David Brown answers your computing questions.

David Brown, Ofsted’s National Lead, Computing, answers some FAQs on computing in schools.
This video is the first in a series from Ofsted’s national leads, focusing on their specialisms and key issues in these areas.


Can Students have too much tech?


Improving educational attainment

Commitment to improving educational attainment through a North East Schools Challenge. Ensuring the North East has the skills base to support its growing sectors is essential to our economic growth. Equally the education and skills system needs to give everybody the opportunity to fulfil their potential and access the more and better jobs.

Click here for more details of government money secured for the North East  NELEP


Once again we visited China to renew our business contacts and friendships with our colleagues and to discuss projects to bring young people to Newcastle upon Tyne and to also develop a project to have people visit China for an intensive Language experience where they will be immersed in the language and culture of the country. We hope this project is wellreceived


We visited Riga in20140514_174900 Latvia to exhibit and attend a conference discussing Creativity in Education.  It was my first time in Latvia and although I was only there a short time I felt that the people were open and enthusiastic about where they were going and wanted to learn from other European countries but they also have a lot to offer other countries in terms of culture and historical significance. I would like to go back to Latvia and work with colleagues to develop collaborative projects with schools in the UK.

Computing 2014

Are schools ready? I was recently in a UK school working with a class teacher and pupils looking at Control and Monitoring. The school has a network hosted by the local authority to ensure that the system is safe and that pupils and staff can access programs safely. This is important as we all know and I have my eye on next week 11th February 2014  here as it is Safer Internet Day   and we all want to ensure that our young people are using technology in a safe environment. So I am looking at control and the network has a control program installed and so I take the class through the program showing how it works and then they are let loose to explore and learn. The class has a set of iPads and so I show the class teacher what I have on mine in terms of control apps. She is enthusiastic and suggests we download these for the class. The pupils at this stage having been shown some of the programs are really enthusiastic about using them and so we head for the online Apple app store. The device needs to have a password entered. The teacher goes to the office. The teacher returns with the password. The password is entered. The password does not work. As I have my mobile with me I offer to contact the technical support and they are very helpful and inform me that the password we are entering is correct…. however the local authority IT team may have blocked access to it. This would be for all the right reasons to ensure the integrity of the system. I ask to be transferred to the department.  I leave my number, they ring me back, they tell me that they need an email from the school to speak to me, again they are being very safe and I have no problem with this. The pupils on the iPad meanwhile having been shown some great apps are frustrated and can’t understand why they can’t access the free apps as they would be able to do at home. I am told that the system will need to be unlocked I ask for a time scale, minutes, days, months. the kind person on the other end of the phone tells me he is unable to tell me. I hand over to the teacher to take up the baton she provides the school email and contact details and we think we are on the home straight as the morning break bell rings. After break the secretary shows me an email which outlines the situation which is that basically the head teacher needs to take the decision whether to open the whole system up to potential abuse and almost biblical proportion catastrophic consequences.  I suggest that they ask for the system to be “opened” for an hour to allow supervised downloads then closed again. The decision to let this happen was not there by the time I left the school and the very polite person from the local authority was unable to tell the school when this could happen. The pedagogical consequences of this are disturbing. The Government are asking that schools around the country provide excellent opportunities for young people to explore and learn about the technology so that we are not left behind by other countries. As teachers we are being expected to teach a new curriculum in September where teachers are still unclear about the actual vocabulary. Teachers are being asked to develop high level skills and a secure knowledge base when they are unable to access the tools they need when they need them. I asked if I could access the WiFi system so that I could show a program which used Google maps to overlay GPS  as I had taken a group outside and needed to show their work. I was told that the school were not allowed to give access to outside machines. So in terms of keeping children safe and maintaining the security of the school network I would give 10 out of 10. For allowing children to learn anything and for allowing the teachers in the school to use the technology to its best ability for learning and teaching I would give zero. The worrying thing is, I am sure this is not an isolated case and teachers up and down the country are working very hard trying to deliver an exciting curriculum for their children with their hands tied behind their back and blindfolds on ( metaphorically speaking of course). When will common sense prevail? Tuesday 11th February is SID and I cannot stress the importance of making sure young people know about the dangers of the online world but there has to be more of a dialogue with the gatekeepers and there has to be an acceptance that what is good practice in a corporate world is not necessarily good practice for the education world. Your comments on this would be most welcome.

