Free stuff! For free.

It’s going to be one of those days. Earlier I uploaded my newly created Image technology for computing CSI style resources, and now after much faffing about (and general non payment of commission) by Amazon, I’ve uploaded a link to the PDF version of the book here.

If I’m not going to get paid for it, at least it might help someone get into coding. And that’s worth a free (and legitimate) download.

All I ask is that you acknowledge it’s mine and chuck a link to the page, or at the very least keep my name on the book. It is my hard work and a good few months of my life there!

Enjoy ­čÖé

download from my book page

CSI in the classroom – Teaching Imaging Technology

You know you’ve watched a bit too much CSI when you start planing lessons around it. The start of next half term for my GCSE & AS Computing people will commence with a spreadsheet. Yep, a spreadsheet.

The plan is to introduce some practice of the binary & hexadecmial that they looked at last hald term and combine this with an understanding of bitmap and vector images and the theory behind them. (It’s the zoom in, enhance that image ongoing joke that prompted the whole project) There is a real possibility of this topic being very dry and losing the interest that was sparked in the first half term with programming. When it’s dry, it’s just as boring to teach as it is to be taught. Enter CSI School…

The spreadsheet guides them through a set of tasks where they answer questions and undertake practical activities from picking out hexadecimal colours from a bitmap to find a secret message, to writing a program to calculate maximum file size, to using a drawing list to create a vector.

I’m planning on this taking a good 6 lessons for them to go through all the tasks and create a set of written notes (A Level) to highlight the key terminology.

CSI School Dashboard

It looks like fun. So, here’s a copy of the resources basically because I’m lovely.

CSI School

Note: You’ll also need the BMP file and password for the ‘nope’ sheet. Please drop me a message and I’ll email them to you (wordpress don’t allow bitmap uploads)

All PGCE Courses should include saying the word ‘penis’ in public.

And it’s official. I’ve made it through my first term back in the state sector and ya boo sucks to you Hogwarts, I’ve not only made the last 8 weeks alive, but emotionally in tact! Today’s teaching was sponsored by a litre bottle of Kick (cheap own brand Redbull) which counteracted the minimal sleep and made me a VERY enthusiastic teacher, with only minor chest pains.

I’ve discovered a number of things so far:

I don’t speak teenage girl anymore. The speed at which deliver detailed information about their incestuous friendship groups indicates that their brains must be functioning at breakneck speed. This is usually reflected in their essays which contain volumes upon volumes of words. Words that eventually lead to a point which may or may not be connected to the original question. I may mock here, but I clearly remember being in year 10 & 11 and all the hysterics and heartbreaks that go with it. It’s not a great time for those who feel the need to be very small adults before they’ve learnt to appreciate being outrageous college kids. The TV show The Inbetweeners has unwittingly done a huge favour to a generation that suddenly saw what they could do between child and adult stages. They made a levels attractive in a way no educator or government ever could. And. AND they coined the phrases ‘clunge’ and ‘buswanker’. Pure bottled genius.

I know my shit. You’d hope so really, but there are still times that I wonder if I’m just spouting a load of tosh. Turns out, I can pick up two new programming languages and teach them without a nervous breakdown. Python & Pascal, I salute you for being decent languages which support the syllabus and have a place in industry (if only because Pascal is derived from C++ and as such borrows a fair amount of syntax). Not only do I know my programming, but I am an algorithm goddess (after a glass of wine, or too much redbull). Today’s end of half term brain teaser was an algorithm which included the need for iteration and selection which described how to recharge Mrs B. This involved a process of eating pizza and drinking beer. Once beer percentage was less than 0.1%, Mrs B must be pronounced asleep. A few of them (sixth form! Not school age! Theirs was much more age appropriate!) traced the algorithm and shouted from across the room “Miss, is this your plan tonight? You’re going to eat pizza and drink beer ’til you fall asleep??…. Lad!”. Bless, yes that is my plan (actually, it’s fried chicken and beer), but it also includes knitting and TV. Not quite the lad.

State school isn’t scary! Much to the contrary of the horror stories told at Hogwarts, state school is a NICE place to work. With supportive teams that want to make education enjoyable. It’s not a walk in the park, and there are classes that I walk out of wondering if evolution really is right. But, on the whole as long as you’re ok with standing your ground (without losing your temper) and are not disturbed by the teenage boy sense of humour, then combined with a few years experience and a diary that holds details of everything you need to achieve each day, it’s frankly the best job ever.

A note on teenage boy humour – look in the mirror. Now say penis, willy, porn, boobies and breasts and the top of your voice. Red in the face? You’re doomed. All PGCEs should include a full unit (hehe) on saying and hearing the word penis without reaction. Differentiation could apply here – top achieves could also show no reaction to vajazzle, pussy wagon and shclong alongside descriptions of their latest piercings.

Just a thought.

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Computer Science…. Just for fun.

I set my year 1 GCSE computing classes a little riddle to keep them going from now until after half term. It doesn’t count towards their course, it’s just a brain teaser to keep them interested. I’m slowly weaning them onto mathematical jokes.

We are just delving into the realms of Denery, binary, hexadecimal and Octal….

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Ada, that’s ADA Lovelace

It’s International Ada Lovelace day today, and as a fully fledged computer science teacher (and a bit of a feminist on the side) my classes today were filled with projects on investigating and creating something for the findingada.com website.

Cue fun lessons and me getting totally overexcited about why the Difference Engine and Analytical Engine were so important. They created some stunning stuff.

