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!

Digital Leaders at their Finest!

May 13th, 2014 | Posted by AlwaysComputing in Lesson Ideas | Makey Makey | Thoughts - (0 Comments)

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!

Early Years Computing

May 9th, 2014 | Posted by AlwaysComputing in Ipads for Learning | Lesson Ideas - (0 Comments)

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! 


5min Lesson Fillers – Make It Nerdy!

February 8th, 2014 | Posted by AlwaysComputing in ICT Resources | Lesson Ideas - (0 Comments)

Being a specialist teacher in a primary school I often have to think about things in a different way. I only see the pupils for an hour a week, meaning behaviour management systems need to work in different way. Working with technology also means have ‘one of those lessons’ where NOTHING works! When this happens I like to think on my feet and usually, if it’s a full lesson, I’ll grab the iPads, or mess around with the Beebots. Then there are the occasions where it’s the last 10 mins of a lesson, where it seems pointless to set something up only to have to finish straight away. So here are a few 5 minute fillers I like to use in my ICT lessons.

Guess the tech

An important part of the curriculum is for pupils to understand the wider reach of technology and think about it out of the classroom. One activity I like to do is give pupils a real world problem or scenario, and they have to think of a piece of technology that could help. An example of this is, ‘I have 6 people coming for dinner on short notice….help!’. This week in year 5 they came up with a laptop to find recipes, iPod and dock for backing music, digital thermometer for check I don’t kill anyone, and a countdown timer app to make sure I don’t burn anything. Really fun little activity.

Software Solution

Very similar to the previous activity, but this one is based on the machines, rather than hands on technology. I would give the children a problem, or activity idea. They the have to think of the best bit of software for the job. E.g. ‘I have been asked to produce a new leaflet for the PTA, what should I use?’. Year 6 came up with some great ideas like Photoshop for editing any images, QR code generators to shame more info in the leaflet, and Publisher for the layout nd easy printing.


Padlet is a great little website where you can make interactive and collaborative learning walls in seconds. I have chattered previously about it here, and I love it. I know you technically need to have all your tech working for this, but it really is useful for a quick plenary. Load up a wall, share with the class, and get the pupils to share something they have learnt, or something they have improved at in the lesson.

Talk yourself up

Quick little Talk for Learning activity I have used in all sorts of lessons. Get pupils to share their improvements and achievements in the lesson with their talk partners. It is them up to their partner to listen, understand, and report back to the teacher. Really encourages pupils to take notice and appreciate the achievement of their peers.

Computing anagrams

After looking at the new curriculum plans for next year I found that the gov. tried to make themselves sound a little bit more important by making the easiest of tasks sound like rocket science. Filled with quite technical terminology for young children, it presents the problem of the pupils having to learn a whole new language. Quick anagrams of the terminology can be a fun little way for the pupils to get to grips with them.

Debug an algorithm

Sticking with the new curriculum, algorithms are key to the learning and progression of the pupils. Stick a set of instructions for a simple activity up on the board, throw in a few mistakes and get the pupils to debug and get it ship-shape age. Make sure you use the technical language in this activity though so that the pupils start using it too.

Expand the algorithm 

Another quick little twist is to get the pupils to take an algorithm and expand upon it. Throw in a few more steps to increase the complexity. With older pupils try and add a few different command prompts, or change the output your require. Always good fun if the algorithm you pick is something you can act out afterwards to see if it works,calling all robot teachers.

Clean and tidy

This one is just for the OCD nature within me. I hate how the kids fill their My Documents folders and never look at it for the full 6 years they are with us. Get them to spend 5 mins creating folders, moving files, and deleting any unwanted work. Sounds simple, but computer and file management is something that often gets missed in lessons, and is important when maintaining your computers.


Have a go and see what you think, most of these don’t have to stay in the ICT suite, adapt them and try them in any lesson.

It’s that lovely time of year again where ICT co-ordinators get pushed to the front in assembly, and all your lessons get taken over for the week. Take that away though and you have one of the most important days of the year to push and challenge the thinking of your pupils. *cliché alert* The internet is everywhere, and SID is becoming more than keeping your passwords and personal details safe. It’s about being a good person. It’s about how we represent ourselves. In this post I wanted to talk about what I will be doing on the day and a few teaching ideas.

Class discussions

Something I like to do on days like this is to start class discussions, and let the lesson flow from it. Allowing the pupils to take the lead, and create work from their own ideas. This years theme is about Making the Internet a Nicer Place. Talk to the pupils about what this means, about how they can do their bit. Discuss the idea of a ‘troll’, and why they do it. You could also talk about the dangers of saying something inappropriate in both the short and long-term. In the short-term they are likely to get in trouble with either the school or parents. However in the long-term, anything offensive could have serious implications on any career choices they make, this is where I often share the story of Paris Brown, the former Young Police Commissioner. Who knows what they will be doing in the future, will their social network posts come back to haunt them!

