So it finally happened and I got the letter to say I’d been awarded my PhD. Time for celebration after all this time am looking forward to graduating in the summer.
One special group of people who have been involved in my research are the staff and pupils at Royston Primary. They are my second family – not only have they taught all my children they also supported me from when I first started uni many moons ago now right through even letting me conduct my research in school and helping build my network of other schools to work with. As well as the research I’ve been running the computing club in there for 5 years now and hope to be back again after the summer. However they invited me to their whole school Friday morning assembly to share my good news with the pupils and well I only though that I was going down just to join in their normal assembly and that but nope whole assembly was for me (I hate fuss and they know it ). Each class made something special for me and their messages were so heartwarming but also made me realise that what I’ve been doing is important.
My beautiful thoughtful gifts from each class.
To me it’s natural now if I’ve time I’d rather be running a club than sitting at home doing nothing the kids really do get so much out of it as do I. I feel like I’m giving back to my community and also deep down hope that I’ll inspire at least one or two to go further in computing or games or even just to genuinely think about their future and know that they can do absolutely anything they set their minds to. Took me long enough but I’ve finally got that PhD.
To all the staff and children whom I’ve worked with over the past 14 years thank you heres to many more volunteering hours ahead.
As many will know I’ve been running an after-school computing club (@CoderRoyston) in Royston Primary now since April 2013 and we’ve been a CoderDojo site since October 2014). Each club lasts a school term and I’m now in my 22nd term of club. Mostly with one club per week but during 13/14 & 14/15 sometimes two or three clubs per week with between 8-12 kids per club. Some kids will stay for just a term, others dip in and out of terms and some stay. In 2016 3 of the longest attending kids were presented with raspberry pi’s from CoderDojo Scotland for their dedicated attendance over 3 years and sadly only left as they were moving onto secondary school.
2 of our 3 longest attenders getting their Pi
Over that time the kids have entered competitions, had visits from Maureen McKenna director of Education for Glasgow, Elizabeth from HMI who wrote up a cool good practise report on our wee club & a party of educators from Denmark!! They’ve also been out presenting to primary teachers interested in computing and to the local housing association showing what they’ve been getting up to during their time at the club, as well as getting to the Scottish KoduKup finals twice.
Overall, I’m proud to be involved with this wee school that I call my second home and proud to be part of the Royston family – bear in mind my youngest child left the school 2 years ago now. But once part of the family then that’s it, my kids were at the school from 2004 until 2016 and I’ve been involved in a lot of things parent wise and volunteer wise. Since 2010 I’ve been doing computing of various sorts related to my research and finally started the computing clubs in April 2013 and haven’t looked back. I haven’t given them up because even though I’ve no kids there now I know all the kids there and feel like well while I can give back I should.
Just some of the things we’ve done at club
So why am I writing this post, well this term has seen a Big change to the club. The school is being refurbished and now don’t have an ICT room which technically should have meant the end of computing club BUT no I couldn’t see that happen. Sooo thinking hats on and well pretty easy we have done some unplugged activities – doing pixel art, learning some magic tricks that teach computing concepts and planning a Minecraft build. We are lucky enough to have Raspberry Pi’s though and that’s the route we are going to be taking with the club. Our next session will be hooking up a multiplayer Minecraft session and working in pairs to create the ideal school that was planned out at a previous session. Yes it’s disappointing to lose the room but time to think outside that ICT room box and ensure the kids still get to enjoy club for many more terms to come.
Been a while since I have posted and trying to get back into it again so thought I’d start by sharing a Sway of what I got up to in work last week it definitely wasn’t an average week thats for sure.
This week marks 2 important events for me Mini Game Jam & my Coding Club are celebrating 5 & 4 years of being around.
5 years ago when finishing research I came up with the idea and here I am still having events across Glasgow – theres more detail about the jams in this post here with a hope to expand the event across other authorities next year – happy to consult with others if folk are interested.
