25th April 2019

A busy few month (as usual) for me with some time out training:

STEM Associate Facilitator

Before we broke up for Easter I completed day two of my STEM Associate Facilitator training. This means that I am now under the STEM Learnings Quality CPD banner for delivering training for the NCCE (National Centre of Computing Excellence). I am really looking forward to sharing expertise and strategies with other Computer Science teachers across the region, starting with a course on GCSE Algorithms in Taunton in June.

CEOP Ambassador

Very pleased to announce that today I completed my CEOP (child exploitation and online protection) Ambassador training. This is very important to me as an advocate of digital technologies as it is essential that I am capable of helping students, staff, parents and the wider community should they get into any difficulties. The internet and all the opportunities that it offers us is phenomenal, but we must not be naive and now I am even more confident in delivering the outstanding resources created by CEOP.

Hello World Article

Even more exciting was the publication of my first article for Hello World. This is a publication that supports professionals working with Computer Science in Education. The magazine can be found here, my article is page 40.

28th March 2019

Raspberry Pi Certified Educator

Well, yes the big news of the last month is that I am now a Certified Educator for RPi, after completing my training in Pi Towers, Cambridge this week.

Yes, its a rather large image but that's how proud I am.

I have wanted to complete this training for a number of years, but haven't found the time to go, something always came up. This changed when we decided to create the Makerspace as I felt that this knowledge and experience would be crucial for success and would allow me to finalise what it is that we need to buy for maximum engagement and interest.

So with a little excitement and some trepidation I took the long journey to Cambridge, unsure about what the two days would hold and worrying about if I would be able to cope with the course, who would be there, would I do something stupid, etc. However, it is always a pleasure to be in Cambridge and I couldn't have enjoyed the two days more.

Yes, it was a challenge, there were new people to meet and ideas to be had but the environment was amazing, a real sense of support from both staff and peers on the course and most of all the insistence that you will and must fail and only in doing so will you succeed and they were right. I can not explain how it feels to come up with an idea and see it through from design to realisation, when so much of it feels out of your control. You have to change course and come up with plan b, c and even d but that doesn't matter because every step of the way feels like a win.

I was totally sold on how amazing the makerspace will be for DHSB after half an hour in Pi Towers. The opportunity that this kind of space presents is truly magnificent; the idea that we can make successes from failure is liberating and will allow our students to grow skills such as resilience and creative thinking.

The two days were full of wonder, excitement, successes, failures (lots!) and lots of coding! The first day we were introduced to the sense Hat, explorer Hat, sensors, motors and a little bit of crafting. I made a fortune teller who would spin round for yes and shake her head for no.

Day two was about challenge; we had to work in teams to create 'something' based on the knowledge we had gained from day 1. I was interested in the PIR Sensor and PiCamera modules and so worked on creating an exit poll system for class where the PiCamera took your picture and recorded a response of if you were happy, confused or indifferent about the lesson. We used the laser cutter to build the housing and programmed the PIR to sense when a student was ready to respond. The piCamera took a picture based on if one of three potential buttons were pressed. The most exciting thing about working with physical computing is the unlimited ways in which you can work with your environment as well as the software. The 'feedback faces' app that we worked on had so much potential - with more time we were going to use the PiCamera filters so that they would colour code the picture and then output as an emailed list.

The best thing to takeaway though was the mindset. It is okay to fail; in fact failure is essential in physical computing because you don't know what will and wont work and from failure comes success. Learning through play and experimentation is education at its best and shouldn't be left to the smallest children and ultimately this is the lesson that I will want to share with students and staff.

Be Strong onLine Ambassadors

Be Strong Online is a digital resilience programme for young people from The Diana Award Anti-Bullying Campaign and Vodafone. We took a team of six students out of school for the day who were then trained to become Be Strong Online Ambassadors, this means that they will help raise awareness on digital issues and promote positive digital online behaviour with their peers, by running short, engaging digital skills and awareness sessions for our students.

