#PayItForward Creative Commons and Digital Citizenship

My year 9 students have been learning about copyright, public domain and creative commons in recent weeks and I wanted to give them a task that had value.

by Ludovica PB (BY-NC-ND)

I asked them to create images – photographs or drawings – that they would like to share freely on the Internet under a Creative Commons licence.

Their work is below. Please feel free to use any of the images for non-commercial purposes as long as due credit is given.


Please let me know in the comments below if you have a similar initiative at your school!

Hour of Code Around the World (Event) #edchat #ukedchat #aussieED


After some discussion with a friend and former colleague (and some thinking over a few coffees) I was inspired to post a short tweet yesterday:

Screen Shot 2015-11-07 at 10.02.02

My aim is to get a small number of schools involved in a Google Hangout on Friday 11th December, code together and learn a little about how Computer Science is taught in schools in different parts of the world.

Even if timezones prevent schools from taking part in the Google Hangout there is still a chance to take part.

Interested in finding out more? Send me a tweet @familysimpson.

#Google #Classroom for building Digital Citizenship

Thanks to Pixabay.com: image link

The term has started here in Milan and I want to have a safe area for students to collaborate and comment and develop the way they respond to other users on the Internet before we move on to other, more public, mediums.

I decided to use Google Classroom because the school is already signed up to GAFE – mainly for email purposes, but they are also keen to develop their use of Drive and other apps available to them.

I thought about setting up individual groups for each class – for example I teach 3 year 8 and 3 year 9 classes. In the end I decided to keep it simple and created one per year group. Why? I wanted dialogue across the 3 classes and felt that, as the students were still all within the same school, I could easily monitor and react to any misuse of the site.

The school are also keen to use Classroom for issuing homework tasks (must investigate Charlie Love’s calendar script for broadcasting this from a central calendar) so I delivered an introductory demo to staff just a few days after starting work at the school! The SMT are also keen to have an overview of groups across the school – this would be useful for parent meetings certainly.

Some students are already embracing the communication aspect. After a few garbled “test” posts (which I quickly deleted) all was quiet until Saturday morning when one student asked a question about the homework task. Usually it would be left to me to respond but, before I had a chance, two other students in the same year had replied in order to help. The conversation continued until the first student understood fully and I took the chance to thank his peers for their help.

Today there were a few posts from another student who was having difficulty with another of the logic problems in the homework. I was happy to see the student who had received help on the previous day was first to respond with a detailed description of the mechanics of the problem (without giving away the answer!).

I’m hopeful that this helpful dialogue will continue but feel that, as well as an acknowledgement message from me in the group, the assistance given by the students should be recognised through the merit system that exists in the physical classroom. I’m looking forward to visiting their form classes tomorrow with the merit slips and hope it sets them up for a great week.

I think that by consistently applying the set behaviour system (for good and bad) in both the physical and virtual areas of the school community we might begin to dismantle the idea some hold that the Internet is somewhere you can say and do what you like without fear of being identified or punished. And if we can do that by highlighting the moments where students have taken the time to respond respectfully and helpfully, so much the better.

Are your students defacing the Internet?



What happened when a student in your class defaced a book belonging to the school? Sometimes they had to buy a replacement copy. Sometimes re-covering it with brown paper was sufficient. Sometimes a bottle of Tippex and some of their lunchtime was what was required. The sanction was restorative and involved a discussion about responsible treatment of school property.

What happened when a student in your class defaced a book belonging to them? If it was derogatory or defamatory, vulgar or inappropriate then, in my experience, the sanction was also restorative. If they were making notes or highlighting passages I was over the moon! However, either way, there was discussion about using their book for effective learning.

In either case, before books were bought or borrowed, clear but simple expectations were put in place as to their use.

In a crude analogy, the Internet is the biggest book a student in your class has access to. And the best bit is that they can insert their own pages, pin multimedia elements, remix content and crowdsource opinion. Using the Internet appropriately for learning and communication is a challenge that can only be overcome through practice, failure and feedback from a supportive guide… but should these guides be teachers?

Should the guides be students instead?

How far should guidelines for responsible use go?

When is it “safe” for students to fail on the Internet?

Are your students defacing the Internet?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Breaking out of the silo? The VLE formerly known as Glow

I’ve been out of the Glow-sphere for eighteen months now. In that time I have been waiting patiently for parental logins, sighing knowingly when my 8 year old daughter describes forced IT lessons using Glow as the medium (and if she realises they’re forced, something is seriously wrong with using Glow to enhance learning and teaching) and reading – with increasing interest – the often faltering attempts to rebuild Glow as a serious VLE built for learning and teaching but that also allows students and teachers to move beyond the silo and harness the myriad services that exist on the Internet for digital creation, curation and citizenship.

