabeth, so I think I’ve got a pretty good excuse!

To get me back into the swing of thing I wanted to share with you some of the activities and websites I love to use when I teach the little darlings (said through gritted teeth) down in Reception.

Poisson Rouge

I’ll kick off with a superb website for early years learners. Poisson Rouge is filled with a VAST variety of games and challenges for your children to get stuck in to. A lot of them teach mouse control in a subconscious way, while other help to improve their thinking and problem solving skills. The graphics are clean and clear, and the music and sounds are really engaging for younger learners. I particularly love the fair ground and underwater areas of the website, as they allow you to pick a focus for lesson and keep all children engaged. Winner!



Simple version of 2Publish+ that is REALLY easy for the pupils to get involved with. It works really well with touch screen machines, and the pupils tend to pull the screens right up to their noses in my room, trying to draw the perfect flower or house! Love choice of colours and pen widths, and I like to give the pupils a theme or drawing challenge when I get the chance. It also gives the pupils space to do some typing, which at this age is usually their names, but towards the end of the year I get some great descriptions from them. For those that use it, the mirror page is great and the kids get so excited when we use it. I really recommend it, as well as all other 2Simple programs.

Ipad Apps

At the start of the year some of the pupils still look like Deer in the headlights when I come down to meet them. I don’t even think about bringing them out of their little reception safe haven and up to my dark and scary ICT suite. So I bring down the iPads for them to use and explore with. Working in small groups I work through a variety of apps. ABCJoinedUp is fantastic for learning the basics of letter formation, before moving on to writing full words in cursive. Garage Band (with headphones!!) is a great creative hour and the kids LOVE IT!! PaintPad is great for the kids to make a mess without the mess and has a great feature that allows teachers to email the work to themselves, rather than it just sat on the iPad doing nothing. I love using the iPads with pupils at this age, give it a go!

Boobah zone

Fun, Simple and easy. A website choc full of games and activities for pupils to work their way through. Very similar to Poisson Rouge. The styling of the site is good, but a lot more simplistic that Poisson. The sounds are great and really funny at times. This is definitley one for the kids to explore on their own rather than directing them. Great to explore and work out the challenge of the game.


What is there to say? Grab the beebots and some maps and get the kids exploring and playing! I try not to get involved very much, and see the pupils learn from their mistakes and come up with their own solution.


Touch Tables

I’m lucky enough to work at a school that spends a lot on it’s IT budget every year. In reception we have touch tables for the pupils to leanr and explore on. These are brilliant tools and it’s great getting a group round them. They help to generate lots of discussion in the kids that really warrants their place in the school. I would really push all schools to take the plunge and go for them.

Digital Cameras/iPods

With the weather (hopefully) changing for the better it’s great to get the kids out on the field or playground using some hand held tech. At this young age you want to keep it simple and digital cameras, or in my case, a set of iPods are great for this. Give your children a challenge or a focus rather than just aimless selfies. Last time i had them out pupils were pretending to be Wild Things, or looking for mini beasts!. You would be amazed at what they come back with!


Any other great activities or websites your use in reception! Feel free to add them below! 


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