Summertime and Money Off

Henry CodeYou may have read my previous post on ‘Why I’ve Been So Quiet Lately‘ and as a result will know that I am currently on maternity leave with the little guy on the right until January 2017. As the first three and a half months of my maternity leave were spent with my son in hospital I decided to divert from my original plan and take the full year off. As I’m sure you can imagine as a result of now being on statutory maternity pay (and nothing at all pretty soon) funds are a little tight and I have therefore decided to start charging for some of my teaching resources, this will also give me the motivation to work on some new topics while I am off. You can see what’s available by visiting the store.

My units are reasonably priced at £110 each which includes all resources in an editable format and throughout the summer holiday (up to 1st September 2016) you can get 10% off at the checkout by entering the following voucher code:


There will be some exciting things to come over the next few months including a fully self-marking Baseline Assessment for Computing, so check back regularly for updates!

Have a great summer everyone and if you’re looking for some interesting holiday reads, check out the following books:

Why I’ve been so quiet lately

NICU nurses are superheroes

Henry just before leaving hospital

Some of you may have noticed that I have not posted anything or shared any resources at all this year. Well, there is a good reason for that. On 27th December following the scariest night of my life (up to that point) at just 23 weeks pregnant I gave birth to twin boys, Henry and Archie, both weighing in at just 1lb 2oz each.

My husband and I have had quite a tough journey. Archie sadly passed away the day after he was born but Henry continued to fight on and his strength and resilience over the past four months has been nothing short of incredible. He has endured a vast array of medical treatment, ventilation, various types of breathing support, several infections, many x-rays and 12 blood transfusions under the wonderful care of the Oliver Fisher Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. In total he spent 114 days in hospital and came home two and a half weeks ago (one week before his due date). You can read our full story over on my other website,

I am taking part in a 5km run in August to help raise funds for the amazing unit that kept my miracle baby safe for so long. If you have used my resources or are just inspired by our story please consider making a donation using the link below. Every little helps.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!


Revising the KS3 Curriculum & Simplifying Assessment

It seems I was a little ambitious with my curriculum plans last year. I had originally planned to complete five topics with each year group during the year but halfway through  computing baseline assessmentit soon became apparent that this was not achievable unless I sped through each topic with no time to review or consolidate information. I’ve spent some time reviewing the curriculum over the summer and have now redesigned it to fit into four topics per year group which I think will be a lot more feasible. Year 7 will still begin the year with a baseline assessment which I have now streamlined so it is predominantly self-marking using  Google Forms and Flubaroo, with only a few parts such as programming and information technology to be assessed manually by the teacher; the results of this are then put into a spreadsheet which automatically generates a level using the CAS Progression Pathways framework. The topics we will now be delivering are as follows:




    • 9.1 – Digital Imaging
    • 9.2 – Web Development
    • 9.3 – Computer Crime Lab (Still being developed)
    • 9.4 – Entry Level Computing (Still being developed. Lower ability completing ‘Life on Mars’ – using Kodu to simulate a colony on Mars then creating marketing materials for tourism on the planet – half complete).

Another challenge I have been investigating is how to effectively tackle feedback and assessment. In my department students do not print their work but instead all work is uploaded to our VLE (Google Classroom). At times marking has proved a little time-consuming due to opening several files that my students have uploaded, I also found much of my comments were just marking for marking’s sake rather than being truly informative.

Over the last few months I have been part of the school’s marking and feedback working party and within this we have addressed how to give more valuable feedback and cut-down on teacher workload. In computing we rely a lot on verbal feedback within lessons. As the work is largely practical it is not useful to collect-in 30 games students have made then give written feedback on these a week or so later, students need instant feedback so they can make progress while they are working on a particular topic so verbal feedback is much better for this, as is peer feedback. As a teacher what I really need to be able to do is assess the knowledge my students have acquired at the end of a topic rather than give mundane written comments throughout. At the end of a topic it is also clearly important that students understand the progress they have made in terms of their knowledge and recognise their achievements. To make life easier for myself and my team I have introduced the following assessment aspects into our curriculum:

    • Quality of work marks – in SIMS when writing reports students can be awarded 1 – 4 for quality of work, with 4 being ‘excellent’ and 1 meaning ’cause for concern’. We will be grading quality of work in the same way to ensure consistency.
    • Open badges – Students awarded with a mark of 4 (excellent) for a topic and homework will be awarded with an open badge to reward them for completing work to a high standard. All students who successfully collect a badge for every topic will be entered into a prize draw at the end of the year. These are awarded through a Google Doc shared with the students within Google Classroom, as shown here:

open badges

    • Virtual Workbooks – To help with assessment I’ve started to develop a virtual workbook for each topic. Students will complete this as they work through a topic meaning most of the content I need to assess is all in one file, making it quicker to mark. Luckily Google Classroom has a nice feature where I can share this document and automatically create a copy for each student. At the end of a topic there will be a multiple choice, self-marking test (made with Google Forms and Flubaroo) and within the Virtual Workbook there is a section to allow students to reflect and respond to the result of the test, giving them the opportunity to show they have improved their knowledge as well as allowing them to self-assess against the progression pathways statements. Here is an example of the Kodu Virtual Workbook so you can see how this works.

Let me know your thoughts below, or if you have any other ideas to contribute, please comment.

Our Micro:Bit Launch Plan

BBC Micro:Bit

Along with many other Computing teachers I’m starting to get quite excited about the upcoming BBC Micro:Bit, this is basically a miniature computer which children will be able to program using either a block-based (Blockly) or textual programming language (Touch Develop and hopefully Python too!). Once the program has been transferred to the device it can be unplugged from the computer and will then run the program independently.