A Digital Learning Environment for Scottish Schools clearly states that teachers “should be trusted to use their professional judgment in how ICT should be used.”, enabling staff to decide how best to use Internet-based or locally installed services to augment their learning and teaching. Some staff will be more comfortable in finding and utilising these services than others, so ICTEx proposed that ‘best of breed’ services should be made available through a national schools Intranet (they have called it Glow+ in their document). The accelerating pace of change in both hardware platforms and software resources means that any solution has to be future-proof and this means that (1) the system must be easily adaptable with regard to access, platform and cost (2) the interface must be device agnostic (3) it should be a springboard for innovation in the classroom, not a constraint.

This goes against the grain of the original Glow design – already out of date when I first saw it in 2006. At that point the security was so tight that access to resources from another school was near impossible, there was no search functionality to make links with other teachers and your individual upload limit was 5MB. There was no option to access via a mobile device (I’m still amazed at how quickly the smartphone explosion has changed the way we demand to access services, but even so I wasn’t designing a future-proof national intranet for Scottish Schools) and no way for students to get feedback or inspiration from those outside of their school but completing the same certificate course.

Admittedly there was an attempt to improve things but, by then, it was too little and far too late. Glow as it exists today is suffering from dwindling numbers of users due to the development of freely available VLE competitors, tech-savvy teachers setting up their own Moodle / Google Sites / hand-built solution or formerly positive teachers becoming disenfranchised with utilising technology in their classes and being forced to use Glow over any other solution by their local authorities.

I’ve sat in on enough seminars, workshops and online discussions to know that the current demand is to utilise existing services in a way that makes the learning outcome greater than the sum of its (online) parts. Rather than having data hidden in silos, unable to control who has access to the information you created, actively sharing content across a number of web services to develop digital citizenship skills and engage students creatively and collaboratively is rightly placed high on the educational agenda. The last two years of presentations at the Scottish Learning Festival have taught me that there is no single solution to the problem of enhancing learning and teaching through the use of technology.

The way the solutions were shared was consistent but the solutions themselves were disconnected. Research and development was inefficient. Schools still remain silos of ideas unless you happen to have connected to an individual teacher in another establishment via social media, email or good old face-to-face meetings. The only difference in these methods of communication is speed of access.

One development that may encompass the aims of the ICTEx group as well as provide a means of sharing good practice between educational establishments is Glew, a single sign-on service that allows access to a variety of Web 2.0 or social sites. Since initial creation in late 2011 Cults Academy Teacher of Computing Charlie Love has utilised the Agile model of development to quickly extend the functionality of his Glew service based on user feedback. The current iteration utilises GlewTiles – a user interface based on Windows Metro – to allow users to customise their Glew desktop.


Glew is accessible from desktops, tablets and smartphones. Visit http://www.glew.org.uk to sign up to the service and try it for yourself. Then tell Charlie what you’d like him to add!

Divide and conquer Twitter

I’ve used Twitter now for over 3 years (a late starter, making up for that now) but in all that time have never made use of its list functionality. I hate the way Twitter forces you to click , click, click and click again to add a single user to a list and then wait for you to close a window before continuing with the next user… and the next… so, up until now, I’ve made use of hashtags and browsing the main timeline. Not very efficient.

In contrast I really like the way Google+ allows you to build your circles without fuss using drag and drop. I hoped someone out there had created something for Twitter lists that worked in the same way, searched Google for a while and found Icotile (http://icotile.ogaoga.org/, free).


As you can see the main part of the interface is made up of small tiled images of your Twitter contacts. On the left hand side of the screen are the lists you have created and on the right is the biography of currently selected Twitter user (very handy!). To add a contact to a group simply drag the image on to the list.

It’s not perfect – I’d love to be able to select multiple contacts before adding them to the list for example. You should also ensure you have created all the lists before starting to use Icotile to avoid problems when adding (it doesn’t show any error messages should a contact already be in a list or cannot be added to one). I also think that being able to filter out contacts already added to a list would be very useful, especially when you have over 1500 to sift through! However Icotile has allowed me to begin to organise my Twitter streams more efficiently and allow me to customise my Chrome TweetDeck app (free) to show selected lists rather than the timeline and a series of hashtag searches.


Can anyone suggest alternative ways of organising your Twitter lists?