Category: Thoughts

Is an online presence a bad thing for teachers?

I’m always aware of what I put online, I think it’s important to cultivate an online identity, with caution as to what I say and do online.  I’ve just started a new year in my school and I’m teaching E-safety to my students in all year groups.  In our school we teach E-safety in 3 main ways:

  • data online to year 7
  • online perceptions in year 8
  • and the risks of viruses etc. in year 9.

Because of this (and I’m planning on a Sunday morning!) I’ve started to think about the curse of online social media, how others perceive your online presence and that worry’s me sometimes, the curse of what others think of you! (and should I really care?)

I guess this is brought to light by the recent stories of students who have committed suicide from cyber bullying attacks (not that I’m that way inclined) or a number of cases where teachers have been up into harms way and lost their careers by things they have put online, I really try to be careful about what I say (anything you put online can be mis-interpreted or used against you in a court of law ;o)

Like most people (of course) I want to be liked for what i do. I want students to think i teach good lessons, I want teachers to think I make good resources and of course you can’t please everyone, but what happens when students or teachers critisise you online for something you teach or how their GCSE’s have gone or that someone doesn’t like something you have made or put online?


In the future, I think about job interviews and applying for promotion. In industry, hiring people is increasingly dominated by going online to see what an online presence is like (working in an IT industry, you need to make sure staff have a good online presence to make sure your company is well represented).

In job interviews for schools there is this idea of a pupil panel, where students from the school council interview you for the job and feedback to the head. Our students are increasingly aware of how to use social media and commenting on teachers, schools etc online, but do not discriminate about the information they put openly online (try typing the name of your school into twitter sometime and see what people say!)

Is it a bad thing?

How long will it be before a job interview will be assessed not just by the job you do and the lesson you teach, but the perception of people on social media? and is this a bad thing?

As mentioned, in industry it would be common practice in industry to cultivate an online persona with a LinkedIn profile and a website and a blog,  which is largely (not wholly, I know most people who read this will have blogs etc.) ignored by the teaching community. Maybe students would benefit from teachers working online and seeing how to be online but in a safe, controlled and positive manner rather than avoiding the curse of online like some plague that threatens to wipe out your teaching career?

Disclaimer:  please let me know if you think any of this is inflammatory as i wouldn’t want my perception to be harmed by this post!

Image from (copyright free image site)


Are we falling into the ICT trap?

So I’ve just come back from a Brilliant Day (and night) at the CAS Conference. This is my third year and each year I approach the event with a new thought of what I want to learn. This year, it was my focus on not what i teach (languages etc.) but the way I teach.

The keynote speakers that we had were brilliant, a speaker from Google and Lee Stott from Microsoft about the projects they are currently running in order to get students involved in programming.

What struck me was 2 things:

  • there is a lot of fear out there about learning to program
  • there are so many tools out there we have to be careful what we choose to use.

I think these 2 things together could be a double edged sword that Computing/programming must be careful of when walking that line.  There are a number of ICT Teachers without the requisite skills to program and need to learn, however there are also A LOT of very simple programming tools that get you started, but if you use these beyond the starting point you end up with a culture shift.

I think at this point we need to be careful. Let’s be under no mistake PROGRAMMING IS HARD, and there are a number of ways to introduce the topic, but if you use the tools beyond the engagement point, you have to make sure you apply the rigor to it or make the end product a joke.

The ICT Failure
We all complain about the failure of ICT and it becoming too easy. I remember in 2006 when i was a tech a teacher abandoning HTML for Dreamweaver on the basis they had to make a website and Dreamweaver was “faster and easier”. We could quickly fall into this trap with programming, making tools to make coding easier then in 5 years complaining that programming has become too easy and we are in danger of being dropped from the curriculum.

I love the IDEA of tools like blockly, but I think there has to be a culture shift from the big companies and product developers. CAS has it right, let’s focus on the education of the teachers first and make sure we have qualified, trained teachers to make sure the subject is rigorous and challenging with the right teachers to teach it.

Addendum 25/6/13: How do I teach

Speaking to people tonight at a CPD for CAS in Preston, I was thinking how I wrote this. It’s true (guilty smile), I work in a good school and this is great because (most) students will (generally) try no matter what you throw at them. But I think with programming (and any subject for that matter) you have to find a way to engage every student in the class, take them on the journey with you.

I don’t want to make the programming language so simple that everyone in the class can do it first time, every time. I want to be able to teach so that the hard language is accessible to everyone.   Using tools such as CSInside and CSUnplugged, which helps break down topics into smaller ones can help with this. I guess my aim as a teacher is not to get every student to be good at every topic, but to introduce those topics, get them to engage, and allow them to learn for themselves outside of the classroom. Yes, this takes more time and planning for differentiation, but I find this to be one of the most fun parts of teaching, coming at a topic sideways to come up with an interesting idea that will engage and excite my students.

I also would love to talk about the CAS “Master Teacher” role, but think I’ll leave that for later.

Open Source Teaching

So, this is a thought i had a while ago about Teaching and Open Source.

Part of what i really love about teaching is coming up with new and exciting ideas, it’s why I go to geekups, to see something that someone does, modify it and really make it my own.  I know marking and stuff is part of the job, but ask most teachers and their true joy is getting up and “performing” in front of a class.

I recently went to a Barcamp in Manchester and attended a talk about Open Source software and this got me thinking, surely we should promote Open Source Teaching? 

I share my resources that I make for classes quite openly and freely (and hopefully they make a difference in someone else’s class) on the same principal of open source (or creative commons)

Why Should i Bother?

It’s a good point and a good question. Why should i share my stuff, as let’s face it anyone could rip it off and pass it off as their own. would this impact me on the job front if i went for a job and someone said they took my resources as their idea.