These devices are being given to ALL year 7 pupils across the UK as part of the BBC’s Make It Digital campaign and I must stress they are being given to the children not the school. The idea behind the device is that the children keep them, take them home and use them independently for creating cool projects! I think this is great and am really keen for my students to have a new toy to play with and investigate and I’m hoping this will give them more confidence in the subject to simply experiment and see what happens in the comfort of their own homes!

I’ve seen a few mutterings from concerned teachers around the BBC’s method of distribution; wondering how they can use it in lessons and worrying about making last-minute changes to their schemes of work, especially as the children are taking them home and (probably) not remembering to bring them back! My answer is don’t, there is no need to adjust your curriculum plans, no need to change everything once again. Don’t view these devices as a hindrance or  “another thing to think about” but instead view them as an opportunity to put technology in the hands of children who would not normally have access to such gadgets at home. Give them to your pupils and see what they produce!

Kodu and Micro:BitAlthough I’m not planning to embed the Micro:Bit into our lessons, one thing I am interested in is the integration with Kodu. By coincidence (or luck) our year 7s will be working on their Kodu unit at the time they should be receiving their Micro:Bits. I’ve been reading that they can use the built-in accelerometer and hardware buttons as methods for controlling characters so there is an opportunity for them to use these within their Kodu games if they wish. You can read about this further on the Kodu Game Lab website.

So what’s our launch plan?

In my school we intend to make a big deal out of these new devices. My aim is to invite our year 7s into school with their parents for an evening of workshops to give them ideas of how they they can be used. We will also use this evening to launch our Micro:Bit competition, challenging students to come up with the most innovative and interesting uses possible, document their project (in any way they choose) and submit these for us to judge. I’m also planning to introduce a Digital Leaders scheme for year 9 next year so will probably get those on-board with the judging. The plan will be to produce an exhibition or series of displays showcasing the students’ work, making them as high profile as possible.

At the end of the evening each student will, of course, leave with their brand new Micro:Bit along with ideas on how it can be used! Any students who do not attend will be given theirs’ within Computing lessons when we will, again, emphasise and promote the competition.

In addition to this I have some plans brewing for Europe Code Week in October so I have my fingers crossed the Micro:Bit launch will tie-in with this but that will be in the hands of the BBC who have not released any formal information about when the devices will be passed to schools exactly (although I have heard rumours of it being October).

If you’re interested in learning more or would like to get a head-start in reading up on how it works you can read a preview of the Teacher’s Guide over on Hodder Education’s website.

If your school has not received an email from the BBC, you can register for the devices here.

How will you be launching yours? I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.

Reflections on Google Classroom: Our New VLE

It has been quite a busy year for me this year, as you may have noticed from the lack of posts lately. I’ve been involved in a number of projects and developments within school as well as the day-to-day running of my department. One of my projects has been the roll-out of a new VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) across the school in the form of Google Classroom. You can read more about the details of Google Classroom over on Google’s website. Having only been released in September we jumped straight in as a school and haven’t looked back since as Google Classroom offers a lot of benefits and freedom to teachers that were not seen in our previous VLE.

Google Classroom Nicki Cooper

As part of my CPD this year I was required to undertake a TLA Recognition action research project, so for obvious reasons I decided to focus on the roll-out of Google Classroom with the full title being:

Implementing, rolling out and assessing the impact of a new VLE, in the form of Google Classroom, into the school environment.

Within this post I shall summarise my findings from the research. There is a link at the bottom if you would like to read the full research project.

Google Classroom was rolled out in a staggered approach; first we trialled it with KS4 pupils in my department before using with KS3, I then shared and gave an overview during a full staff briefing requesting volunteers to come forward to try in their own department, these volunteers were then given some basic training before using with their classes. Following this, throughout the year training sessions have been offered and delivered across the school and all staff have been encouraged to use Google Classroom with their classes. Some benefits afforded by the use of Google Classroom are as follows:

    • Integration of Google apps for education (Drive, Docs, Slides etc.)
    • Easily allows sharing of documents online and collaborative editing
    • Sets up multiple copies of a template or worksheet at the press of a button
    • Provides one place for students to submit their work
    • Allows teachers to effortlessly share resources and assignments with multiple classes at once
    • Has allowed my department to become paperless (with the exception of exam papers and the odd handout!)

Throughout the year Google have been very responsive to teacher feedback by regularly adding new improvements and modifications. These are the new improvements we have seen so far:

    • Customisable page header images
    • Shared classes
    • Mobile app now shows pupil work and feedback
    • Teachers can post draft assignments and announcements that can be displayed later
    • Archive old classes

Following the developments across the year there are still a few improvements I’d like to see in the future, these are as follows:

    • Allow users to move, organise and group classrooms on the home page
    • Sticky posts on the Classroom stream
    • Notification system for comments (similar to the way notifications are displayed on Facebook):
      • Pupils should be notified when a piece of work has been returned
      • Teachers should be notified when a pupil comments
    • Separate tab for assignments on subject page
    • Display images and videos either embedded on the page itself or as a popup rather than taking you to Google Drive or YouTube
    • Pupils should not be able to submit an assignment if they have not uploaded anything. I would also prefer it if the ‘mark as done’ option was something only the teacher can do.
    • Allow worksheets (where one is created for each pupil) to be added to an assignment later where necessary. Currently they can only be added when the assignment is first set up.

As the VLE is still quite new I’m sure we will continue to see improvements being added as more schools start using this fantastic educational tool. Great job Google!

Finally, here are some useful resources if you are interested in getting started reading more about Google Classroom: