Project Programming update

Alan Wileman, Head of ICT at English Martyrs’ Catholic School provides us with this update on the school’s Project Programming work. Staff at English Martyrs’ will be working in collaboration with students on a project which will create resources and activities for the new Computing Curriculum. The resources created through the project will be shared openly for other schools to use and build upon. The school is also setting up a student Digital Leaders group.

Alan writes:

Project Programming began earlier this year with an idea to get students learning a variety of programming languages and hoping to create lots of resources in the process. The small group of students who have been working with me are making some excellent progress and below is an update on the project so far.

To date, we have looked at the use of scratch in Year 7 and downloaded several learning resources to review, focusing on providing students with a useful and practical experience of simple 2D programming. The resources we have looked at are free to download and use from a variety of teaching websites. The main site used was TES Resources and were created by David Phillips.

The students are now working on creating the Scheme of Work to enable staff to teach the students how to program.

Our Year 8 students will soon be learning Kodu. Anyone can program in Kodu using keyboard controls, however, the software is designed to work well with xBox controllers as well – these and have had a fantastic impact on the students and their “love” for programming in the software. Likewise with the scratch resources, lots were obtained online and reviewed. However, there wasn’t as many resources out there that aided a student from a very basic level to learn the software without completing just the online tutorials, so this proved to be more of a difficult task for my group of students. All the ones they sourced and reviewed, are available from a variety of site, however, I found the site created by Nicki Cooper – Interactive Classroom to be the best. Nicki’s teaching resources are licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, which means they are free for educators to use, share and remix, as long as proper acknowledgement is given.

The students are now in the process of creating a Scheme of Work for staff to use in classes. A completed copy of the finished workbook will be available at the end of the project once the files have been combined into a new document.

In addition to the xBox controllers, we have been using Lego Mindstorms EV3 kits with learners. This was going to be, and we are still hoping for it to be, the year 9 programming language of choice. So far, the students have had fun making some of the models. Next steps are to get the software installed and complete training by Lego. Training will also be offered to local schools to attend to see the benefits from using Lego Mindstorms EV3 kits in a classroom environment.

We are also planning to use some newly purchased Raspberry Pi kits that came with manuals, bread boards, keyboards, mice and the main Pi board. Unfortunately we have hit a small hurdle with regard to the monitors we have, which are not compatible without purchasing some new leads, something we are sorting. The other option is some dedicated monitors. We will be working with these and creating some useful resources.

All resources we have added to the booklets will be available to all at the end of the project.




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Developing a digital literacy framework

Lucy Atkins and I delivered a workshop at the Association for Learning Technology annual conference, ALT-C 2014, looking at staff digital literacy. We used the DigiLit Leicester Framework strands, descriptors and questions to create two sets of worksheets (which you can download at the bottom of this post) to help structure the session. Workshop participants were mainly working in universities and further education. The aim of the workshop was to use the framework resources to model a practice embedded approach to context/workplace specific digital literacy. In Leicester, we use the framework as a self-reflective tool, to support individual staff members and schools in better understanding their strengths, and any gaps in knowledge and skills they might have. We also use it as a strategic framework to understand the city wide picture and support staff and organisational development.

The first set includes seven worksheets – a high level description of each of the six DigiLit Leicester strands  - Assessment and Feedback; Communication, Collaboration and Participation; Creating and Sharing; E-Safety and Online Identity; Finding, Evaluating and Organising; and Technology supported Professional Development, along with a mystery strand sheet (below) that we included so that participants could come up with their own digital literacy strand area.

Mystery Strand

Each sheet also includes the description of the four levels we work with (Entry, Core, Developer and Pioneer, with the descriptions being the same for each strand), as a prompt to participants.

We asked everyone work with another person or in a small group, and to either pick an existing strand area (with Assessment and Feedback being the most popular) or come up with their own – one of the groups for example chose to focus on ‘online course delivery’ as a competency area, and another chose to look at digital literacy for higher education learners.  We then gave all of the teams 15 minutes, flipchart sheets and marker pens to develop their own ideas, descriptions or questions relating to their chosen strand, practically framing these through how the strand would look at each of the four levels.

It was a busy and successful workshop – a lot of discussion was generated and groups worked hard at getting to grips with linking their ideas to practice. The DigiLit Leicester Framework has been developed with and for secondary and special school staff, so the stands and questions directly relate to them. However, much of the actual content is relevant and transferable to other groups - working within HE, FE, primary or adult education, or within a different profession or sector. This workshop demonstrated how the framework content can be used to scaffold and support organisations looking to take a strategic approach to understanding what the key digital literacy areas are most relevant to a particular group are. You can see how we have made use of the framework to structure staff development work in Leicester schools by looking at our 2014 staff digital literacy survey results, and our recent project activities report.

Assessment and feedback flipchart sheetDistance learning flipchart sheet

Teams fed back to the whole group on their discussion and initial thinking. We also provided groups with copies of our framework statements, linked to each level for the six strand areas.

Communication, collaboration and participation strand statments

These form the basis of the survey we’ve carried out city wide, with staff asked to mark the four statements groups as ‘none’ ‘some’ or ‘all’ (you can find more information about the survey methodology in the 2014 report).