4 years ago this Friday my weekly Computing Club started in Royston Primary School. What a journey that has been, I’ve delivered 150 hours of coding since I started the clubs with an average attendance of 10 kids per club. It has been amazing the kids have done so much Scratch, Minecraft, Python, GPIO, Raspberry Pi’s, Unplugged work, Magic tricks, Microbits, Kodu, Touchdevelop and Makey makey. They’ve also had fab opportunities – getting to the KoduKup final twice, having visitors from Denmark come and see what we do, going and presenting to our local housing association and groups of teachers to as well as visits from the Director of Education Maureen McKenna & a wee visit from HMI as well. I’m so proud to be involved with the school and this club really is special to me from the kids who are regulars to those who couldn’t wait until they were old enough until they got to go to club as they’d heard so much about it and those who come just to try something different.
I hope through both these things that I get children not only really enjoying computing & game making but also to make them realise that they could have a future working in either.
Pretty much sums up last week (and not a single jelly baby was eaten much to a lot of folks disappointment).
I’ve been busy this week getting both my CoderDojo clubs back up and running again – I run one in my local primary which is weekly and I have just recently started a monthly one in my local library. So I decided to introduce both to the Microbit this week since it was a new start again for both clubs.
The Microbit is something which up until recently I’ve not had much chance to try out however before Xmas I took some out into a school to give them a coding lesson and they loved them so I wanted to try them out more. They are fun to use and give the kids something physical to code with. My school dojo has the same kids who’ve been coming since August and they’ve mostly been working on Kodu as they love making games with it however thought I’d change things and give them something new to try. I’ve started off with the basics getting scrolling text and animations which we did using PXT & Block editor on the emulator first before then using the Microbit. they are very similar to Scratch and very easy to use. The kids loved getting scrolling text going however making little animations was by far the most fun that they had in both clubs.
As well as the kids I got the chance to show some more things to teachers at a CPD session held at West College Scotland last week which you can read more about here http://www.westcollegescotland.ac.uk/news/2017/february/23-renfrewshire-school-teachers-develop-their-technology-skills-at-wcs/ where I had them making music and using jelly babies to make sounds with the Microbits.
Overall it was a great week and I’m seeing the potential of using the Mircobits. The kids loved being able to not only have a program run on screen but also then be able to transfer it to a physical object and have that do something. I’m now looking at making more music (found a cool tutorial that showed me how to do Star Wars – see video below) and seeing what else can be done with them.
The tutorial for Star Wars came from MicroMonsters Youtube page thanks for a great tutorial https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y32FhgOVZnM
Just loving my Mini Game Jam seeing the impact its having in some schools and seeing not just the children enthused about coding in the class but their teachers too. Hard to believe I started this “crazy idea” 4 years ago with just 2 classes of P7’s (50 kids) and now it’s 9 events across Glasgow & a final event. Yes OK maybe I exaggerate but to me it was supposed to be a one off event until someone said to me are you doing this again next year then? I replied you must be kidding me on it was tiring and stressfull (in a good way though) but after thinking carefully when well why not then!! The rest is history.
To date I’ve now done 7 out of the 9 events this year with 331 children from 18 schools having taken part so far. Next weeks one is a special event as its the learning community thats supported my idea all it took was the and seen the potential it has for not only gamemaking/coding but also transition between primary & secondary school too. it will see Royston Primary taking part for the 4th year in a row and Smithycroft learning community for the 3rd year running. Thanks to Simon Kelly the head teacher at the time at Royston supporting my idea then letting everyone else in his learning community know that he saw the benefits of it for his school and others, this event has just gotten bigger and better. It’s not only the learning community though thats been of support organisations like IGDA Scotland and Computing at School Scotland have been awesome (Luke Dicken & Kate Farrell you guys did an amazing job helping me out) Can’t forget John Lawson too – still want that Italian Jam Mr Lawson?
I’ve made a Sway https://sway.com/Pc1x1eJVGbEHOxS8 to showcase all the pictures from the events this year so far and will keep updating until they’ve all been down. Once all the local events are complete I will upload all the games to the Scratch site however in the true style of a game jam I’m trying to keep the theme secret from all locations until the last event has been undertaken.
