Digital Leaders at iNet Wales National Conference

The Digital Leaders from Ysgol Bryn Elian presented their achievements to date at the iNet Wales National Conference on Thursday 6th October 2011. Not before a first class trip on the train to Cardiff where the event was held.

The three young leaders and I gave a presentation at the conference to teachers from across Wales on how the Digital Leaders programme was progressing including how it started and what has been involved. They discussed their work on E-safety, the VLE and an insight into Ysgol Bryn Elian’s new 3D technology.

A video of my youngest Digital Leader (my son Lincoln aged 2 confidently using an iPad) helped pose the question “When does Digital Literacy begin?”

After a few questions at the end, the leaders were interviewed by another school on what they had achieved, then it was back to the train station to rush back to school as they were also representing the Ysgol Bryn Elian at our annual open evening.

As a teacher of ICT it’s great to have such a dedicated group of youngsters who really want to make a difference in their school. The three representatives along with the rest of the YBE Digital Leaders worked tirelessly during our open evening to showcase the 3D technology and the new Augmented Reality resources available for 10 subjects. They were presenting to parents with such confidence they made me very proud.

I look forward to continue working with these dedicated pupils for a long time to come.

Well done guys, you ALL did a fantastic job!!!

Computer Science comes home!

Today was the day we were told what we knew was coming. ICT lessons had become boring, pupils were not as engaged as they might be and the move towards more computer science based lessons is on the horizon. Thankfully, I was in the crows nest with a telescope some time ago and saw this coming. For a while now I’ve been using Scratch and teaching a little HTML and JavaScript. 

In my opinion, qualifications such as the OCR national had become a qualification for the school rather than the individual. Trudging through MS office for years to get the equivalent of a million GCSE’s seems a little pointless and hardly preparing our children for what lies ahead. Who knows what the technological landscape will look like by the time the enter employment. The likes of the OCR National sit well with those comfortable in teaching “what they know” with little requirement to spread your wings further than a 4 bit binary number!

Here in Wales, we are fortunate to have time on our side in that we don’t have to run with this for some time, however my feeling is why delay it? Let’s do it now, embrace it, get brilliant at it and most of all enjoy it. It’s the curriculum I’ve been dreaming of anyway so for once I get to open my presents BEFORE Christmas.

Today took me back to 1987 where I was a 14 year old nagging my parents for the brand new Spectrum +3. Thankfully they heard my plea and I was furnished with one for Christmas. On that epic first computer of mine I learned to code in BASIC. I spent hours typing code to see an array of beautiful graphics displayed on the screen. I went on eventually to develop a Football simulation game and a fruit machine game, both of which I submitted to Future Publishing for them to include on the cassettes on the front of their Spectrum magazine.

Now, at 38 years of age, I’m learning to code in Python, a language I dabbled with when working for a software house in Bangor shortly after completing my Computer Science degree at University in 2005. I aim to be teaching this to a group of MAT pupils this year and then to Year 7’s starting September 2012.

I’ve often lamented about the work of Alan Turing, particularly when working on my own Artificial Intelligence project making a Tutorbot, looking at his famous Turing Test, today, he would be a very happy man indeed. The field he excelled in has been put centre stage for ICT teachers across the country to grab with both hands, never before have we had so much freedom to develop a curriculum suitable for the requirements of the future. So long as we make the right choices through careful decision making during curriculum redesign I feel excited about the future. I’m excited to be teaching a subject I have passion for. I am now a teacher of Computer Science and ict (small ict).

The only ones that should be scared are the ones who are too comfy to move with the times, my advice, we are moving without you. Our children deserve it, the success of our future requires it.

Let’s get out our coding manuals, Computer Science is coming home!

Had I known, I would have stuck reindeer on the front of my car!

The term was almost over, almost without any great discomfort. Mary had almost finished classes and we were looking forward to spending time together for Christmas. All we had to do was get through Friday and Saturday and we were home and dry. I set off promptly to school on Friday as I needed to stop for fuel, after filling up at the garage I text Mary to say it had snowed a little so go careful. Within 3 minutes of me sending that text, I’d spun around on black ice on the Rhuddlan flyover and crashed my car. What are the chances?