If you’d like to use the worksheets to structure your own workshop or as a starting point to develop your own digital literacy framework, please do:

Pack 1 worksheets: strand and level descriptions PDF

Pack 1 worksheets: strand and level descriptions Word

Pack 2 worksheets: strand statements PDF

Pack 2 worksheets: strand statements Word



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OER Schools Guidance

OER schools icons


Leicester City Council have released four guidance documents and a range of practical information to support school staff in understanding, finding, creating, and sharing Open Educational Resources (OER).

The OER Schools resource packs can be downloaded from

Josie Fraser (Leicester City Council) worked with Dr Björn Haßler and Helen Neo (University of Cambridge) to produce the resources, which have also benefited from the input of school staff, through review and practical trialling.

OER are learning materials (including presentations, revision guides, lesson plans) that have been released under an open licence, so that anyone can use, share and build on them for free.  Many openly licensed resources are available for schools to use and develop. At a time when schools increasingly work with, and rely on, digital and web based materials, understanding how copyright works, and making the most of available resources, is essential for staff and schools.

Creating OER allows schools to connect and collaborate with others through sharing work. Sharing can also help promote the great work that school staff and schools are doing.

The DigiLit Leicester initiative, designed to support schools in making the most of the city’s current investment in technology, identified a gap in support and information for school staff relating to the use and creation of OER. In response to this, Leicester City Council is releasing a range of resources to help schools get the most out of open licensing.

The Leicester City Council OER Schools project provides information to school staff about open licencing, and in particular, Creative Commons.

Leicester City Council has also given permission to the 84 community and voluntary controlled schools across the city to create and share Open Educational Resources (OER), by releasing the learning materials they create under an open licence.  By default, the rights of work created in the course of employment are assigned to the employer, unless specific agreements have been made. This permission makes sharing resources simpler for everyone, and provides additional opportunities for schools and school staff. Leicester City Council is the first local authority in the UK to provide its school employees with permission to openly license their resources.

The OER Schools project resources include:

School permission & policy documents:  This pack includes notification of permission from Leicester City Council to city community and voluntary controlled schools, explanatory briefing notes relating to this permission, and model school policies (which builds on the Albany Senior High School Creative Commons Policy) for schools where the LEA is the employer, and for schools where the governing body (or equivalent) is the employer.

Guidance documents: Four documents which introduce OER and open education; look at copyright and Creative Commons licences; support staff in finding, attributing and remixing OER; and cover creating and sharing OER.

Supporting Documents:  Six supporting documents designed to help staff in delivering OER workshops; provide walkthroughs for finding, using and attributing CC Licensed materials; and include an extensive list of annotated resources and related materials.

Additional materials:  A pack of existing openly licensed resources that are either referenced in the guidance or in activities in the supporting documents, provided on a standalone basis to make life easier for school staff.

All of the materials build upon existing openly licensed works and are themselves released under a CC-BY licence. They are provided in editable documenr formats as well as PDF.

The council is also encouraging voluntary aided schools, foundation schools and academies across the city to review their own approach to digital resources, and to see how they can make the most of open licensing.  At these schools, the governing body (or equivalent) is usually the employer.

All of the resources can be downloaded from


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DigiLit Leicester Celebration Event

On Thursday 11 September, the DigiLit Leicester team hosted an event to showcase and celebrate the ambitious work carried out by the project team and participating schools over the last two years. The evening was a great opportunity for staff from schools and other organisations to be inspired by how Leicester BSF staff are making use of technology to enhance learning and school communities. The highlights video (above) captures some of the of exciting projects presented by Leicester school staff.

The evening began with an opening address from Cllr Vi Dempster (Assistant City Mayor for Children, Young People and Schools), and an introduction by Professor Richard Hall (DigiLit Leicester’s academic lead), which highlighted the importance of the two year project, which represents a new model for implementing digital literacy aimed at transforming the provision of secondary education across a city.

Following an overview of the 2014 Survey data, the team handed over to staff from a number of BSF ICT Innovation projects to showcase the innovative and effective ways that staff in Leicester schools have been using technology:

Bring Your Own Device Trial

Tony Tompkins – The City of Leicester College

Over the last year, The City of Leicester College have been carrying out the city’s first trial of a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model in the city, with a Year 8 (aged 12-13) tutor group of 23 students. The scheme involved the students using iPad minis in lessons and at home – working with staff to investigate the ways in which the device could add value to the learning experience.

Tony led the project and carried out considerable work on developing a device management model for the school, details of which can be found in his project reports. The emphasis of device use within the school has been around students leading the innovation, with the support of their teachers.


Laura Iredale – Hamilton Community College

The Siyabonga project saw Leicester students use video conferencing to collaborate with children in Lamontville, South Africa. On March 8 2013 both groups of students took part in a live concert, involving performances from both sets of students.

The project really allowed Hamilton students to be part of something bigger than themselves, to gain an awareness of the struggles of others less fortunate than themselves and to think outside of the Leicester box!

Gearing Up to Mobile Learning

Peter Guthrie – Sir Jonathan North Community College

Staff at Sir Jonathan North worked on a project using iPads as a staff development tool, in order to integrate mobile technology into classroom practice. The project also included the involvement of Year 7 (aged 11-12) and Year 9 (aged 13-14) student groups, which were established to support students in developing their independent learning skills alongside their use of ICT.

The project enabled the school to provide training on the use of iPads to all of their staff, and to support individual staff members in engaging with self-directed exploration of the devices.

