Our journey with Google Education

Over the last term (Aug-Dec 2017) we’ve made some major changes to the devices and services we use across the school with children. In Jan 2017, I went to BETT and met with Ian Addison, who was kind enough to use the google stand and one of their chromebooks to give me a tour of his school’s set up on Google Suite for Education. I’d been wanting to get back to using google across the whole school for some time but finally the stars aligned and a chunk of capital, school expansion leading to the need to remove our ICT Suite and me being in the very fortunate position of being out of class meant it was possible.

Our ICT Suite was in need of updating but pressure on the space was at a premium and so we decided to free up the room by replacing it with mobile devices spread across the school. I was keen to provide a mixed environment for our children to work in, so chose a combination of ASUS chromebooks and Lynx Windows tablets (with removable keyboards). We set up Google Suite for Education (with lots of help from Google through their education tour last year as well as Ian’s invaluable blog posts) and began this academic year with 60 Chromebooks, 45 Lynx tablets and 2 new storage trolleys.

I’ve been very lucky to be able to deliver the roll out of the devices through teaching computing in our PPA sessions. We work on a two week rota, so each phase has a day out of class together every fortnight (brilliant for collaborative planning and working together as a team). The children have a programme of curriculum enrichment on those days comprising PSHE, dance, sport, computing, French and music. So I’ve had the amazing experience of teaching computing to roughly 360 children (years 1,2,5 and 6) every two weeks. Year 3 and 4 have been taught by my colleagues wormy my support. It’s worked brilliantly and the children’s skills have really developed and the insight I’ve gained into teaching computing has been amazing!

Some key points I’ve learned along the way (in no particular order!)

  • The ASUS chromebooks are a dream to work with. They are super fast, incredible battery life (they last 8.00 am – 3.15pm being used on 6 sessions of 50 min carousel with 180 children without recharging and usually have around 60% battery left!). They are amazingly consistent, behaving in the same way on every device, so I can practise on one and know what I show the children will be exactly the same when they do it.
  • Our Internet is more stable than I thought it would be. I chose to have some windows devices so that we could least have something on regardless of our broadband status. I needn’t have worried, after a few teething troubles whilst we had fibre installed, it’s never been a problem.
  • The windows tablets were cheap but they aren’t a patch on the chromebooks. Logging into google accounts on them can still take some year 6 children 10 minutes, whereas my entire year 1 cohort can turn on and log in in under 2 mins 30 s. This is due to a couple of factors – the chromebooks turn on in a few seconds, it can take the windows tablets 5-8 minutes just to turn on. The domain name is pre-completed on the chromebooks and the log in is the first screen the children see. On the windows tablets, children must open Chrome then go to classroom to log in. Despite numerous attempts by our technicians, some tablets still don’t open on our default homepage which has a short cut to classroom, adding further steps for the children to complete.
  • I picked up a tip on the google ed tour about asking children to close the lids on their devices when you want to talk to them. Sounds obvious but I’ve introduced it across the school and ‘lids down, eyes forward’ is something everyone knows. Once the children realise their work won’t be lost as Google autosaves everything and that the devices come back on instantly at the page they were working on they soon learn to concentrate on my modelling and we all get on much quicker!
  • The Google Education Group on G+ are fantastically helpful and have responded to my badly worded questions with patience, generosity and clarity. Along with hangouts with the wonderful Tim Bleazard and help on twitter, I am always grateful to have access to and the support of the online teaching community.

The next steps for us are now to embed the use of the devices across the school with our teachers taking up the challenge to use them in class.

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#exabytes17 Micro:bits and the Iron Man in KS2

I had the pleasure of presenting at the #exabytes17 conference in Bradford on 7 July 2017. Yvonne Walker and I discussed our CAS Microbit project, making lunch box buggies on an Iron Man Theme! The resources for the project are on the CAS community site (sign up for free to download them all!).

We asked delegates to suggest their own ideas on how to use microbits across the curriculum and express interest in joining the project. Please use the google form if you are also interested!

CAS Annual conference: Using micro-bits across the primary curriculum

Making lunch box buggies with Iron Man body parts!

I was delighted to present the work from our CAS project Using micro-bits across the primary curriculum at the CAS Annual Conference on 17th June 2017. I presented with Yvonne Walker from CAS and demonstrated one of the buggies that we had made as well as letting delegates loose on some microbits.

We asked delegates to suggest their own ideas on how to use microbits across the curriculum and express interest in joining the project. Please use the google form if you are also interested!

Full details of the project and how to get involved:

CAS teacher resources http://community.computingatschool.org.uk/resources/4991

Using a second Microbit as a remote control for the lunch box buggy

A second Microbit to use as a radio control for the buggy.

On Friday, a very large box of Microbits arrived from Kitronik (via BCS who are distributing the Microbits for our CAS project). So I finally had a second Microbit to try out.

First boot

The first Microbit I had was a gift from Yvonne Walker at CAS, so I hadn’t one fresh out of the packet before. I was delighted to discover that once the supplied power pack was attached, the Microbit booted and ran an introductory code. The microbit ‘introduces’ itself and walks you through using the buttons and accelerometer (see Intro to the Microbit from Tech will save us). I will be able to use this for our first lesson using the Microbit, once we have also looked at the safety leaflet and thought about how to handle them safely. (You can re-instate the start-up code from the copy on Tech will save us).

Programming the remote control


Tech will save us has a nice tutorial and code to make a remote control for their buggy. I adapted this code as I had used a different command to control the motors. The remote control Microbit now uses the accelerometer to move the buggy forwards and backwards, pressing button A makes the buggy turn clockwise and button B makes it turn anticlockwise, pressing A+B stops the buggy. The code could do with  some refinements as at the moment, it is a two man job to turn the buggy off! Holding down A+B continuously stops the buggy still, whilst someone else switches the power pack off. I’ve also lost the granularity of control I had before, so that going forwards and back for a set time, and turning clockwise and anticlockwise for a set time to effectively turn 90 degrees has been lost within the forever loop.  So, any suggestions on how I can get that control back and/or how I can make A+B stop the buggy by one press would be really helpful! The code I have so far is shared below (for the PXT block editor).

Microbit lunch box buggy coding

IMG_4973
lunch box buggy

We are building lunch box buggies controlled by Microbits as part of a CAS project. So far, I’ve built two versions of the buggy (one in Lego and one using Kitronik kit) and quickly written some very simple code to make it move forward.

I wanted to have some basic sections of code that our children could tinker with and then put together in a sequence to navigate the buggy around a given course.

As I understand it, the motor board has four pins that between them can control 2 motors. There are two wires from one motor to the motor board that connect to two pins (i.e.: motor 1 uses PIN12 and PIN8 and motor 2 uses PIN16 and PIN0).

IMG_4975
motor boards and pins
Using the command ‘digital write pin12 to 1’ turns the electricity on to pin12 (on motor 1) and ‘digital write pin12 to 0’ turns the electricity off to pin12. So going forward when both button A+B are pressed looks like this:

forward

After some tinkering and with lots of help from my beloved Husband (who knows his way round Linux and other command line code) and the lovely Lorraine Underwood, we found we could add a comment to label this section of code as ‘forward’ (go to the JavaScript and add a line at the top with ‘// forward’, then back into blocks and the little blue question mark at the top left appears with a comment. We then worked out that by having one motor run forwards the other run backwards, we could turn the buggy in a circle. The tricky part was working how to make it stop, however, once we worked out that once a pin was turned on, it didn’t turn off until set back to 0, we realised that adding a pause then setting the pin back to 0 would run the motor for a set amount of time. After that it was a case of trying different amounts of time to get a quarter turn. Eventually we discovered 1200 ms was about the right amount of time!

I’ve tried the buggy on a few different surfaces at home as the wheels seem to slip sometimes, and the shape of the lunchbox, with slightly sloping sides causes the wheels to be a slight angle. All of this can make the turns slightly more or less than the 90 degree turn I want, but this is something we can debug with code and with the mechanical aspects with the children once we have the final buggies made.

The code I’ve written so far is published online in the PXT editor. Button A turns right (clockwise), Button B turns left (anticlockwise) and A+B makes the buggy go forward.


 

 

CAS North Leicester Primary Hub meeting 28 September 2016 eSafety

Penny Patterson shares her wisdom on how to ensure your school meets the new Safeguarding requirement for online safety.

This term we decided to focus on something that many schools will be covering at this time of year, eSafety. The changes to Keeping Children Safe in Education that came into force on 5 September 2016 included more explicit duties for safeguarding with regard to online activities. We were very fortunate to have Penny Patterson (Senior Inspector Quality Assurance with responsibility for Safeguarding, Havering School Improvement Service) present by Skype for our meeting. She went well beyond the call of duty, when after discovering the M25 was closed, she had to divert and deliver the presentation using her phone from her car whilst parked at a garden centre!

Her slides highlight the new requirements succinctly and she has kindly agreed to share them:

penny-slide1
Full presentation available for download

 

Safeguarding-and-online-safety ppt file

One of the more alarming aspects of her talk was a discussion around sexting, which most of us had felt wouldn’t be an issue we would need to deal with in Primary schools. However, Penny has dealt with two cases involving children in early years and warned us to be aware of the difficulties of dealing with such cases. Unfortunately the strict legal definition of sexting includes the taking and sharing of indecent images, and if children take photographs of what is under their clothes, this can constitute sexting. Fortunately, UKIS have issued guidance on how to proceed if this happens in your school, and how it can be dealt with in a sensible and proportionate way.

