The Cool Wall

Today I’m starting an experiment, On the back wall of my classroom I’ve set up a technology cool wall and I challenged my senior and first year pupils to bring in some new gadgets/technology to put up on it and so far the pupils seem exited about it.

I’ve used the same headings as in the Top Gear Coolwall – Seriously Uncool, Uncool, Cool Sub Zero and the DB9 Fridge. We’ve now had the first 4 entries onto the wall and we now have one in all but the DB9 Fridge (Cooler than Sub Zero).

The S1 will be doing this later on today (Some of them seem really excited about their gadgets) as well so I plan to put up a list of entries to the wall as soon as I can.

The hope for the wall is that it gets the pupils curious and interested in new technology.

The future of assessments

I spent today at a cpd session from the SQA at Dingwall Academy. This gave me my first opportunity to see another school in the highlands and give my throat a day off (there’s quite a bad throat bug going around here).

The course was split into two sections the first on E-assessment (SOLAR) and the second was on E-portfolios and skills for life. Now both of these look like very good systems but from a computing standpoint I was more impressed with the SOLAR system (couldn’t resist).

The tutorial we had today gave me a chance to look at the assessment for the Intermediate 2 Internet Safety topic which is the first course to only be tested using SOLAR. The interface was very clear and it gives the teacher control over the test and best of all… No Printing Required!

Pupils are given a unique code which they need to enter and it will give them access to the but the test will not be accessible until the teacher/tutor enters their pin to start the assessment.

The drawbacks to the program – to access the system computers must have the latest flash installed and it’s not known if and how it would work on the MACs, I’ll need to test that in the morning. The other slight flaw was that it doesn’t automatically link to the SQA to generate qualifications, these still need to be done manually by centres.

I’d like to see this being implemented for NABs in the future, this would work well for all computing courses.

Software Development

It’s coursework time of year again, I sat in last night, watched the football and took a look at the new intermediate 2 software development coursework.

My advanced higher pupil has told me that I’m much more focused on the documentation than the pupils were previously used to so I really took my time on that part. It made creating the final program so much easier

I started by creating the structure diagram and used an online tool called Gliffy to complete this. This is a great tool I’ve been using for a while now and I’ve found it to be a very powerful piece of kit.

Now I should say that the last time I really undertook programming properly was in 2006 during my probation year but I didn’t go much above the credit level. What I’ve done with it this year is to get it out of the way as quickly as possible with the S3 pupils, the S4 have finished it now as well.

Now that I’m happy with the credit/int2 level it’s time to turn my attention to the higher materials. I’m aiming to complete the higher coursework next week.

This is the one topic I’ve not been involved with at higher level and at the moment I am relying on the textbook and the LTS Scotland notes to get me through (Not the most dynamic lessons) but I would like to hear how other computing teachers deliver this topic to mixed level classes.

Back to School

Below you’ll find the start of a post I was writing on Saturday but didn’t get round to finish, With this now being tuesday a few things have changed.

Well I’ve enjoyed a good 2 week break this holiday and this week it’s back to work. Monday will be a school in-service day with lots of activities however I’m really looking forward to Tuesday as I’ll be taking part in Highland council’s CEOP training course.

I was first introduced to CEOP last year while working at Musselburgh Grammar, I attended one of Ollie Bray’s very successful internet safety talks as an “Expert” for parents to talk to during the break and was very impressed with the materials and believe it’s a great course to deliver.

Due to unforeseen circumstances (Mainly the Snow, me skidding on it and putting my car into a ditch) meant I was unable to attend the training course so it’s back to the drawing board.

I had plans for the pupils this week but am now a bit behind in what I wanted to prepare for them myself so the next post I put up will have more details about the new work the pupils are doing.

Until then I’m going to rest up.

Computing for Girls

I hadn’t planned on making a post during the holidays but as it seems I’m having a quiet day in watching cartoons with my cousin (so far Over the Hedge, Cars and Ice Age 2) I’ve been able to do some reading from the BBC website. They’ve posted a news article called Girls geek out over dinner it got me thinking about an after-school program called CC4G.

It’s not something I’ve seen in any of the schools I’ve worked in and regrettably not something I’ve implemented myself although I don’t think I’d ever be the best person to talk about fashion and celebrities with them. I wonder if this is something for the universities in Scotland to be thinking about, during my time working in East Lothian I attended meetings where Strathclyde and Edinburgh Universities and they were looking for ways to get more pupils to take up computing so this could be a market for them.

