Author Archives: AlwaysComputing

About AlwaysComputing

ICT Co-Ordinator and E-Learning enthusiast.
Always looking for new and innovative ways to enhance learning in primary schools. For (almost!) daily updates follow me on twitter @alwayscomputing

I hope to share good practice, great resources, and a few things to brighten your day!

Unplugged Computing – Patterns

June 14th, 2015 | Posted by AlwaysComputing in Out and About - (0 Comments)

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Today with year 3 I decided to take advantage of the good weather and take the class out for some CSUnplugged. The idea of the lesson was simple, computers love patterns and they had to think like computers in a number of pattern challenges. I split this into 3 areas:

  • Pattern creating to make a task simpler
  • Pattern spotting/understanding
  • Debugging a pattern

We started with using any objects they could find on the field to create different patterns with varying degrees of complexity. The kids needed a push at first to understand the could use ANYTHING they could find, but when they saw me working with group moving some pallets they got the idea! The idea was for them to be creative as possible, making patterns with varying degrees of steps and complexities.

When they’d had a go at this we then took turns to walk around the field looking for patterns left by other groups. The idea of computers spotting patterns and using them clicked with this activity. The groups walked round the field trying to find them, work out what the pattern was (decode) and add another step to it. We even had the opportunity to debug if the wind had blown some of their work away! This meant either finding the pieces, or trying to work out where the previous group had gone wrong.

The kids loved the activity and the weather was great for it. It’s one of the first times I’ve tried to teach computing outside of my room or without a robot. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it!


Makey Makey Controllers – Big Learning

February 1st, 2015 | Posted by AlwaysComputing in 2DIY | Fun Stuff | Makey Makey - (0 Comments)

Last week I had one of those lessons again. The ones where you get the kids going, take a step back and watch as massive learning begins. I got the kids set up with a Makey Makey and a few bits and bobs and told them I wanted a games controller making. Obviously I sold this to the kids as me wanting them to create a new Xbox style remote which hooked them immediately! The ability to make a controller for a game using an old cut up cardboard box and a few split pins is brilliant for the pupils. To give them something to work with they spent 10 mins creating a simple little game using 2DIY by 2SimpleSoftware. Quick to do and the only controls you need to play it are up, down, left and right. Makes things loads easier when the kids have only been using the Makey board for a few weeks.

After talking through my expectations and what they had to use I took a big step back. Floated around the room and tried my best not to get involved with the pupils. The discussions going on round the room were brilliant. Children talking about what wires they’ll need, where the connections should be, and trying to work out why things weren’t working. It was the mistakes that gave me the best bits of conversation for assessment. Pupils using logical reasoning to work out their mistakes and look for a fix. Is it a problem with their controller, or was it something wrong with the programming in their game? You can see from the pictures above how engrossed the pupils were, and I struggled to tear them away from the kits at the end of the lesson.

I really would recommend these boards to any primary school. The creativity, independent learning and computational thinking they generate more than repays the cost of the kit! Next week I think I might see if I can trust them to use the copper tape….


MakeyMakey taking over my life!

November 12th, 2014 | Posted by AlwaysComputing in Makey Makey - (0 Comments)
Last year whilst trawling through the internet for inspiration I stumbled upon a small child playing a piano made from mushrooms on YouTube. In that 2 minute video demonstration I was hooked!
For the uninitiated a MakeyMakey board works much like a keyboard, but allows you to turn ANYTHING conductive into a button. Link this to something like Scratch or game making software like Kodu and the possibilities are endless. I now find myself walking round pondering to myself with Makey on the brain! ‘Is a marshmallow conductive?’, ‘Can I connect it to water somehow?’. It’s becoming an addiction! 
In September I started to think about how I could bring them into my classroom, and how logistically they would work with primary pupils. I’ve had experience using them with a small group, but never a full class, but I like a challenge! So far it’s gone well. Pupils showing me learning left, right and centre. Coming into class ready and engaged, so below I’ve popped down some of the real benefits of using a MakeyMakey in your classroom. Enjoy. 
Hands on Learning
I often get fed up of sitting at a desk all day with the pupils, staring at nothing but a screen. With the new curriculum changes I’ve been trying even harder to take a step away from the computer. Working in Bradford however offers a certain challenge (the weather!) if I want to go outside and do something with the ipads/cameras etc. The Makey offers a halfway house on the desk for this though! 
Independent Learning
They breed and instill independent learning in the pupils, which in turn builds up their resilience to a challenge. If it doesn’t work first time the pupils need to work out why. If it does work I get them to think about how then could improve it or upscale it. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I hate hear the words ‘I don’t know how to do it’ in my lessons, especially if I’ve just spent the last 15 minutes explaining it. Due to the simplicity of the Makey this rarely happens. Pupils are free to make mistakes (often working out for the better) and learn from them independently. 
The Price
Compared to the price of a Raspberry Pi (when you’ve bought all the accessories) it’s great and affordable for most Primary schools. £40 odd pound for the deluxe kit really isn’t bad for the learning you get from it. 
The ideas the kids come up with when using them are fantastic. They always seem to be thinking of new ways to connect and make their work more adventurous and challenging. They also seem to add different foods to my shopping list each week! You could literally leave the pupils in a room with a ‘box of bits’ and they could be busy for hours!
Time to get Makeying in your classroom!

