Christmas Computation Challenge

Better late than never! I compiled some computational thinking puzzles into a booklet for KS3 to take home for Christmas. With the Y11 Mocks intervening in January, I didn’t get round to prize-giving until just this week. After sharing the winners on my school Twitter feed I’ve had some requests for the booklet.

Here it is, shared CC-BY-SA as usual, most of the contents are from and shared with permission.Christmas1

Both question and answer booklet are on my CAS resources page (some of my students have found this page so there will be no answers here).

Download just the question booklet directly here: Computing Christmas Challenge 2018


Quizlet Ambassador

I am now officially a Quizlet Ambassador.

I love Quizlet. As a teacher whose students sit in front of computers, I have always been looking for interactive teaching episodes for them, and in particular, an alternative to the dreaded “Card Sort“. I found Quizlet during my Teacher Training about three years ago. I’ve been using it ever since. quizlet-ambassador

Quizlet is an online resource whose time has come. My school, like so many schools do today, values recall practice and self-quizzing: two of the techniques in Barak Rosenshine’s “Principles of Instruction“. To help the students to recall important terms and facts, and later use these to discuss subject knowledge, among many other tools we can use Quizlet.

I have so far made 56 Study Sets, each one a set of pairs, each pair a Term and Definition. With this simple effort, the students now have the ability to self-quiz all the subject topics, in seven different ways, in class or at home. The activities they can do with my study sets are:

  • Flashcards: Just like a teacher, the definition appears, you must guess the term. Click to reveal the answer.
  • Learn: The computer delivers questions based on the study set, using terms from different definitions. The learner must answer the multiple choice question.
  • Write. The flashcard definitions are displayed as questions. You must write the answer. Great for literacy.
  • Spell. No questions, just the definition displayed, and the spoken answer. (Yes, Quizlet supports text-to-speech). All you have to do is spell it correctly.
  • Test. This is Epic. It makes a random test out of the study set, including some Multiple Choice, True/False, Matching and Written answer questions. Of course you can print this and set it as a test, or your students can generate and self-test their own quizzes.
  • Match. This is the one they all like to play as a starter. It replaces a printed card sort. The learners have to match the terms to their definition by dragging and dropping.
  • Gravity is a video-game style test, where the learner has to type the answer quickly before the meteors hit the planet! Very exciting, if a little awkward (it’s tough to type “Fetch-Decode-Execute” before your planet gets blown up :/ )

I have created study sets for most of the content I now teach. It’s all publicly available at . You are welcome to play and copy.

I have not mentioned yet, the joy of Quizlet Live. You may be familiar with Kahoot or many other whole-class live quizzing services. My students love Quizlet Live which is won by the team who has learnt the terms in the study set well enough. They now ask for it, and I have given in to “Quizlet Live Friday” in the past. If you play it a few times, I’m sure you will too.

Message me here or on Twitter at @tech_magpie if you have questions.

On Winding Down.

recreation (n.)

late 14c., […] noun of action from past participle stem of recreare “to refresh, restore, make anew, revive, invigorate,” from re- “again” (see re-) + creare “create” (from PIE root *ker- (2) “to grow”). Meaning “refresh oneself by some amusement” is first recorded c. 1400.

2pm Friday the pupils left for their summer break, and following staff awards and leaving presentations, we headed to the pub. By 7pm I was home with family and asleep by 10, such was my end-of-term fatigue. Now begins my period of recreation. I use the word in its original sense, above, i.e. the re-creating of myself through “amusement”.

It is important to do this, and I try to ensure I have several days to unwind, not thinking of school at all, catching up on my favourite “amusements”. This helps purge the mind of intrusive thoughts, worries and internal struggles I’ve been having, allowing me to properly relax. There is time enough for such things later in the break, now is the time to unwind and de-stress.

So since breaking up on Friday I have

  • had drinks with fellow teachers and laughed about the yearbe the best you image
  • Played my guitar loudly and cheerfully
  • Spent time with family
  • Taken 5 girls to the cinema to see Mamma Mia 2
  • Finished reading the book “Wonder”

I will be getting back to improving my piano keyboard skills this week, and hopefully blogging more. But mostly I will be reading. My “to-read” pile has grown significantly this year, I have “Mark, Plan, Teach” and lots of fiction to catch up on. Plus as much stuff on cognitive science as I can find, (pointers to Barak Rosenshine and related material very welcome in the comments or on Twitter)

But whatever I do this week it will be to re-create myself. As it now says above my whiteboard: “Be brave, be kind, be the best you”. To be the best me, I have to de-clutter my mind now, and re-fill it with good stuff. I might even fit in some exercise.

Have a great summer.

Getting to know the new bunch

I’ve moved schools, and so far it’s going well. I am working through my “getting to know the children” routine, and I realised this makes a perfect topic for a blog post.

First, I am indebted to Ben Newmark, a prolific education blogger whose insights I find extremely valuable, for this post on making a good start with a new class.  Because of this advice, I made sure the first experience my new students had in my classroom was working: with pens, on paper, in silence. Let me tell you, for the last two years I have had a very different “first lesson” based on the idea of “fun”. Trust me, “fun” will come later, but I need to set expectations, and so quietly sitting and writing was the order of the day.

I spoke to them in the corridor, told them they needed to quietly go in, look at the seating plan on the board, go sit quietly and start work. There was already a paper starter on the desk, and they needed to get out a pen and start work on it.

The classes settled and started on the task. I tackled those that spoke, with polite reminders, I only needed non-directed instruction e.g. “I can hear some talking, no-one should be talking right now, just writing”. When the class was utterly silent I took the register.

Let me tell you, my fist lesson with a class has never been so silent and hard working. I know I’m only in my third year of teaching, but… My lessons today with Year 7 and 8 went far better than any “first lesson” previously, and I’ve now had around 24 of them.

I will write more soon, as this blog turns into “experiences of a Computing Teacher as he moves school”. 🙂


NEA Prep Resources

Although the NEA is no longer being marked, we still need to deliver it. I’m planning to make the most of the opportunity to grow skills needed for Paper 2.

To maximise success, this year I am starting my Year 10s on NEA prep early. I am setting a collection of “mini-NEAs” which we will do this term (Summer Y10) so that in early Y11 they can tackle the proper NEA with greater confidence.minineathumb

I’ve made the attached resources for myself, and share them here under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 licence as usual. In other words, go for it!

Mini-NEA Workbook

NEA Intro Lesson Student Worksheet

NEA Intro Homework

Slides NEA Intro Lesson

Instructions: Open the slide show, use this over 1 or 2 lessons with the Intro Lesson Student Worksheet to build the basic skills, give out the Homework, then start them on the Mini-NEA Workbook.



Socrative Quizzes for Computer Science

I’ve made some quizzes over the years on Socrative. Here is a non-exhaustive list

You can import them into your account at this link, then type the SOC quiz code below:

I wish Socrative made sharing these easier, e.g. by folder. (You can see all my Quizlet sets at this URL, for comparison: )