#CASConf 2017

It’s been a while folks, but here’s a post outlining my workshop with the estimable @Mr_G_ICT for the Computing At School conference 2017.

Our session is based around a couple of practical ways to teach the theory content for the new networking GCSE specification.

Part One – Pick A Card

The first thing that you can’t get away from is content – there’s lots of it and many, many key terms to be learned. One of my favourite ways to do this is an idea from Paul Ginnis’ excellent Teachers Toolkit. Here’s how it works.

For the session I have prepared key terms game cards (Word PDF)for a mix and match activity – laminating and velcro on the back of each card is ideal here so that the relevant definition can be stuck to the back of each key term. If you prefer, the students can find and write their own definitions on the back of each card, this helps them learn how to use revision guide/textbooks more efficiently. Just make sure that you delegate out the job of definition checker. I’d also recommend using my banned list technique here to take thinking deeper.

The next stage is the revision game. Here are the rules:

  1. Display a large timer on the board – online-stopwatch is ace for this.
  2. Students work in pairs – one is the player and one the referee.
  3. Cards start key term face up on the desk.
  4. The player has to say the key term then give the definition on the back without looking.
  5. Referee checks – if they’re right turn the card over and move on. If not the ref reads the player the definition. They can’t have another go at that one until they have tried all the remaining cards.
  6. Run the timer for about 3 minutes – if players finish in that time then the referee records their time. If not then ref records how many they got right – they have to start with the ones they didn’t get right next time.
  7. Students swap roles and off we go again – now player twos have to try and beat their partners.
  8. Repeat as desired – I find that two rounds each is about right.
  9. Follow up with a quiz to assess what stuck.

Repetition, collaboration, competition, many brains working at once and, dare we say it – fun. All important ingredients for long term recall. You’ve also got a starter/plenary for future lessons!

Part Two – Rock & Rules

Protocols are a tricky one to get your head around. The tablets of stone activity helps pupils to act out the process of moving data around a network whilst following strict rules. It also really underlines the need for precision when devising their own protocols.

Students will act in several roles – senders, receivers & messengers. It’s a good idea to get them doing all roles to show them all sides of the process and to avoid some being left with nothing to do.

Messages must be written on a template(Word PDF) – however this is missing some key information.

Students have to send messages between each other, these are provided on the template doc. They’re designed to be awkward to send, eg:

  • They don’t fit on one message template
  • Words don’t make sense or aren’t common
  • There’s no way of identifying the order of the message.

After a few minutes students start to get frustrated – you might want to have an auditory aid here so that they can ring a bell (for example) when there’s a problem. If they ring the bell, they have to write the problem on a post it and stick it to the board. stop the class after a few minutes for a discussion about how to modify the rules to fix problems identified. All old messages that don’t obey the new rules have to be thrown away and re-sent with the new rules, emphasising the importance of getting the protocol right before starting the task.


That’s the basis of our session, if you have any questions please get in touch via CAS or by tweeting to @MrAColley and @Mr_G_ICT


The BBC micro:bit

I returned from the Easter break to find 4 huge parcels containing 280 BBC micro:bits (one for each Y7 in school.  This is tremendously exciting!  I’ve had my teacher bit for, erm, a bit and have loved playing around with it, as has my 6 year old daughter and her friends (a small plea – MORE of this sort of thing please BBC – lots of other year groups and especially primary teachers would LOVE these resources).

2016-02-16 09.16.24

Little Miss Colley and friends investigating the micro:bit.

The Y7 micro:bit pioneers club have been writing some excellent programs such as a compass, a real life snakes & ladders and a magic 8 ball too.

Now it’s time to start introducing all of Y7 to their new devices.  We’ve made the decision to keep the micro:bits in school whilst we work through the 4 lesson scheme of work and give them out at the end once pupils have become more familiar with the devices and (hopefully) some fires have been lit.

As usual, I’ve been busy creating resources, so here are:

My YouTube playlists:

My microbit website profile – basically all the scripts that I have written.

The scheme of work and lesson resources.

How do you actually teach programming?

Fab post about teaching coding.

