Wednesday, 28 November 2012

New and improved Blogger mobile apps

Inspiration for a new post can happen at any place and time: on the couch, while shopping, at a game, or in the kitchen. Fortunately, mobile devices enable you to stay connected wherever you are.

With that in mind, Blogger have just launched updated apps for both Android and iOS. The updated apps include a visual facelift and other features which make it easier for you to create and share -- wherever your imagination runs wild. Some of the more notable improvements include:

  • Landscape support for composing posts
  • Sharing to Google+
  • Ability to view a scheduled post time
  • International support in 30+ languages
  • iPad support

We hope you enjoy these improvements, and keep writing great blog content on the go.

Get Blogger in the Play store to get the latest on your Android phone or the App Store for iOS devices.

Where it's @

Published in TES on 23 November, 2012 | By: Richard Vaughan
Whether it is cathartic or caustic, informative or indulgent, writing online about life in schools is soaring in popularity. Richard Vaughan reports on the rise of the teacher blogger
They sit alone in front of their computer screens. Tap, tap, tapping away in solitude, telling their readers of their working lives, sometimes offering glimpses of their joy but more often than not venting their anger in a stream of unedited prose.
They are often, but not always, hidden by a mask of anonymity. Safe behind the veils of their personas, they upload their revelations of what life in a school is really like and, by doing so, enjoy a status not unlike a masked crusader, a superhero.
They are the teacher bloggers.
Once the preserve of a particular group of eccentric individuals, usually men, back when the internet was still called the world wide web, blogging has now asserted itself as a mainstream practice. By the end of 2011, NM Incite, a joint venture between Nielsen and McKinsey that specialises in social networking, tracked more than 181 million blogs around the world. Since the late 1990s, blogs have become increasingly powerful tools and something many teachers have become more aware of.
But what makes bloggers tick, and why do they feel the need to spend their increasingly scarce free time in front of a computer screen writing about work?
"Frustration, mainly," Andrew Old says, bluntly. Old is one of the most popular and widely followed teacher bloggers. Like many bloggers, he operates under a pseudonym, which he says enables him to speak his mind freely, while protecting his school and his pupils from being identified. In short, it allows him to be as caustic as he likes without redress - something that can become addictive.
"I had just finished working in a school that I had found a particularly unpleasant experience, so I wanted to have an outlet and talk about my experiences and that started to attract attention," he says.
To begin with, Old's posts were mainly on the subject of behaviour, or rather the lack of it, and how received wisdom on the subject among teacher trainers and education experts was far from reality.
Exasperated by the continuous criticism levelled at teachers that they were to blame for bad behaviour, Old took to his computer and quickly found scores of like-minded souls who were similarly tearing their hair out.
The blog soon became a meeting place for teachers and began to evolve, moving beyond being only a place for one teacher to vent his spleen over bad behaviour in England's schools, to a talking shop that led Old to become one of the most outspoken commentators in the education debate.
"I hardly write about behaviour any more," he says. "I generally use the blog as a place to sort out my own ideas, to get my own thoughts down in writing. I find it really rewarding and people have said they are delighted to have someone like me speaking with such openness."
With the rise of microblogging and social networking, Old's audience has widened and he now has the virtual ear of education policymakers and politicians themselves - you can often find him spatting away on Twitter with, for example, Sam Freedman, a senior adviser to secretary of state Michael Gove.
Despite this prominence, Old describes himself as "just a frontline teacher" who is quite traditional in how he teaches. And despite being a Labour supporter, he has found himself agreeing with the current government on its approach to standards in schools, albeit very critical of its preponderance toward structures such as academisation.
"I think the reforms around the curriculum are very positive but the focus on structures will have absolutely no effect. What is very negative is the approach to teachers' pensions and the attempt to give senior management more powers," Old says.
"But cracking down on grade inflation and removing the equivalencies between GCSEs and vocational subjects, that does strike a chord. I mean, Every Child Matters (Labour's attempt to integrate social work and education) was just a disaster," he mutters.

