Makey Makey and Touch Develop

So it’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post, but I wanted to share what I have been doing with Touch Develop and Makey Makey. In the new computer science curriculum students need to know a little more about how computer hardware works. I had thought about how difficult it can be for kinaesthetic learners to understand how things work. This article will aim to show you what we have done to our display boards at Uppingham Community College. We’ve turned our classroom into something similar to what you might find in museums.

I had seen a video from Gareth Ritter. He is a music teacher at Willows High in Wales @ritzertech. He has been using Makey Makey to make some excellent tools for his students. For example, he made wearable technology and also made an interactive display which would play the sounds of instruments. You can also find out more about him at You can see the video here:

With the work that I had been doing with Touch Develop, I thought that I could do something which would allow my year 7 students the opportunity to physically touch the hardware but also find out some information about it. Using touch develop I used the MakeyMakey library. Unfortunately, it only allowed you to complete the Up,Down,Left,Right and Space keys. I have had to modify the library to get it to work a little better with Touch Develop. As a result, I ended up with this application which doesn’t have any sound yet….. (it’s on the way). Click Here – If you have a Makey Makey kit, you can run this application on your surface if you have clips connected to Up,Down,Left,Right,Space,W and S. The video shows how it works and you can see that using the Surface, the screens are changing each time you touch the hardware. Some of the hardware I haven’t been able to mount on the wall, however smaller items such as the CPU are conductible and work with the Makey Makey kit.

Now that the computer science curriculum has come in, it’s important not to lose our learners with the jargon, this display and the use of the software will allow us to help out our visual learners.

I have attached an example of the code below. You can see how imagerepetitive it is and how it’s simple for someone who hasn’t any experience in programming. If you want to do something similar, you can access my code here and change it easily. You will only need to upload the pictures (the things with the flower symbol) and then replace the image with what you need. Make sure you use the screen resolution of a surface device if you’re planning to use your app this way.


What is Makey Makey

Makey Makey is an electronic circuit board which uses electricity from the USB to make signals which represent keyboard presses. By using a Makey Makey kit you can connect anything up to the board. For example, you could make a banana keyboard in your music lessons. It might make things more interesting for those disengaged learners. You could create apps using Touch Develop that would look for the key presses. You could get students to develop their own game controllers for games they make in your computing lessons.

If you would like to order some at a decent price, my friend Gareth Ritter recommended maplins :) – They seem to be reasonable. I managed to get some for £35 each. You could order one or order a whole class depending on what you’re planning.

Find out more here

Posted in Computer Science, Education, Kodu, MakeyMakey, Microsoft, partners in learning, Programming, Python, TouchDevelop, windows 8 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Code Hunt – Microsoft Helps Coding!

imageSo I’ve been a little quiet lately, apart from studying from some very important exams… I’ve been looking out for that one thing which will extend some of my hard core coders! I’ve been teaching Touch Develop, Python and Scratch and would like to step it up a gear with some of my students. 

imageLast week, I received an email from my Wife saying that I should try out the new coding from Microsoft. I had to investigate. This has led me to Code Hunt! It is a free tool from Microsoft which allows you to do debugging. It does require some pre-programming knowledge and it expects you to solve problems. There is a short tutorial and it makes it seem like a game. You capture the code and then find the error. 

image You are then given the result. You can see it expects X to be equal to one. I would then go and figure out how I could make X = 1 using the code and capture it again. This would then tell me if I’ve solved the code or now. I do recommend you have some coding experience before you try this. Make sure that you read the tutorials fully! You should get a nice little reward when you have finished and then you can continue to code other problems!

To access the website, go to


Posted in Computer Science, Education, hour of coding, Microsoft, partners in learning, Programming, Uk hour of code, windows 8 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Microsoft Global Forum 2014 – Barcelona

mystand This week have had the honour of attending the global forum in Barcelona. Early last year I submitted an application to become an Expert Educator for Microsoft. The application process was simple, I had developed a project using Touch Develop within the classroom and wanted to showcase the work the students had done. After going through the application process I was fortunate enough to be selected as one of the top 10 innovative expert educators in the united kingdom.