BETT 2014

 TYN CAN Learning

Visit Globisens (hall/stand A120) at BETT 2014

Join us next week in London at BETT 2014, STAND A120 where we’ll be launching and demonstrating THREE NEW products and services:ONE: GlobiLab for Android – Be the first to see full GlobiLab data analysis software functionality on both 10″ and 7″ Android tablets. TWO: Mobile science Labdisc cart – Two working models stationed at the Globisens stand will give you a true sense of this unique product Read the new Mobile Science Cart brochure

THREE: LabdiscMini – Launched at BETT, two LabdiscMini entry level models with 8 built-in sensors, complement the full 12-14 sensor Labdisc range. Read the new LabdiscMini brochure
Contact us to schedule a meeting and enjoy some quality hands-on time with our new solutions.
 BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour: Exploitation

Exploitation Exploitation D.L.Weller’s powerful drama about child sexual exploitation and grooming. Fourteen year old Holly can’t believe her luck when she is asked out by twenty year old Jay; so why is her best friend Leah not happy for her and why can’t her parents just leave her alone? A five episode drama

Facebook privacy changes may effect e-safety.

If you have had a Facebook account for a while, and statistically you probably have, you should have received an email recently explaining some changes that are being made to your account settings. read more

e-Learning Awards

Tyn Can Learning will be at the Grosvenor Hotel in London  tonight at the e-Learning Awards. The Labdisc has been short listed for an award in the most innovative new hardware or software category. Lets hope we win and I get to do an acceptance speech!

Tyn Can Learning getting ready for China trip.

Director Sheila Walker is busy making the final arrangements for our trip to China. We will be meeting up with colleagues from our last trip and also meeting with Shanghai Model University staff who came across to Newcastle in the Summer where we provided accommodation and a drama workshop at the  Theatre Royal Newcastle. We will also be putting the finishing touches to our plans to provide a month long Mandarin course in July 2014 for students Year 11 to Year 13 from the North East and to also discuss arrangements for hosting Chinese students in Newcastle in August 2014. Sheila will also travel to southern China to discuss online content for early years Chinese children. Roamer -Too Re-seller Status



We have just been accepted as a reseller for the new Roamer floor robot. This redesign of the roamer has brought the robot forward and is more inspiring in the things it can do. It is also easy to change the facilities on the Roamer to adapt it to different age groups. Roamer-Too is the latest version of the popular Roamer robot (now called Classic Roamer). It combines the latest robotic technology with the science of learning to create an exciting and dynamic educational tool that can help your students understand complex ideas across a wide range of age groups and subjects.

Vilniaus Kolegija

Faculty of Business Management We visited the College and were shown around the campus.The business lecturers are all done in English and any student who is struggling receives extra support. Business Students celebrating their ideas The Project Manager of Competence Neringa Miniotiene was very enthusiastic about collaborating on innovative projects with the UK. Povilas Sapkauskas the Head of the Competence Development Centre was keen to show the facilities at the Collage and was interested to explore ways that the students could collaborate and become involved with real world business solutions. Dr. Loreta Kaciusyte from Balsiu Mokykla in Vilnius attended the British Embassy function and we met to talk about a possible visit in February to the North East to look at the way UK schools follow assessment in learning in particular how to measure pupil progress. The school is the first in the country to be built under the British Public Private Partnership and students are aged from primary through to secondary age. We visited the Education Development Centre EDC and spoke to the director and his team about possible collaboration. The UPC is the home of an International contest on Informatics and Computer Fluency which is held in many many countries all over the world called BEBRAS which means beaver in Lithuanian.

Lithuania visit.

Today we are travelling to Vilnius in Lithuania a wonderful city and a fantastic country. We will be attending a British Embassy networking event on Wednesday where I will be meeting educators and teachers and I will also be visiting schools in Vilnius and also if there is time taking a trip to Kaunas. I am really excited as this trip I will meet up with people who I have met with in the past and also be able to plan a visit by some teachers to come to Newcastle in February.Although the weather is a little colder in VIlnius than it is here I will get wrapped up and get ready for a wonderful trip.

China Visit

It is all steam ahead with the planning of our third visit to China.We are will be visiting  Wuhan again and Shanghai to meet up with the Drama group who we hosted in the Summer. We will be arranging meeting to talk with schools and universities but also business people who would like to come to England and meet up with companies. We are hoping to organise visits for young people in July after exams to travel to China and learn Mandarin and also to host young people here in the UK in July to learn English and have a cultural experience.