From private blogger to public figure


His views led to a bond with one of the most well-known teacher bloggers of recent times. Writing under the guise of Miss Snuffy in the online diary entitled To Miss With Love, Katharine Birbalsingh charted the intimate details of a South London comprehensive and where it was going wrong.
Her blog attracted thousands of readers. Many were devoted champions of what Miss Snuffy was doing, revealing the "real life" of an inner-city school in a challenging neighbourhood.
Unapologetically brutal in its judgement on the state of the country's schools, the blog was so popular that it prompted the Conservatives to ask Birbalsingh to give a speech on her experiences at the party's first conference after coming to power in 2010.
In her address, the French teacher declared that her time in the classroom had led her to believe that England's education system was "broken", and she called for the return of rigour, discipline and respect. Education secretary Gove nodded and applauded her every word.
Her appearance was lapped up by her true blue audience and the right-wing press, propelling her to relative stardom. The speech eventually cost Birbalsingh her job but that only added to the legend that had built up around her - that she was a brave whistleblower who had used the internet to speak out against the supposed mediocrity in the country's schools.
She was handed a blogging position on The Daily Telegraph's website, a book deal was signed compiling her blog posts and she became a talking head for radio and TV on the realities of teaching in tough schools.
Bloggers such as Birbalsingh and Old, who take to their keyboards out of frustration and a desire to shed light on the realities of teaching, have opened the doors for many non-teachers to blog about their own, often myopic, views of the state of the country's schools. For example, author and journalist Toby Young often used his now-defunct blog on The Daily Telegraph's website to lambaste schools on everything from the lack of Classics to the overabundance of A grades.
The yin to Young's yang comes in the shape of journalists Fiona Millar and Melissa Benn and teacher Francis Gilbert, who between them blog on the Local Schools Network website, which promotes the idea of parents sending their children to the local state school. But away from the Left v Right political skirmishes, there are some bloggers who take to the web for far more noble purposes.
Geoff Barton, headteacher at King Edward VI School in Suffolk, says he never intended for his blog to become a big deal, but with the change in government and its manic approach to reforming the entire educational landscape, he soon found that his posts became a type of self-help group for heads - a headteachers anonymous, if you will.
"I was always a bit wary of blogging," he says. "I thought that if you spent a lot of time doing it, it would lead to accusations that you were not doing your job properly. There was also a little bit of: 'How pompous am I, thinking I've got something interesting to say?'"
It was only when changes began to happen around his own subject, English, that he felt he had something to offer to the debate. This intensified with the summer's English GCSE marking fiasco, which resulted in pupils gaining C and D grades when they would have secured Bs and Cs had they sat the same test in January rather than in June.
The scandal left many schools facing the prospect of being classed as failing as their pass rates took a substantial hit.
"When the GCSE thing happened I wanted to put stuff up so people could comment without putting their heads above the parapet as well as giving me a chance to vent my spleen," Barton says. "I would speak to other heads and put their comments up verbatim."
The blog quickly became something of a network, giving heads the chance to speak out against what was happening without putting themselves in the firing line.

"I was getting messages from headteachers who said they would often find themselves sitting alone, crying because they no longer liked what they had become," Barton says openly. "It gives a sense of what it is like to be a headteacher these days."
"There is an element of a self-help group about it, particularly as there is a growing climate of fear at the moment, even if that is overstating it slightly," he admits. "Under the previous administration there was always the strain and pressure of being a headteacher, but there was a feeling that you were part of a greater network of schools, be it specialist status or whatever. Now people are writing about the sense of isolation that is part of being a head these days."

While Barton refuses to admit it, there is also a sense of duty about his blogging. His decision to speak out about the GCSE debacle came out of an obligation not only to his pupils but also to the many followers of his blog.
This sense of responsibility is something keenly felt by SchoolDuggery, who is a different kind of blogger in that she operates almost entirely on Twitter. As a chair of governors and a parent, SchoolDuggery has a vested interest in the state of schools. And with more than 22,000 followers on the microblogging site, she has a potential audience that rivals a small news outlet.
"When I wasn't working, it did feel as though it was a duty," she says. "I am now employed two days a week so I can't give as much time to it, and I feel as though I am neglecting it. But before, it did feel like something I was obliged to do.
"The first thing I did when I woke up, before I got out of bed, was reach for the phone and see what announcement had been made. I knew from what people would tell me that I was their source of education news, so it feels like a responsibility."
Indeed, during the coalition's first year, when education reforms were being introduced and implemented at a relentless pace, SchoolDuggery felt that her Twitter feed was carrying the duty to report on the changes more than the mainstream press.
"The press has caught up a bit but for the first year of the new government I don't think they were paying enough attention to the juggernaut of reforms that were brought in under Michael Gove," she says.

