Reflection on the CAS Conference 2017

After around five years of absence I returned to the 9th CAS Conference held in Birmingham today.

I was hoping for new ideas and a chance to catch up with people.

Now, cooling off in the garden with darkening skys (it is nearly 11pm) I have spent a few hours reflecting on the day…

The day started really well.  I boarded my train, bacon roll in hand, and made my way to my reserved seat to find none other than Phil Bagge sitting in the seat opposite.  Phil was one of the CAS people I met at my first CAS conference and I’ve pinched his ideas and shown his jam-sandwich-robot video to teachers ever since.  We had a lovely chat about work and life and I tagged along with Phil right up to the University.

The opening sessions were thought-provoking…

Mark Guzdial introduced us to three keys to improving computing teaching:

  1. Prediction – the power of asking the pupils to make predictions help them understand and remember more
  2. Sub goal labelling – making it obvious (almost decomposition) what we are doing
  3. Instructional design

This gave me my first take-away – trying to include Sub Goal Labelling in future resources and planning

The first breakout was on CAS’s Project Quantum with Miles Berry (again someone I’ve known for years and who I’ve quoted and also used his YouTube videos around the new computing curriculum with teachers in the past.  One thing he mentioned that really got me thinking was about hinge points/questions after around 20 minutes of teaching was something new to me and a definite second take-away.

Taking time to check real understanding at appropriate times within a lesson before moving on is something I probably don’t conciously focus enough on.   The Project Quantum was interesting, a quantatitive online bank of quiz questions that can be used to assess pupils knowledge and understanding of Computing, but currently heavily biased towards secondary.  It made me want to contribute more primary-level questions…

The second break-out I attended was with the aforementioned Phil Bagge and Mark Dorling.

They have been working on a project around attitudes.  What makes a good Computing Problem Solver…

Phil’s resources and animated explanation and description made me want to try these ideas out straight away (another take-away).  I will certainly be introducing them into my teaching from September, if not before.

After lunch I attended a rather poorly attended session on streamlining assessment using tablets.  Will Franklin took us through Formative, Socrative, Kahoot and Plickers also mentioning Google Forms and Class Kick.  Although there was little really new here for me it did server to reaffirm my ideas and prompt me to spend some time developing Socrative particularly which also made me think a bit more about Hinge points too…

The final breakout I attended was with Steve Bunce and Mark Dorling (again).  This was a look at how to move pupils from a block-based language (Scratch) to a text-based language (such as Python) via something like Snap.

The plenaries in the afternoon started with Miles once more recapping Project Quantum but with some interesting audience participation!

The Second plenary was a very interesting and engaging talk from Chris Ensor of the National Centre for Cyber Security who talked about his organisations changing role since World War 1 and the modern challenges and how they are hoping to encourage and support a new generation of security experts and programmers who understand the absolute need for code without holes through things like the Cyber First bursary scheme.

The day was rounded off by a charming and highly engaging session from Linda Liukas.  She’s describes herself as an author, storyteller and computer scientist (and more).  Author of the growing “Hello Ruby” book series.  Her storytelling style had the whole lecture theatre of 300+ people spellbound despite the heat and left me with even more to think of (and an Amazon bill for books).  A superbly engaging way of introducing young children to Computer Science and I can’t wait to share it with a reception teacher I Know!

Thank you CAS for a great event, thought provoking and invigorating (and excellent value).

Live Music Thursday

Last night saw an unusual evening out with a superb night of live music at The Bullingdon in Oxford.  Not a venue I’ve attended before, but we were invited to the opening evening of The Lounge Kittens ’Brining up the rear’ tour.


The Kittens obviously have a real rapport with each other and their crowd.  They created wonderfully harmonic music which was really entertaining and engaging from a medley of hits from Kids programs of the ’80s to a Tina Turner tribute.  The Kittens included a number of new pieces in their set for this tour as well as some of their favourites.

The Kittens were supported by a superbly entertaining and talented duo ‘Rayguns look real enough‘.  As the supporting act we didn’t turn up until half way through their set but we were immediately captivated and engaged by their raucous and fast-paced music.


Taking control of my corner of the internet…

My digital presence has been neglected for many months.  I have spent some time this Easter break taking control of the runaway horses of my digital footprint!

