Posts Tagged With: education

#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‘!  

Categories: About me, Education and learning, Technology, Travels, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Inspiring a Future Generation

As half term draws to a close, I find myself once again in London having had a lovely break.

The holiday has given me chance to reflect on recent trips to the capital over the last few weeks:

What can I take back to the classroom?
What can I take forward into my career?
What does it all mean anyway?



The end of January led me to Google Campus to attend a Start Up weekend with its focus on education (#SwLondonEdu). This was hosted by @nightzookeeper and sponsored by the likes of OCR, Technology Strategy Board, Macmillan and many others. Click here to read all about it.

The general idea was that educators, developers, coders and business minds would come together to form teams and embark on a grueling 54 hour task of attempting to create a ‘start up’ business idea for use in education. I teamed up with @ideasfactory @kateho, Matt, @brynll and @buzzburman to try to create a phonics app aimed across all key stages and appeal to older children. By Sunday evening, myself and Julian (@ideasfactory) were ready to pitch @Robophon to the judges and potential investors.

I personally had chosen to attend the event to be involved in the process of working on something that might benefit children in schools in the future and to meet other people trying to do the same. See this great post from Julian S Wood which explains more:

The event was won by @mrlockyer‘s @useedu the ‘one stop inspiration station’ and it was nice to see @chrismayoh‘s team as runners up with @wordwarsedu – more at

The event ran smoothly with thanks to many people including @oliverquinlan @clogish and @EddStockwell. Special thanks go to mentors who took the time to support our group, @BuzzBurman @Bartoneducation @jodielopez @dick_taylor and the quality feedback from @DeputyMitchell and @joga5.


I learned that people have fantastic ideas but without an audience and team to move the idea forwards, that’s all it is, an idea.
So perhaps then, it is a vision rather than an idea that can make a difference to the children of today who become the adults of the future.

This idea of trying to make a difference is at the front of my mind daily. By definition of being a teacher, this seems to be ‘stating the obvious’ but the world of education is changing constantly with influences from areas of politics, technological advances and society to name a few.

* What if I am part of inspiring a future world leader, doctor or scientist by being their influence at 5 years old?
* What can I learn from the children I work with?
* How can I facilitate learning and encourage ambition?

Now would seem an appropriate time to think of my own ‘heroes’ past and present.

* My Year 3 teacher Mr Tandy for making learning fun. Please look at my previous post ‘The Greatest Teacher?’ for my personal thoughts on this.
* My current principal for believing in me and giving me a chance to work in a challenging school with huge rewards when you see the impact school can have.
* My family for supporting me with my decisions and being there when things don’t quite work out.

This past year since using Twitter as a tool for CPD, I have uncovered a wealth of ‘heroes’ who are fellow people with the same passion and goal to inspire the future generation.

BETT 2013

bett 13

After a 4 hour drive from Bradford to London I caught the end of arguably the biggest ‘Teach Meet’ ever at #TMBETT13. The @excellondon was a great venue and it was lovely to meet some of the most inspiring educators all within the same room. Some I had met before at #CampEd12, the London Festival of Education, #bMobLe and others I know solely through conversations on Twitter. The list included:
@helendaykin @susanbanister @dughall @penny_patterson @stevebunce @morethanmaths @joga5 @bellaale @dawnhallybone @johnbishop713
Each individual has a passion for inspiring children and trying to make that difference in their own inimitable ways.

One such example of this came from Stephen Lockyer (@mrlockyer) and Ben Waldram (@MrWaldram) who promoted the idea of #BATTT (Bring a Teacher to Twitter). I have a separate post on this HERE.

My personal highlights from the #BETT13 event itself came from @timrylands whose #backtotheirfuture talk was inspirational and useful in that he revealed a whole host of free resources for use in school!

Who said BETT was just a trade show?

(Read Bryn Llewellyn’s post for reflections about this.)

Another highlight was finding new resources for use with children, including:

* Teach Your Monster To Read website for free games (@monsterscanread)
* Zondle for choosing or creating quizzes which can then be played though a variety of games platforms. (@zondle)
* Frog (@frogtrade)
* iamlearning (@I_AM_LEARNING)


All in all, I have found these events thought provoking, informative and challenging. I have come away having learnt something new whilst at the same time I have questioned and reviewed various things about my own practice and CPD.