Code? Boom.

This is a question which has been bugging me for some time now – how do you actually teach someone to program? I don’t mean which language, or what resources should I use, or what time of the day is optimal. I mean what is it in your teaching which switches on the little lightbulb that makes a student able to think through the logic of what they want to do and translate that into code? I have recently been working on my Spanish using Duolingo and I sense that my own language learning is a little like what I’m seeing in the classroom with students who learn to code.

Here are the stages I often see in the classroom:

Syntax wizard
This is the first stage where the student is confident to use familiar concepts such as input, print, if/else etc. The student can memorize syntax and fix any…

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Thursday 15th October 2015 – #EducationDay – A Day In The Life Of My Classroom

IB3 Classroom

This post is intended to show a day in the life of my classroom and share my lesson resources as part of Twitter’s international #educationday.  All of my resources are shared here using a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 license – you are free to us and adapt but do not sell them on.  If you want to ask me any questions before, during or after the day then please comment here or tweet me (I’ll be able to respond at break and lunch).  Thanks, and here we go……

Period 1 – 8:50 – 9:50 – Year 9 (age 13/14) Computing

Year 9 are taking their first steps into text based programming by learning Java.  In this unit of work we take a programming skill (such as selection) and split it into three exercises – a worked example in Scratch, recreate the same program in Java then try an independent challenge based on what they have learned.

Today the class are completing the Java worked example and starting the challenge for selection (activities 5 and 6 on the ‘contents’ page).

You can see my tutorial website for the students here

Download all the resources for the scheme of work here.

Matthew talks about his Java program:

Period 2 – 10:50 – 11:50 and Period 3 – 11:05 – 12:05 – Year 10 (age 14/15) GCSE Computer Science

I have two GCSE groups in Y10 this year, so this is two separate one hour lessons, not a double with the same class.  This week we are learning about data representation.  Tuesday’s lesson was about ASCII and Unicode text representation and (if it’s all gone to plan – I’m writing this bit in advance) today’s lesson is about representation of images. UPDATE – Y10 P3 have had one lesson on this topic. They will be creating pages on the class Wikispaces wiki to summarise their learning.  P4 have completed this work as they have had 2 lessons this week.  We will be starting representation of images with a very early Christmas themed lesson!

I’ve planned these lessons in collaboration with my ace colleague @Miss_Noonan88 and based them on the equally fab resources available on @clcSimon‘s great website.

Representation of text lesson resources are here.

Representation of images lesson resources are here.

Hamza and Steve talk about representation of images:

Heather talks about ASCII and her revision Wiki

Period 4 – 12:05 – 13:05 – Year 8 (age 13/14) Computing

Y8 are refining their Scratch programming skills by creating a ‘Virtual Pet’.  Here’s my example of the finished product.

This project consolidates their knowledge of input, output and variables.  We then use selection, loops, lists and procedures (blocks) to add extra features to their pet.  Learners will be adding extra characteristics (thirst/happiness etc) to their pet or using random selection from lists to make it speak.

The project tutorial website is here.

Download all resources for the scheme of work here.

Awesome female coders Katie and Maddy tell us about their Scratch virtual pet.

Lunchtime – phew!

Spent fixing case sensitive <img> links on my project websites that didn’t show up until I uploaded to the web server!

Period 5 – 13:50 – 14:50 – Year 11 (age 15/16) GCSE Computer Science

Y11 are currently doing their Controlled Assessment, so unfortunately I can’t share examples of work in progress.  They are using Java to code a memory game which generates a grid of nine or sixteen words read in from an external file.  After 30 seconds, the words are randomised, with one word replaced with a different one.  The user has to guess the words that have been removed and added – they have three tries.  Here is the AQA exam board specification for the project.

We have finished coding on the project, the class are either completing test plans, testing or annotating their code listings to explain the programming techniques used.

The end?

So that’s the teaching part of the day done.  Next it’s a departmental meeting for about an hour and then home to see the family.  Once the kids are in bed then there are about 50 pieces of Y9 work to be marked.  Hope you’ve enjoyed a day in my classroom, it has served to remind me what awesome students I’m lucky to work with.  Until next time…


Knowledge organisers for GCSE Computing

A great post based on sound practice.


