I am a leader in Computing and IT, a Forest School Leader and an outdoor enthusiast and feel passionately about these roles being essential to each other. The fundamental aim of this blog is to demonstrate that technology, when used effectively, has a firm place in education. I have a firm belief that when we teach content in a way that was not possible previously and redefine the experience of our learners through using creativity and engagement, then it is a positive step forward. We owe it to the pupils we teach to make lessons fun, engaging and memorable - that is where effective use of technology can and does make a difference.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Robotics to Inspire

Matt Warne (CAS Master Teacher, Head of Computing and IT, RGS The Grange, Worcester) will be presenting a workshop on robotics in the primary phase at the 2017 CAS National Conference (Bham). Here he discusses what excites him about robotics in teaching the computing national curriculum.
My leap of faith into the realms of Primary Computer Science occurred around 2012 when I was developing new initiatives within our IT offering to students. I happened to make a link with an inspiring secondary teacher who took me under his wing and demonstrated the powers of Computing. Before long I was transporting pupils to outreach events to dabble in Scratch and giving them a taste of what was to become Michael Gove's most valuable input, the integration of Computing with the Primary Curriculum. To test the water, I started running after school Code Clubs to see how this Computing malarkey went down with the pupils under my guidance as a classroom teacher. Following a few experimental sessions I stumbled across an old acquaintance who happened to be coding for a job! Naturally, I invited him to join my inspired young audience of Coders and with a slightly more structured approach through the excellent CodeClub, the murky waters of Computer Science started to look quite clear and very appetising. Having been inspired myself, I spent a considerable amount of time experimenting (Tinkering) and building my confidence. Before long I had joined the mighty CAS movement and was knighted a Master Teacher.
A few years later I find myself working in an innovative school in Worcester (RGS The Grange) with a job title 'Head of Computing and IT' employed as a specialist teacher who solely teaching this unique subject. What a rollercoaster it has been and my pedagogy of the subject has seriously been polished since those early days. In this time frame I have learnt many things, yet the one that stands out the most is to always aim to inspire the next generation of Computer Scientists and, of course, to make the subject fun and accessible to all.
Robotics in Computing has a 'wow' factor and I have yet to teach a lesson where pupils haven't been fascinated with making things happen on the screen. I does not have to be a huge investment, just a well thought out and planned decision as to how Robotics can have an impact on our young learners. Looking closely at the National Curriculum it becomes apparent that many of the objectives can be met through a unique approach and one that will instil memories for years to come. As a school we decided to invest in a set of Sphero Ollies, they are robust, accurate, easy to charge and most importantly will not implode when coded on a collision course with a fire door! Instantly the pupils I taught were immersed in their learning and you could hear the rich conversations between pairs as they were tasked with coding the Ollies to a series of rich and challenging tasks.
I have spent the last twelve months embedding robotics into our curriculum as well as the extra curricular offering to the pupils. Robotics makes an appearance in Year Two where pupils are encouraged to make decisions upon algorithms used to guide the Ollie from A-B and jointly guide the now named 'Rob the Robot' to safety. As pupils progress and develop their computational thinking the challenges also require pupils to decompose challenges and apply logic. Year Six challenges include investigating the angles of turn in 2d shape, coding letters and names, investigating angles of turn when using an iPad to steer the Ollie in a game of Football and finally the dreaded Mr Warne's Maze of Doom.
If this is a route that you would be interested in taking your pupils in, then join me at the CAS National Conference 2017 where I will aim to inspire and share the ways in which my pupils relish their weekly offering of Computing and IT with Robotics.
Matt Warne (@Mattwarney )
Published on CAS Website 13th May 2017

Friday, 7 April 2017

Explaining how The Internet works with Year 5 pupils

Over the last five weeks Year Five pupils have learnt so much about Networks, The Internet and the World Wide Web. The assessment tasks set included producing an Explain Everything Video on our Local Area Network and finally to produce an iMovie (with Green Screen and Stop Frame animation) to demonstrate knowledge of the Internet. 