We arrive on the Monday before the event kicks off ready with our innovation in our suitcases and our devices at the ready. Ready to inspire, ready disrupt but most importantly collaborate and have fun. I must say it was a pleasant journey having the Offperts team from Well behaved and good manners all around. Find out about the amazing work they’re doing by following them on twitter @OffPerts

After getting all settled in on the first day and finding the conference centre we were taken out for a meal to discuss future opportunities in the U.K. It was great to collaborate with Nicki Cooper about the challenges we’re facing in the computing curriculum. We knew that the next few days would be fast paced!

Day One – opening keynote and exhibiting

missinginaction Day one starts are we’re all invited into a bustling hall to showcase our projects. Having only 30 minutes to get ready for the exhibiting, it was a bit of a manic rush, especially with some of the projects and the technology they were displaying. I was very fortunate to have the majority of my project on my Surface Devices whereas others had stands with so many examples of student work. Even some of the UK team who didn’t quite make it were there in spirit.

After the kick off we were invited into the main hall where we would finally meet some of our teams for our Learn-A-Thon. We were all a little quiet at first. Many other teams had managed to contact each other but this was the first time. We all got on really well and decided to exchange ideas and keep in touch.

The first sessions were compulsory, we had an introductory session to using the Surface and we were helped to get these set up. Although I understood that these sessions were vital for everyone. This is one of my only critiques of the event. I do feel that this session could have been personalised a little more. I know that the UK team had already been using Surface devices and were a head of the game in this aspect. If there were other countries in the same boat then they could have used the time to collaborate over projects or even run sessions.

The second session was brilliant. I might sound a bit bias here but the UK’s very own App man had some great tools to share with people on the Surface. For example, CreatEbook was a new tool which allows teachers to work with students to create e-books and export them on the Surface. It was great to hear about the pedagogy which works along side many of these ideas. He explained how you can use any app with your imagination. For example, he used a face blender to create a Tiger/Lion….Liger. You could easily use this as a stimulus for creative writing! This link will give you a link to many of the apps which were mentioned in his presentation. You should go and try them today! Little bit of a warning though… CreateEbook is only going to be for a short period of time….. grab it for free while you can!

Day Two –

We’re invited into the auditorium with over 260 other educators, educational leaders and minister’s of education. Ready to be introduced to the Global Forum 2014.

Anthony Salcito takes to the stage and is very Dynamic but his first phrase really grabs everyone’s attention. “Your students are learning without you”. How true! I can see how this would be a little difficult for some people to swallow but it’s an important thing for teachers to know. Think about what they’re finding out online. Our students have access to technology whenever and wherever and they’re able to access a whole host of different materials to help with their learning.

Kicking off the show, Anthony showcased a lot of useful tools in education.

Here are a few of interesting ones which I look forward to.

Class Policy – I have now signed up for a free trial of this to see how useful it may be. The idea of this tool is that it allows you to control all of your Windows 8 devices. For example, you can lock down the screens and you can also decide which apps you give your students access to. Some teachers have asked me how they can manage their Windows 8 devices in the past and it looks like their may be a solution on the horizon with this tool!

Microsoft PowerPoint 2013 Add-In – Currently Unnamed! – There is a neat add-in coming soon for Office 2013 which allows you to record your presentations with you inside it! You can annotate and interact with people over and over again! It looks like a really useful tool and allows you to do a lot of cool things with PowerPoint. Ever wanted to add in a specific webpage to your PowerPoint without messing around with the developer tool bar…. this looks like it’s an option coming soon!

Bing for schools – – Although not available in the UK, I hear that they’re looking at getting it into our schools very soon! The idea is to help filter some of the inappropriate searches from students. I would love this to be available in schools over here! From the little bit of information I can gather on this, it is filtered into the network to stop the inappropriate material from popping up.

Pulse On – Not sure when this is to become available but it seemed like a really interactive tool for showing students their progress over time. I for one would love the students to have instant access to their progress on any device. Having paper based progress trackers can be tedious and students can lose paper etc..

teamuk2 The team now have another opportunity to exhibit their work and share all of their ideas. This was a great opportunity and allowed me to go and see other teachers projects. I have now linked up with teachers in Belgium and Canada with the prospect of doing some projects between classrooms. I personally loved the Holocaust project from @JHManner and we’ve already establish links for Uppingham Community College to develop an app for the project! I can see an excellent opportunity coming up for a Skype :).

