So a few months ago I decided to set myself the challenge of learning to code. I’m from an age where coding just wasn’t something we learnt, computers did it all for you, there was no need to! Will changes to the curriculum I thought now would be a good time for me to learn.

I started off with a friend showing me a few bits. I found it helpful, but I could see he was itching to get me onto some of the cooler things you can do with code, meaning I was missing out on some of the more basic elements. I could see this was not going to be the way for me to learn. So I took to twitter and Google to try and find a website or course that could help my cause. After looking at a few the one I found to be best for me was Codecademy. Simply create a profile, choose a lesson and get started.

Being an avid gamer the thing i like best is unlocking achievements within the website. I love earning the little badges (i’m such a child!). The instructions are really easy and simple, and offer a step by step guide to learning the language. The practice board is well laid out, giving you instant results on whether you’ve got it right or not. You also have easy access to help and tips with the task, so if you completely forget how to do it you can remind yourself without stress. I always challenge myself not to press it though! So far I have learnt the basics of HTML and HTML styling, and I’m working my way up to having a go at CSS. Give it a few more months and I’m sure I’ll have a crack at designing my own web space.

While it’s great fun, though sometimes infuriating, there is a point to all this. Changes to the curriculum mean that coding and programming will become essential for teaching ICT. An ICT teacher can no longer just step into the role and go. I see it as a similar role to a Music specialist. Yes the core of all lessons is teaching, but you need to have the subject knowledge to deliver it. I know I could handle pupils in a music lesson, but give me a guitar and you’d be covering your ears! Would I get the most from the pupils? I doubt it.

How many of you can code? Are you learning or practicing? Will you be starting the learn soon? Please get in touch!

 

outside

This week I got to go on a fantastic trip with my school. We took 9 pupils on a sailing ship for 3 days.

We went out on the Humber Estuary, and into the north sea. The children loved it. They spent their days as crew of the boat leaving myself and another teacher to supervise. Due to the small space on the boat the sleeping arrangements felt more like camping than being at sea, so on an evening we had great fun playing games and having family style meals.

But then my ICT teacher brain kicked in. Before we set of I grabbed the case of iPods and iPads and stashed them away on the back of the coach. I could resist the chance of some 1st class outdoor technology learning. So I though I would share how we used them on our trip to give you some ideas for yours.

  1. Google Maps – We followed our route from the school to the Dock, then when out at sea we were able to see where were in relation to the coast. 
  2. Geotagging – On one of the evenings we took the dingy to shore and tagged our location in an email back to the school.
  3. Journals – On an evening pupils wrote a quick paragraph of their day and then sent it back to their school email. This was then picked up on our return and used in their English lessons
  4. Video Diary – Pupils spent some time telling anecdotes of their day using the front facing cameras on the iPods. rather than a full diary entry we were sharing what interesting things happened to them.
  5. Evening Games – We spent the evening playing games with the pupils. Some classics like ‘Pass the Squeeze’ and ‘I’m having a Party’, but then we moved on and started using the iPads. We used Brushes to play Pictionary, as well as asking them to draw a scene from the day.
  6. Sailing lesson – As part of the trip pupils we asked to learn about the boat and how it worked. They aided their lessons by using the internet to research and share what they were looking at.

All of this was brilliant for me to see as their ICT teacher but it took some setting up. Obviously we made sure we had enough chargers and docking stations with us, and checked with the captain that we were able to use his electricity storage for this. We also brought with us some of the Mi-Fi boxes to provide the pupils with internet access. Remember – fail to prepare, and prepare to fail!

Have you used technology outside of school? Could you think of another way my group could have used them on the boat?

 

snappy wordsWhat is Snappy Words visual English dictionary?

It’s an online interactive English dictionary and thesaurus that helps you find the meanings of words and draw connections to associated words. You can easily see the meaning of each by simply placing the mouse cursor over it.

Why use Snappy Words visual dictionary?

  • Easy to use dictionary and thesaurus.
  • Learn how words associate in a visually interactive display.
  • Get ideas to help write content for your blog, article, thesis or simply play with words!
  • No limit on number of searches. Look up as many words as you need anytime.
  • It’s free and fun!

How do I use it?

Type words in the search box and click Go or simply hit Enter. Once the words branch off the main query, you can double click a node to find other related words. To explore the features:

  1. Place the mouse cursor over a word to view the meaning.
  2. Double click a node from the branch to view other related words.
  3. Scroll the mouse wheel over words to zoom in or out. This helps you see more
    associations or view words and meanings more clearly.
  4. Click and drag a word or branch to move it around and explore other branches.

I think it’s fair to say that I am a MASSIVE Google Sketchup fan. I try to use it with as many topics as I can,  and like to get my pupils started with it as soon as possible. As a teaching tool it is fantastic for motivating pupils and get them excited about ICT, they are mesmerized by the ease in which they can create 3D shapes. Due to its nature the program can be used in all manner of topic, from creating vivid art galleries of their work, recreating Viking villages, or designs for a new space station. It’s really is up to you how far, and in which direction, you want to take your pupils with it.

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‘The Lego Bricks of learning’

 

Often to get pupils started I like to give them something the love. A Lego Brick. We loved them, parents love them (except when the get stood on) and our kids will love them. this little brick of coloured plastic can provide that real and tactile connection with the work on their screens.

They key factor in having the pupils create model Lego brick is the tools they use. It touches on most of the features, and uses them in a nice and simple way. It basically sets them up for using the product in future. Get the pupils to snap the top circle the same height, use the rendering tool, add 3D text, all useful in future projects.

The Google Sketchup way of thinking

 

When my pupils come into a Sketchup lesson they know that they have to change their mind-set. They know they should start thinking differently about their work. When trying to create something, or trying to add something they know that they are not going to get it looking prefect, but should aim for something that looks similar. Pupils can get easily bogged down in trying to achieve perfection in their models and miss out.

If you haven’t used Google Sketchup in the classroom yet give it a go, but be prepared to do some homework, it’s tricky for teachers to learn, never mind pupils! Before long your pupils will be creating wonderful graphic models really to be explored and manipulated.

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A model of our ICT suite created by Year 6 pupils

Below I have included a lesson plan and accompanying PowerPoint for your 1st lesson teaching the topic. Any questions or hints please get in touch.

1st Sketchup Lesson Plan

1st Sketchup Lesson PPT

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