Ubiquitous classroom display post

This is not just showing off, I thought this display might be of use to other Computing teachers. The process of designing an algorithm and the ability to transform algorithms from flowchart to pseudocode to program code is vital, so I put it on my wall. Attached is the Word Doc (yes, I knoalgowallw, hardly hi-tech but it works), and the finished picture. Enjoy.

 

flowchart display

 

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Learn names and Smile!

It occurs to me that a lot of what has become reasonably automatic for me in the last two years (PGCE and NQT years) might not be everyone’s experience. So here are a few tips for new teachers based on my own experience.

  1. Save everything, preferably digitally. I use OneNote as my school has an Office365 account, and everything I find useful goes in there. I take notes at meetings, save ideas on the fly, capture stuff from Twitter and other online sources. You never know when it will come in handy. Good digital notebooks include Evernote and Google Keep too.
  2. Learn names. This was hard for me but nothing kills your confidence than getting students’ names wrong, or not knowing them. I had one class last year with two Niamhs and a Neve, which doesn’t help. But once I knew the names – and better still, knew something about them – I was much more in control and confident. Take a class photo if you can, or print one off from SIMS if possible, and revise at home. Do some activities early in the year such as “
  3. alliteration” (the kids have to come up with an alliterative nickname eg. Dancing Dean, Singing Sophie etc.) and learn those names!
  4. Smile. This might be hard if you’re under pressure. But kids will relacasperx and enjoy your lessons if you look like you’re enjoying them. So in return you get better behaviour. It’s tricky but rewarding. Don’t feel you have to compromise on behaviour, just smile while being firm! Be warm but strict… more here.
  5. Capture the kids. By this I mean save data on them, we’re not talking the Choky from Matilda. I use Excel, like almost everyone else. I download the marksheet from SIMS at the start of the year, format nicely and then add columns. These are the columns I add:
    • Quality of book notes (2 cols: grade A/B/C and notes) twice every half term
    • Formative assessment grade twice every half term
    • Summative assessment once every half term
    • Teaching and Learning notes: support needed etc.
    • “About me”: what they like, aspire to etc. (from first lesson captured by Edmodo)
  6. Remember why you’re doing this. Read “Teach Like a Pirate” and write down your passions, and keep them close. Put your favourite inspirational quotes up on the wall and share them with your students. You’ll forget, once in a while. Why not feign exasperation and ask the kids “why do I do this?” and see who replies “because we’re the future, Sir, you’re training us to clean up your mess, innit!” – guaranteed to bring that smile back.

Yes, that is my dog, Casper, in the picture. Be like Casper. With less tongue, perhaps.

Summer “working”?

Teaching is hard work, but enjoyable. And to me, planning to teach is not work at all, it’s play. Let me explain.

I am on holiday in the Dordogne, and it is 30 degrees already (10:45 CET) but I am blogging after cleaning the pool then doing some quick research and “link stashing” on Diigo (more later). This afternoon I will have a swim and sit by the pool reading “Guerilla teaching” and catching up with blogs and TED talks.

If you’ve met me you will know that what I like doing most is teaching, followed by talking about teaching. I can probably put “planning to te

20170726_151756

ach” and “reading about teaching” somewhere on that continuum, all higher than, say, marking, and all of those are stratospheric compared to DIY and gardening.

So yesterday evening I had the great pleasure of drinking cold Kronenbourg while watching TED talks and Robotics videos on YouTube, playing with algorithm visualisations and organising my bookmarks about all of them. I learned, about quantum entanglement , robots that swim and considered buying 3d model specs for “logic goats”.

I’ve already finished “Teach Like a Pirate” this holiday and I’m now on “Guerrilla Teaching” before switching to novels for a while. As Dave Burgess says in TLAP, my brain will continue to process the ideas in both books subconsciously while I enjoy the non-teaching material.

But then I read this article in the Guardian’s “Secret Teacher” column. “By working in the holidays, teachers are showing that they don’t need them, that they needn’t be paid well for the time they allocate to a crucial job that is supposed to improve society. They are devaluing themselves.”

Hmm, now I said earlier, I love planning for teaching, I stash away ideas, I refocus on what is important. I learn “soft” skills (thanks @BurgessDave for making me remember my passions) and subject knowledge (I practiced coding by writing some JPEG image filters in Python). For this work I feel more confident about September.

Should I have done this? Or tried to find the time in September? I don’t know, apart from the self-knowledge that tells me I would be much more nervous about starting school, less centred, less well-prepared mentally if I did nothing over the holidays.

Confucius is quoted as saying “Find a job you love and never work again”, and this sums up my attitude to teaching. I will always “work” in the holidays because it’s fun.