Improving Digital Literacy Continuing Professional Development

Martin Corbishley – Babington Community College

Babington’s project aimed to raise awareness of the web-based tools and services available for supporting teaching and learning. Martin achieved this through the delivery of a set of 11 workshops for school staff, covering a range of topics including; using twitter to extend the classroom and making use of online collaboration tools.

Martin felt that the course had benefited both the school as a whole and those that took part in developing their digital literacy. It opened peoples’ eyes to what is available and how the internet can be used to enhance how technology is used to deliver lessons. The school will also see further benefit because the digital champions who took part, will continue to share ideas and resources with their faculties.

Member of Parliament’s 6

Sera Shortland – Hamilton Community College

The college’s MP6 Political Speaking Competition is an annual event open to all learners aged between 11 and 16 across the city. The school used the funding to develop a website which will host young people’s speeches, and provide information about the current year’s competition and links to resources for students and staff.

The innovation project itself was only the beginning of this new phase of work for Sera, providing the training and support necessary to set up the MP6 website and make best use of the project’s new iPads for video creation. The project will now move into a new phase of content development for the site, which will be led by the students.

iPads as Alternative and Augmentative Communication Devices

Helen Robinson and Heather Woods – Nether Hall School

The majority of students at Nether Hall School have difficulties with speech and language, many requiring Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) devices: systems which support individuals with speech impairments to communicate. The iPad project aimed to evaluate the use of iPads as a replacement for traditional AAC devices; using The Grid2 computer access software – thereby enabling greater access for their students.

The project has proven that a tablet device together with appropriate software, such as the iPad and Grid player app, can be an effective and affordable communication tool for pupils with communication challenges. The work has had a lasting effect on the pupils’ communication skills, showing that where pupils are empowered with this voice, they are motivated and engaged in learning. This goes on to build confidence and engender trust and respect between themselves and other pupils and adults.

iPad Orchestra

Ellen Croft – Ash Field Academy

The iPad Orchestra project focused on the use of musical apps and light systems to enable students with special educational needs to create a piece of music. The school worked with creative practitioners to design a scheme of work which culminated in a performance of the piece developed by the students. Explorations were also made into the use of visual representation of the music, to provide students with the opportunity to explore and create light sculptures.

The whole atmosphere around the project was that of celebration, achievement, fun and coolness. The creative practitioners were both supportive and challenging to the pupils, constantly pushing them to the next level. They managed to create something that the pupils could take ownership of and truly celebrate as their own achievement.



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Bring Your Own Device Trial: Final Report

Over the last year, The City of Leicester College have been carrying out the city’s first the first trial of a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model in the city. A school award BSF ICT Innovation Award, the project involves a Y8 tutor group using iPad minis at home and at school to judge the viability of a whole-school scheme. The project was led by Tony Tompkins, College Leader for New Technology at the school.

The project began in February 2013, with the learners receiving their iPad minis in November 2013, as part of the move into their new school building. The First Interim Report (July 2013) detailed the rationale and early preparations for the project, and the Second Interim Report (January 2014) discusses implementation and initial results from the trial. The project’s final Report reviews the impact the project has made on progress for the students, details the final list of tested apps and provides details of the school’s new 1-to-1 iPad-mini scheme.

Final App List

Many apps have come and gone throughout this year.  We have refined our list, removing apps whose functionality is duplicated or done better elsewhere. What remains is a solid set of apps that have wide applicability. A list of this apps can be found in the full report at the bottom of this post.

When considering which paid apps are worth the money, my advice is to avoid narrow subject specific apps and consider instead purchasing a few quality productivity or presentation apps that will be used across the college. Apps like “Explain Everything” and “iBook Creator” are worth investing in and will offer excellent value for money, especially if students (and staff!) are given some initial training in what can be achieved.

As well as identifying useful apps, attention needs to be given to developing effective workflows for students and staff. Productivity apps such as Evernote can be used very effectively in school.  Below is an example of students using Evernote to create a digital version of their exercise book.  Students take a photo every time they complete a page in their exercise book using Evernote, which then scans them using Character Recognition.  Their written notes become a fully indexed searchable resource which they always have access to– even when they forget their book or the teacher has collected it in for marking.  Because Evernote can also store photos, typed notes, pdfs, webclips and audio files, students can keep their whole learning experience together in one place.  Students can also share this notebook with their teachers, who can view it any time, and create their own notes to give feedback.

evernote sshot


The BYOD trial has provided an invaluable opportunity to show that a 1-to-1 scheme is logistically possible, allowed us to figure out the best way to deploy the devices, and proved the case that 1-to-1 has a positive effect on progress and attitudes to school.  The next step for us is to now widen out these benefits to all of our students, and we are about to embark on an ambitious scheme to bring this about.

The TCOLC BYOD trial has shown the school:

  • The iPad mini is a great size for students – fits in with their exercise books, is light for students to hold and use.  16GB is sufficient for school use and all the apps required (although it doesn’t leave much space for games so may limit dual home-school use)
  • The best setup for the devices was using a layered profile approach, allowing the college to push out its own paid or required apps silently over wifi, whilst leaving the student able to install their own apps via the app store.
  • Personal safety and device security has not really been an issue.  Students quickly become very attached to their devices and look after them very carefully.
  • The best apps to purchase are not narrow subject orientated apps, but good quality productivity or presentation apps with wide applicability.
  • 1-to-1 impacts positively on Behaviour, attendance and progress
  • Teachers don’t necessarily need to change how they teach their 1-to-1 class, but it worked best where their use was encouraged and staff were flexible about the format students chose to output their work in.
  • Invest a little more in cases – if you buy cheap, you buy twice (or end up with cracked screens)

The trial has demonstrated that a 1-to-1 solution based on the iPad mini is feasible and shown that it has a positive impact on students. It has provided the College with the knowledge, understanding and most importantly the confidence to launch our TCOLC 1-to-1 scheme later this year.

