Hardware – Custom PC Task

PCI Slot

When teaching about hardware, we usually use the internet and text books to read up on individual components and how they work.  Looking back on what I have done in the past, I have realised that learning about components in isolation is not a great way of gaining an understanding of how computers work.  This term, I did something a little different (although definitely not ground breaking!).

I got a couple of old machines and took them apart as I spoke to the class.  Then as each component emerged from the increasingly cannibalised case I passed it around the class.  It was incredible to see the increase in interest just from the fact that the pupils were actually handling something.  I was also embarrassingly surprised at the number of pupils that didn’t know quite how small a CPU was!  To consolidate this interest, the pupils were then asked to find the components to make their own custom PCs.

This task has also been a revelation, as it made me realise that in the past I hadn’t spoken about different types of motherboards and CPU sockets; nor had I spent much time talking about different types of RAM or buying them in matched pairs.  By actually handling the parts and talking about building their own machines, it has prompted more chats about the smaller details that would normally get overlooked.

The amount of discussion in the class has been great, especially as for the high end machine the pupils do not have a budget!  One pupil has chosen 4 x 60″ 3D screens for his high end machine!  He now has to investigate exactly how far back he would need to sit to be able to see them!

I am so pleased that such a small change to my delivery has made a larger than expected change to the pupils interest!  The brief sheet that I gave the pupils after our classroom discussions can be downloaded here. Hardware – Custom PC Task


Y7 Mobile Phone Project for #digitalstudies

I have spent a lot of time and effort contributing to the #digitalstudies wiki and doing general promotion for #digitalstudies and #rethinkingICT12 as remixes of #ictcurric; however, I hadn’t to date, actually been planning my own lessons.  This post is a first attempt to address this!  When planning the delivery of #digitalstudies is it important to consider the following:

  1. The project should be about integrating the 4 strands (technology; authoring, society, literacy) over the whole year and NOT teaching elements in isolation
  2. The project should be about mirroring what happens in ‘real life’ rather than making things up for school
  3. Pupil progress must be evidenced through the use of a bportfolio
  4. Pupils should be encouraged to learn both collaboratively and independently
  5. Assessment of pupils work will be done through the issuing of badges which I have previously blogged about

With these thoughts in mind I have come up with the following plan and would welcome both constructive and positive feedback.  Please take a look and then add your comments to the post.  If this is a little small then the original is here.  I have included more explanatory notes beneath the diagram.

  • The proposal is taught from left to right, although it does allow for the pupils to ‘dip in and out’ of the different areas as they will be made aware of the whole plan from day 1.
  • ‘Homework’ involves some trust as pupils will be expected to self-teach how to create an app.  Monitoring of this will be through monitoring their blog posts.  Pupils will be invited to explore different development apps and then choose the one most suited to what they want to create.

Assessing #digitalstudies – grades or badges

What is #digitalstudies?

If you are reading this post, the chances are, you already know what #digitalstudies is; however, for a refresher take a look at the introduction on the wiki to see how it differs from the more ‘traditional’ subjects of ICT and Computing.  Here, you will see that a fundamental difference is the way in which the subject is assessed using blogging portfolios or bportfolios.

What is a bportfolio?

Traditionally pupils, students and adults would keep an online eportfolio of their work that they could ‘exhibit’ as a way of demonstrating their achievement and skills over a period of time.  The aim of this would be to show potential schools or employers what they were capable of doing in the hope that they could get a place at that school / company.

The problems with this eportfolio approach included:

  • Each portfolio piece is isolated, not showing how it links with other pieces
  • Eportfolios do not show progression from initial idea to solution as it is the completed work that is shown
  • Eportfolios do not include self, peer and teacher comments
  • Eportfolios do not encourage the owner to respond to comments during the progression of their work, favouring a response to completed work.
  • Eportfolios do not encourage the owner to comment on their own progression
  • Eportfolios do not show failure

By including the portfolio as part of a blog (i.e. a bportfolio) the owner is able to impart so much more information to the reader.  There is also a real sense of progress in the owners work.

Demonstrating #digitalstudies skills through a bportfolio

Rather than delivering isolated units that do not interrelate, #digitalstudies allows the pupil to look at a project that as a minimum will last a term, although could concievably last a school year.  By using a Problem Based Learning / Project Based Learning approach pupils are encouraged to seek solutions themselves rather than have the teacher show them first.  Projects will be structured in such a way that a solution will require the pupil to demonstrate skills from each of the available strands (authoring, literacy, society, technology).

As the student progresses through their solution they will be expected to post their thoughts and processes on their blog so that they can receive feedback both from readers inside and outside of the school.  This will also act as a means of showing how they progressed through the broad stages of analysis, design, implementation, testing and evaluation (and user documentation if appropriate).

Assessing #digitalstudies skills

Firstly, it should be stated that whilst bportfolios are the most significant part of assessment for #digitalstudies, it will also be supported by product / solution presentations and hack days.  A hackday (or morning / afternoon) allows a pupil to complete an integrated task rather than a traditional written paper.  It is possible that a Hack Day could also be supported with a written paper as obviously pupils still need to familiar with the requirements of GCSE exams.