Day Three – Learn-a-thon

The initial start of the day introduced some cool programs and some tools. We were introduced to the YouthSpark hub which aims to empower students to become leaders. It allows them to get the training and the tools they need in order to become successful in closing the divide. It gives them access to stem tools which will secure their own future.

sharing Anthony Salcito arrives for a question and answering session. It was great to hear so many educators sharing their thoughts about how the program has been ran over the last couple of years. This was my first Global Forum but it sounded like some educators had been to a few of them. My suggestion was that Expert Educators should be involved in leading sessions in future years. I felt that some of the sessions weren’t as personalised as some people would have liked but just as I put my hand up to raise this feedback Anthony said that he was planning to use Expert Educators in the future… Doh!

We all meet up in the main hall with all of the other groups. Team UK were spread across a number of countries. For example, my group consisted of France, Greece and Malaysia. With each of our groups being armed with their learn-a-thon topic, we all go into the exhibition area and set up on a table. Our topic which was selected involved the sustainability of water. The idea of the topic was to create a learning activity for students to help them engage, collaborate and have impact on a global goal. Billions of people in slums do not have access to clean water. We aim to address this with our project…… but we had to plan it first.

WIN_20140313_144637 We started out by planning but our main goal was very much to do with the collaboration of the students, We really wanted them to work together. One of our group members (from Greece) had an amazing idea which meant that when grouping our students we included data, gender, grades and other aspects of their learning. I didn’t want language to be a barrier and came armed with a wedge of paper for drawing pictures and communicating ideas.

We would put students in groups of 4 who would research 4 different areas of sustainability including science, sociology, policies and economics. Each group would have an expert in it from each of the sections so that there was still collaboration going on. For example, a science team would still have someone in it who was an expert at economics. This would help get the group interacting.

Each group would need to come up with a pitch or a proposal which would help sustainability of water and they would have to present it to their class mates. They would collaborate using tools such as :

  • My montage –  – Students can sign in with their windows account and create a board of news, research and other stories. They can then share the address with their other class mates.
  • Lync – as part of Office 365 the students could link up with other schools or students to find out information required.
  • One Drive – They can upload their work and work on it at the same time. If I was changing a document, a friend could be doing the same.
  • Twitter – A student could find people who may have benefitted through the sustainability of water or they could find organisations to get facts and figures which will be helpful in their pitch.

The Pitch

The students would then pitch their proposal but they could do it with any tool. We wanted to keep the project flexible with the technology to allow schools worldwide to use it. Some schools might not have access to tools such as Project Spark because they might not have windows 8 machines. Some ideas the students could do for their pitch:

  • Touch Develop – An app in Touch Develop or project sienna which informs people about what they have found out
  • Kodu – produce an interactive quiz game to introduce the key knowledge to people.
  • Photostory – video with pictures and stories could get the point across really easily.
  • CreateBook– Using this tool the students can create a whole host of resources to inform people.

After the pitch to the class, the idea was that all of the students give each other feedback on the areas of their project and discuss a whole solution or idea to present to an organisation such as Water Aid. The students would still have experts in the teams but it would be more technology based for the final pitch. They would have digital leaders who work in multimedia, presenters who work on the PowerPoint, Data analysts with math skills to analyse the data and put it into some readable format for the presentation and it would really differentiate for the different skill sets available.

To finish the project, the students would present their idea to a global organisation and if it was accepted then they would have to do fund raising to help the organisation. If it wasn’t accepted then they would have to go back to the drawing board and make changes. The idea of the fund raising was that it would involve the whole school community and a wider audience.

I have attached our slides here with some evidence of assessment you could use with your students. If you’re interested in collaborating on a project like this, then let me know in the future. I would love to attempt something like this which has impact on a global scale.

Teach Meet

teachmeet After a long day, the UK got with the rest of Europe and decided to introduce Teach Meet’s to the rest of Europe! We all shared great practice in the classroom and went through some of the changes we’re facing. I teamed up with Nicki Cooper and we explained the UK hour of code! We talked about how effective it was in our classrooms and we explained the amazing work our students were doing. Many other educators showed off tools which were effective in their classroom. I personally liked the idea of using Zondle! You should check it out yourself. Thank you to David Rogers @DavidERogers for being a great host.

Day Four – Presenting the learn-a-thon

Early start!!! 8:30 presentation! Our group is told to present our project to a panel of judges. Being the only person from an English speaking country I had to present first out of all of the groups in the learn-a-thon. We were given some feedback of the judges and one judge particular said that she enjoyed the presentation and the idea of collaboration from the students. We had questions on how we will continue this project but all agreed that we could do this project across our countries because we had left the technology an open topic. We also said that sustainability was a topic close to our hearts because we could see examples in our own towns and cities of people who don’t live in the best conditions.

We finished our presentation and were given some down time and boy did we need it!!!! This was a fill on conference with so many activities, keynotes, speeches and activities to get through.

Most of us got together to speak about different activities we could take back to our schools but some of us went to discover Barcelona. I will say, the outdoor pool was colder than glaciers! I for one jumped in and back out, David Renton from Scotland has an interesting photo of me squirming but you don’t need to see that :P. Right David!!

Gala Dinner

galadinner We’re invited into a room full of people with all of the tables set out and we sat down for a lovely meal. The Touch Develop team stuck together :P. I was disappointed with David Renton though, where was your kilt! It was a pleasure to have Claire Riley join us who has been doing some fantastic work across schools with the new Computer Science curriculum. (Thank you geeky Barbie for holding the fort). The food was great and the company was great. I had a great chat with other Educators and also enjoyed the company of Lian Morgan from the United States. Thank you for a wonderful time guys!

Awards Ceremony

offperts We’re invited into the awards hall and they start to call of the awards for projects one by one. It was buzzing! We waited impatiently to hear how the UK team had done. Thankfully…. the cutting edge of technology category comes along and yes! The UK does it again :). I would like to wish a huge congratulations to Scott Wieprecht from Saltash! He and his team of Offperts received the prize for 2nd Runner up! The students were amazing, the project was amazing and they were very humble. It was a huge pleasure to spend time with these guys this week and I couldn’t be happier for them! Their project was so empowering and it was great to see the students have such a voice at the event this week.


meglobal After spending an amazing week with so many innovative educators I have come back with some amazing ideas, tools and friends. I really enjoyed my time here and I look forward to sharing some of the projects I’ve seen with other educators at Uppingham Community College. One project I particularly loved comes from a Canadian teacher from Hamilton Ontario….. I’m not being bias there! I swear!!!! A project on the holocaust which lead to the students finding actual survivors and sharing their findings with the rest of the world. I’m still not sure why this project didn’t receive an award!

I found some amazing tools for using with my surface devices in the classroom!! I loved class policy, lock down what apps your students have access to. Pulseon, track the progress of your students overtime and make it visual for them to see.

Thank you

Obviously this amazing experience wouldn’t be possible this week without all the support we had!

First of all a huge thank you goes to Uppingham Community College for supporting me with everything behind the scenes. Our Head teacher Mrs Jan Turner for her on-going support of my wacky ideas! I would like to say a huge thank you to the cover supervisors, form cover, intervention managers,ICT department and most of the students involved in this project. William Rhodes, Dawid Czajka, Evan Jones, Olivia Rootham, William Smith and Desmond Weich. Everyone was very impressed with your apps and how they have been used! Miss Ballance for your innovative use of our apps and thank you for testing the apps and giving your students the opportunity to give us feedback on them.

mcdonalds Secondly I would like to give Stuart Ball (Secret Identity….AppMan!) @innovativeteach a huge thank you :P – I was planning on sending a card in the post but this is just as good :P. I really enjoyed my week with you and thank you for your awesome hospitality. You’re one in a million and I look forward to keeping in touch with other wacky ideas!  There was a real team spirit and it was great to see all of the UK team in their t-shirts! I guess you can see our team spirit through the McDonalds #selfie ;).  I can honestly say that you have been a huge inspiration in this process and I look forward to future projects! Thanks for keeping the team together and keeping us in the loop!