Full Report

The City of Leicester College – BYOD Trial Project: Final Report (Word)

The City of Leicester College – BYOD Trial Project: Final Report (PDF)

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DigiLit Leicester: 2014 Survey Results

Celebration Event Banner

The DigiLit Leicester project is a two year collaboration between Leicester City Council, De Montfort University and 23 secondary and SEN schools. Leicester’s secondary schools collectively support approximately 20,270 learners each year, the majority of which are between 11 and 16 years old. The project focuses on supporting secondary school teaching and teaching support staff in developing their digital literacy knowledge, skills and practice, and their effective use of digital tools, environments and approaches in their work with learners.

In consultation with participating schools, a Digital Literacy Framework was developed, linking digital literacy with secondary school practice. An online survey was developed, linked to the framework, designed to support staff in reflecting on their use of technology to support teaching and learning, and to provide individual staff members, schools and the Council with information to inform future planning around professional development.

This year’s findings!

The survey was opened for a second time between March and May 2014, seeing an increase in engagement from schools. 701 members of staff completed the survey in 2014, or 39 per cent of all eligible staff, with 209 returning from 2013. The headlines for the 2014 survey findings are:

  • Fifty six per cent of staff across the city who participated in the survey classified their skills and confidence at the highest level – Pioneer – in one or more of the six key digital literacy areas.
  • Twenty three per cent of all those who participated in the survey placed themselves at Entry level in one or more of the six key areas.
  • Staff rate their skills and confidence highest in the area of E-Safety and Online Identity, with 43.5 per cent of respondents scoring at Pioneer level.
  • Staff feel least confident in the area of Communication, Collaboration and Participation, with 9 per cent of staff rating themselves as Entry level and 38.7 per cent falling within the lower levels of the framework (at either Entry or Core level).
  • In Creating and Sharing , 42.1 per cent of staff rated their skills and confidence in the lower levels of the framework (Entry and Core levels).
  • Analysis comparing the survey data from 2013 and 2014 shows that a statistically significant change in staff confidence has occurred, with 21 per cent of participants noting an increase in their skills and confidence. Levels achieved increased in five of the six key areas (excluding E-Safety and Online Identity where levels were already high).

You can find out more by downloading a copy of the report here:

DigiLit Leicester 2014 Survey Report (Word)

DigiLit Leicester 2014 Survey Report (PDF)


Share and promote Pioneer practice

1. Ensure that the work being done by city Pioneers is promoted and shared more widely. Promote and support the use of open licences to enable wider discovery, use and reuse of educational resources produced by city staff.

2. Provide encouragement, opportunity and recognition to Pioneers who support Entry level colleagues.

Supporting entry-level staff

3. Provide supported opportunities and resources specifically designed for and accessible to Entry level staff, particularly in relation to Assessment and Feedback and Communication, Collaboration and Participation.

Supporting self-directed staff development

4. Continue to provide support for self-directed staff development projects and activities. This approach is supported by the research literature, which has shown that professional development programmes that support staff in focusing on developing their own knowledge ‘are most likely to lead to transformative change’ (Fraser et al. 2007, p.167).

Encouraging contextual e-safety guidance

5. Continue to support work which supports schools in expanding the safe and effective use of social and collaborative technologies.

Increasing knowledge and use of Open Educational Resources (OERs)

6. Complete work on the project’s current Open Education schools project, and evaluate the benefit of continued focus on and additional work in this area.


To celebrate the release of the 2014 Survey Results, the DigiLit Leicester team worked with Infogr8 in order to create a simple and easy to read visual representation of the 2014 Headline data.

140812_Leicester Gov_Final

Further information and resources to support staff and schools in all framework strand areas can be found at: under ‘Digital Literacy Resources’


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Investigating the use of iPads as Augmentative and Alternative Communication Devices (AACs) – an innovation project

Over the last year, Nether Hall School has been working on a project that aims to evaluate the use of iPads as a replacement for traditional AAC devices; systems which support individuals with speech impairments to communicate. The majority of students at Nether Hall School have difficulties with speech and language, many requiring AAC methods to help them to communicate. On the whole, these devices are difficult to carry around or limited in nature, e.g. only eight words available. Many of the devices are also expensive, between £4,500 and £14,000, which restricts the number of students who can be provided with the technology.

Here we share the final report from the project, and some reflections from the school project team: Helen Robinson, Head of sixth Form, and Heather Woods, Communication Specialist.

NH iPad cover image

Project Process

The project began with identification of the students who would participate in the trial and the software that would be used. Through discussions with the school speech and language team, The Grid was chosen as the most appropriate software for the project as  it was seen to have more facilities and, most crucially, linked to the school’s current systems, for example Eyegaze and Communicate: in Print. Sensory Software, the makers of The Grid, provided staff training and have provided additional support throughout the project.

Initially, the team had intended to create a standard grid for use with all learners throughout the project. However, it became clear early on that with the diverse needs of their learners, and the capabilities of the software, bespoke grids could (and would need) to be created for each child. The training provided to the school was key in enabling them to create personalised communication grids for each of the students involved in the trial.