The power of Twitter


"Twitter was much more aware of it. People on there were saying: 'This is really significant stuff. Why aren't people talking more about education? It should be front page news.'"
The rise of Twitter has had the biggest impact on the teacher blogger's reach. Before Twitter was created, setting up a blog and tapping away about your thoughts and feelings was akin to popping a message in a bottle and dropping it in the ocean. But Twitter changed that, giving people direct access to journalists, politicians, policymakers and, of course, other bloggers.
According to Laura McInerney, a former teacher and prolific blogger on education policy, the introduction of Twitter was a game changer.
Having graduated from Oxford with a degree in philosophy, politics and economics, McInerney signed up to Teach First and spent six years teaching citizenship and social sciences in an East London comprehensive.
Like many teachers, she had a keen interest in the decisions that policymakers and politicians were making, but felt she had very little opportunity to engage in the debate and give her thoughts on how a certain policy might work in practice. Her blog was an attempt to redress the balance, and Twitter has given her the opportunity to direct policymakers straight to it.
"It is very hard to be at consultations or meetings about various education policies as a teacher," McInerney says. "Headteachers have much more flexibility, but as a teacher you spend 50 to 60 hours a week in school. I was lucky because I was a Teach First teacher in a school in London so had a little more access, but it was clear that no one was asking teachers about policies."
McInerney took it upon herself to change that, and to comment on what she saw as people sitting in offices coming up with policies, rather than speaking to teachers at the chalk face.
"I am not a journalist, so I can't ring people up and quote them, but what I can do is tell you what it is like to be in a classroom and to think through how a policy might work if it does come in," she says. "I can look at it and say: 'This is what has been intended but from my experience this is the likely outcome.'"
A link to her blog can then be fired straight at the decision makers and policy advisers to the education secretary, often via Twitter. And very often they respond.
"When I blog I always try to say something new. I am not writing to try and get hits just for the sake of it, but to say something useful, to add something to the debate," McInerney adds.
"Add something" is what teacher bloggers certainly do. They illustrate, whether the reader agrees with them or not, just how much power a teacher, a computer and an internet connection can wield.
Although it might start out as a cathartic process to air their frustrations, their fears and even their surprise - or as a stand against what they see as injustice - their words and a cable link to the world wide web mean that they can capture the attention of the very highest levels of society.
Indeed, the quiet tap, tap, tapping of their keyboard can quickly become a clamour along the corridors of Whitehall and the offices of Fleet Street. And they can make a difference.



  • Toby Young
  • Journalist, author and free school pioneer
  • Readership: 9
  • Political sway: 8
  • Teacher allegiance: 2
  • Chalk face experience: 1
  • Aggravation: 10
  • Twitter following: 32,040
  • Katharine Birbalsingh
  • Teacher, former blogger and starting a free school
  • Readership: 7
  • Political sway: 9
  • Teacher allegiance: 5
  • Chalk face experience: 7
  • Aggravation: 9
  • Twitter following: 2,788
  • Geoff Barton
  • Headteacher, blogger and TES columnist
  • Readership: 6
  • Political sway: 5
  • Teacher allegiance: 8
  • Chalk face experience: 10
  • Aggravation: 2
  • Twitter following: 7,053
  • Andrew Old
  • Teacher and blogger
  • Readership: 5
  • Political sway: 4
  • Teacher allegiance: 8
  • Chalk face experience: 8
  • Aggravation: 6
  • Twitter following: 1,803
  • UK Education Matters
  • Mother, school governor and tweeter
  • Readership: 8
  • Political sway: 2
  • Teacher allegiance: 6
  • Chalk face experience: 1
  • Aggravation: 5
  • Twitter following: 22,146
  • Laura McInerney
  • Former teacher, blogger and PhD student
  • Readership: 2
  • Political sway: 3
  • Teacher allegiance: 9
  • Chalk face experience: 7
  • Aggravation: 6
  • Twitter following: 2,263
  • Tom Bennett
  • Teacher, blogger and TES behaviour guru
  • Readership: 5
  • Political sway: 4
  • Teacher allegiance: 8
  • Chalk face experience: 8
  • Aggravation: 4
  • Twitter following: 4,285
  • Frank Chalk
  • Teacher and blogger
  • Readership: 8
  • Political sway: 3
  • Teacher allegiance: 9
  • Chalk face experience: 9
  • Aggravation: 6
  • Twitter following: 185
  • Ewan McIntosh
  • Former teacher and technological whizz
  • Readership: 8
  • Political sway: 7
  • Teacher allegiance: 7
  • Chalk face experience: 7
  • Aggravation: 3
  • Twitter following: 15,287
  • David Weston
  • Education consultant, former teacher and blogger
  • Readership: 7
  • Political sway: 2
  • Teacher allegiance: 6
  • Chalk face experience: 8
  • Aggravation: 1
  • Twitter following: 4,045.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Extreme Environments

Extreme Environments is a free iBook that I found earlier this week on the Digital Geography blog. The book has four chapters about challenging environments, the characteristics of extreme environments, the opportunities and challenges of extreme environments, and the potential impact of climate change on extreme environments. Within each chapter students can take notes and create flashcards. Each chapter has clearly outlined objectives. Throughout the book there are interactive graphics and quizzes in which students can test their understanding the topics covered in the book.

