Lessons from a strange year: computing teachers’ blended learning finds and fails

Two years ago we published ‘What’s a London CLC computing conference like?’ following the summer 2018 conference and, looking back, it feels like a different world with its photos of teachers huddled around a table in a workshop creating circuits with a Crumble and Sparkle. Not to mention the long table piled high with lunch!

We might not be able to meet in person at London CLC’s HQ in Clapham at the moment but we can still gather remotely to share experiences, get updates and learn from each other. And that’s what 30 primary school computing subject leaders did last week over Zoom at our autumn 2020 computing conference. 

Despite the absence of sandwiches and fun kit to play with, it still felt like a London CLC computing conference.  There were updates about CLC activities and a presentation of useful resources, from Hour of Code to the latest online safety news. And there were two really key elements of our conferences: sharing experiences with other educators, and valuable CPD. 

Lessons from a rather strange year

One of the most appreciated elements of our conferences is the networking. Time and again teachers tell us how much they value the community of practice we enable and the opportunity to share ideas and experiences and hear how others are tackling an issue. It’s also one of the things that is hardest to transfer from face-to-face over coffee to Zoom. 

Our solution was a padlet with a series of columns with intriguing titles:

The shredder
What did you try that really didn’t work?

The shop window
What did you try that you would recommend?

The greenhouse
What did you try that has strong potential?

The pantry
What did you try that is here to stay?

The museum
What did you try that was fine for the time?

Teachers were invited to share their finds and their fails from this strange year of remote and blended learning and they did it with enthusiasm. We all learnt that whole class show and tells on Zoom really weren’t a great idea but that recorded and virtual assemblies were a hit. Twitter worked well for one school:

“Using Twitter as a way to stay connected as a whole school community. Every morning teachers checked in with their class and signposted the learning for the day and it also acted as a space for the school community to share their learning with each other.”

While another teacher, in early years, found that an EYFS newsletter was a success:

“The parents love getting an inside look into the classroom and fully understanding what we do each week.”

And another recommended Screencastify as an alternative to Loom:

“It has several additional tools that help – eg focus mouse and the ability to write on the screen.”

G-suite has proved to be a long-term solution for one school:

“We set up G-suite accounts for all our children.  The google classrooms are used for blended learning and to set homework for the whole class.  It is also a very useful tool for dialogue between home and the teacher.  We have also integrated the other programs within G-suite (doc, slides, sheets etc…) into our curriculum and are moving our planning onto slides and our server onto drive.  This will allow our teachers to plan from home without needing to remote access our school’s server.”

Workshops

And. of course, there are also the very useful CPD workshops.  There were four on offer in Zoom breakout groups.

EYFS computational thinking with Peter Lillington was packed full of resources to help those in early years introduce more computational thinking activities in the classroom, appropriate to the age group. Peter included longtime favourite Linda Liukas and Hello Ruby, new Barefoot Computing lessons, Hour of Code unplugged and our own Co-Make project.  The workshop presentation and resources are all captured on this padlet

Top tools for creating dialogue with Caitlin McMillan was a whistlestop tour around three incredibly useful yet simple to use tools – Google Forms, Flipgrid and Mentimeter. Caitlin showed how to create quizzes in Google Forms, create and facilitate video discussion in Flipgrid and set up polls in Mentimeter. Catch up with the presentation.

Cross curricular learning in Scratch with Rowan Roberts shared examples of the types of Scratch and Scratch Jr projects that easily lend themselves to special projects. Rowan ran through two in Scratch Jnr – touch to talk and simple animation – and two in Scratch: animated documentary and virtual museum. She explained how they were made and how to try it yourself. Find out more on this padlet.

Working in partnership with parents during Covid with Sarah Horrocks was full of advice and practical guidance to building better relationships with parents, from ‘jigsaw pieces’ to help parent engagement to scaffolding questions and particular support for parents of children with SEND. Learn more here.

Computing conferences 2021

If your appetite has been whetted by the riches on offer (with or without sandwiches), don’t miss our next conference on Tuesday 8 June. 

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Upcoming CPD

Summer primary school computing conference
Summer primary school computing conference

This event will build upon the Autumn computing conference by inviting subject leaders to reflect on their year in the role, sharing their successes and challenges. It will also introduce new ideas, tools and approaches through talks and practical activities led by members of the CLC team, with opportunities for attendees to share their own expertise and experience. Over the course of the conference activities will touch on the three main areas of the computing curriculum: computer science, digital literacy and information technology. We will also feature advice and examples illustrating the use of technology to support blended learning.

14/06/22,
09:15
- 15:30
EYFS, KS1, KS2
Computing subject leaders, Teachers...
Creative Arts, Digital and children – CLC meets More Than Robots online
Creative Arts, Digital and children - CLC meets More Than Robots online

Combining forces for the first time, the Connected Learning Centre and More Than Robots have created a session for teachers, youth organisations, researchers and policymakers interested in the digital provision of creative arts for primary aged pupils.

Presentations

The Play Observatory - Prof. John Potter

“In their own words”: Westminster Abbey & CLC digital projects - Sian Shaw

Building (and maintaining) a city-wide primary arts curriculum to raise attainment - Kate Fellows

More to be added soon

This interactive and inclusive meet up will include inspiring examples of how technology can be used to support learning in music, visual art and drama in person and online at home drawing on our experiences as Tate Exchange associates and our partnership work with a range of cultural institutions.

This informal event is an opportunity to discuss real examples of what does/doesn’t work, meet colleagues from other sectors working on similar challenges and share useful research, news or updates

The morning will include case study presentations (details below) followed by a Q&A. There will also be an opportunity for a rapid sharing round for launches, project updates or requests for help and a short break to avoid zoom brain drain.

24/06/22,
09:30
- 11:30
KS1, KS2
Subject leaders, Teachers...

Upcoming Special projects

The News Project
25/11/21,
09:30
- 14:25
KS2

Special project in collaboration with First News Education

For a third year, building on two successful previous projects, we are once again partnering with the children’s newspaper First News, fellow member of the national Making Sense of Media and News Literacy networks. This special project with a literacy, PSHE and citizenship, as well as computing focus, highlights our specialist interest in this important aspect of digital and critical literacy.

The News Project will enable participating classes from year 5 to immerse themselves in news and current affairs using First News and the Bett award-winning First News iHUB, which will be provided free of charge during the school-based part of the project over a six week period. Under the guidance of their teacher, pupils will be supported in their development as a community of fully informed news readers. Classes will test their new critical skills and knowledge in the culminating virtual celebration event which will include a news competition and team-based critical literacy and editorial activities. After the event, schools will be able to use the resources from the day in their school.

The project will launch with an introductory CPD session for teachers to set the context, demonstrate resources and to plan for the school-based activities. 

Initial CPD session - Thursday 21st October 4pm-5.00pm. 

Project work undertaken in school - October and November.

Special event - Thursday 25th November 9.30am-2.45pm.

The Garden Museum
21/02/22,
-
KS1

The CLC is once again partnering with the Garden Museum to offer a partnership project for KS1 pupils (primarily suited to Yr2). Located next to Lambeth Palace on the bank of the Thames, the museum has an inspiring collection that provides the ideal stimulus for young learners to explore the world around them.

Pupils will use technology alongside the museum’s collection to explore the wonderful world of seeds.

  • How are they planted?
  • How do they spread?
  • What is inside them?

 The Garden Museum has a large collection of seeds and tools that pupils will engage with.

These half-day sessions will take place at the Garden Museum.

There is a limited number of dates available, so please book early to avoid disappointment.

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