Working with Students

The first stage was to introduce the device as a tool, with a grid that was appropriate to each individual pupil. Serious consideration, based on assessment and experience, was given to deciding whether to use True Object Based Icons (TOBI[1]), photographs or symbols for each student.

One to one teaching sessions with the Communications Support Coordinator (CSC) were given to demonstrate to the pupils that if they touched the photograph or symbol, they would receive the item they had requested. In this way, a relationship of trust was built around the use of the device. For some pupils, simply recognising that they could interact and take control of the proceedings was sufficient to motivate them to use the device for communication.

Once the iPad was established as a communication device, the grid was developed.  This was bespoke to each individual pupil:

On the simplest level, the photo began true to size and gradually became smaller and moved to a different part of the screen after selection meaning that the pupil had to be more accurate to request the item or activity. Next, an item that was known to be disliked was added.  This was to test whether the pupil was selecting an item or simply pointing and touching the screen randomly. If this item was selected, the pupil had to hold it and interact with it. The next step was to make the icon move after it had been touched, again to check that this was not random.  The pupil had to look at the icon and touch accurately to make their choice.

On a more complex level, photos were the starting point; in some cases these were photos of the class and staff. Pupils would then use the device to participate in registration activities. This led quickly to adding symbols for lessons. Alternatively, the standard grid on ‘The Grid 2′ was used and simplified to the level that worked with the individual pupil.

Project Report

Since the beginning of the trial, the school have seen significant benefits to their learners through the use of the iPad as an AAC device. Learners have made improvements not only in their communication skills, but also in terms of behaviour and their relationships with staff and family. As the project progressed, it was decided that funding would be used to bring in Karen Cameron and Sarah Younie, researchers from De Montfort University, to work with the school to support the research element of the project; specifically the writing of the project report.


  • A device which can be tailored to an individual childs needs which can then grow and develop with the child.
  • Costs a fraction of other equal more expensive communication devices on the market.
  • Looks cool and appropriate for children, teenagers and young adults.
  • It’s high picture and sound quality reduces confusion compared to other communication devices.

Next Steps

  • To write use of iPads into the schools policy for devices as communication aids.
  • To train staff in supporting Pupils with AAC devices
  • To establish a Parents support group –  Promote wider  community  use of devices and bespoke for individuals home use.
  • Investigate bags for portability
  • Extend project to more students


An Evaluation of the use of iPads as Augmentative and Alternative Communication Devices (Word) (PDF)

Case Studies only (Word) (PDF)

[1] A T.O.B.I. can be a line drawing, scanned photograph, etc., which is cut out in the actual shape or outline of the item it represents.

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Member of Parliament’s 6: final reflections

Following the success of the MP6 Finals in June, Sera Shortland, Citizenship Coordinator at Hamilton Community College and project lead, has been continuing her work on the project’s new website and reflecting back on the work she has undertaken. Sera shares her thoughts with us here:

MP6 Banner


Member of Parliament’s 6 (MP6) seeks to encourage collaboration and participation in politics and public speaking, using technology to build on, share and promote the existing work of Hamilton’s MP6 political speaking competition, which is open to learners aged between 11 and 16 from schools across the city. The competition provides students with direct access to key decision makers both in the council and national MPs. MP6 is more than a competition however; it is an initiative with the goal of engaging a curiosity in world affairs, a thirst for political literacy and the knowledge and understanding to communicate in an increasingly globalised landscape. Personal voice and opinion can get lost in the vast network of social media, MP6 provides the time and a place to talk; through its website

Staff development

Throughout this project staff have received training on the use of iPads and have been encouraged to use them with students. Two teachers have used the website as a starting point for debates in the classroom, accessing past winners speeches and asking students to appraise content and style, as well as give their views of the contestants. This is a small win in terms of the aims of MP6 as slowly more students are engaging with political speaking. It is hoped that the site will be useful to support less confident teachers, helping them to prepare for discussion in the classroom. This will rely on further development, through my ever increasing knowledge of using WordPress. The BSF team (especially Lucy) have been enormous help in demonstrating how WordPress works, its limitations and potential, whilst this has only been of personal benefit to date, students will be encouraged to use and eventually take over the politically speaking website and I will be able to offer my knowledge to other staff that may be interested in starting up their own sites.

Student involvement

In terms of the competition alone. 6 students used iPads and iMovies to film and interview judges and contestants. They learnt how to become budding directors using tripods and the Planet MovieMaker for iPad with Shoulder Support System.  This system proved to be very expensive (£395), and without funding I would not have considered buying it, however, it created a furore amongst students all wanting to wear the equipment to film in. It was portable and captured useful film, however the zoom lenses did not fit the system well which made close up shots difficult, we will be investigating this further. Several more students are keen to begin writing for the webpage in the new academic term; this will be supported through citizenship lessons. I am keen for them to produce student friendly materials about politics after contacting all the main political parties as well as working out how they can use the social forum facility on the web page; we may have to default to Facebook for this as many young people say this is an easy platform to use.

Members of the student leadership team have had access to the iPads to detail their council work. Short films they have created detail their growing political awareness and harness their creative ambition using technology, this is proving transformational in terms of engagement in politics and communication and is an avenue to be explored and documented on the newly created website.

Further progress and next steps

There is no doubt that this competition and concept is needed for young people, not just in Leicester but beyond. MP6 hopes to encourage young people to get excited about what is happening in the world so that they understand and know about politics, but more importantly they learn how to become political and how to communicate the ideas and issues that are important to them.

Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University, puts it eloquently:

“As we increasingly move toward a world of instant and infinite information, it becomes less important for students to know, memorize, or recall information, and more important for them to be able to find, sort, analyse, share, discuss, critique and create information. They need to move from being simply knowledgeable to being knowledge-able.”

(cited in ‘Full On Learning’ by Zoe Elder)

MP6 as an initiative hopes to support students in becoming more knowledge –able.

The Livestream of the final event was publicised to city schools and all the political parties, although it only generated 14 views on the day, an East Midlands MEP responded to the speech on UKIP, much to the delight of the student finalist who could see the potential of using this medium in future events to reach a larger audience. This will be further explored.  The live stream was expensive, however the IT department are now aware of how to set up a system and we may find a free way of doing this rather than having to rely on Skype.

In practical terms, there is still much to do to finish the project site so that students can comment on speeches, upload ideas and collaborate. Being a student led activity has meant this has halted over the summer holidays! It is increasingly looking like there will be no finish to the web site, as hopefully students and teachers will continue to use and comment on political threads. Lesson ideas are being written, but they need student input to ensure they are fun yet challenging. They aim to frame the competition so that teachers who wish to enter MP6 (the competition) have a series of lessons taking students through it, that they can access at home, more VTs are needed on the site, short 30 seconds sound bites on political themes will be produced using the iPads and software purchased. The iPads especially are seeing a lot of use and many departments are queuing up to borrow them for lessons!

A brochure for schools is being written, complete with timeline as an easy reference point for other schools to run their own MP6 competition.  Councillor Vi Dempster is also supporting the initiative, she has organised for two students to present their finalist speeches in front of the whole council on 18th September and after a meeting with her assistant we hope to run an MP6 day for the city as well as get local councillors into schools judging MP6 school knock outs and providing students with information about the local council.

This project has taught me so much, not least of which how to use iPads and become a blogging novice and it is fantastic to think that my new skills will help support others in the future.  This is the beginning of the project, rather than the end and due to the nature of the project many of the results will be seen throughout the next few months as resources are uploaded to the site.

photo 1

This year’s finalists and judges at the 2014 MP6 Finals


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DigiLittle Acorns: a personal learning network

Since December 2013, the science department at English Martyrs’ Catholic School have been working together on The DigiLittle Acorns Learning Network project. The network itself is intended initially as a school-wide platform, where staff can share information about innovative projects they are working on. As part of the bid, the school’s science department have been working on three main strands of activity:

  • App development
  • Trialling existing apps
  • Developing the DigiLittle Acorns Personal Learning Network (PLN)

The main project team consists of: Christine Turner, project lead and Chemistry teacher; Ian Sadler, Chemistry teacher and Stephanie Patrick, Biology teacher. Ian’s work has focused around the creation of apps for use in Science teaching, Stephanie’s work has focused on existing apps and evaluating their use and Christine has focused largely on the PLN, but also on supporting her colleagues throughout the project process. Other staff from within the department have also participated in the project.

digilittle acorns


Since December 2013, the science department at English Martyrs’ Catholic School have been working together on The DigiLittle Acorns Learning Network project. The network itself is intended initially as a school-wide platform, where staff can share information about innovative projects they are working on. As part of the bid, the school’s science department have been working on three main strands of activity:

  • App development
  • Trialling existing apps
  • Developing the DigiLittle Acorns Personal Learning Network (PLN)

The main project team consists of: Christine Turner, project lead and Chemistry teacher; Ian Sadler, Chemistry teacher and Stephanie Patrick, Biology teacher. Ian’s work has focused around the creation of apps for use in Science teaching, Stephanie’s work has focused on existing apps and evaluating their use and Christine has focused largely on the PLN, but also on supporting her colleagues throughout the project process. Other staff from within the department have also participated in the project.

App Development

App development was the first activity undertaken, as it took time to order and receive the iPads and Appshed could be used on a PC in the meantime.  Both Ian and Christine made and trialled (on a small, pilot scale) apps that they had made using Appshed.  Both found learning how to use Appshed was fairly straightforward using the videos linked to the Appshed website.

After creating their first apps, it was time to upload, test them, and look for mistakes.  It is worth noting that developers can still edit their apps and users are be able to update their apps when they are connected to the internet. The apps produced were used with Year 10 and Year 11 Chemistry classes as homework and with Year 12 and 13 Chemistry classes both in class and at home (student evaluation can be found in the project report below).

Ian also supported a teacher in another school (Uppingham Community College) in learning how to produce her own app. This teacher went on to provide whole school training to her staff, the PowerPoint from which can be accessed at

App Trials

Stephanie wanted to investigate some existing apps to try out with students.  She initially found some free AQA Revision iBooks and thought that they were great.  However, the books went from being free to £3.49 each, so they were not downloaded.  In fact it was noted that many apps that were free at the start of the project now have a small cost. The team aimed to locate free apps wherever possible.

A number of apps were trialled by the team, including:

  • Infection – a biological warfare game in which the player attempts to infect the global population – used for studying microbes and disease.
  • Energy Island – a game in which the player is responsible for providing energy to the inhabitants of Siemens Island, in an economical and environmentally friendly way.
  • Educreations – turns your device into a recordable whiteboard. The application records audio, images and handwriting to help users to create video lessons.