Teachers were keen to know how to deal with parents on social media who were not being good role models to their children. Penny advised that they should consider if the children were involved, named or harmed by the online conversations and if they were, then to deal with this as we would with any other safeguarding incident.

We noted with interest the addition of a category of abuse of neglect for parents whose excessive use electronic devices as ‘babysitters’ and for parents who may be ignoring a child through the excessive use of technology themselves (watching their phone instead of their child crossing the road for example).

Finally, Penny gave us some good advice to make sure that we had checked that the filtering and monitoring systems we were using fulfilled the criteria recommended by the DfE (see : Guide for education settings and filtering providers about establishing ‘appropriate levels’ of filtering and monitoring)

The next meetings of the CAS North Leicester Primary hub will take place in March and May 2017. Book your free tickets online.

Teaching children about Creative Commons Licenses to re-use images #oersch15

open
Open – image found on photos for class with automatic attribution http://www.photosforclass.com/

I have always been keen to share ideas about my teaching, and regularly tweet lesson ideas or activities. However, I haven’t gone as far as making the resources I have made available online, partly because I’ve always been wary about its licensing. Although I work in a primary school, I know that I am ultimately employed by the City Council and so the council owns the Intellectual Property Rights for any educational resources I produce in the line of my employment. As an employee I don’t have the automatic moral rights i.e. the right to be named as author on those resources. I know it isn’t something that many of us think about, but with the massive increase in access to shared resources online, it is really is an issue I believe we teachers should begin to embrace. After all, Open Education is a philosophy that is essentially at the heart of teaching – sharing and learning together, building on each other’s work and collaborating to enhance our own teaching and learning.

Fortunately, Leicester City Council has Josie Fraser working for them. She is a leading proponent of Open Education and under her leadership the Council have take the pioneering step of giving permission to all its school employees to share any educational resources they create using a creative commons licence. I feel incredibly proud to be working for such a far-sighted employer and couldn’t miss the opportunity to begin to share my teaching resources more widely under a creative commons licence.

I attended the Open Education Schools Conference in Leicester this January. The first event of it’s kind in the UK, was organised by Leicester City Council in partnership with De Montfort University. 92 attendees from 48 primary, secondary and specialist provision schools took part in the day, as well as representatives from five UK universities. One of the sessions I attended was a workshop by Miles Berry who encouraged us to think in a very practical way about how we could begin to teach primary school children about Creative Commons licenses and the correct re-use of other people’s work. There were some fantastic ideas generated, such as children remixing scratch scripts that had been shared online. I worked with two colleagues, Hannah Boydon and Marieke Guy to plan a half term unit of work to show children how to search for CC licensed images and then use them in a website they built, making sure that they included the correct attribution and a link back to the original image. Marieke was one of the main speakers at the event, and her write up of the day and impressions of Miles’ workshop are on her blog.

The final product is a medium term plan of 6 lessons:

Unit Objectives:

Digital Literacy:

  • use technology safely, respectfully and responsibly; recognise acceptable/unacceptable behaviour

Information Technology

  • use search technologies effectively and be discerning in evaluating digital content
  • select, use and combine a variety of software (including internet services) to design and create content that accomplish given goals, including collecting, analysing, evaluating and presenting information

Overview

The aim of this unit of work is to teach children the principles of copyright compliant searching and accurate attribution of digital content when it is re-used. Children will learn about the ownership of created content and creative commons licences. They will use search effectively to find images that can be re-used and learn to attribute them correctly. They will create a website which combines the images that they have found and combine them with text to explain how other children can search for images to re-use on their own blogs or websites.

I used the lessons myself in the last half term and will be building the websites with my children in the next couple of weeks. I hope that the plans could be adapted to fit into other areas of the curriculum so that the final end product has a real purpose. My children were studying space and we wrote recounts about our visit to the National Space Centre in our English lessons, which we will then turn into websites using the images we found in the computing lessons. The final websites could be recounts, information texts or even instructions on how to search for creative commons licensed images!

Places for children to search for images to re-use

We did hit a few filtering issues while we were trying to search for CC licensed images. We found using Google advanced image search was reliable, but when images were from flickr, they were often blocked by our filters. Some alternatives the children used successfully were: http://www.pics4learning.com/ , http://gallery.nen.gov.uk/ and for clipart https://openclipart.org/. If you are able to use flickr, I would highly recommend using photosforclass.com which uses flickr images that are pre-filtered to provide a pseudo-safe search. The massive advantage here is that with a quick quick, images can be downloaded with an attribution automatically added (like the photo at the top of this post).

Lesson plans

The lesson plans are shared under a  CC-BY 4.0  licence on TES resources. Thanks to Leicester City Council for giving me this freedom!

CC BY 4.0
CC BY 4.0

OER images lesson plan (2015) by Jo Badge, Rushey Mead Primary School, Hannah Boydon, Mayflower Primary school/ Leicester City Council shared under a CC-BY 4.0  licence.