We were hosted in the fabulous Micheal Murporgo building at Plympton Academy with several other schools from the local area. The boys were outstanding in every way; polite, courteous and showing excellent presentation skills when delivering a session for other students. They have already delivered an assembly to Year 7 students on digital detox and are planning to deliver to Year 8 and Year 9 on gaming addiction and social media.

5th February 2019

Safer Internet Day - 5th February 2019

We had a busy day in the Learning Commons today marking Safer Internet Day. This years theme is all about consent after a report by the UK Safer Internet Centre revealed how integral sharing and viewing online consent is to young peoples lives, and how vital it is that we all understand the needs that young people have in navigating how to ask, give and receive permission online. The findings highlight that children and young people usually have the right intentions and want to be respectful and considerate of each other. However, in practice, they can sometimes get into difficulty.

The myriad of ways in which they use the internet, the fast-paced nature of the technology they use and the lack of clear guidance on what, how and when permission should be sought is causing difficulties for many children and young people.

It is essential that we all see it as our responsibility to support young people to practically apply consent online. With this in mind, students were invited to the Learning Commons to have a conversation about the ways in which we can get consent, the data that is held on us by signing up to services and the importance of reading the terms and conditions. Students then made a pledge as to what they could do to, to ensure that they are taking control of their own and others personal data.

For more information and to read the full report please visit the Safer Internet Page.

SID Pics

Internet Safety is so important to all of us in such a technological age and to continue to support our students, we are taking out some students to complete their Be Strong Online Training. These events, run by the Diana Awards, are all-day events in which our students will be trained as Be Strong Online Ambassadors. They will then go on to run informative sessions, campaigns and assemblies here at DHSB to help their peers increase their digital resilience.

1st February 2019

2019 Planning

I do find it hard to believe that I only started at DHSB in September, I have been made to feel so welcome that it feels like I have always been part of the Learning Commons. This year will see the start of the most changes in our learning space since I arrived. We will remodel part of the space into a MakerSpace, removing some of the static computers and putting in some extra workspaces along with Pi-tops, electronics kits, micro:bits, robots, makey-makeys, a sewing machine, card cutter and more. The focus will be on technology (of course), but will ensure all ideas and prototypes can be made and that the students can be encouraged to try something different.

The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals are the UK's oldest and most prestigious children's book awards. Often described by authors and illustrators as 'the one they want to win' - they are the gold standard in children's literature. Running for sevearl years here at DHSB; the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards Shadowing scheme engages thousands of children and young people in reading the books on the shortlist via reading groups in schools and public libraries with dedicated educational and digital resources to support each shortlist.

This year the Learning Commons will be supporting Mrs Johnson in this initiative by offering the space for meetings on Tuesday lunchtimes and helping our team produce an interesting, creative and tech based presentation for the competition which will be hosted by Tor Bridge High in June.

The shortlist of books is due to be announced on 19th March. If you would like to be involved in reading the books, please do get in touch.

Digital Leader Update

Digital Leaders are busy making a start on our DHSB youtube channel which will broadcast to TVs in Refuel; ideas so far are for a sports channel where students would be updated with results from DHSB games and also a Fantasy Football update, also we are using the channel to promote mental health, advertise events and show current news stories.

17th January 2019

A great start to the year was finding our that we have currently raised over £1000 towards creating a makerspace in the Learning Commons. This seemed like a good opportunity to remind you all about the reasons behind it.

What do we want?

We would like to transform part of our Learning Commons (library) into a makerspace. Part of our culture here is to inspire an innovative and entrepreneurial culture. Makerspaces can do this by encouraging creative problem-solving and an entrepreneurial mindset. Having a makerspace which is free and available to all students improves our community and the ideas that come out of it. We believe that the set up of a makerspace will:

  • Encourage innovation among students
  • Enhance thinking ability
  • Transform student ideas into products
  • Generate startups at school level
  • Promote hands-on learning
  • Support creative problem solving
  • Engage students within the programme
  • Support and implement innovation

Who is this for?

This will be for the whole school initially, but we are hoping to involve the whole community by inviting primary schools and even parents in for maker sessions. The space will be versatile and have the potential to be mobile; increasing the number of our community that we can reach.

7th December 2018

We are gearing up for Christmas here in the Learning Commons and this month sees the launch of our first Advent Challenge. This is a serious of puzzles, activities and brain teasers for each teaching day until the end of term. An overall prize will be awarded for highest points, but we will also be giving out prizes for those winning individual challenges. You can find the competition here.

We also kicked off our fundraising campaign with Rocket Fund - where we are aiming to create a maker space in the Learning Commons.

Having a Makerspace which is free and available to all students improves our community and the ideas that come out of it. We believe that the set up of a Makerspace will:

Encourage innovation among students

Enhance thinking ability

Transform student ideas into products

Generate startups at school level

Promote hands-on learning

Support creative problem solving

Engage students within the program

Support and implement innovation

This will be for the whole school, the space will be available for all at lunch and break and we will run clubs through the week and promote the use through all areas of the curriculum.

16th November 2018

This week started with an interesting meeting at Plymouth Council House, for the up and Coming "The Box", this will be a museum for the 21st century with extraordinary gallery displays, high profile artists and art exhibitions, as well as exciting events and performances that take visitors on a journey from pre-history to the present and beyond, always with Plymouth as its focus.

I am really excited to be involved as a teacher ambassador and am being given the opportunity to be have a say in the education offer that this project will offer on opening in 2020. The progress on the build is going really well, you can view a timelapse of the construction work in October below. I will keep you posted on events.

A large portion of my day on Tuesday was spent figuring out the best way to register my Digital Assistants and Learning Commons Assistants when they come to do a shift with us. A rota was too restrictive and so I have devised a QR code system that will automatically send a google form saying that they are registered. This should work really well, enabling me to to reward those students who are committed to coming to help us out. Both groups of students are currently busy; the DLs have been health checking our IT rooms and replacing hardware and the Commons Assistants are currently looking at creating a careers/futures section upstairs.

2nd November 2018

It's been a long time since I wrote last. I have just been so busy, but will not use that as and excuse, really should try harder! Straight into the updates. Seascape our wonderful autonomous yacht doesn't get to wet her bow yet as the competition has been postponed until the Spring. The failing light and weather conditions have not been in our favour and so the decision has been taken to move the date back. We are however hoping to make our maiden voyage in November for the Illuminate festival. So, it has been a week of looking at wearable LEDs to see how we can light her up!

On November 20th we are launching a fund raiser through Rocket Fund

We would love to create a Makerspace in the Learning Commons.

We would like to transform part of our Learning Commons (library) into a makerspace. Part of our culture here is a desire to create an innovative and entrepreneurial culture. Makerspaces can do this by encouraging creative problem solving and an entrepreneurial mindset. Having a makerspace which is free and available to all students improves our community and the ideas that come out of it. We believe that the set up of a makerspace will:

Encourage innovation among students

Enhance thinking ability

Transform student ideas into products

Generate startups at school level

Promote hands-on learning

Support creative problem solving

Engage students within the program

Support and implement innovation

This will be for the whole school, the space will be available for all at lunch and break and we will run clubs through the week and promote the use through all areas of the curriculum.

Details of the crowd funding website will be shared, when it has gone live!


Team Updates - so far this year, we have launched a recruitment drive and been blessed with some great new digital leaders and learning commons assistants. Each member of the team has signed up for one or more projects to either promote digital literacy or reading and reviewing literature. These will include producing documentation and test projects on the use of our green screen room and radio broadcast equipment, promotions around reading and reviewing more books, creating training on new software, creating posters and media materials for the school and training up more students to be able to help staff with technical issues. I look forward to sharing their successes with you.

This month also see's the launch of DHSB Cyber Club, a Government initiative that will inspire the next generation of cyber security experts and help to grow the UK's cyber capable workforce.

Students will immerse themselves into four phases that span hundreds of hours' worth of challenges, tasks and games that have been designed to nurture their interest in the industry and improves skills such as lateral thinking. The first phase of the programme is designed to identify problem-solving skills, logical thinking, and to spark enthusiasm for the subject, no matter what your interests are. Not to mention what huge opportunities there are in this sector for employment. To give you a flavour - can you solve the puzzle below?

First club date is Thursday 15th November. Read more here.

Review of the month - goes to Fintan Riley for reviewing 'Quidditch through the ages' by JK Rowling.

"This book was a great bit of light reading and a great addition to those who have read all the Harry potter books and are looking for something else in the wizarding world to read. I enjoyed the many easter eggs in this book,like how there was a quidditch player called Josef Wronski and he was the inspiration for a move 'the wronski feint', which Viktor Krum spectacularly pulls off in Harry Potter's 4th year, the goblet of fire."

Fintan wins a pizza of his choice, delivered to him in the Learning Commons!

Lego Mindstorms Competition - Thursday was a great day out with the Year 7 Digital Leaders, attending a lego mindstorms competition with other local schools at Mars Wrigley Confectionery. The event focused on opportunities at Mars Wrigley for budding engineers and building a fun day around STEM. Our Digital Leaders were fantastic; working well with others, being resilient when problem solving and being courteous throughout the day. They also asked some amazing questions including ones about annual turnover! The winning team included students from DHSB, DHSG, Plympton Academy and All Saints Academy. A real lesson in cooperation and collaboration. Quite a few Starbursts and Skittles got eaten in the minibus on the way home too.

And finally - Working Wednesday.... we launched this two weeks ago and it has been great. Students can eat while they complete work and it has been nice to see a different cohort of users coming in. I have been impressed with the majority of students, always polite, considerate and helpful.

12th October 2018

"Books smell. Musty and rich. The knowledge gained from a computer, it has no texture, no context. It's there and then it's gone. If it's to last, then the getting of knowledge should be tangible, it should be...smelly." - Rupert Giles

I gave up the computer for two days this week to reorganise and sort out the wonderful collection of books we have in the Learning Commons. I wasn't looking forward to it at all, it seemed arduous and dusty, but all in a days work now that I am part librarian! It turns out however, that being stuck under a pile of books, gazing over and under the covers is a quite wonderful experience. The books really do smell and I was caught in the moment, thinking about Giles the Librarian and his quote; fulling appreciating his intentions whilst still disagreeing about computers and thinking how lucky I am to work with both. I do hope though that my similarities to Giles and his adventures in being a High School Librarian, end there. (For those younger readers - google Buffy the Vampire Slayer!)

We order our books in terms of genre and then alphabetic by surname within that genre. Each shelf is now clearly labelled to help with searching and also added some short info slots on some of the authors we have, these will be changed throughout the year. It was interesting to research our most popular authors and I was pleased to find out that Naomi Novik was a Computer Scientist and game developer before being published.

Student Voice

It is really important that the students drive the Learning Common forward, after all it is their space. In order to facilitate this, I surveyed students in all years.

Interesting, when asked what they wanted to see more of; books came out on top. Followed by tech that could be hired out, Graphic Novels and then newspapers and magazines. As a result, I will box up the micro:bits and pi's that we have, with some idea sheets and make these available to hire, from the New Year.

I will also look into which magazines would be most popular and look into stocking those.

We also asked at how the space is being used by the students and if they were happy with what was going on at lunch and break time, the focus was if we should be open for everyone without restrictions, which was clearly the most popular choice.

However, when you add up the students that wanted to have work only on a couple of days with the ones that only wanted it for work and others that made sensible suggestions, they do need to be taken into account and so from next half term, we will introduce working Wednesdays.

5th October 2018

This week started with the confirmation of our competition sail date for Seascape400 (the addition of the 400 will be revealed later!). We will take to Millbrook lake on Tuesday 30th October and compete in a point to point race and a time trial around a set course of way marked points. We will compete against teams from PSCA, Real Ideas Organisation and MSubs. After the boats have completed the race they are going to be brought back to the workshop and illuminated to be part of the Illuminate Festival. This festival is going to open and close the wider Mayflower 400 programme, in November 2018 and 2020.

