#SurfaceGo Event – Microsoft Edinburgh

Catching up with things and thought I’d get blogging again. Last Wednesday I was able to attend the Surface Go event at Microsoft in Edinburgh. It was a great chance to see the new Surface and meet up with some new and familiar faces.

After Tina Jones had welcomed everyone – always great to finally put a person to the twitter handle !! Kevin Sait gave us a demonstration of the Surface Go. I loved the size and even though my Surface Pro 4 is portable this is definitely next level. I can see the benefits of having one of them for myself it would be a bonus for meetings and just general day to day work as it is a lot easier to hold for writing on as you would do at a meeting. I still use my surface at meetings but this seems like it would be a lot easier to handle for tasks like that.

After Kevin the amazing Sarah Clark spoke about how she uses tech in her classroom and I have to say I love her passion for what she does. She does not have much tech to use (her surface and lots of cables it seems coming from everywhere) but its how she uses it with her classes that’s the important part from being able to add notes to pictures of their experiments there and then to sharing demos with the entire class at once. I remember seeing a tweet ages ago about Sarah giving a demonstration to her class (bear in mind its biology so some things can messy  or not for those who want to stand right at the front of a dissection) so she sets up her surface so that she can capture what she is doing and it can be projected onto the screen given everyone in the class a good chance to see the demonstration. I’d never thought of using it that way before but do now when I’m demoing things like attaching crocodile clips to the Micro:bit or setting up a raspberry pi touchscreen. It really is a great example of how you can make the most of what you actually have in class and shows that you don’t need to have lots of tech to be making a difference.

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Callum Paine was the last speaker and he gave us a demonstration of the learning tools that were available. For me the biggest surprise was Edge and the tools it now has such as Reading View which when you use it takes away all the unnecessary bits on a web page and puts it into a nice page view that’s easy to read. Fonts and page colours can also be changed very helpful for learners if needed.  Things that I am going to have to look at a bit more now to see how I can use them to benefit my own students.

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It was a great evening and really good to catch up with folk I’ve not seen for a while in person especially Sarah & Ian who kindly posed for pictures with my students 3D model thanks to the wonderful mixed reality viewer which is great for showing off their creations, though Kevin did a good job of photobombing as well,  thanks Microsoft for a great evening. .

Computing without Computers

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.

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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.

Keeping busy

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.

 

A week of birthdays (of sorts)

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. 

Jams all over Glasgow

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.

 

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Teamwork

Scotlands first Redefining Learning Event

 

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.

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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.

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Project Raintown App Development

I spent my Thursday morning working with 30 young people from 6 different secondaries across Glasgow creating apps using TouchDevelop for a project they are involved in with the charity Playlist for Life. Project Raintown has a few different strands for the young people and I am leading the app development where they are working towards creating an app to help evoke memories for dementia sufferers when certain songs from special times in their lives are played. It’s been a great project to work on and though we’ve had a few technical hitches the young people have all had a amazing app ideas which we are trying to take forward.

school appsCollectively we worked on an app together which gets people to add in their favourite songs to a playlist and can be found here to try out https://www.touchdevelop.com/jbjhff

Multiplayer Minecraft Pi (finally)

WP_20160225_09_36_07_Pro_LISo last week I finally discovered how to get a multiplayer game of Minecraft going on the Raspberry Pi and it was a lot simpler than what I had been trying. Seems all you need to do is connect your pi’s to a router and well that’s it really. The pi’s need an IP address in order to have a LAN game and by using any router (no internet connection is needed just the router) you can then get them talking to each other.

HOWEVER this does only work for 5 WP_20160223_10_02_06_Pro_LIpi’s connected on the same network. I used a router and a switch to enable me to have the 5 pi’s on at the same time. I tried to add more but it seems that 5 is the maximum you can have on a pi multiplayer game. I wish I had discovered this months ago however at least I know now.

Big thanks to David Renton (@drenton72) for helping me test the switch & router pi stuff and enabling me to be able to now run Multiplayer Minecraft.