Life moves pretty fast

F Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Originally uploaded by eddidit

Work-life balance is a funny thing (unlike a teacher banging on about work-life balance, which is neither funny nor original). As you might have gathered, my blogging has been suffering of late, as have many other things on my to-do list.

Revision videos for computer science, a unit of work on infographics, Mukoku courses, sorting out a new domain for Mukoku, Raspberry Pi stuff, a computing club, robotics & physical computing, Digital Badges, Digital Leaders and much more have all slipped and slipped.

Part of me feels guilty about all of that, but then part of me feels less guilty than it used to. A couple of months ago we lost Chris Allan (@infernaldepart). Suddenly, and without warning all the work-related things that Chris was concerned about stopped being important. And all the things I had been slipping behind with stopped being important, at least in relative terms. It’s impossible to do everything, and I accept that. But I find it too easy to focus on getting done as much as humanly possible.

That’s a really stupid thing to do.

The most that is humanly possible is more than is humanly sustainable, and if I don’t get the infographics unit written and I don’t update Mukoku as often as I should (currently around once annually!) then it doesn’t matter. Meeting up with @stevebunce, @simfin, @dominic_mcg and @hairysporan for a catch-up at Blakes is (frankly) more important. Occasional post-work visits to the pub next door to the school are more important. And with that balance comes the time and the frame of mind to start reflecting on things again.

So my infographics unit still isn’t written. Mukoku still remains domain-less and slightly out of date. But I’m looking after myself a bit more. Making sure I get some social downtime (even if it is mostly with other teachers). And I suspect my overall productivity might even rise as a result.

Why should I be teaching this?


Yesterday I posted about my new Digital Storytelling course at Mukoku. Students use audio editing software and Storybird to create both a short story and an audiobook of that story, with optional extra activities of using video editing software or presentation software to present the information in yet more forms.

I’m actually quite excited about using the course with My Year 7s next week and I’ve also enjoyed seeing my son (11) start to use Storybird himself (having co-authored 1 book and written 1 all by himself in the last 2 days).

What I don’t like is that an ICT teacher is the one doing it. English – yes. MFL (in a different context) – yes. This brings us back to the old discrete ICT vs embedded ICT argument. Should all ICT be taught through other subjects? Or none?

The answer, of course, lies somewhere in-between. Spreadsheets are undoubtedly ICT tools, and while I would like to see Science and Maths lessons using these tools, I think there needs to be discrete teaching. Databases are also ICT tools, although heading in the direction of Computing/Computer Studies. Programming is definitely Computing/Computer studies.

A lot of the ‘C’ topics in ICT could easily be taught elsewhere – creating presentations, flyers and posters, use of online tools such as email and forums. The problems here are two-fold:

Teachers in non-ICT subjects often lack the skills necessary to teach ICT effectively*. How many teachers in your school book an ICT suite and tell their students to ‘make a PowerPoint’? How many would appreciate the reasons for resizing or reformatting images? How many would appreciate just how unfailingly awful Word Art is? How many would consider having students use Prezi, video editing software or other methods of presenting the information*? Without a significant amount of training, support and practice, it is unreasonable to expect non-ICT specialists to teach these skills to the required level.

The other problem is access to equipment. PC costs have never been lower and there are an increasingly diverse range of technologies out there – notebooks, tablets, mobile devices and much more on the horizon. And yet in most schools there are just enough computers for the ICT lessons plus maybe one or two departments who have paid for their own suites (in our case MFL and DT). Teachers wanting to book an ICT suite have perhaps a 15% chance of finding one not scheduled for a timetabled lesson, falling to 1% if they leave it less than a week in advance. The chances of finding 2 or 3 lessons in a row in order to complete any significant computerised tasks is typically nil.

So there is a lot that needs doing if things are to improve. I share my ideas with other colleagues – both within my own school and through the likes of Twitter, Techy Tips and Mukoku. I offer to give up free periods to support others. I offer to hang around in my teaching room (a Mac suite) when booked by others in case they need a hand, or just the safety of knowing I’m there just in case. Sometimes I feel like I’m peeing into the wind, sometimes I think I’m trying to move a rubber tree plant.

* I am very aware that some non-ICT specialists are very knowledgeable in this area and do an awful lot of brilliant work. I am also aware that a number of ‘specialist’ ICT teachers are making pupils victims of the ‘anyone can teach IT’ policy, although they are in the minority in my experience.

More Mukoku goodness – Digital Storytelling

Will Lion

Will Lion

For those not in the UK, this is the end of a half term week – a week with no school.

So what do I do? I spend several days building up resources for new units of work. It’s official – I have no life.

But enough self-pity, I’m here to tell about the new course. For some years now I’ve been both reading to my children and listening to audiobooks. This unit takes that idea and asks students to a) write their own short story and b) record it as an audiobook and add audio editing elements using either Audacity or Garageband. I think it would work well as an ICT project, English, MFL or Primary – so everyone’s a winner!

Unusually for the mukoku site, I’ve not field-tested this course prior to release and so I can’t guarantee it’ll work perfectly. If you’re interested though, check out the course and the resources therein.

Mukoku course: Y9 programming w/Alice


As mentioned in a previous post, I have been working on a 6 week Scheme of Work aimed at introducing Year 9 students to programming, specifically with Alice for 5 lessons out of the 6. I’ve run this unit this term and have made minor changes so I’m pretty confident that I could use this ‘off the shelf’.

As always, the materials are provided with a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license and there is a full Moodle backup of the course available so you can drop it straight in if you’re Moodled up yourself.

This course (and several others) is now available at

Grand Designs


Image: roach family

You’ve seen the TV show (if you haven’t, it’s a documentary following people building their own houses), now you can do the unit of work!

At the start of Year 9 we do a full term (12-14 weeks) based around the designing and promoting of a new housing estate. The students plan the estate, design the houses in Google Sketchup, do some financial modelling, create some form of advert and finally present their work to a board of directors (because only 1 proposal will be successful and only one student will be paid!). There are also easy tie ins for data handling and even sequencing (using some of the house-based Flowol mimics).

If you’re interested, you can see all of the resources and even download them as a full Moodle course at Mukoku.


Mukoku LogoMukoku is a Japanese word, meaning ‘out of resources’. I thought it was the perfect name for a Moodle site I’ve been wanting to set up for a while – a place where I can stick resources I want to share with the world. The plan is not to stick to ICT specific topics, but to post a whole range of resources; including presentations and suggestions I’ve made for conferences, my Techy Tips newsletters and a whole range of cross-curricular ideas – in addition to some ICT specific resources as well.

Previously I’ve used and also stuck stuff on a webserver and posted links to it when requested. This way there is a permanent place and I can format things more carefully and with a lot more space than I could with the old website.

Dan Humphreys (@MoodleDan) has kindly given me the url and in time, it would be nice to have other people contributing things as well. So let me know what you think, subscribe to the RSS feed and feel free to point others in my general direction 🙂