A big thank you to my wife for having to put up with me through all the preparation and times I’ve been locked away in my cave preparing resources. Thank you for being you :)

Posted in Awards, Education, hour of coding, Kodu, Microsoft, partners in learning, TouchDevelop, windows 8 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hour of code: Reflection

collageLast week I was fortunate enough to be invited down to London to launch the hour of code. I had a fantastic time and was honoured to
teach over 50 students at one time. The event started with some amazing talks
from some of the leading specialists in computing. They were very inspirational
and it was interesting to hear about the skills people are using in the
computing sector. Check out our image off students who took part!

It kicked off and it was all go, Gary Carr introduced the
great British code off between two students Ross and Josh. They were given
envelopes which had different topics. One example which was picked is a
treasure hunt game. These were both coded using project spark. You can find out
more about project spark by following this hyperlink. If you have played with
Kodu then it’s the next step up. It’s amazing how you can use functions. When
coding, we use something called functions to save us from repeating blocks of
code. Project spark works in a very similar way. You can create ‘brains’ for
your characters and re use them. I’m very excited about the prospected of using
this in the future.

Other events which were going on included the Kodu corner.
Nicki Cooper (formerly Madams) introduced Kodu to a group of students who were
creating some fascinating games. They picked it up really quick and ended up
with a whole library of games by the end of the event. Kudu is a free tool that
be used on to introduce basic concepts of computing to the class room. For
example, you can teach students about algorithms and simple concepts of
operators which are greater than or less than.

@OhLottie Claire Lotriet one of the authors of switched on computing
introduced computing concepts without the need for a computer. She labelled out
a sorting map on the ground and students had to sort out numbers. They worked
out an algorithm to find out the quickest way of sorting numbers. This was a
great concept and shows us that we don’t always need computers to show the
theory. Such an incredible way of showing something visually. This method is
shown in the switched on computing resources and it has even given me some
ideas for secondary teaching. I particularly like the idea of becoming a robot
and getting my students to give me instructions for solving a problem.

rayI managed to help launch the hour of code live corner. We
had 50 students with windows 8 devices learning programming using a various
host of activities. One of our first activities was the use angry birds through
the hour of code website. It introduced basic concepts of loops and repeats.
Students had to break down the problems into simple steps in order to find the
solution to the problem. The students were engaged and managed to complete the
tutorials quite quickly. It was because of this that we introduced the Touch
Develop tutorials to the students and they got through these quite quickly.
They were amazing and it was great to see engagement with programming compared
to how ICT is traditional taught. I really enjoyed this and the students
received a certificate at the end for completing the hour of code.

Once back to my school I set the parents, teachers and
students the task of completing some coding activities. It was great to see the
whole school get involved. I had emails from parents, staff and students with
pictures of their certificate. You can see from some of their faces in the
collage below that some of them are a little shy but they really enjoyed the
whole experience. One student commented that they will now be taking up the
subject for G.C.S.E. They can see where it leads and they’re not scared of the
programming anymore.

In other news, I set our app squad a goal this week of
getting 5 apps into the windows store. They collaborated with various members
of staff to come up with the requirements for their apps. They spoke to history
teachers, language teachers and computer science. After a week of app
development we have the following apps available to download from our store and
I have listed the student’s names so that you can see who has developed them.

Famous figures in history – Evan Jones

Trenches – KS3 history – Will Smith

Computer hardware – Dawid Czajka

Emily Davison Mystery – history – William Rhodes

German Sports – Desmond Weich

Learn Easy Korean – Olivia Rootham

Please download the apps and rate these apps, your feedback
and reviews are much appreciated. We have been collaborating with students in
lesson about how to improve the current version of the apps.

 Our next phase of this started on Saturday when we invited a
primary school in for a gifted and talented day of coding. This helped us
support them in coding but we’re also learning a little bit about how apps can
help primary schools. Training the primary school students to make the apps for
their schools is a huge step forward and were very happy with the growth of the
project. It will allow students in primary schools to flip their learning and
they will now start sharing their voice in their primary schools.