Traditionally I would give a class a mark scheme, rubric and even an example of completed work so that they knew exactly what was expected of them.  Nothing really wrong with this as it provides the pupils with very clear expectations and there was no confusion over what they had to do.  I use this approach mainly because that is ‘always what I have done’.  The biggest problem;however, with being so explicit about what I expect the pupils to do is that I am forcing them to take the route that I want them to take to get to a solution as I have told them what they need to do to get each mark.  I have removed any incentive to explore different paths.  This traditional method also discourages learning through failure as they already know what I expect.

#digitalstudies must have a far more flexible way of assessing.  It cannot say to a pupil that they must take a certain route from the foothills of a mountain to its summit; indeed, it should allow them to choose their own summit.  We should put the mountain range in front of them, show them the different peaks, show them the different places that they can start from and then let them find their own way.  Sometimes they will go wrong and will have to come back down and try a different route; sometimes they can ask a climbing partner (pupil) for support or ask a guide (teacher) for help.  Ultimately though, they must find their own route and be responsible for their own successes and failures.

Assessment of their failures, successes and progress will be done continuously by internal AND external peers, teachers and essentially anyone who reads their blog.  They would obviously be encouraged to seek support outside of their normal environment by using email, twitter, etc to contact ‘experts’ who could help them – they would be expected to blog about this contact as way of showing progress towards a solution.

Assessment of most of the work done in #digitalstudies does not need to be AoL but MUST be AfL and should be continuous.  We should not present mark schemes telling pupils what steps we expect them to take to get to a solution.  We should let them find the best way appropriate to their skills and encourage them to broaden their investigations through AfL.

Grading #digitalstudies

Whether it is a good thing or a bad thing is not for this post; however, at my school we use ‘Challenge Grades’ that are calculated by pupils taking MIDYIS and YELLIS tests and a likely GCSE grade statistically attributed to them.  We then ‘boost’ this statistical prediction by another grade (or more) to take into account the Value Added that we expect to deliver through the pupil attending our school.  We then send a report home every half term to say whether the pupil’s work for that half term is + or – against their challenge grade; this also includes a 140 character ‘how to improve’ comment.  At the end of the school year we write a full report.

I have included this introduction as it demonstrates that whilst I believe that #digitalstudies must be flexible in the way pupils are assessed, I have to, as probably all of us do, report back on the pupils progress.  I do not see a conflict of interest between #digitalstudies and providing a grade, although I can see their being some difficulties.

I have to provide report grades between A* and D, so must find a way of mapping what the pupils are doing against this grade.  At the moment, I have mark schemes so their is no problem as x out of y equates to n grade but as I said earlier this means that all pupils have taken the same route to a solution and is therefore not appropriate for #digitalstudies.

My initial thoughts are to provide a rubric that assesses the actual blog rather than the computing / ICT work that they do. By setting a scheme that awards grades for such things as ideas, reflection, creativity, data gathering, post frequency, feedback to others, organisation, appearance of blog, etc I will be able to keep the pupil informed about how they are using their blog and that they are on the right track.  I am also able to complete my reports and provide informed feedback to parents and SMT.

#digitalstudies badges

I believe, as does @sharland in his post assessing pupils’ work for #digitalstudies – my examination of badges and levels that badges are the way forward.  Badges allow the pupil to progress by taking their own route towards a solution.  Rather like gamification they can quickly pick up badges for work that they are already proficient at, whilst also being encouraged to persevere for those badges that they do not yet have the skills for.

Using a PBL approach, solutions cannot be achieved unless a broad range of badges have been collected; however, the badge system must also differentiate.  By including badge levels (e.g. Novice, Intermediate, Advanced) pupils of all abilities will be able to reach solutions.  This is where the real skill in delivering #digitalstudies will come into play – Problems must be set so that all pupils have the chance of reaching a solution no matter their ability.  The weaker pupils should be encouraged to collect the Novice badges and aim for Intermediate where they are stronger, whilst the stronger  pupils should be aiming for Advanced status throughout their journey.

There is still some way to go to develop the badge system although @infernaldepart is looking at developing an independent system along the lines of Mozilla Open Badges.

In conclusion, the bportfolios used in #digitalstudies will allow for traditional grading as required by SMT, whilst open badges will allow a more flexible ‘grading’ system for the pupils using a type of gamification incentive.

Digitalstudies Wiki vs mind maps

This article is based on my existing mindmaps and the recently created @sharland digitalstudies wiki

When I initially got on board with the idea of creating a new ICT curriculum I thought I was in a very isolated position and that it was something that I would have to do very much on my own. That was before I realised the immense power of twitter and the incredible foresight of such people as @sharland @largerama and @infernaldepart who were also striving for the same thing. Even before this, I was also ‘borrowing’ resources from @ianaddison @simonhaughton and @chrisleach78 . I wanted to put all the brilliant resources that I had collect into a usable format that was curriculum organised and intuitive. To this end, I created my mind maps which are still indexed on the #digitalstudies page of this blog. @sharland subsequently created a wiki which he suggested could better house the resources in the mind maps; I wasn’t so sure as I had grown to be quite obsessed by what I had created, and even a little possessive!. However, it soon became apparent that once I’d had a play with Brian’s wiki, it would indeed be a more useable place to hold the resources.

