Raspberry Pi-oneers

summerschool2During the week of the 1st of August to the 5th of August, I was invited to Uppingham School by fellow teacher Arron Gourlay. We’re both teachers of the Brooke Weston Trust and both love to use technology to make our lessons more engaging. We’re both computer science teachers and enjoy teaching coding and thought that it would be great to deliver a course that got students producing something using the GPIO on the Raspberry pi.

Arron had been reading the Linux magazine and saw an article in the magazine which showed people how to make a quiz machine. The great thing about it was that it included all of the basics that students would need in order to get to grips with computer programming. It includes variables, lists, time delays, functions, loops and string manipulation. It was a great opportunity for the students to learn the basics of python and got them to see some results.


pimoroniIn order to produce this quiz, we had to make sure that we had all of the equipment we needed. We were very happy with the service from Pi-Moroni. They supplied us the equipment on time and even when we had to make some last minute orders, they supplied and delivered the equipment quickly so that we could continue extending the students. We ordered equipment such as arcade machine buttons, bread boards and jumper jerky. The breadboard allowed us to continue circuits and spread the voltage and we the cable allowed us to make more connections.

During this week, students were also given the opportunity to try some soldering and they worked together to build a pi-cade machine. A Raspberry-Pi arcade machines came together with bolts and screws and the students had to connect all of the cables up correctly and get a working machine. All of the students were a pleasure to teach and they had great team work and great engagement.

IMG_7955At the end of the week we had an exhibition for the parents. The parents were able to walk around and view the work of their children and the parents were blown away and very happy. Many of these students were in year 8 and 9. They were happy that their son or daughter would be really well prepared for future examinations.

I would like to thank Arron Gourlay for allowing me to join him and deliver this course with him and I would also like to thank Uppingham School for all of their help. Most of all, I would like to thank the parents and the pupils who were all amazing. You can see a video of the week attached below. If you would like to attempt this task yourself, I have attached the magazine scan.

Video of Raspberry-Pioneers course

If you’re interested in doing a similar project, some of the things that you will need are: –

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Minecraft and R.E

So recently before I moved to my new school I had been using Minecraft to encourage students to try different things in their lessons. When learning about theory in some of the computing lessons, I thought that it was nice to put a different spin on things. I love how Minecraft can be used as a different medium.

Some of you may know that I’m a Christian and my faith is important to me. Recently during a school holiday I invited a group of students in to share their favourite bible stories. Many of them picked a range of stories from Noahs Ark through to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Students worked together in a range of servers to create a number of different worlds based on what they thought it might have looked like around the time.

Following on from this, they would use HyperCam2. I found this software online for free and it seemed to have the best frame rate. I found other screen capture software would freeze and stall. Students recorded their screen and then put the footage into MovieMaker. This allowed them to narrate and add text to their stories. I have attached some of the footage from the day and you can see that Minecraft could also be used to share R.E.

No matter what faith or religion you are, you can look at stories and backgrounds of each faith and get students to research information required. They could then build stories or worlds based on the research and record videos to present this information to you. It also goes to show that power of Minecraft. Some of the children at this day were aged 8 through to 15. The students worked together and were able to use the software confidently. I’m very proud of these kids and what they achieved in just 4 hours.

Have a look at some of the videos below.

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E-Twinning #TeachMeet

What I love about the E-Twinning annual conference is the Teach Meet at the end of it. Every year, teachers get together to discuss ways of collaborating and encouraging learning at an Annual conference. Teachers get to share the work that they have done and they also get rewarded for their work.

There were so many great presentations from teachers. Teachers talked about tools which helped learners but also talked about things that they’ve had to work through. I’m going to sum up some of the tools that I am excited about trying, but I’m also going to explain my own presentation.


Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 20.01.50

The first thing which took my attention was this really cool app to encourage collaboration. You can create a classroom word board of key words and you can gather student opinions. The idea behind this application is that your students can use their phones or website’s to access it. I’m usually in an IT suite which makes this easy for me, but if you’re not, you can encourage students to participate.

Now I know what you’re thinking. What happens when the students start typing in, inappropriate words. The app has a really nice feature that allows you to moderate. It will show you the words before they’re approved. You double click them to approve them.

I thought that this was a simple way to encourage literacy and also a great way to gather opinions on a topic. I shall definitely be trying this in my lessons, a quick and easy starter with students engaging with the messages that appear on screen.

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I didn’t really get a chance to talk about this, but I’ve recently been doing something called ‘Spaced Learning’. The idea is that you teach students a topic in 10 minutes at a quick pace. Then you give the students 10 minutes on a creative task. It could be something like drawing a picture or creating something from playdough. You return back to the task for 10 minute but you deliver it in a slightly different way. Follow this up with another 10 minute creative task and then a formal assessment. This has been helping a lot of my students understand the task in a much stronger way. I had recently spent ages taking out blanks from my presentations and had spent a lot of time modifying my work for the second delivery.

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 20.31.01

Then a lady called Kate @kojk30 (twitter) presented this to me! She had me at ‘Hello’. Basically it is a teaching tool that allows you to create online presentations. You can create them ‘real time’ or ‘self paced’. I love flipping the learning and this seems amazing. You can include polls and quiz’s in your presentation and it allows the whole class to participate. All you need to do is give them the ‘pin’ number and they can access the website.

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 20.38.19

The students do not need logins and only need to type in their name. If they do type in a silly name, you don’t need to show the results on the screen but you can still get a good idea for polls about understanding on specific topics. I’ve included a number of screen shots to show you it working.

The website address is nearpod.com

Computing and Irish Dancing

dance2I have been a trained Irish dance teacher for a while and have danced since I was 11 years old. I was recently online looking at many people teaching coding techniques by using dances like the macerena and the hokey cokey. This got me thinking about how I can use two of my favourite things to teach computational thinking.

When teaching computational thinking, one term that we use a lot is Algorithm. This is a detailed set of instructions. In my lessons a way of doing this with my students is for me to get them dancing. I gave them a list of Irish dance movements from the Ceili, the walls of limerick and asked them to dance. Students would complain and say, they didn’t know what they had to do! 

  • Advance and retire
  • Half right and left
  • Dance with opposite
  • Dance around

Thus brings us to decomposition. I would say, this is why we need to break down our problem into smaller understandable steps. I would then explain how each of the movements work. This helps them understand how to break the problem down.


Once we’ve broken the dance down into smaller steps they could then see that the last moment started the dance all over again. Repetition! These are some key concepts and it was a way for me to get my students developing flow charts.

One task that I like to do with my students is get them to develop their own dance. They would then have to debug their dance. I would get them to break their dance down into smaller steps and then instruct me to do the dance. I would deliberately make mistakes whenever the instructions were vague and the student would change their description.

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 21.16.14In terms of Ceili, there are lots of Ceili’s you can do with your students. It’s cross curricular and it’s fun. Most Ceili dances have a reptition or they have ‘subroutines’ in them. There is a part of the dance called the ‘body’ which is like a section of the dance that you might ‘repeat’ until the new movement is added.




I have attached some pictures from the Teach Meet but if you are interested in knowing more contact me at rchambers@brookeweston.org


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Croatia (Proposed Computing Curriculum)

Zagreb and the computing curriculum

I was very blessed recently when I was approached via twitter to take a trip to Croatia and visit teachers to discuss the proposed computing curriculum for teachers in Croatia. Sound familiar? In the UK teachers were put into a similar situation when Gove attended the BETT show with a shock announcement. Computing was coming in and ICT was out!

James Langley of Langley Associates contacted me through twitter and mentioned that the British Embassy would like to support these teachers. James Langley has 11 years’ experience as a primary school teacher including 5 years an AST in the effective use of ICT in the classroom. Langley Associates was set up in 2016 to offer educational consultancy for schools and for businesses. The can offer bespoke training depending on your school’s needs.

After speaking via twitter James decided that we could run some primary and secondary workshops which would help the Croatian teachers see how the curriculum could be implemented.

We arrived in Croatia with amazing weather and great hospitality from the British Embassy. It was great to catch up with everyone and finally meet a number of people face to face.


Day 1 –

It was a glorious sunny day and we attended the training centre and set up.

Primary Training Activities: –

James started the day off with sessions to help teachers be more prepared for the primary curriculum. During James first session he talked about how important it is that we help early years to become more aware of the technology around them. It seems that these days that pupils are born to be digital. He gave some fantastic examples of what some teachers from a local primary school were doing. Some teachers had set up a fake till in the classroom with a barcode scanner so that the students could see how to use some of the equipment. He also talked about how one teacher would take their students on trips to the local supermarket to take out money using a Pin number. They would use the ATM and then go and use the self-service check outs.


He also asked the teachers about what they were already doing and gave them plenty of unplugged ideas for teaching terms such as abstraction and debugging etc..

Some of the unplugged activities which could be seen were: –

  • Programming a human being: – Teachers were told to program each other. They would need to get from point A to B. They would need to understand the need for precise instructions. Eventually the difficulty stepped up and teachers had to use blind folds.
  • Programming shapes: – Teachers would have to sit back to back to back and have to give precise instructions to draw the shapes (without looking)
  • A series of dance activities to demonstrate the use of repetition within instructions. Any of my personal friends will know what dance I chipped in with😉


Secondary Training Activities: –

Preparing your department

The second half of the afternoon was very much about supporting secondary teachers in their need for training and need to get ready. I explained the support that CAS had given the U.K with the quick start computing books. I showed many of their teacher’s extras from this book and explained the importance of listening to your staff and communicating with your leadership team.

My first session was very much about the things that will need to be in place in order to have a successful implementation of the curriculum. The first thing that I talked about was the transition and I talked to teachers about how ill prepared many departments were. In the UK with QTS it generally means that you can teach any subject once you have this. I said that teachers of ICT generally weren’t computer science teachers. I talked to them about the importance of doing an audit within your department. It’s important to find out everyone’s strengths and weaknesses.


I talked about what good training looks like and made sure that the teachers looked into training that would help them remember. So many teachers have trainers which come in and talk at them and I recommended that the teachers host regular teach meets. I walked them through what a good lesson plan would look like and how you would include the computational thinking using lesson guidance. I also showed them how to plan a scheme of work and talked about the things which should be considered.

Computer hardware, binary and networks

One of the areas of the new computing curriculum required teachers to understand computer hardware. I decided to play a game with the teachers and explained how easy it was to make theory more engaging. I talked about the delivery and even mentioned how engaging paper fights are with students. The idea being that you write down a piece of hardware on a piece of paper, throw it across the class and another student picks it up but has to write something different on it. It makes a great discussion and gets them up and involved.

Binary can be a tricky thing to understand, I talked about unplugged activities which can help both the teachers and the students understand the topic a lot easier. I showed teachers how they can make a paper binary calculator but also showed them how they can use division to work out binary numbers. This was really useful for when teachers wanted to convert from denary. This method also works with octal.


On top of this, I demonstrated how easy it can be to teach networks with linking arms and passing notes up and down the link. It’s a lot more stimulating than drawing network diagrams on a piece of paper.


Day 2: – Hands on training: –

The second day was all about giving some hands on training to the teachers. We wanted to show them tools that were available and also wanted to give them some guidance in areas of the curriculum.

Many of the teachers did not have high spec computers or they did not have the equipment to install lots of iPad apps and needed tools which would be accessible.

Scratch: – James walked the teachers through programming a simple game of ‘Frogger’ and explained concepts of conditions. He also explained repeats and showed them how to use variables with the game. The good thing about scratch was that they were able to run it through their browser on scratch 2.0. They liked the concept of this and many were having fun making changes. This was a key point and it was explained in these sessions that we should allow our students to have ‘tinker time’. It helps them understand the functionality of the code.


E-Safety: – James delivered a strong e-safety lesson talking about the ‘angels’ and ‘demons’ of the internet. He mentioned that for every positive there is a negative and summed up some of the things that we need to be aware of. I even pitched in and talked about quality time with people. I told the teachers about homework’s you can give your kids such as going to a restaurant and counting the number of people talking on phones instead of in person. James mentioned recently that there are also teachers using ‘Tinder’. These are all things we need to be aware off. He talked about what it looks like to be ‘inadequate’ in safeguarding. I’ve attached the slide to support this.


Micro:bit: – Many of the teachers were also keen to see microcomputers and they wanted to something in action. I brought over some spare micro:bits I had lying around and delivered a training session. I talked about the support that we had from people such as BBC and Microsoft in getting this initiative off the ground. I talked about how our computing curriculum says that you must teach one visual programming language and one text based. I explained to teachers that they could do this by using the website alone. There is the block editor and a python based text editor. I gave them some examples and all teachers in the room managed to make a ‘creeper’ and were able to use the text based editor.


HTML: – My final session was catered to help those schools who do not have the budget for software such as Dreamweaver and other website development packages. I talked about how networks use different services and talked about HTTP. I then moved on to say how web browsers translate the message and broke down step by step, how to build a website. We did a short session, but all teachers in the room managed to build a simple website and saw that they could do this with a simple tool such as notepad.


I will say that I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience in Croatia.

It was great to finally meet James Langley who is a top man. We had a good time bouncing ideas off each other and we were very flattered by the feedback we received from training these teachers. I would love to visit Croatia again and look forward to following up connections made.

A massive thank you goes to the British Embassy for inviting us over and to Lidija Kralj @LidijaKralj for organising everything. You can find out more by clicking this link: – Suradnici u učenju.

We look forward to working together in the future and look forward to sharing more pedagogy in the future.  Please feel free to read through the feedback and if you’re interested in similar training please contact me via twitter @lanky_boi_ray or @langleyassoc for more information.


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Smart Marking

Smart Marking: –

Are you a teacher spending tons of time marking? Was that a stupid question?

Although this blog isn’t a technical blog it talks about how you can save yourself sometime with your marking. I’m hoping that it will give you some quick wins in the pitfalls of WWW and EBI. Yes, we’ve all been there and we’ve seen how little impact they can be. Particularly when your student responds to your marking with ‘ok I will do this next time’.

If there is something I can teach you about in this blog it is to work smarter and not harder.

 Success Criteria: –

This is particularly use for key stage 3 and particularly useful because of the ‘assessment’ of levels going out of the window. Finger’s in the air please…. The idea of this assessment method is that you start you lesson and deliver your content. When you’ve finished your content, either come up with the success criteria and show it on the board… OR get your students to come up with it.

Now… when you mark their work, in the WWW (What went well) box, you write the number of the success criteria that was the best in one box. In the EBI (Even better if) box, you write down the number that they need to improve on.

There is a very good example of how it can work here: –


I have also attached a picture below.


Resources banking: –

If you’re lucky, you will get to deliver some of your content for at least two years. I suggest when you mark this piece of work, you keep a log of the common mistakes that are made. This will save you time for the next time you teach this unit of work. Then all you do is print out the common mistakes with numbers by them. Give back your students their work with the sheet and the numbers on them. They need to write down their improvements. They’re taking more ownership of the marking and it saves you writing a paragraph that they might never read.

One Note: –

Have you ever tried to use One-Note with your class? If your students are completing work for you on the computer, you might want to save yourself time hand writing all of your feedback. Did you know that you can press the ‘record’ button at the top of one-note and you can record feedback straight into their work? Save those one-to-one chats you have and have a record of every progress chat with your students. One-Note is a Microsoft product and it comes free with Office-365. Once your students are set up, they can share their work with you and all you need to do is access it from home and use your built in Microphone! Job’s done! 

record audio

Self Marking Quiz Papers….  

This quick win comes courtesy of my friend ‘David English’ a Maths/Computing teacher at my school. He has been looking at ways of speeding up his marking in his lessons. When you take on two subjects it’s never easy. His maintenance marking has sped up and he is able to do some multiple choice quiz’s with some of his students and this allows him to monitor the progress. Over time, you’re able to check the results of their tests.

How it works?

On the right, is an answer sheet. You will need to write a test for your class but fill in all of the correct answers. This is scanned on your phone so that you have all of the correct answers. You scan in the sheet and the phone reads it!

Next step, each student is given their quiz (or you do this via powerpoint) and students must colour in the questions from A to E. They will then pick the correct answer.

At the end of your lesson, you scan in each test and it is marked instantly and it tells you which question they have answer incorrectly. Not only have you checked their progress quickly but you have their marks. You can then review your most common mistakes as a class!

Now warning, I’m not saying ZipGrade will give your students instant feedback, but it will give you an instant clue to how your students work! I’m going to be using it but I will also be getting the students to acknowledge their mistakes, thus demonstrating their progress.

To find out more about zipgrade visit: http://www.zipgrade.com/ 

I have a few more tricks up my sleeve but I’m just trying to help make things slightly easier for your work load! Have funny giving the students the time to write down the success criteria in their books instead of YOU!

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Spaced Learning

Spaced learning,

So whenever something new comes out in the teaching ‘circle’, I’m always very keen to try something new. I happened to be around a friend’s house recently and he was talking about something new he had been trying in his lessons. In the passed, I had been using ‘Flipped’ learning in many of my lessons and I had been having multiple successes with my students. I would argue that this is one of the methods which helps my students understand a lot of their content.

Up until recently one of my classes had been doing really well but I was a little anxious about the amount of time I had to fit in ‘content’ and I could see that some of the content just wasn’t going in. This concerned me and I’ll be honest, their test scores were not as good as I would have hoped. Personally, I feel that you can never be a good teacher unless you reflect on your own practice and make changes.

I have a friend who is as passionate about teaching as me, his name is Dan Hawksley and although I’ve never seen him teach we share similar ideas in our approach to learning. He teaches science and had talked about how he had been trying something new with his students. It’s called ‘Spaced Learning’. He referred me to this website to find out more: – http://iconlogic.blogs.com/weblog/2013/01/training-spaced-learning.html

The Idea:

If you have a learn amount of data or content that you have to teach in a small period of time, this method supports it. According to the findings, although many people teach you that lots of information at once can be too much. This method suggests the opposite.

The is evidence to support that patterns help stimulate and create long term memories. Sounds pretty cool right? The basic idea, is to split your lesson up into chunks and give them 10 minute patterns and repetition. I would agree that repetition works, I’ve always used this method with some of my year 11 classes and I would say that this contributed to the 100% pass rate last year.

How does it work: 

  1. From reading the article, spaced learning seemed to be split into 10 minutes of information to start your lesson. I started my lesson by doing a simple break down of facts, I delivered a simple PowerPoint presentation with everything that I would need my students to know for the lesson. Although you can combine flipped learning within this, I chose to have more control in the first part of the lesson. In my lesson I did a break down of spreadsheets. I showed them all of the formula that they would need to know for their exam and even got them to address the misconceptions and formulas to avoid.
  2. After delivering the content they were given 10 minutes to do something creative. They took a 10 minute break. They did something completely unrelated to the topic. I had my students drawing a number of pictures including their teacher (me), unicorns and landscapes.
  3. Following on form this break, I did the same lesson although this time I changed my approach. My friends will know that I’m a strange teacher… in this case I decided to teach all of the content using different accents. This time I left out blanks within the context and asked the students to write down the I guess you could say we were playing blankety blank.
  4. Again, the students did something completely unrelated, this time I got my students to play board games. I had a number of games in my class such as giant Jenga, pop up pirate and buckaroo. Students would play these games.
  5. Last 10 minutes: – I decided to get my students to take on a task based on everything that I had taught them in these 10 minute chunks. The task was a spreadsheet task in one case. They would have to complete the task independently and they would need to work through each of the tasks step by step.


I wouldn’t say that I was sceptical when I first read about this, but I was definitely intrigued by how it works. I was wondering if the students would take away anything from this. I tried this on Monday with a year 8 class and I have also tried this again with a year 8 and year 9 class this morning. I’m currently in the middle of marking my year 8 tests and looking that their knowledge, there is a steady improvement.

How did my year 9 students react?

When we teach, it’s important that we have good questioning. The questioning helps address the misconceptions and then your students are able to make the steady progress that they need. I deliberately avoided doing a round of questioning with this…

100% of my class managed to complete a 20-minute task in 10 minutes. They were confident and they remembered everything that they were taught! I am going to continue trying this with some of my classes and I will post the findings with some of my classes in the future. I have seen a steady improvement in my year 9’s application of their knowledge. I will let you know whether my year 8 students have improved.

I have attached some pictures of the activities that they completed, you may have a chuckle at some of the creative pictures you will see.

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Hour of Code–Uppingham Community College–30th June

Recently, BBC have announced that they would be releasing the Micro: Bit to schools all over the country. With this in mind, we wanted to give some of our students more of a taste for Touch Develop.

HOUROFCODEAs we come to the end the Term, in the computing department we realise that we want our students to remember how to problem solve and code. It is because of this that we saw the end of term as an opportunity for our students to learn how to code even more using TouchDevelop.


settings2As you can see in the picture above, a year 9 student found it really engaging and was able to create simple shapes and even managed to use other devices to control how a turtle moves around the school. Our students found this quite simple to use and we were even able to have some students doing some tasks together because of the new BETA version of Touch Develop. When you sign in and go to the settings, you can turn testing.

creategroupTo complicate things for our year 9’s, we decided to give them a piece of code to a problem. Their job was to find all of the issues with the code. Some of this included the variables being mixed up. Some of them included errors in the logic and order of the code.

One features that is new to TouchDevelop  and in BETA that not many people are aware of is setting up your own classes where you can collaborate on the same piece of code at the same time! This is an awesome feature which will be really handy to encourage collaboration.

workingtogetherOnce you have joined a group, it will give you an invitation code which means that you can keep your students secure from any unwanted guests. I really love this feature and tried it out on an existing piece of code. Students can collaborate from different sides of the class and they can use the chat log to suggest changes to each other. Click on the image to make it a little bigger so that you can see it in action.

hourofcode3A starter task I used with the students required them to spot the errors in my code and to spot the logical errors. I deliberately put things in the wrong order and they would have to put them back in the correct order. It was chaos but it was GREAT!

My students had a great time carrying out the Hour of code and I got them to use tutorials which were made by myself using Touch Develop. Any teachers who are interested in pushing the boundaries of Touch Develop. Have a look at making your own tutorials. They’re a great way of introducing the environment to the students and you can make them as detailed as you like so that you avoid the ‘click here’ issues.

hourofcode2If you are interested in trying out some of the tutorials which students from Uppingham Community College tried on the 30th of June. Visit this page. I’m hoping to do a video tutorial on how to collaborate between students VERY SOON!

If you have any questions about the resources featured on my blog then please email me or tweet me:



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