Take a Tour of Ysgol Bryn Elian Minecraft Style!

The Digital Leaders at school spent almost a year painstakingly creating a model of our school in Minecraft, for the most part it’s complete, there is the odd gap that could be tweaked, improved or extended. The most impressive things for me are the lighting system in studio 1, it comes on and goes off very realistically and functions through the use of some complex redstone built into a false ceiling. I also like the canteen with working dispensers, and projectors on the ceilings in the classrooms.

The map is absolutely huge and traversing it to capture video took almost ten minutes so I had to cut the video down a little.

Behind this task was a mass of communication, collaboration, conflict resolution, creativity, reasoning, and plain, simple FUN.

Get your class building the school in Minecraft, it’s one hell of a task with a superb end result that you can put on your website. It’s also great to let children tour it on/before transition days.

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!

Digital Leaders get started!

A team of Digital Leaders at Ysgol Bryn Elian in Colwyn Bay are spearheading a drive to educate students, staff and parents about the possibilities that are available to them through the use of technology. The Year 7 Digital Leaders took part in an exciting application process during which they were asked to apply for one of a number of roles with one small catch: the application had to be in a digital format! Entries ranged from encoded binary messages to animations, and even included presentations encrypted with a password that could only be discovered through decoding a QR code!

The team of E-Safety advisors, Digital Journalists, VLE Champions and Teacher Trainers are offering assistance to pretty much anyone within the school that needs it.

The Digital Leaders already have their work cut out for them with many teachers lining up for assistance creating courses and uploading resources to the schools’ VLE and helping jazz up electronic teaching materials, making them more interesting and engaging for pupils to look at and learn from. Performing Arts events will be covered by Digital journalists who will be on hand to record and publish stories and interviews of performers. Similarly Sports Day will be covered live on Twitter with information on competitors’ progress in the individual events.

These young techies will also be working alongside members of the school council who have organised an upcoming event to raise awareness of e-safety aimed at pupils and parents. The event will allow parents to get hands-on experience of how to help their children tighten up their privacy settings on social networking sites.

The school embarked on their Digital Leaders journey after being inspired by pupils from Hamble Community Sports College at an event in Birmingham back in March. Since then, pupils have been working hard, training to gain all the expertise needed to help the ever growing list of teachers vying for their support.

Here’s what the team at Ysgol Bryn Elian had to say about the programme:

“I became a digital leader because I want to help teachers, parents, and students to use ICT to improve their skills.” – Lauryn Evans, VLE Champion.

“I have a passion for technology and often help my parents when they need help. I get a sense of satisfaction that I have helped someone when I have shown them something they didn’t know. This helps them get better at using technology and it also helps me find out things I didn’t know myself.” – Liam Herbert, Teacher Trainer.

“With this team of enthusiastic young people, I’m sure the Digital Literacy of staff and pupils in the school will be well placed for whatever technology has in store for us in the future.” – Allen Heard, ICT Teacher.

Ysgol Bryn Elian would like to thank Acer and Gaia Technologies who have teamed up to provide a netbook to assist the Welsh Digital Leaders in their quest for technological excellence.

Gove to ban mobile phones in the classroom

So according to The News of The World today (I don’t read this garbage, I was made aware of this through Twitter) Michael Gove (Tory education mushroom) is to ban mobile phone use in the classroom. Whilst I can appreciate that this may be the voice of an angel for some school and classroom teachers, it seems to me we are going backwards!

For those teachers that struggle with pupils using mobiles in the classroom and applaud this move you need for starters to sort YOUR classroom management out first. Then you might also realise that such technology can be used to your advantage through online polls, homework logging (alternative to the planner they never have!), also great for using on field work or in collaborative projects.

Get your heads out of the sand for crying out loud, you too Gove! I’m not in favour of giving pupils more power and ruling the schools but I am in favour of utilising student owned technology to deepen pupils learning experiences at a time when school budgets will struggle to provide such technology to our students.

If this is what you plan to do Michael then we may as well turn off the Internet, rip down the white boards and lock the laptops away. When is the supply of blackboards and chalk arriving you backward thinking moron?

For all those that agree with this, post a link to this article on every social media site you can, for those that disagree, go and look up what social media is and think how technology can help you if you just open your mind to how you can help your pupils rather than being scared to move with the times!

I’m here to offer ideas and advice if you need it!

YBE Digital Leaders

The YBE Digital Leaders Programme is looking for enthusiastic young people who like technology and would like to share what they know with others. The Digital Leaders Programme is aimed at young people who want to make a difference in their school and who would be willing to help those not so technologically minded. In some cases this may even be your teachers!!

You may or may not realise it, but you have grown up using technology from a very early age, to you it’s second nature. Adding a video to a powerpoint is child’s play to you. You are armed with a very special set of skills that some people older than you may not possess.

There are a small number of places available for those that are interested, you will be fully trained in the area of your choice.

The following roles are available:

•VLE Champion
•Digital Journalist
•Teacher Trainer
•Social Media/E-Safety Consultant

As a Digital Leader you will be expected to take an active role in improving the use of technology in our school, it will involve meeting after school on a weekly basis to discuss what we are currently working on. If you would like more information on what the role of a Digital Leader involves, see Mr Heard in ICT03.

If you would like to become a Digital Leader, you need to apply in any digital format stating why you should be a Digital Leader, you could create an animation, a podcast, a graphic or a webpage, or you may simply email. You also need to indicate what role you are interested in. Whatever you do this should be emailed to Mr Heard at ahd@brynelian.conwy.sch.uk