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!

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.

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?

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? 

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.

Last week I posted about my plans for the curriculum in Key Stage 1, and how I was going to meet the criteria with lesson ideas. It seemed like a popular post, and as I have done the same for Key Stage 2 I would be a shame not to pop it on the site.

As with the format before I have included it in a mind map for you to explore and search through. The map is split up into the 4 main sections of Digital Media, Programming, Data Handling and Technology in our lives. Having this variety of learning areas means pupils take part in a wide range of activities, making the learning fun and accessible. I have tried to include a number of different equipment types, not just the computers. This included things like digital cameras, ipod/ipads, and Lego robots. While your school might not have these available yet, there are other cheaper options to give the pupils similar experiences.

Hope you find this useful, and please share it around.



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