The Hero of Time is coming?

If you know me you’ll know I’m a bit of a gaming fan, and if you ask anyone who knows me what my favourite game is the only answer you’d get would be Zelda.

Ever since I spent years working with a friend to complete a link to the past on the SNES (The save game somehow deleted one temple away from the last temple the first time round). I then got the N64 for one game only and that was the Ocarina of Time (This time it only took 2 weeks to complete so I was getting better). on a random visit to youtube to see the new Snow patrol video i saw a link to this on the front page.

Now I couldn’t decide if it’s a fake or if it’s real, a quick google search shows it was the cruel april fools joke from IGN this year. It’s not the only fake zelda trailer on you tube but it has got 3,379,628 people having viewed it on youtube alone.

It was because of games like Zelda that I pursued computing after high school, I always wanted to create games which has got me thinking about the Computer games course and if studying these would lead to a new generation of computer programmers / game designers. We know standard grade is on the way out as is the intermediate courses so what will become of these new courses? will the new courses include these or will we be stuck teaching Word Processing, Spreadsheets and databases for the rest of time?

Back online!

It’s so nice to be able to type this from the comfort of my own room. You see I’ve been without my own internet access for the last 4 months and so now courtesy of BT I have uber fast broadband, one of the benefits of being 0 miles from the exchange!

I spent this afternoon working with my S1 classes on sending emails, demonstrating CC and BCC and making it as clear as I could that any misuse of the highland wide email system would not be in their best interest.

I’m also spending tonight shopping for the department on ebay. Digital cameras are the only item on the list for now, I’m attempting to pick up 5 for a cheap as possible (and while typing this out missed the ending of one of the cameras…doh!).

These may not seem linked together however in order for the pupils to use many of the resources on the internet such as comicbrush or to create their own voki.

S4 are out on work experience this week which affords some extra time to sort out the department. Since starting I’ve updated as many computers as possible from OS9.2 to OSX and with the help of Jim Henderson we’re now up to 10 OSX computers and there’s an 11th waiting to have it installed.

This setup has proved ok for most of the classes, however the largest classes I have are my S2 and an S4 class for 1 period a week can prove to be tricky but I’ve been able to use the band manager course to have the pupils working in groups

Time for a change!

Well I guess I should start this post by first thanking David for giving me some encouragement to get my blogging going again, it was quite a surreal moment seeing the title of my blog as a posting on his.

For the first time in a few years I started playing about with the blogger site, gave it a new look and seen some of the new features in it. When I set the blog up I had to manually edit some of the HTML in order to get links in, the old counter and visitors map but just spending a little time playing about with it has made it look so much better.

This has got me thinking, over the last 2 years having worked with an authority that created websites using blogs with the WordPress software which platform is better.

One of the things that always annoyed me about blogger was the lack of titles in the posts, I never realised that I had to turn the option on! I had made do by posting the heading in the post and editing the HTML so that it stood out. I’m not sure where I stand, I think I’ll try and use both for a while and take it from there.

As part of the new S1 course I’ve arranged for the pupils to undertake a Digital photography day in November which is then going to lead nicely into the next weeks fashion show and I’ve thought of an addition to it in the form of comics. Ollie Bray posted yesterday about a website called comicbrush.

I played about with the site yesterday and this is what I came up with:

After showing my higher class this I think it’s now official that I’m a geek!

Desks of the future

One of the biggest tasks I’ve had since I started in the new school was getting the computers in the department up to speed. At the moment I have a very big mix of Mac computers. From the old colourful iMacs (Tray loading and slot loading) to the newer eMacs and I have been slowly getting them upgarded to OSX but when I saw this article it got me thinking about what the future may mean for computing. You can see a demo video of these desks here.

These desks look very similar to the Microsoft Surface that’s been around for a while now.

Have the days of 20 computers in a computer lab gone now, should we be looking to get in front of the technologies.

In the 2006/07 school year there was a pilot project being launched in and around Edinburgh to give pupils handheld devices to access the web to help them with their studies.

Even laptops are getting smaller, more powerful and “Lighter than air”.

I can think of some fantastic uses for the computerised desk, programming could become very interactive especially programs such as scratch which I have seen get the pupils attention in a very positive way.

My worry is that these technologies will cost so much money they will stay out of reach to state secondary schools and be a great idea lost.