Online Resources 

On the day there are loads of different activities you can do with your class to get the message across. I highly recommend the resources at PurpleMash. They have posted their collection on their homepage, and involve some great writing from the kids. They also follow on from any discussions you have with your class, and are ridiculously easy to print for a working wall or display for the day. you can also get a great pack of resources from the official SID website too. This si full of lesson ideas, display banners and even an assembly plan. This is great for me, because I guarantee I’m going to be flung up in front of everyone if I like it or not!

Whole School

As a whole school there are also a number of options you could do to raise awareness. I usually set some kind of competition for the pupils to enter, either an online quiz for them on the website, or a quick poster/display competition. This year I also plan on taking over a display board. Our hall is full of display work from the pupils, but this year with my ninja digital leaders we are hijacking one for the week, putting up all kinds of display and teaching ideas for all to see!

What are you doing to support SID? Please share any other teaching ideas you like to do on this very important day! 

Everyone loves a bit of Lego – Built with Chrome

January 30th, 2014 | Posted by AlwaysComputing in Google Sketchup | Lesson Ideas - (0 Comments)


I seem to spend a good chuck of my life trawling the internet looking for useless rubbish I find cool. Well last night I came across a corker. Google Chrome have teamed up with the guys at Lego and create an amazing little web app.

It really is as simple as it sounds, start of with your blank board and you’re free to build anything and everything. At the moment I’m in love with all thing retro gaming, so I obviously started off by building some classic gaming characters (below). The app is easy to use, and involves the pupils using their mouse as well as several hot keys on the keyboard. Pupils of all ages should be able to pick it up in no time. The app is only available on Chrome at the moment as an extension, this could mean it isn’t accessible in all schools, so check on this 1st.  build with chrome copy

What makes it even cooler is the way it links with Google Earth in a similar way to Google Sketchup. Each one of your building boards is a small section for the Earth that becomes your plot. Some of the better examples have been small models of the Eiffel Tower in its correct location, maybe some of your class could build your school in Lego.

As with a box of real Lego, your imagination is the only barrier to what pupils can make, and given some free time on the app who knows what they could come up with! Think of all the learning advantages of Lego, but without standing on any of the see through pieces!


Computing without Computers

January 29th, 2014 | Posted by AlwaysComputing in Lesson Ideas | Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

computing without computingCan you see that dark looming shape on the horizon, that’s right, it’s the new Computing Curriculum. Fear not! It really isn’t as daunting as it seems. Most of you will already be doing some element of computing/programming already, it’s just about changing the focus or adapting a plan. For some schools budget is huge factor in what they offer pupils with computing, and how they can teach pupils to the vital skills they need.

In this post I wanted to talk about some different ways you can cover areas of the new curriculum without even touching a computer. Getting you pupils away from the desk where they develop square eye syndrome, and get them active in the hall or outside. The world looks much nicer in HD!

robot teacher

Robot Teacher

Essentially an algorithm is just a list of instructions. That’s it. No really, just instructions. When the 1st draft of the new curriculum people panicked at the prospect of teaching algorithms to KS1 pupils, but I’m sure you cover instructions in your literacy lessons! One great way of getting kids to understand the use of an algorithm is to become the robot teacher (No, not like the type Mr Gove is suggesting), and follow the pupils commands. Give your pupils a list of command prompts and get them to set out an algorithm, or set of instructions, for a simple activity. Getting across the classroom is a great way to get started, and if you’re braver than me you could try something like making a drink. This is also perfect to get pupils to understand the concept for debugging. All this means in taking the wrong or missed steps out of your algorithm to make it run smoothly. If you bang you leg on a chair, or end up with juice all down you shirt then the kids need to fix it! This type of activity leads on perfectly to building up lines of code, of longer and more intricate control procedures.

Sorting Procedures

sorting algorithms

As well as control procedures pupils also need an understanding of how a computer thinks, what procedures and steps it goes through. A great way of doing this is to get pupils to understand how a computer sorts. Everything in a computer is either in alphabetical or numerical order. A computer will do this with a simple sorting algorithm that takes it a fraction of a second. The image to the left is a simple formula for organising and sorting numbers in to order. When 2 numbers meet in a box the smaller one moves to the left, and the larger moves to the right. Over the course of the map all of the numbers should sort themselves into the right order. Great stuff for in the playground, and fun to work out how many moves it will take.

Control Robots 

A good follow on from the Robot teacher is to bring in small control based robots. Something like a Beebot can be used in the classroom and is great fun for the kids. The robots work on basic command sequences which help develop forward thinking for the pupils. It also helps them to visually understand the command prompt needed in control. A Beebot doesn’t understand ‘Go left’ or ‘turn around’, and the pupils quickly see what happens if they try (nothing!)