The wiki is free, it is available for everyone to view or to add to; it is searchable and easily expanded. I am able to openly give credit to the creators or sharers of the resources. Most importantly to me, my initial aim of ensuring that the resources were matched to possible curriculum areas has been maintained. These are such important positives that I am now in the process of moving the maps across to the wiki and would urge others to contribute. Even if you are not #rethinkingICT in your school, the wiki is still a great place to hold what you have and to share it with others.

Everyone should also follow @infernaldepart who is currently setting up a #ictcurric Moodle style resource that will contain example lessons and ideas. Please switch between his creative commons site and the wiki when developing or delivering your own curriculum.  Remember to share your successes!

#digitalstudies resources & mindmaps

Wordle: mindmaps
I guess that this post has been a long time coming.  Before Christmas I began working on splitting up the National Curriculum into nibble sized chunks and trying to match resources, lesson ideas and plans to these so that I could have flexibility when teaching these topics.  I wasn’t interested in restricting the topics, indeed I wanted to cover as many things as possible so that I maintained flexibility how I delivered something.  It is important to me that I change what I teach according to the changing needs of my pupils and not just because that is what I said I would teach at the beginning of the year.  I believe that teachers should take decisions to omit parts of their schemes and also to add new topics according to how the year progresses.  Possibly, even more important is to have the resources to stimulate different pupils in different ways as we all know that one size does not fit all.

For quite sometime, I have been collecting lots of resources using Diigo and had made quite a good job of tagging these so that I could retrieve them easily.  I say a good job, by that I mean that I tagged them well but forgot that I had them, so didn’t know what it was I was looking for!  I needed a better way of mapping these resources, hence the mindmaps.

After a very exhaustive look on the internet for the best way of mapping the resources, I opted for Mindmeister mainly because it is quite intuitive but also because I could share the maps in the hope that others would benefit and maybe contribute.  After all, there are many many ideas out there just waiting to be shared.

I only intended to do possibly one large map that could cover all the topics.  By using collapsible nodes it could be easily navigable and therefore usable by all.  This first map, very quickly became too large so I created another one and then another and … you get the idea!

Inspired by the work that the likes of @sharland @largerma and @ianaddison had been doing on creating a new curriculum (which had the draft name of #digital and then #digitalstudies – now an actual subject in @sharland’s school) I wanted to expand these resources and took the step of using the strands based on those created at different times by @sharland and @chrisleach78 (i.e. digital technology; digital citizenship (or society); digital creativity (or authoring) and digital literacy).  The maps again grew very quickly.

In addition to the resources that I already had, I wanted to add the best lesson and project ideas that I came across using twitter.  There was so much to go through that I initially targeted the blogs of @simonhaughton and @chrisleach78 as they are truly creative and successful in what they do!  Wherever possible I make sure that the map links to original location of the resource and that I provide credit for who created the resource.  Recently, I have added ideas from @ictmagic and @lifson, whilst I also know that @infernaldepart is raring to add some of his ideas.  @chrisleach78 has also been working on the history of technology map himself adding ideas based on his current wall displays.

As interest in the maps has grown, so have the number of maps (now over 40!).  I hope that they are now really becoming a useful tool for others to dip into; however, I still really need collaborators to share the best of what they have.  Recently I reviewed whether Mindmeister was actually serving my needs and decided that it wasn’t.  Whilst I didn’t mind paying a subscription to create the maps, I was unhappy that those I wanted to share the maps with also had to pay.  This wasn’t right!  I then searched again through loads of mindmapping options but this time I am restricted:

  • It needs to be free for everyone
  • Maps need to be ‘unlimited’
  • It should be easy to use
  • The design should be easy to manipulate
  • It should be able to import mindmeister maps (I don’t want to do them all again!)

The best that I have found that meets nearly all these criteria is mind42.  It is free, unlimited and easy to use, although it isn’t quite as easy to manipulate as the placing of nodes is automatic.  Importing of mindmeister maps is a little long winded as I have to export to freemind and then import in this format.  This has resulted in some of the text links being omitted so I have to copy and paste these across (a big job when you consider the number of maps).

I want to ‘complete’ the maps ahead of #rethinkingict; however, I also realise that by their very nature they may never be completed.  My time over the next few weeks will be taken up with marking GCSE coursework so I would be grateful if others could continue to add to the maps – just let me know and I will convert to mind42 for you.

This work has taken a lot of time and I would be grateful of your comments letting me know if you are making use of the maps or if you have passed on the details to others.  Am I missing anything?  Can you contribute something?