Always in the pursuit of doing better for the students I teach, two posts have made me reflect deeply on my practice this week.

1. Knowledge organisers by Joe Kirby.

In the post Joe describes how he specifies the subject knowledge required for a given topic in meticulous detail. This is useful for a few reasons:

– it clarifies for the teacher exactly what the students need to know and enables more precise planning.

– it serves as a good benchmark for students at the beginning of a topic. Seeing the required knowledge laid out in front of you on a side of A4 is extremely powerful and will enable students to highlight what they are already know.

– when it comes to revision, students have real clarity about the knowledge they need to know.

During my relatively short time as a teacher,  when starting a new topic I may have shared…

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Go on, Google me…..

“You’ve got a website Sir?”

Yes I do, and Facebook, Twitter and quite a few other social media outlets.  Some of which I allow to be public. However, before I go all Nathan Barley ‘self fulfilling media node’ then let me share with you the key line/learning point from all of my e safety lessons and staff training sessions.  Concentrate now, here comes the science bit…

When you post something online, it’s ACTUALLY ON THE INTERNET.

(Well, technically the World Wide Web, but I’ll put the Computing pedantry on hold just this once.)

There, sorry for shouting but it is quite important.  This story is the reason I’ve been compelled to post.  I’m also lucky.  I got to go to school, college and (especially) university pre-Facebook. Very dodgy hair.

The newest generation of teachers didn’t, nor did they have the benefit of learning from mistakes made in the digital arena by previous generations.  They are the pioneers/lab rats depending on your point of view.  It also seems increasingly easy to forget that the Web is only as private as you choose to make it, and even then less so than you think, so here’s my point.

We need to model digital citizenship for our learners.

There’s no point in being an ostrich, that horse is out of the bag, the cat is behind the cart etc etc…  Have a blog, tweet, be on Facebook but if you choose to make it public then be nothing but professional and positive.  Post your best stuff, celebrate successes, admit to failures in an ‘I’m going to learn form this’ manner and definitely definitely share resources and good practice.
Now for the really important bit – leave the arguments for non public arenas please. I’m absolutely sure that I don’t want to see my kids’ teachers engaged in a slanging match on social media. Think of how your 140 characters could look to others unaware of intended inflection, humour, or other underlying meaning.  For your own sake too, you’ll probably get Googled pre-job interview.

So I encourage my classes to Google me!  Risky, but I’ve taken precautions. They did once find a ‘Mr Colley’s fit’ Bebo group, but it was (predictably) about a different Mr Colley INA different school. However, it did spark some interesting chats about knowing what’s online about you.

I have a website (but you already knew that given that you’re on it!), I’m Mr Colley and it’s about teaching.  My Twitter feed is the same, an extension of my professional life. If I want my learners to take their place in a digital society then I should try to give them an example of how to behave and leave a trail of good stuff for others to find.  My personal online presence is well locked down, and even then I’m careful about what I post. Never the twain shall meet.  In the wise words of Egon Spengler:

“Don’t cross the streams”.

I know I’m probably preaching to the converted here, but if like me you’re involved in any form of pastoral role or ITT then please pass on the advice.  This needs to be more than an assembly and a few Computing lessons a year.

Safer Internet Day 2015

I’m happy to report that my school is taking part in Safer Internet Day once again this year with all forms having assemblies and performing activities in registration around the theme of ‘Building a Better Internet Together’.

In addition, I run my ‘E Safety for Parents’ evening, and here are some of the resources from the night.  Please share any original work using  a creative commons share alike license.

Amazing Mind Reader – a video that really makes you think about what to post.

Orange Digital Dirt – one of my favourite videos about digital footprints.

My Slide Deck – here are my slides from the night.  If you prefer, here is a link to the PowerPoint file – IS for Parents V3.


ThinkUKnow – Your (and my) one stop shop for advice for parents and pupils.

The Parent Zone – a great site with an especially good free magazine about digital parenting.