Now that we are have completed our first week working from home well what can I say. My anxiety was tough there were good days and bad days when I was at work, but a couple of things helped so much. Firstly, just being at work helped having a routine was important and kept me going. I have supportive colleagues who listened (when my anxiety got bad at times it caused either total silence and distancing from me or verbal nonsense) and it was just that, nonsense literally talking but I was listened to without any qualms. Similarly, they knew when I was anxious and staying away and kept distance but would always get the wee message later of are you OK – they knew. That I’m grateful for. To the rest of my colleagues it really wasn’t personal just I didn’t want to be a burden or to have folk feel sorry for me (that is the last thing I want as well and I just wanted to get on with it, work has been the normal and I’m happy for that). Possibly the wrong attitude as I’ve had a lot of love over the past week since my first post but understand that was my anxiety as well not personal. Anxiety really is a strange creature and I’m in a better place for understanding my own now but it took time to get to that stage and I’m still learning as well especially with all that’s been going on recently.
We do need to be aware of our colleagues and look out for any changes. I’m in a place where we have a good network of support in the staff room and further around (yes I know that fully now ! ) no matter how unimportant you think it is just ask them if they are OK and yes do it twice if needed or if they are too quiet/out of character etc. Aside from my colleagues I’d been doing a few things that really helped me such as I went for walks everyday at lunch just to get away from my desk, always important at home too to get away from your computer. It helped clear my head as well as get fresh air. I’d go for a short walk with my music on (definitely recommend creating a playlist of your favourite upbeat songs that you can walk along to).
Also useful to have a playlist of songs for calming as well, find a song or two that has a decent beat for breathing exercises as well. I also make use of my smart watch which has a fab function for helping with breathing exercises too when my anxiety was bad.
We had an informal staff meeting today – we are all used to tea break at 10.30 and in the afternoon as well. Our break from the classroom and chance for a wee natter (and some bad jokes) – and it was great to see everyone but conversely it was also a little bit overwhelming. It solidified the reality of being at home working as well and that was difficult for me. However a few chats later on in the day with different colleagues has helped. It’s a new way of working and I will get used to it – my routine has been abruptly changed and its taken time for me to adjust as I’m sure it will have a lot of folk but with support and a ton of memes in the Whatsapp chat I know it will be OK.
Decided since I’m going to be at home more to start blogging again. The past 2 weeks have been awful uncertain and difficult to say the least for everyone and leaving my workplace today for an indefinite amount of time was overwhelming to say the least. As someone though who suffers from Anxiety and Depression this has set me back a fair bit. I was diagnosed in August 2019 and through close support from my GP, family and friends and a few fab colleagues at work (there are lots of fab folk I work with I should add I just chose to tell those who needed to know) I had started to get things back on track. Xmas was hard being away from the routine for a couple of weeks but now the uncertainty of how long I’m going to be away from work has this week really dawned on me I have struggled with that as my physical workplace was out of the house and interacting with my colleagues as well as teaching my students.
I am now going to have to adapt (as are we all) and I’m going to try make this a positive experience rather than let it overtake me and I’d just like to take this time to remind us all that we need to look after each other. Outside of our immediate family life, we naturally will be worrying about those we teach, but we also need to look out for our colleagues and ensure we keep in touch with each other as well. The support I have had has been crucial in keeping me going especially in the workplace.
I understand my mental health a lot better now and have strategies in place granted that went out the window this week. But I will get back to it. I have been loathed until now to share my issues with a wider community but feel that its important that we start talking about it and ensuring that we look after our mental health as best we can, I know more than ever I am going to need the support to see me through.
I am going to be doing what I can to keep me and my 3 awesome daughters going (2 uni students and 1 in 4th year of school) and also supporting my students online as well as anyone else who will be needing it. Happy to help any of my colleagues with advice on online working and various collaborative methods. As well as offering online help in my local community for those who need it (probably via my @CoderRoyston twitter).
#bekind should not just be for a day or when something big happens we need to #bekindalways you never know what the person next to you is going through and you may just be that one to help with a kind action or words.
On Friday 26th I organised a morning of talks for our games students (NC/HNC & HND Games) from those who work in the industry. I think it’s important that students are aware of the many varied career paths within games possibly ones that they’d never even thought about and get an idea of what they should be doing to progress further in their chosen field.
To start us off James Hodgart from Axis Animation discussed his career and what he does as a 3D artist. James is also a former student/lecturer of West College Scotland as well so it was great to have him back to inspire our students. James talked about being a lead on projects which means he has to designate and find the best person for the job in hand. Some wise words as well about getting started with your 3D work start small and make the small things good before moving on to bigger projects keep practising. After showing an amazing video of the things he has worked, on he then went on to discuss the differing jobs available in Animation.
George Corner is an Events manager for QD events and he spoke to the students about his varied career before his current position. It was particularly interesting to hear from George as most of us have attended at one point or another a games event/expo which got students thinking a bit more that there are lots of paths career wise that they might not have even considered.
Next we had a couple of Skype calls once the technology worked! First up was Steven Sim a Lead Artist for TriCAT GmbH Steven is based in South Germany and spoke to the students about moving abroad for work and showing them how he started off his animation work with one of his projects to where he is now.
Mazen Suker a game designer for Bohemia Interactive was our second Skype call though was upstaged by his cats. Mazen discussed how he got to where he is today (based in Czech Republic) but has been well traveled for work. Key point from his talk was all about keeping your mental health well and finding your own style of working.
Our last speaker was Thomas Welsh a Narrative designer for Cloudpunk. Who spoke to the students about writing for games and getting started (just write !!) Lots of useful advice though from him on the subject and it was great to hear about his work.
Overall the morning went well and it was great to hear from the different speakers on their varied careers and I hope that its given our students a little more inspiration and determination to work to ensure they are successful in their chosen field. Thank you to James, George, Steven, Mazen and Thomas for giving up their time to come and speak.
Also thanks to our HND Games student Scott Davidson for kindly taking photos on the morning.
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.
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.
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. .
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.