Weekly Newsletter Monday 9 June 2014 – The Algorithm edition

http://goo.gl/uKkM2D – for the full picture version.

I am indebted to you dear reader for keeping me encouraged on my weekly task to bring some info and commentary into the School staffroom.

Sally Everett, ICT coordinator at Lyonsdown school, sent me this great little video, created in school, mashing together the ‘Happy’ song with the meaning of Algorithm – what a great idea.

“I don’t know if you would be interested in the algorithm animation video that I have just put on You Tube to aid people with using and understanding the term algorithm. I have put it on the ISANet website, but not sure how many will notice it there.

It grew from an idea when the word algorithm was sung over the Pharrell Williams song “Happy,” and lots of pupils spent hours on animation and we use it and love it at school. I had originally thought that it would be good for younger pupils to hear the word algorithm and sing along but having put a link on the CAS website – it seems that people are using it as lesson starters, raising a smile in KS3 and some have commented that they will use it with teachers too.

So, I thought it might be useful to others and the only proviso is that it should only be used for education and if Pharrell Williams chooses to object as it is his tune, then it would have to be removed. (On You Tube there are thousands of versions of his song, including nappy, cheesing and learning. Hoping if they can survive then so can this one….)

Here’s the link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=od_zF0HZWGM

Jan Price, our own Head of Art at Claires Court, introduced me to JibJab, a pay for service which allows you to mash together existing pictures and videos in their collection together with faces cropped from images of your own.  She produced this homage to the Senior Boys Management team, shown at the parents evening Prize Giving and celebration for our Y11 Boys at the start of their GCSE series of exams.

Thanks to the pressure on schools by education and commerce to recreate the conditions of the 1980s, in which the arrival of the Sinclair Spectrum and BBC Micro introduced programming for that generation, we can look forward to much more coding being carried out in schools. The good news, as Sally’s examples show, (here’s her Christmas card from Scratch, if you haven’t yet seen it), we really don’t have anything to fear and much to gain from this enterprise.

As readers of the ISANet Bulletin will know now, the ISA Ning site is to close at the end of this month, but that’s not to say our activity shuts down.  Far from that. This Blog will continue on my wordpress site.

We have 2 Major ISANet events in the planning.  

Saturday 12 July-The Google Apps day at Claires Court.  

As well as offering training on Google Apps for Education at beginner and intermediate levels, including access to the advanced webinars to assist in passing Google Apps Certified individual exams, the event will provide showcase opportunities for using Chromebooks, Tablets and the soon-to-be-launched Play-for-Edu and Google Classroom.

We will also be providing support for the next Academic Year for Coding in Primary Schools, highlighting some low/no cost ideas for hard-pressed teachers.

Registration for the event is free, 9.30am to 4pm, and a schedule of events will be published next week together with the booking form.

Saturday 21 November – ISANet Annual unconference – 9.30 to 4pm

Save the date – this will be really special.

Algorithms and the Future of Teaching

The arrival of Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education at Claires Court has transformed a massive part of our school practice, and I have absolutely no doubt that the arrival next of Android Tablets, now manageable with the Chrome console for schools who have gone Google, will add to that transformation. As you have read, I have visitors every Monday afternoon for a show round of our intellectual assets, and they almost always leave, scratching their heads and saying @Strike me Guv, we’ve got a lot to get on with’ or similar professional discourse.

However, we have been here before: Back in 1922, for instance, Thomas Edison thought he’d figured out the future of education.

“I believe that the motion picture is destined to revolutionize our education system,and that in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks.” he said, according to Larry Cuban’s  Teachers and Machines: The Classroom Use of Technology Since 1920,

Now, show this film on ‘Banks and Credit’ to one of your classes and see what they think about it being the future of education:

Salman Khan, creator of the Khan academy, still feels film (in the form of video) can transform education, by sending the teaching home for prep. leavng the teacher and child to practice during the lesson.

Here’s Khan’s TED talk where he introduces the idea – http://goo.gl/hLzl3o

Here is the Khan Academy’s Computer Science platform, on which any one can (and do) learn the principles of Computer Programming.


Linked the Academy site are hundreds of examples of coding created using the site, and it really is worth a look.  From my experience creating a bunch of IT mentors in school from the children, whose privilege is to stay in and run a  Lunchtime club, it really just requires some patience and opportunity.

Our main successes in coding have come from running one Lunchtime club using a local Minecraft version,  a visual block programming programme second to none.

Read and watch more here – http://www.edutopia.org/made-with-play-game-based-learning-minecraft-video

Scrubbing up Reading Comprehension

In many subject areas, teachers find it difficult to improve comprehension and raise reading standards.  In this recent post on Cool Cat Teacher blog, Heid Morgan introduces using Close reading passages, constructed to cause read and reread with a purpose.  Whilst the post is also an advertorial for a digital tool, rise above that peeps and enjoy learning how teachers of whatever subject in the middle years can assist their children in raising their reading standards.  It can be used as an example of Mastery learning, where children can’t move on until they have mastered a technique, and I commend it to you all.  I was introduced to a version of this approach, the use of Cloze passages to assess understanding by an amazing dyslexia specialist, Eileen Gofford.  Great assistance for me in the early 1980s as I learned how to raise standards of learning in Science for O-level. Yes really!

And finally…

Don’t say I told you so, but the ‘Birmingham’ Trojan horse saga is proving just as bad as people’s worst fears and then some. This week’s claims see DfE in a sandwich stand-off against the Home Office and Theresa May on the one hand, and OfSTED and Sir Michael Wilshaw on the other. You cannot replace the coordinating structure of local authorities through the atomisation of schools into individual units, without an inspection process that is able to hold the schools to account.  What ISI as an inspectorate uses are serving teachers from Independent schools in much greater numbers so that the whole school, including Governance is fully inspected, both against its aims and against national expectations of a very experienced set of peer managers. Ofsted inspections do not include a rigorous review of governance, it wants to but is not permitted to under current DfE guidelines, particularly where chains of schools exist. Be careful what you wish for!

The majority of Independent Schools enjoy being Independent, but subject themselves to rigorous scrutiny using the ISI inspectorate and by belonging to one of the 5 Independent School Council School Associations.  As you can read in the About on my WordPress blog, I am a passionate advocate for the ISA, our own association and the second largest of the ISC associations.  Faith, Dance and Drama, aligned and nonaligned schools alike, we are an eclectic mix of every type of school, from Nursery to Sixth Form only, and all the better for ‘scrubbing each other up’.

Have agreat Summery week, and speak to you soon!

James Wilding




About jameswilding

Academic Principal Claires Court Schools Long term member & advocate of the Independent Schools Association
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1 Response to Weekly Newsletter Monday 9 June 2014 – The Algorithm edition

  1. Everyone loves it when individuals come together and share ideas.
    Great blog, keep it up!

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