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Investigating angles in 2d shapes

Year 6 made Computing and Mathematics come to life by coding a program on Scratch using Pseudo Code then investigating the angles within 2d shapes. The program allowed pupils to test out the angles of turn in order to make the shapes and once recorded within an iBook pupils could test their results. The task was for pupils to connect iPads to Sphero Ollies using the app Tickle, then for pupils to screenshot their algorithms, film their Spheros drawing the shapes and finally upload the footage into their completed iBooks.

Scratch Junior Dance with Year 2 Pupils

Pupils in Year 2 were put to their paces creating dance movements that matched the coding blocks from the excellent Scratch Junior app. Once pupils had rehearsed their routines the challenge was to match the speed and order of their dance to the cat within the Scratch Junior app.

So much fun had by all and engaged pupils who now all use the term 'Algorithm' and Debugging'

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Technology and the outdoor classroom

Why I will be fully supporting Outdoor Classroom day 18th May 2017

As I sit here and write this blog,  I think about the highs and lows of my day in the classroom.  I love my job,  and wouldn’t change it for the world, yet, there are times when my balance of indoor and outdoor time are not quite in perfect harmony. Some of the highlights of my day include teaching year four and five pupils the importance of online safety through innovative CEOPS content, being greeted with a chorus of a-l-g-o-r-i-t-h-m by my inspiring Year one students, helping a staff member to produce a whole class BookCreator project and finally standing in a muddy field with my dog whilst rain trickled down my brow. Yes, you read the last line correctly! In the next paragraph or two I will attempt to explain my reasoning…

Man cannot live with tech alone!

My very existence as Head of Computing and IT and token ‘go to man when something doesn’t work’ could not be the sole driving force in my teaching profession.  In order for me to find equilibrium I need one vital ingredient... The outdoors

In 2015 I qualified as a Level 3 Forest School Leader and to this day I will state that it was one of the best things I ever did. The course was certainly not easy and many a night I would be up late writing assignments on the sustainability of natural woodland as a learning resource and flora and fauna identification, but, it was so, so worth it!

I have a ‘need’ to be outdoors and with worries over the amount of screen time that pupils are subjected to, I feel passionately about providing these opportunities for today’s students.

Back to the muddy field…
As the rain was trickling down my face and the 5pm dark took a strangle hold on my evening I felt alive, invigorated and in my natural environment - outside.
When I am outside my mind starts to contextualise the day and puts worries into insignificance. I am able to think about the ‘Real’ matters of life and also my subconscious provides me with answers as to how I might tweak a teacher training session for the following Thursday! (Shameful plug alert rtc.rgsw.org.uk)
You get the picture - I am able to balance my life and put perspective on things, important things.

Last weekend I went to the BETT show and after navigating the underground I finally arrived. After an hour or so of wandering around the lights, buzz and over familiar sales pitches I stumbled upon a small, very humble stand with a banner titled ‘ Outdoor Classroom day 2017’ - this gained my attention.
After minutes of discussing the benefits of being outdoors I signed my school up and my outdoor vs tech  equilibrium was ready to balance and offset the onslaught of a potential thirteen hour tech binge!

During my working week which involves Teaching Computing and IT for thirteen hours or so I also have the opportunity (privilege) to lead Forest School and spend time on the sports field. If I am writing this with the main theme being the need to be outside, then let’s spend a minute thinking this through from a child’s perspective…

A talk from the great Ken Robinson mused on the fact that prisoners in high security jails spend a minimum of two unstructured hours each and every day outside. A recent survey found that children in this country, on average, spend less than one hour outdoors in unstructured ‘free play’.

The benefits of outdoor play include

The chance to connect with the natural world; first hand experiences of life and growth; endless opportunities for creativity and imagination; improved fitness and physical development – the countless benefits of outdoor play have a real positive impact on children's lives.

So what can we do about it?

In reflecting upon this I would like to look into the opportunity to combine Computing and the Great outdoors. So much content can be taught away from the screens (Unplugged activities), so why not attempt these outdoors? Challenge accepted - I for one have just signed up for Outdoor classroom day and although this might be a tiny drop in the ocean, I feel that it might be the ripple needed to allow teachers to see the benefits themselves of our mighty outdoor classroom.

Please get in touch if this musing has hit a chord and let me know if I have had any impact upon your thought to also sign up for Outdoor Classroom day - it would add positive points to my outdoor equilibrium and help offset the time I spent writing!