All posts by Jenny Hughes

Brush bots

Brush Bots

Brush Bots

You will need:

  • A tooth brush with the handle cut off
  • A pager motor– these are the tiny motors you find in mobile phones
  • A watch battery
  • Masking tape


Maybe you will need these

  • sticky pads
  • cotton wool buds
  • google eyes


What you have to do

  1. Stick the foam pad to the top of the brush.
  2. Stick the motor on the end of the brush furthest away from the handle end
  3. Make sure that the spindle with the weight (the bit that sticks out) is hanging over the end and not touching the foam and the wires are pointing to what was the handle end.
  4. Stick the watch battery + side up on the handle end with the blue wire underneath the battery.
  5. Check to see if you brushbot actually stands up
  6. Finally, stick the red wire to the top of the battery using blu-tak or masking tape or another bit of sticky foam. You decide.
  7. Let it go on a smooth surface


It will work first time – but never as you want it to.  Finding a way of making the motor stick tighter or looser (freezer bag ties, wire, pipe cleaners, string etc) will increase the pressure on the motor and alter the vibration.

  • You can also fiddle with bits of blu-tak to weight the Brushbot in different places.
  • Or try reversing the positions of the battery and motor
  • Or stick the battery vertically



Doing stuff

Make a track for your brushbot

  • Take a sheet of paper
  • Fold it in half lengthways
  • Bend the paper outwards about 2-3 cm from the centre fold
  • Bend each edge up about 2-3 cm in to make two tracks

  • Have races using a folded paper track
  • Make simple mazes out of anything that comes to hand and see if you can get your bot through it in shortest time.
  • Can you make the bot that goes in the straightest line?
  • What happens if you trim the legs shorter?
  • How many can you get going at once?
  • Can you make them prettier? (You could stick tissue paper butterfly wings on the top)
  • Can you make them look nastier?
  • Join two bots together with sticky tape or wire
  • Fight to the death – put two bots in a small flat tin. See who gets ‘killed’ first. Do the same in a china dish.
  • Have another fight but add wire ‘legs’ like a spider and see what happens.
  • Make your phone vibrate and put that in the dish too.





Twilight sessions

Methods of Training – Twilight sessions

Jen Hughes


These are a well-established mechanisms of staff development across subject and policy areas. In a 6 month ‘test’ period we have undertaken twilight sessions in 8 different primary schools with 5 of those schools asking for a follow up session.


Typically, the session will start at about 3.45 – 4.00pm and finish between 5.30 and 6.00 averaging 2 hours with a 15 minute coffee break. The session may be voluntary, open to any teacher or teaching assistant that wants to attend or part of a mandatory programme of staff meetings and events.


It is difficult to generalise the format because in each case the ‘brief’ from the head teacher or head of IT will be slightly different. However, all our twilight sessions have a certain pattern.


Firstly, twilight sessions are often a harassed head teacher’s way of introducing teachers and TA to the new curriculum for IT / Digital Competence Framework. It is basically a scattergun approach. All staff need to know the basics and a short, sharp twilight session for everyone seems a good idea to set the ball rolling. There are many advantages. In two hours the trainer can keep teachers’ attention and ‘entertain’ them at the end of the working day by using a wide range of equipment and materials demonstrating the use of IT across the curriculum and with different ages. It is easy to build in practical activities and ideas that will stimulate their imagination. Two hours is not a long period to concentrate and, given that they will all have done a day’s work beforehand, works well as a time slot. To that extent, twilight sessions are ideal for awareness raising, introducing teachers to practical activities and providing a measure of reassurance that they will be able to cope with the new requirements.


However, there are serious disadvantages to this model. It is expensive – in a primary school there are rarely more than 12 people in a group. Although the session might only be 2 hours, the set-up and packing up if the trainer is using a lot of practical activities can easily take another 1 ½ hours plus travel time. It is also an awkward time to combine with other activities – we have found that delivering a twilight session means leaving the office, on average, at 2 – 2.30 which means that no other activities are possible after lunch. Half a day of trainer time – excluding preparation – to train 12 people for less than 2 hours is not cost effective.


There are other problems with twilight sessions. In two hours it is possible to engage staff and give them a flavour of what is expected. The evaluation sheets show that staff enjoy the sessions and they are motivated to get started. However, it is difficult to do more than provide a ‘snap shot’, which is a good starter but which needs rapid follow up. It is almost impossible in 2 hours to consider in any detail progression or integration with thematic work. The other operational problem is that if there is a second twilight session organised, it is always a problem guaranteeing the same staff will be there. Finally, it requires a fairly experienced trainer as if staff are sampling maybe 6 or 8 different activities, it means the trainer needs to be confident in planning and delivering a wide range of content, using very different technologies.


Nevertheless, it is a useful model. On the whole, teachers are quite prepared to stay for twilight sessions as long as they are not too frequent and the more senior staff prefer them.







Implementing The Welsh Digital Competence Framework in the Foundation Phase

Cylchoed Meithrin

What the (Welsh) Digital Competence Framework means for Methrin (Foundation Phase)



4 strands 

  • Citizenship
  • Interacting and collaborating
  • Producing
  • Data and computational thinking


4 main points 

  1. Neither teachers nor children have to become experts in computer programming overnight, it does not mean that the children will be stuck looking at tablets or computer screens more often than they do now and it doesn’t need lots of money spent on technology.


  1. Just because a lesson uses technology does NOT mean it is an ICT/DCF lesson. Conversely, most of the activities that contribute directly to delivering the DCF at this age can be delivered without technology


  1. Less emphasis on Schemes of Work, more emphasis on integration across curriculum and thematic approach


  1. Many of the activities you do already can be enhanced or adapted to deliver DCF.  Remember, all the Meithrin competences are preceded by “…with increasing independence”. You are just setting the foundations for what will be developed further in Derbyn, Dosbarth Un / Dau


Suggested CPD activities

20 minutes on trying out some ‘unplugged’ activities, including playground games, which develop a range of digital competences and require  ‘homemade’ kit


Unplugged activity DCF strand Sub-strand Competence
Coding cards


Data and Computational Thinking Problem solving and modelling


Complete patterns and sequences


Emoticon cards Citizenship Online behaviour and cyberbullying Identify emotions of others on a range of digital software, e.g. talk about feelings and begin to recognise emotions;


Human robots


Data and Computational Thinking Problem solving and modelling


Follow a simple sequence of instructions


1 and 2 variable sorting Data and Computational Thinking Data and information literacy


recognise that there are different types of data, e.g. sort and/or match objects/photographs/symbols


Sticks and stones


Data and Computational Thinking Data and information literacy


sort familiar objects using set criteria.




15 mins playing with a range of kit e.g. different robots and other non-screen user interfaces so that they can make an informed choice if they are thinking of buying anything


Activity DCF strand Sub strand Competence


Recognising card / wooden pathways


Data and Computational Thinking Problem solving and modelling


Complete patterns and sequences


Beebot cards and pockets Data and Computational Thinking Problem solving and modelling


Follow a simple sequence of instructions

Create one step instructions and identify the next step


Dash and Dot – gathering snow sheep


Data and Computational Thinking Problem solving and modelling


Follow a process making simple adjustments when needed


Cozmo Citizenship


Identity, image and reputation


Identify emotions of others on a range of digital software, e.g. talk about feelings and begin to recognise emotions





15 mins playing with some creative apps that develop digital competence and really work well with 3-4 yr olds



Activity DCF strand Sub strand Competence


Quiver Producing Planning, sourcing and searching


Explore and use different multimedia components in order to capture and use text, image, sound, animation and video.


Adding sound to emoticons Producing Creating Explore and use different multimedia components in order to capture and use text, image, sound, animation and video.


Osmo Producing Planning, sourcing and searching


Navigate through a piece of software using an internal menu to find desired item.


QR Christmas book Producing Creating


Explore and use different multimedia components in order to capture and use text, image, sound, animation and video.


Chatterpix Producing Evaluating and improving


Describe in response to questions some of what has been done in the task, e.g. add comments using recording feature in software.






Teaching computing strategies

Teaching Computing: challenges and successful strategies reported by school teachers Sue Sentance, King’s College London, UK Andrew Csizmadia, Newman University, UK

Download Here

Teachers of Computing in school were asked about successful strategies that they used in the classroom as well as challenges that they faced. In a time of curriculum change in this subject, the perspectives of these teachers are useful for schools to address and implement. Challenges faced by teachers can be analysed as being either intrinsic to the teacher or having an external cause, and can be something relating to their own practice or to the challenges faced by students. We find that teachers’ own content knowledge and students’ understanding of the subject is more challenging to them than lack of resources, issues around engaging students, and time and assessment issues. In response to this, teachers recommend a range of pedagogical strategies to support students’ understanding which we incorporate practical, hands-on approaches, contextualising abstract concepts, incorporating collaborative work.

Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8

Position Statement for Preschool / early years from the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College

This statement is intended primarily to provide guidance to those working in early childhood education programs serving children from birth through age 8. Although not developed as a guide for families in the selection and use of technology and interactive media in their homes, the information here may be helpful to inform such decisions. NAEYC and the Fred Rogers Center do not endorse or recommend software, hardware, curricula, or other materials.


Digital Literacy Leicester

The DigiLit Leicester project is a two year collaboration between Leicester City Council, De Montfort University and 23 of the city’s secondary schools . The project focuses on supporting secondary school teaching and teaching support staff in developing their digital literacy knowledge, skills and practice, and their effective use of digital tools, environments and approaches in their work with learners.


Computational thinking in schools

This guide aims to help develop a shared understanding of the teaching of computational thinking in schools. It presents a conceptual framework of computational thinking, describes pedagogic approaches for teaching and offers guides for assessment. It is complementary to the two CAS guides published in November 2013 (Primary) and June 2014 (Secondary) in supporting the implementation of the new National Curriculum and embraces the CAS Barefoot and CAS QuickStart Computing descriptions of computational thinking. Computational thinking lies at the heart of the computing curriculum but it also supports learning and thinking in other areas of the curriculum.