I have streamlined the various assorted domains in my possession and taken control of where SOME of them now point!

This is my personal blog and personal ramblings.  I don’t expect ANYONE to read these!  I have consolidated my older blog at and moved that to buzzingEd and reinstated it once more.  That’s where you can find my educationally-biased ramblings and ideas.  I might also reintroduce my links page too!


A rant on broadcast vs Internet entertainment

My increasing frustration with a government who seem to NOT value (or even really understand) technology has become more and more obvious to those who know me. In sorting out a few documents and blogs I came across the embryo of an idea (you could call it a rant) which occurred to me as I listened to a radio news bulletin a few weeks ago. I thought I’d share it here now…

I couldn’t believe what I heard on the radio this morning, an argument from the early 1980s that said we need to unbundle local TV to encourage more TV channels…

Have the ministers responsible not heard of this thing called the Internet? They are promoting a one-way broadcast medium, spending money to encourage growth in an area, presumably just in an endeavour to make money from licences!

I watch less broadcast TV than ever. That which I do, I watch in a time-shifted way. If I notice something I want to watch I set it to record, or catch it via the Internet on watch/listen again. I get films and TV programs on demand via the Internet. I listen to Internet only radio, often via podcast at times to suit me. I watch Internet only TV in the same way.

Here is the government seeming to waste money in consulting and unbundling the airwaves when they should be investing MORE in internet infrastructure, the development of what Google have termed world wireless technologies etc.

How out of touch the government can seem…

iPads are go

Finally I have my hands on an iPad and I love it! Sort-of touch typing is possible, Pages is superb for making notes etc. This is being written using the iPad WordPress app (a free one) not to mention the BBC iPlayer and TV Catchup… Photos are beautiful with this large glossy screen… Ebooks from Kindle as well as Apple’s own iBooks too. Beautiful apps for nature, sky gazing and more – can you tell I’m sold?

Childhood revisited

It’s been a while since I posted – probably because little important changes in my life day-to-day AND I’ve spent ages updating on a daily basis!

However, whilst reliving my childhood recently I came across an excellent website that has a ZX Spectrum emulator and SO many games from Atic Atack to Jetpac – you too can while away the hours at

Snow days…

We’ve had about 8 inches of snow and the school’s I should have been working with are all closed (along with the majority of Oxfordshire schools).  We’re all at home – working now we’re back from sledging and snowballing.  I’ve uploaded some photos to Flickr – see to the right of this page.

Long period of quietness comes to an end…

I realise that there has been a prolonged period of quietness from this blog recently (unlike the radiator under my desk that has just belched loudly!) so I thought it was time I updated.  It’s not that I have not been blogging BUT recently I have been working on a blog pulling together ICT and Education-related news/comments etc which I am helping to share with teachers (mainly aimed at Oxfordshire teachers really).  Finding, choosing, editing, presenting these snippets is quite time consuming but the number of hits is growing steadily with weekly hits regularly nearing 100 already!

As to home-based news, we are preparing for Christmas slowly – presents have taken a back seat with our recent move but now that’s mostly complete I think we can start gearing up for Christmas now!  The large (too large) conifer which dominates the front corner of our new home is bedecked with lights now and at the weekend various members of the family helped to make a wreath for our front door which is now proudly hanging there welcoming visitors.

The girls secret Christmas present has been ordered and will arrive this week hopefully – when it will no longer be a secret as it is FAR to large to be hidden, and will involve yours truly spending a considerable amount of time constructing it BEFORE Christmas!

Photos to follow I’m sure!

Well enough for now…

Internet grocery shopping – lazy or cost cutting?

Over the many years I have ‘dabbled’ with various online supermarkets.  Sainsburys, Tesco then most recently Ocado.

Ocado wins!

The on-line shopping experience, the iphone app, the weekly delivery slot, the Waitrose products price checked against Tesco prices.

The text before delivery to remind me of the delivery time and to tell me about any missing items, the driver AND van’s name! Not only that but the receipt organised into DATE order so that we know what needs to be used and by then – I am a convert AND the typical weekly shop is about £30 less as I am only buying the items I know we need every week!

PLUS we get special offers and a free newspaper most weeks!Nick

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