* How can I use resources more creatively?
* Are there other ways to get the boys in my class to write beyond what they are currently doing?
* What other ways can I share and collaborate ideas and tools?

However, despite all this, the key message I will take forwards with me is…

Be inspired today and you will inspire the future.

Categories: About me, Education and learning, Travels, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sports Personality of the Year 2012, the Gold Rush and the Olympic Legacy

Can I do it? Yes I can!

Since my last post about running, I have successfully managed to run 10K  and help our school team of runners raise £758 (and counting) for Teenage Cancer Trust! Little did I think 3 months ago that I would be able to do it and yet there I was, jubilant that I had achieved the (personal) impossible dream!


Watching Sports Personality of the Year (#SP12), it came as no surprise to see that no less that 8 Olympians and 3 Paralympians were nominated for the award, creating a difficult dilemma for the voting British public.

The programme allowed me opportunity to reflect on a summer of unity and patriotism.


The London Olympic Games 2012

 Reminiscing about watching the Opening Ceremony on a big screen in GreenwichPark, I and many others had been sceptical that our ceremony would not better that of Bejing four years ago. However, to my surprise, Danny Boyle did not even attempt to better the CGI effects and precision dancing of China. Instead, rather fittingly, he gave a show of tongue-in-cheek, slap-stick, British humour…Bravo!

Naturally, one of the main talking points was that of saving our NHS; comments were made, people sniggered to themselves and a sense of unity appeared to sweep the country.

And so the games had begun!

I was optimistic enough to hope that Mark Cavendish might win the Men’s Road Race…Team GB’s first chance of a medal. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be but, on a personal note, I enjoyed the camaraderie and banter standing on Hyde Park Corner that would be ever present throughout the duration of the Games.

It was during this time that we chatted to a couple of fellow ‘Northerners’ who very kindly offered us spare tickets for the Sunday morning Hockey matches. Without any hesitation, we said ‘YES, of course’. However, it did make me feel for the thousands who were unsuccessful in obtaining ANY tickets to ANYTHING. Perhaps, a bit of luck was the only way (especially for those outside the M25).

After an early start on that first sunny Sunday morning, the hockey commenced and I was overwhelmed by the sense of occasion. I found myself surrounded by Aussie and New Zealand fans for the first match and Belgian and Netherlands fans for the second. This excitement was only added to when I found out that one of the men who gave us the tickets was himself a past Olympian and won Bronze in the Men’s Hockey GB team of 1984 in LA! With tickets to women’s basketball, women’s football, beach volleyball, sitting volleyball, Paralympics athletics finals and a couple of marathons too, I truly was a very lucky girl.

Walking around the Olympic Park itself was enough to make me beam from ear to ear all day long. Even when not in the Olympic Park, I found myself glued to TV screens in various locations including home in Bingley, Sheffield, Bradford’s City Park, Hyde Park and Victoria Park (for BT London Live). What’s more, the BT London Live events were FREE and included a whole host of live music including Blur, New Order, Scouting for Girls and my personal favourite, Newton Faulkner. People were waving Union flags, clapping and cheering, willing Team GB on (or indeed whichever country they were supporting).

People were really embracing the buzz, excitement and anticipation that seemed to be present. Entire nations were united in spirit and hope…all had Olympic Fever.


All in all, I feel honored to have witnessed a thoroughly fantastic XXX Olympiad and the Paralympic Games and feel privileged to have been part of it. The much-hyped talk of Olympic legacy included that of children across Great Britain taking the spirit of the games into their own lives. There was much discussion about the sense of fair play, team spirit, the need to try their best and aspire to be as dedicated as the athletes themselves.



Although 4 weeks of Olympic and Paralympic sporting heroism and achievement seemed to unite an entire nation, I can not help but feel a little disheartened that the proposed Olympic legacy has not been followed up as well as initially imagined. Take for example, the Premier League and the continued diving and foul play or the revelation that Lance Armstrong did in fact cheat his way to multiple victories. Is this really setting an example to school children nationwide and demonstrating ‘Olympic values’? We need to ask ourselves:

* What is the Olympic legacy supposed to be?

* How are we supposed to deliver and encourage it?

* What will the children of today aspire to be in the future when after all they ARE the future?

Mr Cameron suggested making 2 hours of PE a day a compulsory part of the school curriculum, how are we to deliver this? ‘Create more Olympians of the future’, he said. However, I don’t know many schools that have rowing and equestrian facilities to deliver this.

Surely then it is more about encouragement, nurture and celebration of the dreams and aspirations of young people. We need to instill values such as determination and hard work, teamwork, never giving up even when the chips are down, and being gracious in defeat.

Such determination in the face of adversity was demonstrated tonight as Paralympian and London 7/7 bombings survivor, Martine Wright won the Helen Rollason award at the Excel arena where many Olympic and Paralympic events had taken place in the summer.

Her story is inspirational and the way her life has changed over the last 7 years is incredible. The scenes she witnessed on that fateful day in 2005 were horrific and yet, ironically, the day after the announcement that London was successful in the bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games. Even in the face of adversity, she picked herself up from that life-changing experience and trained to participate in the sitting volleyball competition at the Excel Arena in the London Olympic Games 2012.

And so as Bradley Wiggins is the Sports Personality of the Year in this exceptional year for British sport, 2012, I urge us all to think of what Martine Wright said,


 “Let’s build on this legacy. Go ahead and inspire a nation.”


Categories: Education and learning, Sport | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The A-Level Drop, The Pension Squeeze and The Government

I awoke this morning with butterflies in my tummy as it was my brother’s turn to find out his A-Level results. Having waited anxiously in the car with my parents while he went to get the envelope, I wondered if all the hype and predicted ‘drop in higher grades’ would be true after all. As I looked around the school grounds, it got me thinking further and even with the sound of congratulations ringing out all around, it was not enough to hide the look of disappointment on many young adult faces.

Now, in my day (only a mere 8 years ago), there were notably more smiles within the school grounds on that morning. Indeed B’s and C’s at A-level by most people’s book is an exceptional achievement to be proud of but it seems not in the eyes of many hopeful pupils this morning. This mainly being due to the fact that they had been predicted much higher grades consistently over the 2 year AS / A-Level course. How then does a hard working pupil go from predicted A’s and B’s to B’s and C’s seemingly overnight?

Ok, let’s take into account the odd ‘off day’ or ‘exam gone wrong’ but with coursework and previous exams etc that is a drastic drop.

Of course that means all those wasted hours visiting universities and doing all that research based on A’s and B’s when they could have been looking for more appropriate courses and preparing for more realistic futures to the ones ‘predicted’.

For many, it is a case of ‘tough luck’ but surely questions should be asked just how results have steadily increased for the past 20 years and then all of a sudden there is a 7% drop in university acceptances. How?

Is it really a case of Ofqual moving the goal posts in an attempt to tackle grade inflation? What about the forthcoming GCSE results next week? I suggest reading former TES journalist, @warwickmansell’s article on this and see for yourself;

Naturally there could be reasons for the drop; the cohort itself, ‘new syllabus’, Ofqual moving the goal posts and no doubt TEACHING will be blamed somewhere along the way!

Now would seem an appropriate time to reflect on the on-going battle between the teaching profession and the government ….

Perhaps, having caused such a stir about pensions, the Government seem to be making increasing demands, therefore making it increasingly difficult to be a teacher. Less graduates will want to join (poorer conditions than ever before), more will leave, the rest will be ill from picking up the slack. As the rest become over-worked, more teachers will be tempted into an early exit, thus saving a fortune in pension payouts! Are we then becoming ‘victims’ of another Tory Government?

Purely my own thoughts but would like to know if others agree.

And with that, it seems that many predicted correctly…A-level grades of 2012 have indeed dropped and I am looking forward to what the media says and indeed other people. Something tells me they may well have yet another field day…

Other Sources:



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What do you think about….QUESTIONS (insert question mark here)

Since my last post, I have been a busy bee.

Firstly, and on a personal note, I was absolutely delighted to attend the match at Bramall Lane on Monday night. I watched with baited breath as Sheffield United (eventually) won the game against Stevenage 1-0. Just enough to see them go through to the League 1 play off final at Wembley on the 26th May.

Bramall Lane on Monday night vs Stevenage

School wise, this is the week where things have started to take off as regards the Reggio-based groups.
Visit to see what we have been up to. Particular highlights include one group visiting the library to do further research and a completely natural conversation between children about snails.

I particularly enjoyed mainly observing comments during Thursday night’s #ukedchat about types of questions used in schools and the impact. I feel that questions are essential within the classroom to challenge thinking and extend thoughts and ideas. I do, however, feel that the more open-ended, the better. I have changed the way I use questions this year and also used key phrases such as ‘tell me about…’ and ‘I wonder…’. They have certainly worked a treat with my Reception class.

In addition to this, I have been trying to pack for a weekend in my university city of York for a much needed catch up with friends. I am intrigued to find out how much it has changed since my last visit and I am due to find out in around 3 hours…

So with that, I better find my jeans and clean my muddy, ‘I survived CampEd12’ rucksack, and hit the road.

Have a good week and I would appreciate hearing people’s thoughts on what types of questions to use in school and the impact as it really did interest me. Hope others feel the same… 🙂

Categories: About me, Education and learning, Football, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

#CampEd12…Connecting the @s to Real People

During the bank holiday weekend, I spent two (rather cold) nights in a tent in Oxenhope. ‘And just why on earth might I do that?’ I hear you ask. Well, to put it simply, some avid Twitter folk came up with the idea of hosting a TeachMeet style event somewhere between the field and the barn on Hardnaze farm.

To think that only 3 months ago, I hadn’t got a clue how to use Twitter, let alone be involved in one of the most enjoyable gatherings of teachers and their families I’ve ever encountered.

It all began when @chrismayoh mentioned the idea to me and I made a mental note. May was a long way off so I had plenty of time to decide if I wanted to go. In the meantime, @chrismayoh had convinced me to find a purpose for using Twitter and I was now the proud owner of an account, going by the name @TaffTykeC. Come March and time to sign up, I was overwhelmed by the list of Tiwtter names I had seen so many times online and heard so much about from Chris and @brynll. I couldn’t wait, albeit nervously, to meet the Twitter Folk and connect the @’s to real people.

Saturday morning arrived and I awoke from my warm bed with a mixture of nerves, curiousity but most of all, excitement!

A lift from @brynll and we arrived at Oxenhope and were greeted and directed by @lordlangley73 and @lordlangley73jnr. Their enthusiasm and reassurance that the steep hill in front of us was indeed the way to go, only made the adventure better still.

Further reassurance and help with parking and setting up came from @dughall. A Norwich City supporter himself, I was able to break the ice by talking football, as I had donned my Sheffield United shirt that day.

Having put up the tent (and helped @chrismayoh put up his tent too), other Twitter Folk began to arrive including: @tonyparkin, @bellaale and @penny_patterson. Having now become rather chilly and having had no caffeine all day, a cup of coffee in the barn was a must. The barn itself was full of a whole host of strangers and new faces, adults and children alike. It was there that we met @helendaykin and her mum, Sue, who had kindly donated Hardnaze Farm for the weekend. Thus began the game of matching the Twitter names to faces. You know that moment when talking to someone and they ask what your name is and you’re not sure whether to answer your real name, nickname or @soandso. I eventualy gave up and simply said ‘Cat…the one with the flowers on my profile.’

It was in the barn that I met @dawnhallybone and her family, @squiggle7, @TeakayB, @susanbanister, @chrisrat, @ bevevans22, @misslpitkethly, @johnmclear, @deensie71 and @joga5.

Putting up the tent

All warmed up and introductions done, we returned to the camping field only to find that SpaceStation5 itself had landed! That would be, er, @JOHNSAYERS and Jess and their 8 berth tent  mansion.