Applications for Education
Extreme Environments could be a great resource for students studying glaciers, deserts, and the unique physical geographic characteristics that they contain.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Why Computer Science?

Why Computer Science?

What will the world look like in 10 years?
The digital world is such a dynamic world. That’s what I love about it. But how can we possible know or even imagine what our world is going to look like 10, even 5 years from now? We do not know what technologies will be available or even what kind of problems the world will be facing. How can we possibly prepare our students for that world?

Regardless of what country we come from, what culture we grow up in, and what economic conditions we live in…we all must solve the problems in our world……our local world…and our global world. We need tools in order to do that. And the tools of today are digital. The people who are in command of those digital tools will be the leaders of academia, research, business, politics, entertainment, and philanthropy.We’ve got to teach the students now how to learn to design, build, program, and reprogram their own digital tools so they can solve those problems.
What is Computer Science?
So, how do we do that? One of the greatest digital “tools” available in our world today is Computer Science. It is central to all subject areas and vital in almost every known industry. It is the cross-curricular by definition. And solving problems is what it does.

Computer Science teaches students how to use build something, maybe a new tool, using technology, computation thinking, imagination, logic, problem solving, and creativity. I tell my students if they can think of it and describe it, we can make it happen on the screen in front of them. That might be a new game to teach difficult concepts to kids, a mobile app for the smartphone to help better manage business inventory, a new data analysis software program for the medical research lab, maybe….. even a design for an entirely new device. It gives people the power and ability to build their own digital solutions to solve their own problems. They can program, or reprogram whatever device is available to accomplish what they need. Computer Science gives you the tools to do that yourself, right there, with your own mind, with your own hands
And what’s great about many of the Computer Science development tools…they are (mostly) free. Many international level companies (such as Microsoft, Google, and Apple) and universities (Carnegie Melon & M.I.T.) provide almost everything FREE of charge. So, schools with limited economic resources can actually design and implement a good Computer Science program.
Educators love to say that we embrace failure and that we’ve got to let our students fail. But, in reality we do not do that. When a student fails a test, we send letter home to the parents, the advisor is notified, the teacher writes on the test “Johnny, I was expecting much better than this”. The student’s average goes down. Johnny probably gets grounded at home and the parents start asking about tutors. That low grade may keep him from entering honors and AP classes. It may keep her out of certain colleges. It may keep him from receiving certain awards. Hmmmm….far from embracing failure, huh?

Can we embrace failure?
The Computer Science classroom has no choice but to embrace failure. When we write programs and work with various devices, we’ve got to rely on trial and error and failure to help us figure things out. The messages we get, the things we see on the screen, the incorrect outputs we generate, and the crash reports are our tools for success. In a typical class a student will “fail” 20 or 30 times. In fact, it’s hard not to fail. Most computer programs can be solved in a variety of ways; rarely is there a “right” way to do it.

If you talk with successful project-based Computer Science teachers, you’ll get the same stories about how kids love class, enrollment numbers are going up, the energy in their classrooms, the collaboration, how they create some incredible programs, how they also come up with solutions and strategies that we never expected. Why is that? Well, think about it this way–for most students they are told what to do every day of their life. From the moment they wake up, they are told what to wear, where to go, when to go and when to stop, what to do when they get there. When they get to class, the teacher tells them what to do and for how long. At practice after school, coach tells them exactly what to do. At home that night, mom and dad make them study then say when to go to bed. The Computer Science classroom offers an escape from that. We say come into our room. Here are some challenges to attempt. There is not necessarily any one answer to our problems and projects. In fact, even what we are assigning can be interpreted differently. Finally the students are in control… not just of their own life, but of their own learning. They get to decide exactly what the computer will do, how it will do it, how long it will do it for, and how it will communicate that it did it. And they can change it right there and instantly see the effect. They can fine tune it, or they can overhaul the entire project. All right there.–right in front of their eyes. They are encouraged to “try it, let’s see what it does” It’s one of the few times in a student’s life like where they have complete control. That’s partly why they love Computer Science.
Ok, I’ll bite. I get it and I see your points…..So, what are the first steps?

