Writ large

The projectors, and subsequently the Clevertouch smart boards beamed out in front of my class imagery and interactivity in support of every subject that we studied. Although my focus was on learning learning, as it were, and of exploring how schools were expected to teach tech, I couldn’t help but bring aspects of technology-assisted learning into every subject, and most lessons. There were two outcomes: I found myself enjoying teaching all subjects (ok, with the notable exception of PE!) and I came to realise how very cross-curricular the act (soon to be named the subject) of computing actually was.

To my surprise – almost my consternation – I realised how few teachers in Swindon were applying tech to their lessons as a matter of course. It occurred to me that perhaps I could share some of what I was doing.






On graduating Bath Spa in ’06 and having met my future wife Rachel there I felt on top of the world!

I nearly didn’t apply for the job at Bishopstone but Rachel and I were both going for schools in Swindon and I had no idea what 0.6 meant (2 days off a week for the whole first year, it later transpired!)

Sue was the ultimate Headteacher. She had been an excellent teacher before stepping up to become an extraordinary- and highly respected Headteacher of the same school. The staff were full of character and flair – the scope for teaching what we knew to be interesting for the children (rather than what had been pre-defined by an homogeneous entity as being appropriate), was immense: we tackled the business of learning in our own way and, as far as possible, as a team. We were a small school but with room for big ideas.

There had recently been built a new ICT Suite and there was an opportunity to take over the leadership of that subject. Although technically an English specialist (having studied Middle Years PGCE) – it was clear from the outset that knowing how to get the most from computers was going to be an in-demand skill and one that it would be prudent to explore – hardly a hardship!






With a¬† whopping 400 Mhz PII (twin 10GBs) Bertha whirred into life in 1999. I nested Bertha in The Studio – a re-imagining of my Dad’s 1970s shipping office. The buoyant blue that Dad had painted each length of wood panelling became dynamic orange and lusty red; his shipping manifest board took on a new role detailing Microsoft Office functionality and Bertha was joined by patch-panel to a hotch-potch of other fine-de-siecle tech.

Flickernet was fun on so many fronts: renovating and extending the Studio; running a business; sharing the emerging world of computing with those who may well otherwise have been left behind; but above all: teaching.

After two years it was time to raise my game: I set off to England to gain a qualification in teaching. If I was going to deliver the best possible learning experience for my clients then it was time to learn properly how to be a teacher.





Woodlouse Maze

Lego Mindstorms was a great step for Lego in the late 90s. The Lego NXT arrived in time to play with as a new Primary teacher.

An early project – entered into the local Science Festival – was to race a Lego NXT robot in a giant maze against a woodlouse in a Lego maze. The first one to make it out won. In the time that we had to present how we had gone about programming the robot to use ultrasonic, a bumper and a juddering, bumping technique of hit and miss to navigate the bigger maze, the plucky little woodlouse had quietly slipped away. Woodlouse 1, NTX 0



Robot Reboot

This is Prince Hal. Originally a Christmas Present (c1989) he was infra red controlled with the ability to follow a sequence of instructions sent to him from a television-remote style controller. Then, for no apparent reason, he ceased working . I gutted him and replaced the circuitry with that from a radio controlled car and a walkie talkie headset unit. Also a radio doorbell.

The walkie talkie sound output to his chest speaker and the radio controlled car circuit ran to his motors and head LEDs. Various other connections  were made which allowed for connecting a charger and pressure pad (for the doorbell as a proximity alarm).

The happy accident is that the voice activated microphone now triggered the wheels and the headlights. When put in front of a speaker the robot danced with delight and flashed his eyes. I added a mercury tilt switch and sometime later a mobile radio detecting LED, all of which made for a fun early experiment!



Circuitry is, in my opinion, the ultimate building material: not only can it be joined together, shaped and assembled to produce creations that have wonderful potential for all sorts of fun, it can now also be linked to computers through any number of teacher-friendly interface kits.

Coding then becomes a means to trigger electronic creations which is much more immediate and eye-catching for learners.




Programming appealed to me as soon as I was shown BASIC on a BBC at the back of the classroom, then via the Vtech ‘Pre-Computer 1000’ that I was given in Christmas 1990. It had a single line of dot matrix screen which scrolled questions but the best feature was simple BASIC functionality – which was great fun to explore.

Only thing was that there was no way to save the file – it was in volatile RAM that was lost as soon as the power button was pressed. This led to my first Program notebook – a tradition that I continue today for Python.





Kinder Surprise eggs have it all: the anticipation , the chocolate and of course the fun of building the toy inside (unless it is a disappointing figurine inside!) I gathered the assorted parts together from many eggs (and much chocolate later) in a tin which has recently turned up. These Mad Max looking creations are what happens when a ten year old is let loose with UHU glue and a tin of jumbled together K/S parts!


The Garage

From an early age I have seen the benefit of a dedicated “Maker Space”. Whereas the trend these days seems to be towards a themed and sometimes rather constrained approach to building projects – a little chaos can go a long way to widening the possibilities. The phrase “App Smashing” is given to the technique of using multiple applications to achieve a desired outcome in ICT. I think a similar approach of blending and overlapping a wild juxta-position of constructing techniques can trigger creations that feel more limitless.

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