After a warm welcome from @joga5, I chose to do GeoCaching, as demonstrated by @lordlangley73 and Joseph. It’s amazingly strange how much fun chasing ‘gekos’ around a field on a handheld device can be. It was my first time trying this activity and I absolutley LOVED it, epecially as the device began to beep, suggesting I was near to the Cache itself. One Cache in particuular proved tricky to find but with perserverance and determination, I got there in the end. 

It’s funny how a group of strangers (only knowing each other through the Internet) can come togther and get along as if they’d been friends for years. And yet that was the case when many folk went to the local pub to watch the cup final and have a chat. Learning about the work people do, about their families and aspirations was particularly interesting.

Finally, the hungry rumblings of tummies ready for feeding began to ring out and so the pub-goers made it back to the barn, following the delicious smell of a a tasy BBQ that had been prepared by the staff at the Waggon and Horses. Yum yum.

A burger or two and plenty of beer later, it was bedtime as the happy campers retreted to the field. Nothing could have prepared me for what was to be one of the coldest nights I’ve ever experienced! Not to mention the annoying sounds of snoring and certain people getting up to trek across the field to use the luxurious portaloo near the barn.

Ah finally, morning arrived! The sun was shining and the sleeping bag was suddenly pleasantly warm. Unfortunately, just as I was managing to doze off, I realised that it was indeed morning…late morning at that…and time to get up! Not to let fatigue and sleep deprivation dampen my mood, I duly got ready and headed to the barn for my daily caffeine fix. In there were a mixture of happy people who slept well and the cold campers, still smiling but taking the time to warm up and wake up.

All warmed up, I walked to the top field and found a seemingly skillful Mr Mayoh playing football against the children ranging from 3-15. Desperate to join in, I approached only to be told that I couldn’t play because Iwas a girl. Being the grown up, I took this well and simply watched, smiling to myself and contemplating revenge. However, this was also not acceptable and I was told I smile too much and to stop it. After standing a while more, with some persuasion from Chris, the boys eventually allowed me to join in until it was time to start activities for the day.

Tempted though I was to return to the football field, I decided it may benifit me more to do den-building with @dughall and his team of ‘volunteers’.  I am so glad I did too as, after much consultation and observation of other den builders, @brynll and I eventually built a den based on the proven design of an everyday tent. The language, communication and problem-solving skills used in this activity were fabulolus and I intend to take this back to use in my Reception class at school.

Today was to be a day of football as I also have a soft spot for Newcastle United, who were playing live on non-terrestial TV. Determined to find a place to watch it, we walked into Oxenhope village and eventually found the ‘Idiot Hut’, Oxenhope’s infamous social club, whose steward very kindly let us in.
Another defeat later, and it was back to base via the bridalway and some stunning scenery along the way.



View from #camped12


Back at camp and a quick nap, I had recharged my batteries enough to seek out Chris and the children playing football again. This time, having shown off my silky skills this morning, they let me join in straight away. I’m sure they had been practising as they were all playing really well and tired me out!

Finally, the rumbling tummies began to sound out again and the whole camp retreated to the warmth of the pub for a Sunday roast dinner. The gelling continued and everyone was chatting away merrily until the pub closed and it was time to head to bed. Most people did this with the exception of the #CampEd12 hardcore, by now exceptionally tired but still excitable: @brynll, @chrismayoh, @dughall, @mattpearson and myself.

A few ‘Ribenas’ later we had put the world to rights and headed for our sleeping bags. Sheer fatigue alone meant that this night represented a better night’s sleep and the chance of a well rested head. Mr Mayoh, unfortunately was somewhat worse for wear.

As the sun rose again, it signalled the end of the wonderful weekend and time to reurn to reality. Having packed up, loaded up and said our goodbyes, the Twitter Folk headed off to whichever part of the UK they had travelled from and hoped that they would meet again at #CampEd13, all except Chris, who we left in his tent, in the field…ahh.

I have since heard that SpaceStation5 will now be used as a learning hub, making use of all compartments and the central area.  Don’t worry, latest reports suggest that @chrismayoh is alive and well and will never drink Ribena again!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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