At the end of the project, Stephanie created the following table to summarise all of the apps that she had trialled:

App Name

Year Group


Possible use




Any lesson involving numeracy
ShowMe + Educreations



Presentation tool – best for students to produce a quick presentation which can incorporate photos and other media  e.g. human body model or circuits
Formulas Lite





Identifying homologous seriesTeaching names of polyatomic ions
Nova elements



Allows students to build atoms; teaching electronic structure and the Periodic Table
Cell Stain



Allows students to stain their own cell in order to visualise organelles
Physical Science Glossary



Contains flashcards and videos of physics concepts and vocabulary
Visible Body



Contains 12 excellent quality free videos showing how the human body works



Allows students to build atoms; teaching electronic structure



Shows appearance of planets and location of constellations in the night sky





Teaching students about PangaeaShows sedimentary rock formation



Contains 4 physics experiments –moments, heat capacity, resistance and oscillations from which students can collect data
Chem Spider



Shows how to draw organic molecules



Teaching students cell structure during topics 7A and 8C



Teaching different stages of mitosis.  Contains videos and tests.



Teaching students about the spread of infection, pandemics and vectors
Siemens Energy Island



Teaching students about the different methods of electricity generation and resources
Half Life Hero



Teaching students about uses of radioactive isotopes

Further trials, and student evaluations can be found in the full project report below.

DigiLittle Acorns PLN

The first part of the development of the Personal Learning Network was the development of the website.  Initially, this PLN was designed to host three case studies.  Each case study focused on one ICT feature that will improve digital literacy in several of the DigiLit framework strands. The project timeline was decided upon and uploaded to the website using Dipity, and a forum was also added. This was in addition to the Facebook group, as Facebook could not be accessed at school.  The blog provided an opportunity to connect to anyone interested in the project and also helped when writing project reports as it detailed the steps of the project in chronological order.  The website was maintained by Christine throughout the project.

Two main connections with other schools have been made during this project.  Firstly, there has been some networking with Rushey Mead school’s science department who are currently investigating whether they could use the iPads which exist in the school (but not specifically in their department) to enhance science lessons. Secondly an app share has taken place between Uppingham Community College, who kindly allowed us to use their app and have been trying out ours in return. This was an effective partnership set up by Ian. In addition, the Twitter account has gathered some followers from across the city, for example @LessonToolbox (a colleague from The City of Leicester College).

Christine also felt that the project has been successful in developing the digital literacy of her colleagues, particularly those who rated their skills and confidence at Core level in the 2013 DigiLit Leicester Survey.

To summarise, the project reports that when considering the use of iPads in lessons, students find them easy to use, fun to use and able to be used as a tool for learning.  When considering the use of Appshed to build apps, developers find it easy to use, if cumbersome, and users find the apps made easy to use, and able to be used as a tool for learning.  There is much scope for building better and more fun apps.  When considering the development of a Personal Learning Network, tools that support this are Twitter, Facebook, blogs and websites and the benefits of these are increased communication opportunities with colleagues inside and outside school, and across the city.

More information can be found at the project website:


The team have written up their project as a piece of action research. The full report, including methodology and detailed findings, can be accessed here:

DigiLittle Acorns PLN Final Report             Word               PDF

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Interactive Maths: Final Reflections

This month has seen the completion of a number of our BSF ICT Innovation Projects. One of which is the Interactive Maths project by Corrina, Maths teacher at St Paul’s Catholic School. Corrina’s project focuses on the creation and use of interactive learning resources. The project project began with attendance at a staff development workshop, focusing on the use of games-based learning techniques in Mathematics teaching, and looking at how to create and use interactive learning activities. The later phase involved Corrina learning more about sharing the resources she has created.

Here, Corrina reflects on the project, and shares her resources:

Image shared under a creative commons license by Chris de Kok

Image shared under a creative commons license by Chris de Kok

It is time, as my project comes to an end, to reflect upon my improved Creating and Sharing skills as well as the project itself. In the final phase of the project I have created interactive quizzes to be used in classes with years 7-10 with the hand held devices linked to our interactive whiteboards. I spent half a day off timetable being shown how to create these by a colleague and was shown the different ways that the devices could be used, namely a self-paced quiz or a teacher led one where each question was answered at the same time by the class. I could see the benefits of both these types of quizzes immediately and set about creating a quiz for each year group to be used in lessons after Easter.

Creating the Resources

Creating the resources, once you know the functions of the different buttons in the software, is relatively simple. It is however incredibly time consuming and quizzes which would last around 15 minutes were taking me an hour or so to create. I soon realised my folly in trying to put whole lessons which I normally did in PowerPoint onto Flipcharts (the ActivInspire file type) just so that I could use the quiz element with them during the lesson. I started instead creating flipcharts which are very basic looking but have the quiz functionality and using these to complement my existing lessons instead either throughout or just at the end. This did reduce the time needed slightly and made the task less daunting although the resources are not very visually appealing. They do however meet the objective of what I am trying to achieve with the interactive element and students aren’t as bothered about whether the flipchart page is pretty when they are using the hand held devices.

