Category Archives: thoughts

Why is typography important? Y7 ICT topic

I’ve been creating a new font today.

Well I did most of it anyway – it takes a while to create all 52 letters of our alphabet and then numbers and the special characters (99 in total in this programme). This has been achieved, at no cost, through a great website called FontStruct. Given how good the website is, I will be able to fit it into a four lesson unit about typography with the Year 7 (Grade 6) ICT programme under the banner of “Why is typography important?“.

Fontstruct programme

The likes of FontStruct help teachers in their explanation of what and why we use a style of typing (and writing) when we do, and students can actively create their own font. If their font is good enough then their peers will understand a message sent using it – one of the key fundamentals of communication.

Hope to have my own font created soon as a simplistic example for my students.

And this is my font (as yet unfinished):

Fontstruct example

Flippin’ Year 8

There has been much discussion about the value of the flipped classroom (an excellent infographic can be found here by @Knewton), and one can now even become flip certified via the Sophia website . Here the teacher sets works before the teaching that students do by themselves, and then the lesson time is spent with the teacher covering that which wasn’t understood. So basically in their homework time they do their learning and then in lesson time the teacher facilitates their understanding of a topic rather than starting teaching them from something being a new topic.

Whilst (IMHO) there me a case in a widely differentiated class of 30+ students when teaching for an hour (meaning each student gets mathematically <=2 minutes each), and it would assist if the students came in knowing some of the topic beforehand, in the classes I teach (of less than 10 students) I do have the time to make sure each student understands what the topic is in the time I am with them.

However, for my Year 8 (US Grade 7) class their next ICT unit that I designed (another feature of a private international school, the freedom to develop the curriculum) is entitled: “What is inside a PC?
We will look at this thing called a PC that the students take for granted and look at the parts that are inside this magical black box. However, in addition, I will have the students learning about website design, and then once they have a basic understanding of the parts inside a PC create a website to show off their understanding.

I found, in previous years, that students love to see what is inside the PC case, and are amazed at the simple yet complicated nature of it. They are also adept at using websites, but have no real understanding of what HTML or CSS is, or how to create them (though there is always one or two exceptions!). Therefore I try to tie the two topics together.

I will use both traditional and flipped methods of teaching to aid their learning. Whilst we will start with the PC itself and what the purpose of the CPU, RAM, ROM, PSU, battery, HDD, etc. are they can do an online course to learn the basics of HTML/CSS, and then I can apply their theoretical knowledge to the way this really works with Adobe Dreamweaver. The aim being to speed up their understanding of what they are shown in Dreamweaver so that everything is not new, and when I go through the terminology/tags used in website design they can impress me with “I know what that is Sir”.

So the first task is to set them up with accounts on the Codecademy site in order that the students can take the Website Fundamentals course. A feature of this system is that students can earn badges, so in order that they can let each other know I have had set up individual student e-mails, and then via the Google Apps for Education system we also set up a group e-mail so that they can let everyone in the class (and myself) know how far they have got. Tried this part last year, for the first time, and most (not all) of them loved to work through the exercises, even if it was only to gain the badges and let their peers know they had achieved such and such.

There is a very good review of Codecademy by @The Good MOOC last April (A review of Codecademy). Students gain badges for completing exercises, and for x,y,z number of activities per day. Now because this is being flipped and undoubtedly my students will come up with a few excuses as to why they didn’t understand such and such an activity I did them all first. Some of the activities will be difficult for them to understand, yet with the exception of a new student with extremely limited English language skills, all my students if they can get over “this is too difficult so I can’t do it” phase are capable of completing the first sections “Introduction to HTML” and “Introduction to CSS”. Other sections they may find difficult, which is good, as I don’t want them to believe that everything is simple. I want them to appreciate that a teacher is there for a reason; to aid their understanding and to bring about clarity where once there was a mist.

So now I too have lots of these badges:

Just to show them that I too can do this!

Well we’ll see how this year’s Year 8 enjoy being flipped – by the Christmas holiday they should have their websites done, demonstrating an understanding of what is inside a PC case, and have themselves lots of badges to prove they have completed lots of exercises.