Are our graduation requirements outdated?
First: recognize what Computer Science is, why it’s crucial in our world, and consider Computer Science as a fundamental core component of education. What I mean is we have to value Computer Science as central to education as we do language, math, chemistry, and history. In an academic career, students should have as many Computer Science projects as they do essays is English and history class. Programming a computer or device must be looked at in the same way we look at reading and writing. Middle schools, high schools and universities must make it required for graduation. Universities must require Computer Science courses in every major.

Applications such as Microsoft Office, blogging, and photo & movie editing are excellent tools in the various subject areas we teach in our schools. But, those applications must be taught in subject area classrooms, not in the Computer Science classroom. Subject area teachers MUST embrace those tools as much as they value the pencil, paper, and book. Expertise of those applications must be part of the science, math, science, and language classroom experience. Teachers at each grade level must all agree that students mastering technology is a regular part of the day.
That allows us to start Computer Science early. In my school, we’ve got Computer Science introduced as early as the 3rd and 4th grade. If they choose, students can take Computer Science every year until they graduate high school. It cannot be something they take above and beyond an already determined academic path. To accomplish that requires us to ask some really tough questions. Do we really need to teach history, foreign language, and math so many years? Do all classes really need to meet every day? Do all classes really need a full year or even a full semester in order to accomplish their goals? Are the standard required courses in all divisions still relevant?
We must prepare students for the world they are going into, and that world is digital. We are still stuck preparing the students for the world that we went into a generation ago. Students of today see the obvious need for Computer Science in their future. They “get it”. Some of the parents “get it”. Some teachers “get it.” But education in general does not. There will be a time in our future where we will look back and say, “…what took us so long?” Why must we wait for that time to change?

Taking your exisiting passions to new levels
What I am NOT suggesting is that we abandon other disciplines, subject areas, and majors. In fact, quite the opposite, we need those doctors, entrepreneurs, engineers, vets, small business managers, and lawyers to follow their passion and be leaders in their industries, but to also have a Computer Science edge to them…..the ability to create and modify their own tools. As they look to be innovative and distinguish themselves, they will be able to design their own tools, exactly as they need. They will be able to embrace and use new technologies as they develop. Technology and the ability to use, program, and reprogram that technology is what will allow them to be leaders in their fields.

The ability to be in control of and in command of technology, not the other way around…is such an obvious need to me. Yet, I am amazed that colleges don’t require it of incoming freshman; few high schools really teach it; few high schools actually requite it to graduate; almost no middle schools teach it; and it is nonexistent in elementary schools. Sometimes I feel like I am standing over a wooden maze in laboratory. Inside is a rat making the same wrong turns, going backwards, hitting dead ends. And because I am standing over it, I can see the exit right there, just one corner away. It’s so obvious the correct way forward. And “winning” is so close, yet so unclear to the rat. The rat does not even know that it is in a maze, or that it is trying to find its way out. It’s just wandering around. Eventually, when the rat does accidentally find the exit, then it will be obvious to it as well. That cannot be how we educate our students.
I would give credit if I knew who said it, but in the end…..“…program or be programmed…”
update(Thanks to Alfred Thompson)…….That is the title of a book by Douglas Rushkoff

Friday, 16 November 2012


Next Generation CiDA

DiDA in its current form will certificate for the last time in summer 2014. The following resources will be useful to those of you beginning next generation Certificate in Digital Applications (CiDA) with your current year 9 learners, or planning to start the course with year 10s in September 2013.
You can download a copy of the draft specification and access the Sample Assessment Material for the new Unit 1: Developing Web Products, including the task, mark scheme and assets, from the CiDA pages.

You will also find links to the sample SPBs for Unit 2: Creative MultimediaUnit 3: Artwork and Imaging and  Unit 3: Game Making. The live SPBs for the new CiDA qualification will be available in January.

Training for NG CiDA.
We are planning to run a series of face to face "Get Ready to Teach" events for teachers delivering the new CiDA qualification. If you would be interested in attending these events or would like to offer feedback on the format, please email us on and put "Training for NG CiDA" in the subject field.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

What if the Internet ran out of room?

Was reading the tweets for the PUN.NET team here and didn't understand what they were doing!!!!
So I asked and found out this , quite interesting and had missed my education focused world.
What if the Internet ran out of room?
In fact, it's already happening.
Click here to find out more.