I also found that with the self-paced quizzes there are problems with mathematical notation as things like fractions cannot be input properly and using a slash for a fraction is something we try to avoid in classrooms so as to emphasise the role of a fraction as a division calculation. In most cases a compromise could be found but for several of our upcoming topics these quizzes were not suitable as the content did not have answers which could be input to the devices. Overall the number of quizzes created was smaller than I had initially envisaged, quite simply through a lack of time as exam period kicked in and any ‘spare’ time quickly became year 11 revision time. I will however continue to create them now that I have the skills to do so, as part of updating our schemes of learning for the new curriculum as I have found them to be very successful in the classroom.

Using the Resources – Pupil Perspectives

The quizzes and hand held devices were met with great enthusiasm by the majority of classes although year 10 were more apprehensive as they rightly pointed out that I couldn’t see their working out which ‘is what you’re always going on about’. This was an extremely valid point and something which I had to think carefully about moving forwards. Rather than using the quizzes to test topics being learnt during that lesson the handsets were more suited to revision style activities with 10 or so simple revision questions on basic topics when working with key stage 4. These activities however last less than 5 minutes at most and handing out the devices, registering them etc takes at least that time and I began to question how useful they were in this situation.

At key stage 3 I found the resources to be much better received and my low ability year 8 class in particular very much enjoyed the interactive element when practising basic skills such as column addition and subtraction. They liked the self-paced quizzes with the question on their own screen. They would then carry out the method on whiteboards and input the answer. They liked the fact that they were alerted to mistakes and given repeated chances at questions done incorrectly the first time. They also liked being able to see things such as their average time to answer questions, percentage scores and who completed them fastest etc. I found this element of the quizzes was well received by all my key stage 3 classes and being able to see themselves improve was a great motivator for the students.

The teacher led quizzes, where a question to be answered by the whole class before moving on, were also enjoyed by pupils and it was interesting to see those who are usually reluctant to answer questions in class enthusiastically entering a response into the device. When asked about this, pupils said they liked it because although they knew the class would be able to see who had submitted each answer on the board, everybody was answering so the pressure to give a response was reduced. Pupils did indicate that they were more motivated to engage within lessons when they knew they would be required to give responses throughout and were aware that everyone had to participate as the vote wouldn’t close until everyone responded and we could see by name who hadn’t voted yet.

Using the Resources – Teacher Perspectives

I found the self-paced quizzes to be an extremely valuable tool in lessons particularly, as mentioned, with the low ability year 8s. Pupils had much higher engagement and, although they were working individually, liked the group element when looking through responses, for example. I found the ability to level the questions so that once easier ones were all completed more difficult ones could be attempted very useful for differentiation and the pupils liked this element and responded well to it also. I found that I often had a better sense of how pupils were doing in a lesson when using these quizzes than with usual Assessment for Learning (AfL) techniques simply because everyone is responding. I also liked being able to pinpoint the exact questions which most people had struggled with so that these could be used in whole class discussions. The main pitfall here echoes the thoughts of my year 10s as sometimes it was difficult to say why a class were struggling without having visible working out. I began to insist more on working out being done in books prior to answering using the devices so that when weaknesses were identified I could pick up the books of those pupils getting it wrong and use them to inform the whole class discussion leading on from this.

My other criticism of the quizzes is the time needed to set up and register the devices. This wasn’t a problem if using the devices with the same class a couple of times in a row but with only 2 class sets available in school, it was more often the case that another class had used them since and they needed to be wiped and re-registered. As classes got used to the devices this process did become quicker however, and as long as this time is planned into a lesson the positives do, I think, make it worth it.

Sharing the Resources

The secondary part of my development was to learn how best to share these newly created resources with the department. In the midst of a BSF new build, however, our staff network, virtual learning environment (VLE) and other linked parts of our digital resources are frozen as they are being either updated or completely scrapped from the summer. As a result of this I looked to other ways of sharing the resources and was introduced to Dropbox. This was installed onto all of the faculty laptops, personal laptops and iPads so that all colleagues can access anything in the Dropbox folders and it will update them all accordingly. This has been an incredibly useful way of sharing information, particularly being able to access things from home, and is something we are looking at expanding upon moving forward with our schemes of learning and other resources.

The current limbo our technology is in has also hindered my aim to seek out web resources and make them available to students through the VLE. However another member of my faculty has set up a twitter account for the department and as our followers are slowly growing this is a possible alternative outlet for sharing links to interactive resources. As our new technology is established at the start of next academic year this is something I will aim to work more on.

Final Thoughts

Although the project itself is now at an end, I do not feel that my work is finished at all. In some ways the project has instead served as a beginning, teaching me the skills to create and share interactive resources and giving me the opportunity to test and refine my use of the resources in classrooms. I emerge now with a better idea of how to use interactive resources in the classroom and with vastly improved skills to create them. From here I will now be able to continue to create and share these resources both with my own department and hopefully further afield through resource sharing websites. If you have the technology and the time I urge you to try or perhaps rediscover this approach. Whilst not practical every lesson, these are certainly valuable activities for the classroom.


The files below are stored in Google drive and can be accessed and downloaded by following the corresponding link. Some sessions are not available as PowerPoint files as they mainly contain individual work for ActivExpression handsets.

Calculations with the mean Flipchart PowerPoint
Dealing with money Flipchart PowerPoint
Multiplication Flipchart
Percentage of quantities with fractions Flipchart PowerPoint
Probability complementary events Flipchart
Proportion Flipchart PowerPoint
Rounding whole numbers and decimals Flipchart PowerPoint
Solving equations Flipchart
Subtractions Flipchart
Which fraction is bigger? Flipchart PowerPoint
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