Introducing Year 1 -2DIY

October 21st, 2014 | Posted by AlwaysComputing in 2DIY | PurpleMash - (0 Comments)

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The first few weeks in my job are usually a nightmare with year 1. Spending a few weeks trying to get them used to the network, trying to write their own names and showing them how a password works can slowly drive you insane. A few weeks in now and they have started doing some ‘real work’, which is great as my sanity slowly drifts back.

This half term the pupils have been looking at game making, and how we can use simple software to make games based on their topic. At the moment they are spending their time in classroom looking at all things Space.

So far I have stuck fairly religiously to 2DIY. Great for game making at all ages as the difficulty level can increase or decrease as required. So far our most complicated has been the jigsaw puzzle. Technically all the kids are doing is creating a lovely image showing me either a rocket, alien or the Moon; and then 2DIY turns it into a puzzle for them. I get to see their computing skills when they look at adding a few simple instructions to the game, or think about how they can make it easier/more difficult for other people.

Now the actual work they produce isn’t a Van Gogh, I mean it’s year 1, but the conversations going on in the room are brill! Listening to pupils talking to each other about how to write the instructions, how to change the jigsaw size, and game swapping is what I’m really after. It’s definitely one of those lessons where the biggest noise in the room is from the chairs shuffling around as they try each others work out!

The beauty of using something like 2DIY is its simplicity. I know that even with year 1 pupils I can leave them to the work without having to do much technical help, leaving me to concentrate on the learning. If you want to see programming in KS1 just ask pupils to build you a simple Collecting or Catching game. Job done!

What’s your best 2DIY lesson with KS1? Anyone else share in my year 1 nightmare start to the year?!

Stop Motion Animation – Year 3

October 3rd, 2014 | Posted by AlwaysComputing in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

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Today I have been continuing my journey through the world of animation with year 3 pupils. By now they are pretty good at making sure the little webcams are plugged in, and they have a good understanding of the basic principles. We are still only moving little models around the tables, but they all understanding that the smaller and finer the movement, the smoother their film looks.

In school we are using the program ZU3D. We purchased the full set up last year, with a full site license, 45 webcams and some of the set kits. All in all it was an expense, but I am already seeing the benefit in the lessons. The discussion generated in the room us just ridiculous. I have them working in animator teams of 2, working out what they want their models to do, how they are going to get it move and what edits they are going to do afterwards. Do they need to add titles and credits? What sounds should they add? How many frames have we done? Could we do more? It’s brilliant!

The films we’re producing aren’t bad either for a group of 7 year olds. Granted they are a big jerky in places, and a few hands manage to creep into the film, but the overall effect is brill.

I’m also doing the same project with year 6 children at the moment but obviously at a different level. They are working with small plasticine models to create their work, and thinking about how they can be used int he world of film making. Again, due to the simple nature of the program, the results have been great. I could leave them working on this for hours if I had the time.