Hopefully some of them will do such amazing work that I will be looking to send them (accompanied by myself) to Bucharest in a couple of years’ time for the Infomatrix competition.

We’ll see…

Here is a wordle image of the text in this blog post.

Animation lesson (with Trumpton included)

I just finished reviewing a couple of lessons for Year 7 (US Grade 6) students using the free programme Pivot Stickfigure Animator.

Once whilst watching an episode of “Trumpton” with my youngest son, and the subsequent interview with Gordon Murray (by myself), I realised that this would make an excellent introduction lesson starter to animation.

If students watched one episode and the interview as a starter they could then calculate how many frames where needed per episode (and then for the whole Trumpton series), based upon the fps (frames per second) used by Pivot Stickfigure Animator.

Then, creating after creating (a non-violent) animation they compare how many frames they had created to an episode of Trumpton, and therefore how many seconds of real film would be created. By watching Trumpton and calculating the number of frames it will put it into perspective of how much more is needed to create something professionally.

And I get to watch an episode in class, and re-live my dim and distant youth J !

Here is a wordle image of the text in this blog post.

Why I use Twitter…

I decided to start my blog up again and thought I’d write as a few brief notes about how and why I use Twitter as both a professional development tool, and also as a way of helping students in general develop.

Professional development doesn’t have to be about be, though may be doing a long course, whether at MA level or such. At the moment, for me however, I find the best kind of professional development for me is simply in finding out short, sharp pieces of information that can get me thinking, or finding out about new sites that I think will benefit my students.

Using HootSuite I can keep an eye on several streams and hash tags (e.g. #edtech#edleaders#ukedchat etc) as well as my own tweets and a general home stream of anything someone I follow posts.

Custom newspapers are out now (e.g. International Educators by @amichetti, or The uk-ict-education Daily by @kamyousaf). There are also some fantastic blogs, such as Clerestory Learning by @kdwashburnFree Technology for Teachers by @rmbyrneheadguruteacher by @headguruteacher or ICT in Education by @terryfreedman to name but a very, very, very small few.

And that’s the problem most of the time is that there is just so, so much information and great things out there that I simply don’t have the time to read/track/follow/digest it all.  Which is why I use twitter. It help me by aggregating all the information and as a starting point in the trek across the internet to seek out useful ideas/knowledge/facts/guidance that I can use to benefit myself or others. The retweet facility allows for me to see a tweet, click on the link, and if useful post it again, with the original sender’s username, as a way of saying “thank you, I found that useful”.

As a few examples of what passed me by in the last couple of days that I then retweeted:

RT @mattbritland: A Guide to Delivering Creative Computing Lessons  Presentation)
RT @justintarte: A nice graphic on the relationship between learning and the #edchat #ukedchat
RT @iSchoolLeader: RT @mashabletech: Windows 8.1 Available Now
RT @TheConsultantsE: Future present #elearning #edtech
RT @Larryferlazzo: How Can We Help Students Develop A Desire To Read At Home? via @EdWeekTeacher #edchat
RT @GCAFCofficial: Please vote for Tigers hat trick hero @jooeeparker for FA Cup player of the round! #gcafc

There are also some things I come across, not via Twitter, work or personal related that I think are worth others knowing about so I tweet them. In the last few days, for example, these came my way:

RSC – Online Experimentation – #GlobalExperiment around Vit C for 7-16 yr olds #ukedchat
Tesla and the Lamplighter – kickstarter ( – – pls support and RT #belgrade
3 hard education questions Ken Robinson says need to be answered [Educause 2013] #edchat #edleaders #ukedchat

Any way, if you are using Twitter, great, I hope you find it as useful as I do for that first quick scan of what is going on, that can then develop into further reading of those things that catch your eye. If I’m following your posts, please keep then coming, and if you are following me, use if useful, disregard if not.

Well that’s my first blog post for a while, a few more words that Yvo’s excellent daily 100 word blog, but such is life.

Oh, my twitter username is @nahowie