Nothing Toulouse and all to gain via Agent4Change

Hello all,

I’ve been rather busy since last year writing yet more articles and oh…moving to London to start a new job.

During the Easter holidays 2015, I decided that I needed a new challenge. A few job searches on TES later and my dream job appeared right in front of me; Class Teacher and Computing Subject Leader. The only thing was that it was based in Redbridge, London. This was one of those sink or swim moments. Do I apply and, heaven forbid, actually get the job or do I stay where I am, nice am comfortable in West Yorkshire?

Having visit ed London on numerous occasions for various conferences and meetings during my own time, I had fallen in love with the idea of living in the Big Smoke but never actually had the guts to do anything more than talk about it. I also wanted to take on more responsibility at work and the very title of the job I had found seemed to have been telling me something. I spent a good two days writing my application and researching information about the school and local and as I press ‘submit application’ on the email to the Head, a sense of excitement came over me.
Living 200 miles away had meant that I hadn’t been able to do the usual visit to the school before applying which had niggled me enough to call the school and arrange an appointment to speak with Mrs Buxton, the then Head of Redbridge Primary (@RedbridgePS). Upon having a quick chat with her and after putting the phone down, I knew how much I wanted to work there.
Sure enough, an interview followed and after having only left the building for 20 minutes, the call came to offer me the job. My excitement was in overdrive until the moment at the motorway services where I called my mum and it dawned on me…I’m moving to London!

A busy Summer of house hunting and moving ensued and my excitement wavered a little when lugging boxes and making 8 round trips from North to South. Luckily, I had help and had soon moved in with another teacher as introduced to by the lovely Dawn Hallybone (@dawnhallybone).

A year on, and with new Leadership, I am still as keen to learn as ever and on the 3rd and 4th of November this year, I traveled to Toulouse for an education conference arranged by Russel Tarr (@russeltarr). More than 250 delegates from 14 countries came to the International School of Toulouse for the ‘Practical Pedagogies’ event. With so much on show and so much to learn, it was an excellent event with lots to feedback to my own staff and plenty to share via social media too. My most recent article about it can be found on Merlin John’s (@merlinjohn) Agent4Change website.

Eighteen months on from that initial decision to change something, I look forward to what’s to come as there truly is nothing to lose and all to gain…

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New You Tube Channel

I have finally got myself on You Tube.

Check out my Teach-meet presentation at Bett 2014.


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Making a Difference

‘Have a growth mind-set’. ‘You can if you think you can’. ‘Go the extra mile’. It is often talked about but what does it look like in context within schools?

In one example, at Bowling Park Primary School, the whole school promotes a ‘can do’ ethos, which is embedded through the ‘Going the Extra Mile’ or ‘GEM’ approach. Talking about future aspirations with children encourages them to push themselves, work hard and rise to challenges. This ties in very neatly with Dweck’s research about Growth mind-set.

The other week, I joined in a very thought provoking #aussieED chat about research:
* What is meant by the word research?
* Who carries it out?
* Is it really useful?

There seemed to be a difference of opinion in that some people said that research is done over a period of time and is a collection of a range of data. However, @mairinglenn made a good point about ‘drawing theory from our practice’. Whilst all points were valid and research is not solely restricted to a school environment, it does seem that ‘research’ can be collected on a daily basis when working with a class of children.

@Hywel_Roberts talks about ‘accidental learning’. “Some of the best learning takes place when, rather than imposing on young people a pre-determined curriculum, you find the stimulus that is relevant and engaging for them and build from there.” (Hywel Roberts
The other day at Queensway Primary School in Leeds, I had the pleasure of witnessing this first hand.
During a maths session, a group of Y1 children had chosen to work in the sand tray. The task was to pick numbered lollipop sticks out of the sand and compose number sentences.
However, much to the excitement of the children, a problem had arisen; there was a hole in the sand tray!

Despite observations of teachers taking place and the temptation to hush them away quickly before it caused a fuss, staff allowed the children to continue their exploration of the problem.

The level of engagement and interaction between the four children at that time was a prime example of accidental learning. Children took turns, collaborated and suggested ideas: “We need tape!”. They went through the problem solving process, measuring Sellotape to cover the crack, moving the sand away to stop the constant flow pouring onto the floor and swept the sand after borrowing the brush from Y2.
Even then, they weren’t finished as one little girl said, “We need to test it!” They put lots of sand back over the crack once the tape had been applied and refined their ideas by deciding that they would add more tape as there was still a small leak.

What had started as one thing very quickly evolved into something else, entirely child-led and with real purpose.

I was lucky enough to attend the @EducationShow in Birmingham this weekend with a fellow professional, Suzi Hunt. Special mention to @nightzookeeper as their creative writing month has generated lots of excitement for young writers, ensuring that learning continues to be almost ‘accidental’. Keep up the great work!
As I meandered up and down the aisles, collecting flyers and learning about educational products and services, it dawned on me just how many educators were prepared to give up their Saturday with a view to improving their own practice and development. All this to try to make a positive difference to the lives of the children in their respective schools!
Ideas were shared at the Teach Meet (#tmedshow15) too. Great ideas came from @gazneedle about art across the curriculum, Claire Lotriet about #proudofmyselfie and @charliedean about how she use the fabulous @classdojo for parental engagement.

Unfortunately, I missed Guy Claxton at the event on Friday. However, what he said is what I continue to see in many learners, young and wise; “School is a place where kids pick up attitudes about learning”. So let’s ensure that we model a ‘can do’ approach and inspire the future generation. After all, it all goes to show that with the right mind-set and attitude, we have the power to do anything…

Steve Jobs

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Just finished moderating my first live web chat. Storify via @jenna_kleine


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A recent trip to #BETT15 the other week and quality conversation with @oliverquinlan, @cerirwilliams, @ClassDojo and co, I rediscovered my mojo! Inspirational chat, discussion and thought has led me to writing this post.

For those eagle-eyed folk who duly noted that it had been a while, I can feel satisfied by the fact that I have written three articles for the UKedchat magazine. Approached by @ICTmagic last May, I have really enjoyed sharing my own experiences in the hope that it is useful in some way to fellow educators.

Articles include;

To Blog or not to Blog (May 2014)
New Beginnings (September 2014)
Reflections (January 2015)

Check out the website for more excellent ideas, resources and online-collaboration at

In addition to beginning a new role in my Bradford school (Bowling Park), embedding the computing curriculum across school and reviving Digital Leaders, I have also been enjoying work at a Leeds school (Queensway). The contrast between a three-from, split site, multicultural school and a one-form entry, local community school was a shock to the system at first. I have found that while the experiences children have varies from family to family, the learning behaviours and emotional needs are the same.

Most recently, Bowling Park were featured in the Ukedchat Mag as ‘School of the Week’! Click here to read about it.

For every little Peter that dislikes writing, there is a Paul who also needs that extra special something to make him think of himself as a writer and author! And for every little Aleeza that thinks she can’t do maths, that is where we, as educators, are privileged enough to be there to do something.
It is with this in mind that inspires me to go the extra mile each and everyday and try to make a difference.

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Springing into Action

This post is dedicated to the inspiring, wonderfully creative @bevevans22, who sadly passed away last month. I was fortunate enough to have met Bev on a few occasions over the past couple of years since embracing the world of Twitter and was always impressed by her warmth and creativity. For many teachers, they may not know her name, but they will have a Bev Evans resource somewhere in their classroom. Bev’s legacy can  be judged through countless downloads of the free resources she uploaded to the TES SEN site. That said,  it’s her dedication and commitment to improving the lives of children that will be remembered most.

The impact that Bev had on the world of education encourages me to continue to be creative and innovative through my own practice.
Recently, I have asked my Y1 children to demonstrate their creativity through topic lessons. In a recent music session, I introduced them to a website called ‘Incredibox‘, whereby they got to compose their own song through assembling various sounds. By using Incredibox to maintain a steady background beat, we built on it and composed a variation of a well know farm-themed song. Visit the Bowling Park Primary website to listen to the final composition and to view our iPad art based on the work of David Hockney.

As Spring is well and truly here, I thought it an appropriate moment to take time to reflect on the first months of 2014. As my theme for the year is ‘change’, I was inspired by various people at #EdShow14 in Birmingham last month. As I walked up and down the aisles, I saw so many innovative products, ideas and people, which further inspire me to make a difference in the lives of children. I enjoyed learning about the latest news from #BETT award winners @Showmyhomework, catching up with @chrisrat on the @scholastic stand and listening to the ever inspiring @stevebunce demonstrating just how easy the Computing Curriculum can be.

Bradford have had different holiday times to other authorities, which has meant that I have enjoyed this past week considering what the Summer Term might look like for children in my class. Discussions with fellow educators has led me to consider developing the idea of #DigitalLeaders and @OpenBadges. Watch this space…

Making the most of my alternative week off, I took myself down to London for some rest and relaxation, beginning my trip with a lovely catch up at South Bank for #pizzaed. Many folk attended including @mberry, @digitalmaverick, @gillbudgell, @dawnhallybone to name a few. It was here that I learned more about how Mary Farmer @ebd35 has been using technology in her school and about the insightful work that @oliverquinlan is doing at @nesta_uk. Special thanks go to @andreacarr1 for organising the event.
From one lovely evening to another, other meet-ups included a good old chat with @tonyparkin about the wonderful city of #York and @jachapman82 and her brand new blog which can be found at

And so, full of the joys of spring after a lovely break, I look ahead to this week and seeing the smiling faces of my Y1’s tomorrow morning. Let’s hope that they too have had a fantastic holiday and are ready to spring into action from 8:45am…




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Hour of Code

Well it would seem that I have missed out February’s post, however a busy month has left me with lots to talk about.

Firstly, what a treat to have had the half term break. I’m sure most teachers would agree that it had been a tiring start to the new year and a nice long sleep was just what was needed. During the holiday, I spent time analysing my class’ most recent phonics screening check scores (as talked about at #TMBETT14) and they had once again made progress. By continuing to use an alien theme and link to @classdojo, the children are as enthused as ever about beating their last score and making progress.

A risk assessment visit to the Deep and a parking ticket later, I found myself at the #EICE conference in Manchester. As the tag line had been ‘Education Innovation’, it seemed a good place to visit. Albeit, a seemingly smaller version of #BETT, it allowed the exhibitors more time to talk to delegates. I am greatful to @janharrison21 of @Naace for taking the time to help me with some ideas around technology and forward thinking and @timrylands for sharing yet more useful resources during his presentation. My highlight, however, was a lengthy chat with @triches about the potential for using @openbadges within school. I have started to look at this idea and I’m excited to see what happens next.

The first week back at school coincided with the #hourofcode week. Being keen to start coding with my Y1’s, I used our hall time to ‘program’ a simple robot – me!
Having previously shown the class @Baggiepr‘s brilliant ‘Program your teacher to make a jam sandwich‘ video, they set about trying to instruct the robot to walk from one side of the hall to the other, overcoming obstacles along the way. This was promptly followed by half an hour back in class trying to write or draw directions and ‘code’ to make an Angry Bird get the green pig. Finally, we used the demo games on the Espresso Coding website and made our own aquarium. Watch the slideshow at!

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#TMBETT2014 – Loving the Alien

I attended my first #BETT show in 2012 and have been each year since. Upon my first visit, when it was hosted at Olympia, I found it to be a daunting experience with very little understanding of what it was except “just another trade show’. By my second visit, I had entered the world of Twitter and had formed links with teachers and technologists alike. What a pleasure it was then to arrive on Friday evening to the #BettArena and meet up with fellow professionals, some known to me and some new. This time, however, was somewhat different. This time, I felt that I was ready to sign up to present at the Teach Meet event (#TMBETT2014) on Friday night.

Having bagged a ticket back in November and having never presented at any Teach Meet before, I thought why not? However, as the day approached, I found the nerves creeping in. What a comfort it was then to see smiling faces including @dawnhallybone, @andreacarr1, @dughall, @joga5,  @tonyparkin, @bevevans22, @nightzookeeper and @sarah_wright1 in the arena, wishing me well and calming my nerves.

The scariest thing about #TMBETT14 was not that it was hosted in the London Excel Centre (@excellondon). Not the fact that 650 tickets had been sold and @MrMichaelShaw from #TES handing out T-shirts saying ‘The largest TeachMeet in the world’! Not even the fact that I would be using technology, which could go wrong at any point. Nope, the scariest thing was that my presentation was about real children and the real learning that takes place in my classroom as part of each individual’s life journey.

* Would I do the children justice by sharing their achievements (thoroughly safe-guarded of course)?

* Would I be able to give @classdojo the credit they deserved for their wonderful behaviour management tool?

* Would the audience members find any of it useful and take it back to their own schools to share with colleagues and children alike?

All of these questions raced through my head as I nervously waited to see if my name would be called through the random selection process as created by @russeltarr through @classtools.

Fabulous presentations came from @stevebunce, telling us that Thomas was alone and @ideas_factory who asked us to be the purple cow. After 2 hours of presentations, 8:30pm ticked by and my nerves had died right down. By this point, I had given up on my name being called and was composing my graceful tweet of disappointment, whilst telling myself that there was always next year. It was a surprise then when co-host @iusher was calling my name. As the big screen had temporally stopped working, I was dazed by the sound of my name being called and uncertain if it was even the right ‘Catherine’ that he was calling. Phone in hand and notes left behind on my seat, I made my way to the front where the stage was, where I confirmed that it was indeed going to be my turn.

Waiting at the side of the stage with @katerussel, who was co-hosting  the event, I began to compose myself and collect my thoughts. After an interesting presentation from @oliverquinlan, I stood up to the podium with no notes, a phone with no battery and a lot of faces staring at me, awaiting my first sentence. It was reassuring to see smiles round the room, people nodding along and it was here that I felt proud to share the work of the children back home in Bradford. My presentation was about phonics called ‘Loving the Alien’ and with the tagline, ‘How to Make the Y1 Phonics Screening Check More …Errr… Human!’ The link can be found HERE.

#TMBETT14 Blog image LTA

It was only after stepping off the stage (and leaving my phone on it) that I truly then calmed down. Lovely comments came flooding in via Twitter on my Nexus from many people who congratulated me on no longer being a ‘Teach Meet Presentation Virgin‘ and I even got to meet some of my ‘Twitter Heroes’ @ICTmagic and @triches.