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Another day of coding, Another App

imageWith the U.K hour of code being explored this week, I’ve set my students the challenge of collaborating with their teachers to come up with some apps for lessons. Although many of them have made apps to help the lesson, our aim was to get at least 5 of them into the store. So far, we have 4! We’ve had Computer hardware, famous figures in history, Emily Davison mystery and today is our 4th!

screenshot_03062014_205905 Our 4th app we talk about today is for a German teacher. The student had been learning all about the different sports in his German lesson and collaborated to make a lesson start task which helps you drag and drop the items into the correct place. He has done an amazing job with it and has even let it reset the board after 5 seconds. His name is Desmond Weich and he is 12 years old from Uppingham Community College. He spent a lot of time creating the assets and double checking the words. He used simple programs like Paint to create the graphics and then made sure they were all the same size for consistency.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you German Sports.  You can download this and give the student some feedback here. You can also comment below to give some feedback.

All these apps have been made after the students have watched my tutorial videos on how to build the apps using TouchDevelop. It is a free tool and if you sign up to the windows store, you can publish your apps for them. Some people do not have a Windows 8 device which makes it difficult to publish. I don’t have a windows 8 machine in school.

cropped In order to publish your students app, you need to be allowed to export their application. At the bottom of the screen, when the students go to edit their app. They should see a setting which allows other to export. If they tick this they should be able to share the app with you so that you can export it for them! Our next stage in this process is to train the students to do this on their own windows 8 devices at home! I will be doing a follow up soon which shows you how to publish your app in easy steps.

KS2 Scheme of work – Introduces basic loops and algorithms to primary school students

Ks3 Scheme of work – Introduces a host of lesson on algorithms, sprites, booleans and more

Video tutorials

Don’t forget to continue getting your students building apps with the UK hour of code! I’ve already had 130 students take part and have another 100 taking part today. Are you game? Find out more by visiting with your students and get them working through the tutorials today! Alternatively, check out our Hour of code tutorials here!

Posted in Appathon, Computer Science, Education, hour of coding, Maths, partners in learning, Programming, TouchDevelop, Uk hour of code, windows 8 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

An App A Day….

So yesterday I featured two apps produced by students while I was at the launch of the UK Hour of code! Today… here’s another. Student Dawid Czajka is 13 from Uppingham Community College and developed an app after coming to me for requirements.

Students have been approaching staff and asking them how they can contribute to lessons. They have been asking them about the apps which will be helpful to learning. 3 of the apps produced have been useful for History and P.E, so I thought why not help my own subject out.

I told Dawid that it would be nice to have an app which introduced people to computer science. Maybe an app which labels bits of computer hardware. It would give students and intro to the subject and they would be able to see where some of the hardware goes. After sitting down with me and learning about the hardware he wrote down my requirements and off he went.

hardware Today is the release of his app into the windows store! You can download it by clicking on the image or by clicking here. With the launch of the hour of code we’re aiming to get a students app into the store every day this week in order to celebrate and the apps this students are making at the age of 11,12 and 13 is phenomenal. The great thing is…. the learning has been flipped. I’ve provided the tutorials and they’re making the apps and it’s also given the students a voice. They can see the impact they’re having in lessons and they can also see the feedback by the number of downloads each time. Try out “Computer Hardware” by clicking here. You drag the word to the piece of hardware and then to the place where it goes.

These apps were produced using the tool and the students love it because they can continue working on the apps at home in the cloud. It runs on any device and they continue doing it on the bus, on the train or wherever they are at that time! You can try the scheme of work with your students here:

KS2 Scheme of work – Introduces basic loops and algorithms to primary school students

Ks3 Scheme of work – Introduces a host of lesson on algorithms, sprites, booleans and more

Video tutorials

Don’t forget to continue getting your students building apps with the UK hour of code! I’ve already had 130 students take part and have another 100 taking part today. Are you game? Find out more by visiting with your students and get them working through the tutorials today!

Posted in Appathon, Computer Science, Education, hour of coding, Maths, Microsoft, partners in learning, Programming, TouchDevelop, Uk hour of code, windows 8 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment