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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Using Touch Develop with BESD students

I recently had the pleasure of teaching at Maplefields school in Corby, Northamptonshire and I had a great time with a great bunch of kids.

IMG_6610Maplefields is a specialist Academy based in Corby, Northamptonshire. The school caters for pupils aged 5 (Reception Year ) to 18 years (sixth form)  with severe behaviour emotional and social difficulties (BESD), now known as social  emotional and mental health difficulties (SEMH), as their primary need.


As soon as I started teaching these kids, I was blown away! I had been given a group of 10 students who had various experiences but the one thing that was amazing was their basic understanding of computational thinking. I will be honest I was a little worried at how they would handle the programming but I would say that using TouchDevelop seemed to have a very positive impact on their learning.

We started by doing an unplugged activity and I got the students to walk into each other and I made sure that they understood the importance of giving accurate instructions. These students were brilliant, they were so good that some of the students deliberately made mistakes with their instructions so that they could demonstrate their point to others.

creepIn previous sessions, I had introduced programming to the students by using the Turtle in TouchDevelop. I thought that students with BESD might want to be a little more creative to begin with. We started using code to produce a creeper. They picked up the co-ordinates and coding and some students were creating loops which would make their code run smoother. Here is student – James’ work on creating a creeper.

IMG_6611Moving on from this, we looked at creating more resources and we started to use the MakeyMakey kits. The students were HOOKED! Straight away they were creating their own controllers and they were getting a Turtle to move around the screen. As we only had an hour there wasn’t much of an opportunity to fit more in, but the students loved the session and seemed to get a lot from it.

In summary, from using TouchDevelop with these students, I can see that TouchDevelop can be used as a way of engaging students with BESD and the students seemed to get a lot from it. These students were great coders and were a pleasure to teach. They were engaged, they were problem solving, debugging and they were independent learners. Many were challenging each other and seeing, who could could make their turtle controller first.

I would like to thank Maplefields school in Corby for inviting me in and I would like to thank the staff and students, particularly Mrs McGhee and Mr Briggs. Maplefields is a great school and I look forward to returning in the future to run some more coding sessions. They seemed quite interested when they found the Minecraft-Pi library…. maybe a visit back to Maplefields is on the cards!

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Minecraft for Music! – Noteblocks

I have been using Minecraft in a lot of my own lessons. I have started showing students how to code and you will have seen some of my resources in other pages. These lessons have been successful in showing many of our students how to get into coding and they’ve been successful in breaking down many of the gender gaps. I’m really enjoying Minecraft, particularly because it tricks students into learning :P

Examples of this would include the use of problem solving. When students can’t create the circuit or they’re unable to do something, they keep trying! Think about what students are like with other video games. If they die…. they get frustrated and attempt the level until they can complete it. Using Minecraft has helped the students improve their concentration and determination.

I’m usually making resources which are useful for myself and I like to share these resources, but I got thinking about friends who teach music. Some schools have reported that the numbers of students taking music has dropped. Wouldn’t it be great if you could bring their enthusiasm back? Well you can start to do this with Noteblocks. You may have seen music videos around the internet. I’ve been using Minecraft for about a year now, I had seen people creating songs by Katy Perry and thought that it might be quite difficult. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

  1. You simply start up a level in creative mode (unless you want to find 8 pieces of wood and redstone).
  2. Find the redstone tab and grab the following contents: – Noteblock / Redstone / Repeater / Redstone Torch
  3. Build a block by right clicking in a flat world – Right click on it again to hit it, the note will change each time.
  4. Connect some redstone to it.
  5. Turn it on with the torch and you will have your sound


Image courtesy of : – http://minecraft.gamepedia.com/Note_Block 

I started browsing the internet after thinking about the different sounds I would need and realised you can change the instrument by using different blocks underneath your noteblock! You can find this out in the PDF I’ve produced.

minecraftmusicNow, maybe you want your sound to continue. You can do this using something called a repeater. This allows you to slow down the circuit. Each time you click on it, you can slow it down even more. You can even add one repeater in front of another which slows down some more. When you’re happy, light the torch and listen to your master piece. I’ve put together a video tutorial and a sample lesson plan for you below. I’ve also included a video tutorial which should help you.


If you have any further questions, please email me at chambers_r@ucc.rutland.sch.uk

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Hackathon–Uppingham Community College–27th June

In order to see how students in Rutland are doing with their computing knowledge, I have started hosting a number of computing sessions at Uppingham Community College. We hosted one previously on the 16th of June where close to 30 students came a long to learn how to code.

With the Micro : Bit looming from BBC, I wanted to give some of the year 6 students a head start and I also wanted to see how students would do when it came to coding. We had a number of hours to learn some computational thinking using a football and Touch Develop.

Students learnt how dumb computers are and they started to understand why computers need precise instructions. Passing the ball around the room was not as easy as most of the students initially thought! We had students turning around on the spot for a number of seconds and some students walking into walls. By the time we got the ball to the other side of the room, students started to understand that there is more than one way to write a code and how conditions can make our code more efficient.

Moving on from this I introduced students to the Turtle on TouchDevelop. Students took to this like a duck to water. Some students had already used Touch through forward thinking parents. It’s great to see that some parents had already looked up the Micro : Bit via the BBC website. One student said that he sat with his dad making the monster game. I would love to see this level of parent engagement when the Micro : Bit comes out!

imageOnce students had made loops as well as different shapes and another student from year 7 came along to help out his younger brother. 

A young girl from Leighfield Primary in Year 5 produced this drawing using pixel art! She learnt how to use loops and also understood how to use iteration.

You can click on the link on the left in order to view and run the code for the image she created.

I’m very impressed with all of the year 5 and 6 students. I aim to show you the start of one students game next week. You can see his plan in the images shown at the bottom. What is really refreshing is how the girls seem to be just as engaged as the boys. Lets hope that these girls can help close the gap in the industry.


This picture on the left, shows the design that one of the students in year 7 from SJ has come up with. I’m very impressed with his level of planning. He has already started to create the game and is now learning about how to use functions such as random. This will help him create his platforms at random positions. I look forward to showing you this game very soon.

Have a look at some of these pictures below. Check out some of the reviews, these students are loving TouchDevelop:

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Touch Develop Training / Teach Meet–16th June

With the Micro : Bit being announced in March I thought it might be useful to do some basic training on using TouchDevelop. BBC announced that one of the programming languages used with the device would be TouchDevelop. I thought that giving teachers a taster on how to use the bug might address some of the concerns that people are having with the way it will be used.

On Tuesday the 16th of June, I decided to host a training session after school at Uppingham Community College. I started off by showing people how to access the environment and addressed some of the login issues. Many people weren’t sure how to allow all of their students access to it. If you have G-Mail accounts or Live accounts you can log in. BUT if your students are under the age of 13, you can’t get them to sign up to some of these accounts. The best way for me to address this with my students is to create a single account and issue the username and password to the students. I.E – UppinghamCC@outlook.com, I would then give the students the password to log in. I would change the password from time to time so that they wouldn’t use the account for email.

All of the teachers managed to have a play with TouchDevelop and they logged in to the environment and managed to have a play with the Turtle. We discussed loops and some of the programming logic which you can explain to the students. I also directed some of the teachers to the resources shown here on the blog.


Great to see that the session has been useful to others and if any other teachers have questions about how you can embed it into your curriculum, then please let me know.

Teach Meet: – Following the TouchDevelop training

Following on from the event we hosted a TeachMeet so that teachers from all around Rutland could come and share some of their expertise in Computing. The idea would allow primary and secondary teachers to come together and help each other out. Some highlights of the event came from the following people:

Mike McSharry – 7 Ages of Scratch

Mike had a great presentation which took us through the different versions of scratch which would allow students to code. He presented a number of different versions of scratch. One of the favourite versions he mentioned was Scratch Junior. It was great and would work really well with EAL students. It doesn’t include textual instructions and it is very accessible for students. It is available on iPad and Android Devices (Via Google Play). You can check out more from here: Scratch Junior

Simon Johnson – TouchDevelop Golf

Simon Johnson has been using TouchDevelop with many of his students. Although he couldn’t make the session he managed to send in a link on the use of TouchDevelop in order to show students how they can learn about the efficiency of code. We all know that code can end up being really long. Simon talks about challenging the students to shorten their code to see who can get the shortest code. You can see the presentation for yourself in the attachment.

Touch Develop Golf

Martine Mannion

Martine Mannion from Wellingborough school had a great presentation which would show teachers how they can use other techniques when teaching programming. She talked a lot about barefoot computing and mentioned cs4fun. Cs4fun includes some awesome resources which help students discover computational thinking without the need for computers. There are magic card tricks and activities which really get you thinking. Some questions of discussion which help you understand how to explain some of the terminology used. I have attached a link to barefoot computing below so that you can find out more information.


I would like to thank all of our guest speakers tonight and we look forward to hosting another computing teach meet in the future! Thank you for your time and please email me if you have any questions. See some pictures below:

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Periscope – Great TOOL!!!

Periscope This post is something new I’ve been experimenting with. I have been signed up to periscope but never really ‘got it’. I’d used it with a couple of friends but would use it for stupid things such as saying hi to friends in the morning or ‘brushing teeth’.

What is it?

Periscope is a social media tool which you can sign up to for iPad or Android. It allows you to use your twitter account to register. You push a button and it sends out a link which streams your camera LIVE! There are some random people out there who like to video themselves walking down the street but it can be used as an awesome revision tool particularly if students have an exam the next day. i.e – My Year 9’s!

Safe Guarding Issues?

One of the issues which I had to contend with was that many year 9 students weren’t allowed twitter accounts by their parents. I respect that and understand it. The great thing was, that they can still access my school twitter account without having an account. They just searched for ucc_cs on twitter and had the live feed. When you press broadcast, all of the students can see my camera streaming. Students who had the app would write messages to me and students who didn’t would tweet me. You can view the feed via the web browser. The other thing which is really awesome is that you can create private! chats. This only works if people have the app (downside) and you have them as followers (or follow them). If you can’t make your video private, you can do what I do. I make it so that the chat window is only available to people who I follow. This stops randomers from typing, alternatively turn it off completely and take questions via your inbox / twitter. There are ways to work around it.

Did it work?

periscope2 I guess I will find out when the exam results come through! I can say that 17 of my students downloaded the app and the remaining students accessed it via the web. You can see that there were over 100 views via the web. Not bad, when you consider that there are 144 students in the year group! I’m very proud of my year 9 students for giving up their time on a sunday to come and talk revision. Hopefully the results come through… You can see the video footage below and I’ve managed to upload it to YouTube for my students to access and revisit in the future. I love this tool and look forward to using it even more in the near future!

If you’re able to click on the picture on the left, you should be able to see how many students were had accessing the revision session.

Quick Tip: – The messages which appear on the screen do not appear in the video you save, what you will need to do is repeat the question when you say it so that your students remember what the original question was.




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Hackathon at St Patricks Primary School – Corby

So with our new year 7’s getting ready to come to school soon, I really wanted to know what to expect from the different year groups. I emailed a few local primary schools and asked if I could come and visit their children and teach them some coding. St Patricks primary school had been using Kodu and they love it! They said they had entered the KoduKup this year and were super excited about learning something new! 30 students coding from year 2 to year 6, it was immense!

It was great that the school were able to give me such a range of ages because it really helped me see which age groups would work well with #touchdevelop. After running the session it was quite clear that the age groups who were particularly good with this were students aged 8 and up. Some of the younger students had difficulties with the TouchDevelop environment and we had to make sure we moved the user level down to beginner. This enabled them to see the code in a more colourful way. TouchDevelop is great for meeting all users needs. Particularly from an Ofsted point of view, it is definitely one way of showing ‘differentiation’ in your lessons.

During my session I must say that I was very impressed with the girls! They picked up quicker than the boys! I think they liked the appeal of the environment and one girl in particular managed to code her own controlled so that she could draw pictures using libraries such as ‘pixel art’ and ‘turtle’. I’m now looking to experiment with different schools and see how they handle using some of the game boards.

Here are some pictures below:

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