What was really lovely, was the subsequent messages I had from teachers who have already shared with their staff in their schools. One practitioner told me how her school use Class Dojo all the time but she never thought of linking it to phonics and was going to do so from now on!
I guess I can address my concerns about it being useful then?

My third and final concern about giving the credit to Class Dojo was relieved when they also tweeted;

tweet classdojo

All in all, a wonderful event and special thank should go to @digitalmaverick and everyone who organised everything.

Finally, I am already looking forward to the next Teach Meet, wherever that may be and #BETT15 but for now and in the words of a well known song, keep ‘Loving the Alien‘!  

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2014 – Time for a Change

Happy New Year to one and all. It really does not seem a whole year since I was writing my new year post for 2013 – How time flies!
As we enter 2014, people across the land will no doubt be making resolutions to change old habits, seeking new experiences or trying to make a difference. My personal resolution is to write a blog post at least once a month but time will tell.

Talking about change, yesterday I had my hair cut and coloured for the first time in a long while and I do genuinely feel happier. How is it that a new look or change of image can improve one’s self esteem and confidence? And yet it is only my own physical appearance that has changed. Perhaps it is like wearing a mask, whereby if people don’t know it’s me, it’s alright to make mistakes or have an opinion.

This got me thinking about how, as teachers, we often ‘don’ a mask and take on the role of Mr or Ms So and So. It would be impossible to stay 100% alert and maintain the high levels of energy outside of school hours spent with children and so it seems inevitable that I am destined to living the life of a chameleon!
What about the children and their self esteem and confidence? I doubt a hair cut will solely help develop these crucial life skills and it is this thought that inspires me to play my role in the life of a young person, knowing that 100% effort is worth it for that very reason.

So what else might this year be like?
Well the most recent news is all about the stormy weather and climate change (there’s that word again).
No doubt the next 12 months will have its up and downs for everyone. It is during the high tides and rough seas that family and friends truly play a part. I have come to appreciate this so much more throughout 2013 and hope to give more back this year.

Considering family and friends, the 21st December 2013 marked the 25th anniversary of the Lockerbie disaster. No doubt a time of reflection for many and a time to hold the family and friends of the victims in mind. I had the privilege of visiting the Lockerbie memorial last week as part of a mini break to the Scottish borders. This is one part of history that cannot be changed but it did make me thankful for the gifts of love and forgiveness I do have from those closest to me.

On the subject of Scotland, the mini break I mentioned was my first ever visit over the border! Isn’t it funny how such beauty and hospitality can be found without having to travel thousands of miles to find it? I have been guilty in the past of jetting off to Canada and the USA without realising what’s in my own back yard. That said, I hope 2014 will rack up some miles and with a trip to Cologne, Germany in May, I am sure I will manage it.

I hope to cross borders of my own this year in whatever form they may come and perhaps it’s about a change of mind-set rather than anything drastic. Perhaps, it’s a change of routine, eating more, sleeping more and driving less. Maybe, just maybe, it’s about facing up to problems and tackling them head on instead of running away but most of all I sense my theme for 2014 is…CHANGE!

Does change mean improvement? I doubt that very much as change can be a bad thing but by using what’s gone before, learning from mistakes and tackling problems head on, I hope 2014 will be a success!

I leave you with a well known catchphrase that undoubtedly seems to sum things up;

“And now for something completely different!”
John Cleese, Monty Python

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Blapp Snapp

After a long but productive first term back at school, it is my turn to write about apps that have worked in my classroom as part of @ideas_factory’s #BlappSnapp.

As our topic was entitled ‘In Our Dreams’, the literacy focus was around stories. This encompassed taking note of settings, characters and story structures with teaching points of adjectives and connectives throughout.

Within the first few weeks, children were introduced to Puppet Pals, which they very quickly began to use independently. Example at

Another great app for developing an understanding of sentence structure is Clicker (although a little pricey). It helped my Y1’s to see how to use capital letters and full stops without the worry of the physicality of writing it down.

In maths, we have been learning about a range of concepts, particularly around number. The Special Numbers app has been a popular choice. Strangely, ‘Brushes’ has been a way of recording work, for example number sentences, and the boys especially have got into it purely because it was on an ipad.

Finally, the whole topic came to an end and the final outcome was to produce a film of the various traditional tales we had studied.

The whole year group used ‘iMovie’ with excellent results! Each class took one story and recorded on ‘iMovie’, then an adult used Movie Maker to put the whole thing together. View it on the Bowling Park website.

I hope this is useful and I will update with more apps as I find them to be useful.

Happy Holidays everyone, much deserved I’m sure!

Categories: Apps, Education and learning, Technology, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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