Thought I’d share my thoughts on the first Redefining Learning event to be held in Scotland at West College Scotland. It was an absolutely fantastic event and I’m already looking forward to the next one.
The afternoon comprised of a few talks before splitting up into various workshops led by Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts. Andy Nagle from Microsoft discussed redefining learning and how technology is the class isn’t magic on its own however in the hands of the right teacher it can be. Ian Stuart then talked about the use of Microsoft Products in Education, before showing us some great examples of how Office Mix, Sway and OneNote can be used in the class. Next up was Marie Renton sharing her experience of using Skype in the class and in particular taking part in Mystery Skype sessions with classes from around the world. She has been using this in her school to teach French to the children in P5-7 in her school and explained how it worked and how schools can get involved. For me the best part though was as well as telling us all about the fab things she explained what difficulties she had to overcome in order to make the whole thing work and that is a lesson in itself if you are determined enough and persevere you can make these things work and her pupils certainly seem to get so much out of it. You can find more information on https://education.microsoft.com/ about Mystery Skype. Natalie Lochead shared her experience of using Skype connect with other schools to learn with them and also talked about how by using Skype in the class children can go on virtual field trips. Finally, David Renton spoke about coding in schools and the importance of coding & IT skills today as there is a skills shortage within Scotland with around 11000 jobs going unfilled. He talked about some of the tools available to teachers for teaching coding and then gave a demonstration of Kodu http://www.kodugamelab.com/ and TouchDevelop https://www.touchdevelop.com/ . Kodu is an environment that is suited best to P5-7 and lets the children create their own games within a 3d world. It’s really easy to program with simple commands that for the basis of while something is happening do something. TouchDevelop is an online tool that’s more suited for secondary pupils and it lets you create apps and games from your web browser and on any device so you can start creating on the pc and finish what you are doing on your mobile device on the way home. Having used both of these tools I would totally agree and know that the pupils always find them great fun to use and create with.
Thanks to @drenton72 for the picture
After the talks we headed off to our workshops and I’m disappointed I never got to see anyone else’s. Marie & Natalie’s workshop looked at the use of Sway. Samina Hassan’s workshop was about using Office Mix and Nicola Paterson & Ian’s session covered using OneNote. However along with Andrew Minshall I helped out at the Coding session led by David. This was a chance for the teachers to get some hands on experience using Kodu or TouchDevelop and it was really interesting to see so many teachers wanting to try it out. I hope that when they go back to school they will keep on trying. After the coding session myself and Andrew did a session on how we have used Minecraft in school. Andrew talked about how he has been using Minecraft Edu version in school and has been creating a model of the school (including teachers) with the children. As well as this the children have been using the Minecraft experiences as prompts for writing and they have even been creating spelling walls and peer marking each other’s spelling within their world. His next project is going to be creating a Scottish Landmark for the Build it Scotland project http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p031dzs4 Which leads me on to the work I have been doing with my local primary school and getting them involved in taking part in Build it Scotland http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03cddly I used Minecraft too but on the Raspberry Pi which is a more limited version than the Minecraft Edu version. However when undertaking the project which lasted around 15 hours over a good few weeks over half of the lessons were spent learning about landmarks and planning out what we would do in Minecraft on paper and we also used some number cubes as well to create models in school before finally moving onto Minecraft and getting the models built in the world. For me it was to show the teachers that while the may think Minecraft is a game there is a lot they can do to enhance children’s learning and there is a lot they can do without using Minecraft to start with. We did a lot of planning on paper first then used number cubes to visualise our models before finally getting on to Minecraft to build them. By using Minecraft as a motivational tool it encourages the children to want to work more and learn more about their topic and yes it is great fun for them when they get onto Minecraft to build their models. I left the teachers with some words from children I had spoken to before the event and they gave some advice to the teachers as to why they should use Minecraft with reasons including working together, helps us be more creative, learn new things and my favourite it it’s helped them realise and think more about computing as a career choice when they are older.