Analysing Code – Python lesson for KS4

I’ve just taught this lesson and I thought I’d share it.squirrel-worksheet

I used the excellent “Squirrel Eat Squirrel” pygame program from Al Sweigart at the Invent With Python blog. I made a worksheet to help the students through analysis of the code. They had to use all their coding skills to decipher the finished code, and to “hack” it – change things and improve the code. I’ll elaborate later. Enjoy!

KS4 Worksheet – Coding – Squirrels

Still a geek

webcam1We’re having some work done on the house, as you can see. But wait, that’s not your average smartphone pic from out the window, what’s that URL snippet?

Yes, I set up a webcam to watch the builders at work. As a teacher I don’t have any time to watch, but still.. it’s a geek project and I’m a geek. This is how I did it. For free…

  1. Find an old device. I have a Tesco Hudl that nobody uses any more. You could use an old smartphone.
  2. Install an IP webcam app. I use IP Webcam  Others are available. Configure it and point it where you need it. Mine is in the bedroom window. While you’re at it, get the device powered up constantly, so you’ll need a charger and cable that reaches to the device.
  3. View the webcam on your local network. You must find out the IP address of your device, usually by logging in to your router. Mine is a Virgin SuperHub and it’s there under DHCP. So the device is 192.168.1.20 today. Great, point your browser at http:// 192.168.1.20: 8080 you should see the webcam interface. Super!
  4. While you’re in your router, you have to make sure the device stays on the same local IP address, this is called DHCP reservation. Get it’s current address reserved. So far so good, you have a webcam you can view when you’re on your home LAN!
  5. To make the webcam visible outside your home, you need to go back into your router settings. Find “Port Forwarding” and forward the port (8080) for the device’s IP address (192.168.1.20) to the internet. This makes the webcam visible to the outside world.
  6. You’re nearly done. Find out your current IP address – open a command prompt and type “ipconfig” on Windows  or open Terminal and type “ifconfig” on a Mac – or because it’s C21 and we’re lazy… type “whats my ip” into Google. Say it’s 89.10.191.34 for argument’s sake. Type “89.10.191.34:8080” into the address bar. Boom! Webcam on the web!
  7. Because home IP addresses change often, you might want to set up “Dynamic DNS”. This means you can use a URL to access your home IP address and when it changes, the DNS entry for your URL changes to point at your new address. I use “FreeDNS” from afraid.org, they are geeks but… it’s free and does the biz. If youre a geek too, set this up.
  8. If your device keeps going to sleep or going offline, you need a “keep alive” app. Try this one.  Now you’re done, and like me, you can watch builders do nothing for much of the day!

I post this for two reasons:

a) to prove I am still a geek
b) in case I ever forget how to do it. Time and tide etc…

Have a great half term.

 

 

Mind Mapping the GCSE course

I’m preparing some materials to refresh the walls of my classroom, during half term. I’ve grabbed some free posters from CAS etc. but I could not find what I really wanted, a Mind Map of the course. So I made one.

gcsemindmap

 

Above is a screengrab. I made this with the free open-source FreeMind tool. It’s a bit of a minefield of a tool, but I tried it because it is free and creates only XML so my data will never get locked in. As the makers of FreeMind say “If you have a lot of maps created by FreeMind and you want to switch to another program, writing a conversion program should be easy, especially if that program features Visual Basic scripting facility.” – Er, yes, no problem for this CS teacher. Ahem.

So if you like this, here is a link to a zip file on my Google Drive of various formats to use with FreeMind. I particularly like the clickable HTML, but I have not yet worked out how best to exploit it. Ideas welcome!

Let the kids code, first.

It’s a bit odd that I have discovered, halfway through the year, how to manage a couple of year 7 classes I’d been struggling with. You see.. I was spoilt in my training school.

In training, just over a year ago, I had a lovely huge classroom with tables in the middle and computers around the outside. As a trainee I would sit them in the middle, at tables without a computer, be impressive and try to get the theory delivered early. I would ‘play tricks’ on them, using a piggy bank resulting in the learning of variables, or doing the “robot walk” to teach algorithms. I’d hope they had got it, then let them migrate to the computers placed around the outside of the classroom so they could code in Scratch. That worked in training.

So I have been trying this all year with limited success, and suddenly, today, I tried something else. I reversed it. Coding first, theory later. And it worked. “Get on Scratch, finish your stage and choose a Sprite” I said, not 5 minutes in. After 20 minutes, when I asked for calm, and listening… I got them back. “When you use the code block ‘if’ to decide whether something happens, or not, what is that called?”

Selection, they replied. The rest of the lesson was a breeze. Most Y7/8s just need to get on and code, after 15-20 minutes they are ready to learn what they have just done. So my advice today is…

Let them code first. Often they are very keen computer scientists, sometimes they are just keen to get on the computer. Let them do it, it’s why they love your class. Give them 20 minutes. Then do the theory. It should work for most.