Google Sketchup – Literacy Tool

July 16th, 2014 | Posted by AlwaysComputing in Google Sketchup | Lesson Ideas - (0 Comments)

As a Sketchup nerd I like to think of new and different ways I can use it in lessons, and look at how I can get most from the pupils when I do. While it is incredibly easy to link it to Maths, looking at measure, direction, etc, I often find it hard to give literacy links. Today though I used it as a story telling tool. Pupils were shown the model I had created (below) and we had a great discussion building a story around it. Using it as a setting we decided on characters, plot points and who to build the story around. The descriptive language when describing the castle was great, and having it on the board as a visual learning tool worked really well. The fact there was nothing else but the castle also helped the pupils with their writing. They had the castle, but they had to decide where it was and what its surroundings looked like. Lower ability pupils were able to come up to board and move around the castle, imagining themselves and the centre of the building, while Higher ability look it as a stimulus and wrote pages!

When talking with the class, and having all this discussion it made me think of Epic Citadel. It felt like I had built my own and was getting the same reaction from the kids. They we engaged and enthusiastic about exploring the castle in the same way they are when using the app. Obviously I know it is nowhere near the same level of detail or scale, however it opened up a whole world of opportunities. I could do the same thing on any number of worlds or settings, going from a sprawling city to a visit on a space station. All created by me, to my specification, to get what I want from the pupils. Yes, it might take  bit of time and practice, but save it and you have it there for any lesson in the future.

Why not try describing a stay in an Anderson Shelter, or describe life on a pirate ship. You could even try your very own classroom!

Makey Makey – Digital Leaders @ #BMobLe14

June 25th, 2014 | Posted by AlwaysComputing in Fun Stuff | Makey Makey - (0 Comments)

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Last week my Digital Leaders were given the opportunity to go and show off their work at BMobLe14 in Bradford. With them they took 3 different activities they had created using the MakeyMakey boards. It was brilliant seeing them talk and share their work with other professionals from the region, as well as with other Digital Leaders.

In this post I wanted to share with you the work they produced, and how they set it up so you can have a go yourself. I have posted pics of all the activities and tried to include how they work in the photo gallery above. The 1st activity they set up was a simple music game. Using 2 different boards, running to the same computer, they created 2 ways of playing sounds. Using 2 sheets of cards, staples and a bit of copper tape the pupils made a great little keyboard when paired with a Scratch app. Using the same app they also made some musical art. Using a sheet of A3 paper and a high density pencil (8B) they made shapes and lines that could connect the to board and make amazing sounds. When the other pupils and staff saw this and had a go there were smiles all round. Really simple but really effective.

Another game they made for pupils to use was a simple Frustration/Buzz game. This involved me making the game out of some old firewood and hydraulic tubing (raided my dads garage!), and bending it into shape. The pupils then connected the right wires and made a simple app on Scratch that made a sound when ever the 2 touched. This was another game where we could run 2 from the same board so it made for exciting challenges and competitions at the conference.

The final activity my DL’s produced also used a game created using Kodu. My top leader made a quick single player game on Kodu and then built himself his own Xbox style controller. Using staples and some quick wiring behind the card, it made for an effective gamepad. Just using up, down, left, right, space and the W key he made a working game that everyone had a go at. By the afternoon a few of the wires had come loose which was a shame and he look absolutely gutted. The great thing was afterwards he came up to me and told me 4 different ways he thought would strengthen it.

Overall I had a great day at the conference and the kids left really happy with their work (and a bag full of freebies obviously!). Please share any other ideas you have used in school, or ones you want to try!


World Cup Match Trackers (Sneaky Maths!)

June 11th, 2014 | Posted by AlwaysComputing in Lesson Ideas | Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

With the world cup just days away i’m sure your pupils are brimming with excitement! I know I am!


With it taking place during term time it gives you the opportunity to follow the teams progress through the tournament with your pupils. A great way to do this is with a match tracker built on Excel. Some VERY clever people have built spreadsheets on the program using VDA codes and the spreadsheet automatically calculates the goals, updates the data in the table, sorts the table according to the Rules of FIFA and assigns a team to the next stage of the competition at the right time and place.

Perfect for using with kids! The best one I have found online is by There are loads available online but a lot of them have adverts for betting companies. Not something really suitable to use in schools. The one HERE at eexcel is simple and clear, and does exactly what it says on the tin.

All I need to do now is some how shoe horn the Panini Sticker album into the curriculum…..

Local Art Work – PhotoShop

May 21st, 2014 | Posted by AlwaysComputing in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

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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! 

Finish your Year 6’s in style – Google Sketchup

May 15th, 2014 | Posted by AlwaysComputing in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

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? 

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