Out and About

To finish there is also the possibility of sending your kids off on an adventure around the school. start them off in your classroom, and with a series of simple instructions (or an algorithm) get them to travel around the school collecting items to find their way back. Depending on budget, this would be great to do with QR codes and some iPods/iPads. Pupils could scan for a text-based clue, or even a series of visual directions to follow. Possibilities are endless!


As well as being away from the computer and active these activities are also a great introduction to computing, and could be a great way to get your pupils of any age started. Any one else have any good ideas to get away from the computer? Anyone tried these before?

Secret Programming – 2CASS

January 17th, 2014 | Posted by AlwaysComputing in 2Create a Super Story | Lesson Ideas | PurpleMash - (0 Comments)

2cass logoThere are plenty of buzz words that do the rounds in primary schools on a regular basis, but one has popped up constantly this year; Programming. ICT teachers have the task of a changing curriculum with a completely different outlook and focus. So for the past few months I have been thinking of programs and teaching ideas, that I already use with the pupils, that encompass the themes and outcomes of the changing curriculum.

2cass overall

Pupils made some none fiction texts based on nocturnal animals.

One that came to mind, and one that I love using with pupils of all ages is 2CreateASuperStory. 2SimpleSoftware produce some great programs, and are always easy to use with the pupils, but 2CASS adds something else, and extra dimension. Like other software it has the simple drawing tools that all pupils are used to, but it also comes with a whole host of pre-made characters and shapes ready to be manipulated. When loaded into the page children have the ability to programme its movements, the direction, and how far it travels. They can even add text, sounds, and change the movement of the book. The best thing is that the children don’t even know they programming. They get a simple and clear understanding of direction and distance whilst making and sharing some great creative work.

Control instructions made the owl fly across the image.

Control instructions made the owl fly across the image.

Where next? 

Next year I plan to make the movement and control side of the program more of a focus. Rather than just telling pupils to animate their pictures I think I will give them more specific instructions. This should show me that they can programme, and if necessary, debug a sequence of instructions (or algorithm!). I also want to develop the type of activity I do using the software. It has oodles of features and different style that I just haven’t got round to using with pupils, I tend to be lazy and stick to the simple mode.

How many of the different features have you used? What programs that you use now lend themselves easily to programming and control? 

An Afternoon of Kodu

January 15th, 2014 | Posted by AlwaysComputing in ICT Resources - (0 Comments)

koduAt the moment my year 6 classes are looking at all things gaming, and yesterday I introduced them to the wonderful world of Kodu. Kodu is something I have always been meaning to play with, but never been brave enough to. It always seemed a bit complex and fiddly. Our unit of work has looked at classic games, and what makes them great. Then we are moving on to make a variety of games using different programs. They are experts with 2DIY, which is brilliant to use and so adaptable, but I wanted them to move to something with more complexity. I’m working my way towards Scratch, and Kodu seemed like a nice middle ground.

Due to the fact that my knowledge of the program was fairly minimal I left the majority of the teaching down to the kids. I showed them the very basics and set them free to play, explore and make plenty of mistakes. When the lesson finished I realised that this was probably the best way to do it. Those who struggled stuck to what I had shown them, and with a little encouragement pushed themselves and added new details. The best part of the lesson was seeing those who understood it quickly without my coaching. The freedom of the lesson allowed them to flourish and make some fantastic worlds at their 1st attempt. It left me eager to see what they can do with more time, and more development from me.

The only problem I had with the lesson was that the kids spent a good chunk of the time concentrating on their world design and the aesthetics. Next time they are in their challenge will be to focus on the game side of it and try to make a working game in an hour. Seeing their minds working on the look of their work was good, but without the core game working their work seemed hollow. Another little tip for a lesson like this would be to give the children question cards. I limited my pupils to 2 each. this encourages the children to ask their peers for help and work with each other, plus it stops them from hassling you when you don’t have the answers yet!

If anyone else is a bit apprehensive about using Kodu in a primary school I would say go for it, but put the focus on the kids. Make them learn and push themselves to find what they can do. A good website to look at before hand is Planet Kodu, it’s filled with tutorials, downloads and some great inspiration for the children. Have you used Kodu in the classroom? Any helping tips for others or myself?!

New Year, New Start

January 3rd, 2014 | Posted by AlwaysComputing in Thoughts - (0 Comments)

Level upWelcome to 2014 everyone! Over the hols I had the nasty experience of having my previous twitter account hacked. Bad times. It got to the stage where I have had to start all over again with a new twitter account and a new blog. I have managed to transfer all of my previous posts and links over from my old blog, so everything you like is still here. After getting ever so slightly cross (understatement) I decided to look at the positives. New year, New start, New computing curriculum. Time to make the most of a bad situation. From now on this blog is going to heavily orientated towards the new curriculum, and how you can make computing a cross curricular event in your schools, so please make sure you share this site with others.

So lets start this new direction, and the positive look at 2014, with a simple discussion board. In the Padlet below add the what you are looking forward to when working with the new curriculum. Lots has been said about the changes, but lets pick out the positives.

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