One of the first things i learned when i did my management course years ago was that it always benefits you to share your knowledge. The idea that the more you share, the more you get back (or the more it Free’s you up to do other things as people will then be more willing to help you in your job)

Taking it further
from listening to the talk on open source, i was thinking about taking the idea of open source teaching further. I see so many “educational consultants” who charge for their days teaching people how to teach and how to make “the perfect lesson”. I don’t believe to hold that answer, I do what i do, the kids enjoy it, so do I and they learn something in the middle.

But wouldn’t it be brilliant if you have a lesson that you know works well (maybe it’s the third time you have taught the starter that week) and instead of just putting a resource onto CAS or TES, you make a video of how you used it in class showing how it works for you.

If we could get teachers doing this, these sites could then build a repository of videos of lessons that you could watch and see how a teacher teaches and from that develop a resource further. I know there are people out there doing this, so when my year 11’s have left this is my pledge, to take a KS3 lesson, record part of it to show something working well and then upload it to my youtube.

Maybe some average teaching practice(by me) will rub off on someone to make it outstanding teaching in another school

Time to learn/ time to teach

After returning from one of my weekend jaunts to Manchester barcamp( a free un-conference tun by Manchester girl geeks) i was struck by something really interesting. I am a pretty self motivated learner, i don’t need people to teach me, just a big book and some times, but in teaching where does that time come from?

I’ve seen a lot of courses offering me to learn about programming, and I think for the beginning programmer that is great, however I also think that as someone who can program I just need the time to develop my skills and learn how to teach new languages, and here I find this time lacking.

In an ideal world, I’d love to experiment and develop lessons for my year 12 and 13 computing in:

  • PHP
  • Object Orientation (and Greenfoot)
  • Build your own PC Courses

My limitation is not my lack of understanding, its the preparation time on learning how to teach these topics. I have 4 machines ready to go to teach a “build your own PC” course, but i need to strip them down to bare bones to start, this could take me 1/2 hours at least, then write the prep materials.

The Online Argument
there are a million resources online and as much as a love the CAS group and their resources and even (sometimes) TES, i can usually spend more time trying to find a resource and edit it to suit my needs rather than making it myself.

At the moment there are a million courses teaching the basics but i either need more time to plan or more time to decide how to impart new concepts.

Teaching is a lot about time and pressure and the idea of micro management of tasks, get the coursework markedFatherhood-For-Geeks-610x524 for year 11, then do year 8 marking, then plan your lessons. Doing the extra jobs that need/like to be done sit in the background. As a new dad as well (she’s 6 months and V Cute) i am now struck by what people said before she was born “all this extra stuff you do will go out the window”. Well, shockingly, they were right and i was wrong. I try to keep up the best I can and attend the courses to meet my collegues/friends, but what i really need now is an extra 2 hours a week where i can sit and learn the extra stuff to bring my lessons on even further.

I was thinking of applying for Head of Departments this year, i think if i did that my life and passion for my subject would be sucked away and replaced by an even bigger mountain of paperwork. But as I wrote in a previous post “i’m looking for something, not sure what it is yet”

p.s. apologies for the picture, picked it up ages ago and can’t find the link. if someone can, i’ll credit the source.

Looking for something….not sure what it is yet.

So I’m reaching the end of my second year in this school as a teacher of ICT/Computing. I’ve had a number of big successes this year and am making big in-roads in my school with things like computing.  I’ve put a lot of effort this year into a number of projects that should kick off big time next year as well and wonder….should i be doing all this for a lowly M4 teacher wage? I’m ambitious and a love my job, but i do wonder that a HoD job would stop me doing all the stuff that i love doing? How do other HoD’s cope with the levels of work and the extra projects that they do?

This is some of the projects I have worked on and achieved this year (this is more for my records than anything)

Digital Leaders

So as earlier blog posts i’ve started the digital leaders and have got my 9/10 students working well and look forward to continuing this.


I’ve established a twitter feed within the school and have made some really great insights. I’ve got the school to start looking at this as a valid form of communication to parents and the outside world and i’m going to run esafety trainign for students-by-students on “what twitter is” and “How twitter works” which i think will really give students an effective e-safety input into the school


I’ve been a big leader of this in my department (only one using it regularly) and again am getting a lot of feedback from students how to use it, which i think is fantastic and I’m really starting to see students engage with the moodle as far as using it to check grades etc. I ran a CPD on moodle and have reported to SMT that they need to come up with a framework for people to use it (I’m thinking of almost doing this myself, but not sure i have time)


Computing Society

the 6th form came to me with this idea and although i haven’t supported them massively have let them run it for the last term and have now seen the organisation required here. I think this could be a real winner with getting students engaged with programming and think it is important to get students who are not so social (digital leaders) involved in the ICT department and how it runs. I’m hoping that this will eventually lead to a hack-day or some kind of after hours session.


Flash Club

So, this one has been a passion of mine since animation 09. in 09 i had one of my students highly commended(spanish armada) and this year i had one of the students in this school win a prize for “best ending”, and to be honest, i’ve never been prouder. I think this club has engaged students that would normally be more trouble around school and also the students who maybe other clubs don’t apply to. I’m hoping to carry on this project next year and build on the successes in school




Outside of school
I’ve been working with a lot of people at Teachmeets and cas and I’d love to do a CAS hub at our school as I find Preston and Manchester can be a bit far for some teachers, but i think that this may be too much (i’d love to know how other CAS hub leaders manage), I’m also going to be working with Bolton youth authority on a games creation course for 2 days which i think will be really good for my own profile and get me some ideas for how i would run a Hack day within school.


What’s this all about?

So, my question, with all this going on, how will i cope with another job, or is it simply a change in priorities? Instead of doing the stuff i love to do, do i have to do the job that people from above are going to scream at me to do? (the dreaded paperwork!)