….. It’s all fun and games until someone Googles her name without the Ada bit….

“Miss, is this her?!”
“No. DO NOT click that!!!”

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Is It Irresponsible for Teachers to Strike?

I love my job. When I’m in a classroom and in full geeky computer science swing, I am in pure heaven. Even the planning has it’s silver lining (organisation of stuff gives me a bit of a zen glow), and despite the UN between teenagers and lip that is given, and the weekends spent ploughing through marking, I teach because it’s in my bones.

Of course, Mr Gove happily piles in on a regular basis and shakes things up, but each time he has so far, we’ve rolled with the punches. Unfortunately, as with many abusive relationships, he’s no longer happy with the occasional slap, Mr Gove now wants to see teachers suffer, and he’s involving the children. It’s the point at which the kids are affected that can be the catalyst for the abused partner to stand up and say enough, and that appears to be what the unions are trying to do. And in a similar manner to the abuser, the government are making loud noises to anyone who will listen that the teachers are mad and making it all up.

There is a planned strike with NUT members shortly which has been a subject of much thought for me. There are huge pros and cons, and the public discussion about the issues has been so brief, it’s unlikely anyone outside of the profession will really understand it. So here, laid bare is my own inner monologue used to make my own decision:

Plans which are disputed – changes to pensions / changes to pay.

Changes to pensions.

This one is easy. I have facts and figures!

Government standpoint: Teachers are getting a good deal. Why should they be any different from the private sector?

My thoughts: I totally agree with the second point. My husband and I both pay into a pension at a rate of 7.5% of gross income. He is expected to retire at 60 with a current estimate of 120% of his current annual wage (as his plan takes inflation into account). I am expected to retire at 68 with a current estimate of 70% of my current annual wage. I don’t need a further maths qualification to explain who gets a better deal.

Changes to Pay

Ok, this one is a bit more complex and was actually the one that caused me to smell a Gove shaped rat.

Government standpoint: Introduce Performance related Pay to weed out ineffective teachers and reward the best performers.

My thoughts:
Performance related pay works in certain environments. Especially in places where targets are clear and there is little room for grey areas. I have my kids on PrP of a kind – they receive a base weekly pocket money and their upper level is set based upon the number and quality of the household chores they undertake. It’s a mercenary business, but they learn responsibility and I get the Sunday dinner vegetables peeled for a combined total of 50p (bargain). Targets are clear and they have a financial goal to be working towards (I’m sure a pair of Heelys is well worth 20 minutes a week of peeling veg!). But if they opt not to take on a task, or only opt for the higher paid rewards, no one is deeply affected. Individuals won’t suffer.

If on the other hand, you make teacher salaries linked directly to the results that their students achieve, a fundamental change happens in the profession of education. It’s no longer about encouraging every child to do their best, even if that best might be a D. It’s now about getting everyone through that exam factory and meeting the targets. And how do you best do that? Well, you cream the top performers and leave the ones who really need the education system to work with them to someone else. It’s a scenario played out across the country in many independent schools who’s results are directly linked to their future intake and as such their financial stability. If your child is likely to affect the stats, ‘the suitability conversation’ isn’t far behind.

This worries me on several levels.

Firstly, industry leaders and higher education institutions are looking to stop this exam factory scenario and teach more of the ‘soft skills’ that Gove wants to ditch. The more academic and cerebral he insists the qualifications become, the less employable these kids become. Academia post school is a wonderful place for some, but it is not suited for everyone and teaching kids to be self sufficient learners with good self esteem is not a waste of time as Gove suggested in one particular speech.

Secondly, what happens to the kids who are difficult to teach? What happens to the kids who struggle academically? What happens to those who aren’t emotionally equipped to develop mature study skills? I didn’t become a teacher to only help the bright kids who automatically engage (although I thank a variety of deities for their existence some days!), seeing a child who is fighting tooth and nail to disengage have a sudden lightbulb moment and smile is worth a thousand easy lessons. But, imagine the pressure on the teacher internally if they know that helping that child could take time away from their preparation and marking which could impact on their ability to keep their own family financially stable. I know few teachers who feel easy with this idea.

Finally, as. Parent, this concerns me at a much deeper level. Whilst I know that I couldn’t morally walk away from a class just because they were difficult, I have the safety net of LSH who works in the private sector and allows me to work in a job which ultimately pays a lot less than I could get if I took off and worked as a developer again. He’s happy to sacrifice some of the luxuries for me to love my job. He is a good man. Not every teacher has that backing. I don’t want my daughter to be the one who gets ignored or moved because she causes a fuss and asks awkward questions, or has high spirits. I don’t want their teachers to have to make personal decisions about if teaching them will affect them financially. I want them to be taught by people who feel valued and respected for the knowledge and talents that they have.

So when I am asked why I am or I am not striking this month, I will refer people to the impact it will likely have on the many thousands of children in state education. Am I prepared for this relationship to affect my children? Or is it time we moved out of reach of Michael Gove’s wild punches?

Some day when I’m awfully low, and the world is cold…

I was checking my emails today looking for a reminder for something and saw a random email had come through asking me about the book I wrote for GCSE Computing before last academic year. I duly replied and sent a link to the ebook on Amazon┬áand offered a paper copy┬áif needed. Then┬áI realised I’d got a review on the book.

“Cool!”, I think. This means someone’s actually read it. It was better than that.

It was a review from one of my old students….

Amazon Review

It’s been a tough old week and this was just the loveliest thing to find. I hope they’re doing well this year.