This week I gatecrashed the DHSB Mayflower 2020 team. This is a group of students working with the History Department promoting and organising events to celebrate the upcoming Mayflower 400 celebrations. If you are in Year 7 or 8 and want to get involved please register your interest here.

I have given all students the opportunity to provide feedback on the Learning Commons via a google form, which has been emailed to them. The deadline for this is next Thursday and I will share the results and actions based on that, on Friday.

We have blown the cobwebs off all of our social media accounts and you will now be able to get the latest by following us as dhsblearn at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This is a great way to find out when the Learning Commons may be closed for clubs, on that note; don't forget Code Club starts next week. Monday is for beginners and will focus on Scratch and Friday will be starting with Python. See you there!

28 September 2018

This week I will be reading City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau.

One of the challenges I gave myself when I started my new position here was to read most of the books on the DHSB Sixteen by Sixteen list, which has been updated recently to include some more contemporary works. I started last week with Split Second by Sophie McKenzie and although I found it tricky to relate to the teenage protagonists (unsurprisingly!), I did find myself unable to put the book down, particularly in the latter stages. It was thrilling and had a few unexpected twists and turns.

I would love students to review books after taking them out of the Learning Commons and will be promoting this over the next term, please see the DHSB Library Website where you will be able to review a book, as soon as it has been returned. I will be giving out commendations!

I have started buying more physical copies of our Sixteen by Sixteen list, we had some new arrivals this week. You will find them in our new Sixteen by Sixteen section.

Don't forget to check Wheelers, if you have requested a book - it may well have been ordered.

Seascape Escapades

This week we really got started on our Autonomous Yacht Project. We decided on the name 'Seascape', completely stripped the decals off the boat and have taken off all equipment. The sails need realigning and we will need to decide where best to put the GPS module and other kit needed. Also, we now need to 3D print our wind vane and bracket for the magnetic shaft encoder. We also looked at the command centre software and realised that we need to modify some connectors for our Pixhawk board.

It's been great this week to see the upstairs section of the Commons being used for lessons, we have had Art and Religious Studies using it as a fabulous learning space and I have had an induction for our new Year 7 English students in Newton house. It's been really interesting talking to the boys about their choice of books and I have been getting recommendations of the books that I should order; including more sports books and more graphic novels. I will keep you posted.

21st September 2018

Another week gone and this one has been mainly about boats - not unusual if you live in Plymouth I guess. This week saw the launch (get it!) of the RNEC competition with 14 students involved in the initial meeting, they have been briefed and are now currently thinking about the planning stage. If you want to read more about the competition then click this link.

We also brought the yacht that we will be working on for the next few weeks back to DHSB. This is how she looks now, we will be completely overhauling the design and looking for a new name. Suggestions welcome! Next steps are to take out the RC equipment and think about the best way to add the new components to make her autonomous.

Do follow us on twitter

We celebrated Agatha Christie's birthday this week, perhaps not quite as popular with the boys as she was when I was at school, but we still have a healthy amount of loans which goes to show that sometimes the old ones really are the best.

We Are Hiring

We have some exciting projects coming up over the next year and so this is a great time for us to increase our Digital Leader and Learning Commons Assistant team. All students in Years 7, 8 and 9 will have received a sign up email to complete if they are interested. Digital Leaders are students that help in the day to day running of our IT systems, both in the Learning Commons and out in the classrooms, supporting teachers. We are also looking for non technical support and welcome applicants who feel that they can bring something to the team. Deadline: Monday 24th September

Exciting Initiatives

There are so many amazing initiatives available for students, that it just isn't possible for me to be involved in running all of them, so I will try and cover the best ones here each week.

A good idea can come from anyone, anywhere. If you’re between 13-18, we’d love for you to join us and share your best idea using science, technology, engineering, and math. It doesn’t matter if you use pen and paper or a full-scale lab; it’s all about the idea and the thinking behind it---no matter how big or small.