British Science Festival Week 2013

Newcastle upon Tyne is the place to be this week as there are lots of things going on in and around the city in celebration of Science. Tyn Can Learning will be at the Exhibition from the 9th – 12th Demonstrating the Labdisc experimenting with science and also doing some nifty work with 3D. The exhibition will be in the Students Union at Newcastle University. For information go to the British Science Festival website

NAACE Competition for Schools

NAACE will be celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2014 and to mark the occasion, we would like to invite schools to enter this year’s competition.Class of 2044 – how will technology be helping us learn and teach 30 years from now?Schools are asked to design a digital artefact to illustrate the above. For example this could be artwork using digital tools for inclusion on cover of the Naace conference magazine, an animation, a video, a sound recording, an app, a game etc.Winners of the competition will receive a selection of the prizes donated by the NAACE Sponsoring Partners:

  • are delighted to offer one lucky winner £250 towards a subscription.
  • Rising Stars are pleased to offer a competition prize of over £800 worth of primary computing teaching resources
  • The prize from Scholastic consists of £100 of children’s books and all the titles in the following series: 100: English, Maths, Science and Computing Lessons for the 2014 curriculum
  • Sonocent is delighted to offer a free site licence of Audio Notetaker, worth up to £1499!
  • Steljes is delighted to offer 20 user licences to the Steljes Training portal for a year.
  • TakingITGlobal would like to donate one of their e-courses for teachers and for students, they are pleased to contribute a £25 iTunes gift certificate.

More about these fantastic prizes, the application process and T&Cs can be found here. Deadline for all submissions is 31 January 2014.

Engage young people in a traffic survey.

You can use the videos below to do a traffic survey from the classroom.  Create a document whereby the children can tick off a category of vehicle when it passes the marked line on the screen. If you time the activity you can then work out how much traffic is on the road in an hour, a day. a week, a year.

Do teachers have to learn Python?

Python Language There is a change happening in digital technologies in the UK. Last year the ICT curriculum was dis-applied this meant that the programmes of study were to be looked at and a new curriculum would be put forward with more of a computing feel about it as the government had listened to influential corporations about the need for programming skills in industry especially in the UK. The Government has consulted and has produced a curriculum which will make those who felt that their particular element of digital technologies programming feel much better. But more than that I believe it has allowed the profession to look at what it was offering in terms of Digital technologies and redefine the curriculum. Computer science is very prominent and those who have been hiding behind their LCDs have become more involved and the debate is centred on the idea that Computer science is a cross platform study because it is not necessarily about coding it is about higher level thinking skills and problem solving, in fact some would argue the all the world’s an algorithm. However I believe the debate is taking a strange turn of events. Suddenly we have teachers gasping for breath in their surge to learn Python. Some are saying that they need to learn the language to deliver the curriculum well I don’t think that is strictly true. I will confess up front, I am not a programmer,I just lack that particular skill to create something from nothing using text it is admirable and let’s be honest though where would we be without programmers?  So lets look again do all teachers have to learn to program? No! in my opinion. Do secondary teachers have to learn the Python language well again I think no. Python, correct me if I am wrong is not a real language it is  pseudo code derived I think from BASIC. progLanguagesNow if we think about this a little, the reason the curriculum is being revised is because of the lack of industry stand programmers but is Python or BASIC an industry standard language? I think there is a band wagon here and a little bit of scare mongering which is not good for the profession. I am of the view that languages such as C are what is wanted but then there is the mix. Where are the jobs, Webdesign, applications, creating programs so it may be argued then that Java, Python and C are the languages. But where is the historical connection with languages that used to be the ground works of programs I am thinking here of Fortran, Pascal, Cobol.  Maybe the future programmers brought up with the present curriculum will mainly aspire to be app developers and web designers. Now that would make for an interesting world.

Weekend Fun in Barcelona at the Scratch Conference

Keynote speakers are live every day from 9.30 – 10.30 CEST / Barcelona time ! Thursday July 25 th: Mitchel Resnick and Karen Brennan Friday July 26th: David Cuartielles and Clive Beale Saturday July 27th: James Whelton and Shuchi Grover Scratch Conference

UK Government to rank pupils against each other.

The UK Government want to ensure that over 85% of pupils are able to read and write at an acceptable level for when they reach entry to secondary schools ( age 11) To do this they will rank pupils and give them a place either Great Good Average Bad Awful. Or at least something which is akin to those rankings. When I was 11 I sat in a classroom with four rows of desks facing the front the first desk in the Yellow row was where the “Best” in the class sat after each weekly test and stayed there until the next test and remained there or moved accordingly. The last desk at the back of the red row was where the person who least performed in the test sat and in between through RED,GREEN,BLUE and YELLOW. I was continually in the red row I occasionally made it to the green row and once I think a made it to the blue row. When the 11+ came along I sat it with the rest of the country. On the results day there were three of us in class Me Patrick Cunny and Elisabeth Thornber singled out and taken out of class.We were told to go home and explain to our parents that we had failed the exam and we were allowed to stay home for the afternoon. The rest of the class were treated to a party in school. You can imagine  the thoughts running through my head. My mother was philosophical and said I should try a little harder. I was on the scrap heap. When September came I went to the secondary school a catholic one where they had in effect a grammar and secondary modern on the same site. The grammar classes were Alpha, Beta and Gamma the Secondary modern classes were A, B, C.I was placed into the C class and over the first two weeks we all sat internal exams. I moved after two weeks into Gamma and in my second year I moved into Beta however I didn’t fit in and was lucky enough to be demoted to Gamma for the rest of my time at the school. I achieved ‘O’ Levels and ‘A’ levels went onto University and obtained a degree then a PGCE a couple of diplomas and an MA. I doubt I would have achieved these things if I had been allowed to stay in the C classes! Competition is a good thing don’t get me wrong but to pit pupil against pupil and in effect parent against parent is not in my view education. We should all learn to the best of our abilities and be the best we can we don’t necessarily have to be better than the next person. OK so the pupil premium for those needing help goes up from £900 to £1300 is this the price the government have put on failure? In my view it sends out the wrong message and I am glad teaching groups have come out firmly against it.

Science Resources from the University of York

Chemical Industry Education Centre CIEC promotes science teaching in primary and secondary schools in the context of industry in the 21st century. CIEC aims to:

  • improve the quality of science education
  • inspire and enthuse school children and their teachers about science
  • enable schools and industry to work in partnership

We achieve these aims through:

  • an extensive CPD programme for primary teachers, including Children Challenging Industry and our provision for the Science Learning Centre network
  • the provision of a wide range of print and web-based teaching and learning resources
  • activities tailored to the needs of schools, local authorities and industry

To download the free science resources click here CIEC

ASE Primary Summer Conference York Science Learning Centre 14th June 2013

What an amazing conference. We were exhibiting the Labdisc and showing primary science teachers how easy it is to use and the amazing data logging sensors that it has built in. Teachers were thrilled by the fact that it could be taken outdoors and experiments could be done away from the computer and then simply uploaded and analysed and annotated. LivingEggs were really exciting the delegates as they had brought with them several 2 day old chicks and there was a flurry of activity with teachers clamouring to hold and stroke the young chicks Young Chicks

22nd May 2013

Computational Thinking

  • It represents a universally applicable attitude and skill set everyone, not just

computer scientists, would be eager to learn and use.

  • Thinking like a computer scientist means more than being able to

program a computer. It requires thinking at multiple levels of abstraction. These are the views of Jeannette M. Wing in an article COMMUNICATIONS OF THE ACM March 2006/Vol. 49, No. 3

CASTynesideHub meeting 23rd May Northumbria University City Campus East  Room CCE1 003  to register click here

Raspberry Pi buyers face delay after factory mistake

Ethernet jacks, Raspberry Pi
The delay arose because the wrong jack was soldered to the circuit boards

Manufacturing problems will mean the first batches of the £22 ($35) Raspberry Pi computer, aimed at helping people learn programming, are delayed.

BETTshow 2012 This year was the last time the BETTshow would be held at Olympia. Before the show there was much hype about products and innovation but for me it did not live up to all the hype. All the major corporations were there selling their products even some I had never heard of with massive stands (which must have cost a fortune).  There was no real WOW factor for me although there were little instances of change in the air mainly I have to admit from the smaller companies. I did like the fact that I found out that Auto desk were giving away free downloads of their rendering programs for the visual user.  Autodesk

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