Thankfully, I wasn’t at fault. Just before my spin on the ice I noticed a crash on the side of the road, and two minutes AFTER my crash, another car entered a spin not dissimilar to mine and crashed into a BMW 10ft away from where I did.


As I made the call to my wife to now say go REALLY careful, I was passed by two fire engines, an ambulance and two police cars, a little further down the road a car had spun and landed on its roof. What had happened? Were we in a scene from casualty and didn’t realise it? Or we’re we all just being stupid on the same day? The answer to these questions is no.


The problem was that despite numerous warnings of bad weather, and a 25% increase in salt/grit, the council in its infinite money grabbing, tight-arsed wisdom decided to save the salt for a colder day. The result, the worst black ice I have ever encountered on a road that I’ve been driving on for over ten years! This could all have been avoided had the gritters put a shift in the night before. The good news is no one was hurt. My car has seen better days but it’s drivable with just an unsightly dent in the door. I dread to think what could have happened in different circumstances with a different mix of vehicles.


I got to school in time to see the end of morning registration, and a fun last day was had by all, especially the chocolate consuming pupils. A few hours later I made “the call” to the insurance company, with a bit of luck the weather and no grit combo as well as the fact that there were 4 other crashes within 15 minutes will ensure I don’t get tagged as the guilty party.


The rest of the weekend panned out pretty much as planned and we can now begin to enjoy the run up to Christmas with a very excited little boy. And if anyone wants to stick a new car under my tree I won’t complain 😉


Merry Christmas everyone, that’s probably all from me for 2011 so Happy New Year, stay safe and have fun!

Cloud Based Solutions at Ysgol Bryn Elian

I’ve had quite a few enquiries about what we are doing at YBE ‘cloud-wise’ so I thought i’d bung it all in a blog post for you to read.

I implemented Dropbox for a few reasons, firstly, to allow pupils to put work in a central location where they can access it whenever they want to. By sharing their folder with me, I have access to their work that I too can assess wherever I have an Internet connection, with Dropbox on iPad it makes it even easier. Another big factor in implementing Dropbox is the savings that can be made on toner/paper etc, we were wasting huge amounts of paper in constantly reprinting work that needed to be improved. In addition to this pupils were also stood at the printer for large periods of time waiting for work. Since its arrival, I am finding I am getting a much more regular submission of work from the majority of pupils. The admin side of things behind utilising Dropbox is taking a little longer but the results pupil wise are worth the increased efforts.

Taking Dropbox further, if some pupils haven’t set up an account eg Year 8, they can still send work to my dropbox by using a site called www.dropitto.me with this you give pupils a URL, mine is www.dropitto.me/ahd a password, and they can upload a file to my Dropbox account. Lastly, we are using the widely publicised live@edu for our email solution which also incorporates office online and sky drive storage for all pupils with the potential for use in all subjects as dropbox may be too much for the majority of faculties.

Last year we were using google email but found their relentless security a real bind in school and were having huge issues getting new users on the system. The system was easy to use but Googles constant need to enter captcha codes was a nightmare.

All in all the system is working very well now, as I said, it requires more admin effort on my part keeping their mark sheets in order class wide but as a bi-product I feel much more organised so it’s totally worth it.

Hope this sheds a little more light on it for you and I’d be glad to assist further should any of you need more advice on it.

This is also an interesting article re cloud computing.

New Look Blog!

Tonight see’s the change of look for my blog, I was very happy with the old look and it took a long time to get it how I wanted it but in reality, I never did some of the things intended so some of the features were left begging somewhat, particularly that of the photography element. Pictures didn’t scale well in it and to be honest I haven’t done as much photography as I’d like, mainly due the the crappy weather!

Anyway, as most of the time I just want to throw an idea out there or have a bit of a babble about something I’ve decided to have a bit of a re-jig. In all honesty, I’m not too worried how it looks from a laptop as I’m mainly aiming for mobile suitability. I figure more people probably read this on a mobile device so I am catering for those in the main. I no longer have to scratch around for a suitable image to use as the feature as before, I am happy just to bung them in the posts as and when appropriate. If you’re not viewing it on a mobile device then you will see the nice new iPad theme.

So there you have it, a new look for the new upcoming academic year. I hope you enjoy it 🙂