Lessons from a strange year: computing teachers’ blended learning finds and fails

Two years ago we published ‘What’s a London CLC computing conference like?’ following the summer 2018 conference and, looking back, it feels like a different world with its photos of teachers huddled around a table in a workshop creating circuits with a Crumble and Sparkle. Not to mention the long table piled high with lunch!

We might not be able to meet in person at London CLC’s HQ in Clapham at the moment but we can still gather remotely to share experiences, get updates and learn from each other. And that’s what 30 primary school computing subject leaders did last week over Zoom at our autumn 2020 computing conference. 

Despite the absence of sandwiches and fun kit to play with, it still felt like a London CLC computing conference.  There were updates about CLC activities and a presentation of useful resources, from Hour of Code to the latest online safety news. And there were two really key elements of our conferences: sharing experiences with other educators, and valuable CPD. 

Lessons from a rather strange year

One of the most appreciated elements of our conferences is the networking. Time and again teachers tell us how much they value the community of practice we enable and the opportunity to share ideas and experiences and hear how others are tackling an issue. It’s also one of the things that is hardest to transfer from face-to-face over coffee to Zoom. 

Our solution was a padlet with a series of columns with intriguing titles:

The shredder
What did you try that really didn’t work?

The shop window
What did you try that you would recommend?

The greenhouse
What did you try that has strong potential?

The pantry
What did you try that is here to stay?

The museum
What did you try that was fine for the time?

Teachers were invited to share their finds and their fails from this strange year of remote and blended learning and they did it with enthusiasm. We all learnt that whole class show and tells on Zoom really weren’t a great idea but that recorded and virtual assemblies were a hit. Twitter worked well for one school:

“Using Twitter as a way to stay connected as a whole school community. Every morning teachers checked in with their class and signposted the learning for the day and it also acted as a space for the school community to share their learning with each other.”

While another teacher, in early years, found that an EYFS newsletter was a success:

“The parents love getting an inside look into the classroom and fully understanding what we do each week.”

And another recommended Screencastify as an alternative to Loom:

“It has several additional tools that help – eg focus mouse and the ability to write on the screen.”

G-suite has proved to be a long-term solution for one school:

“We set up G-suite accounts for all our children.  The google classrooms are used for blended learning and to set homework for the whole class.  It is also a very useful tool for dialogue between home and the teacher.  We have also integrated the other programs within G-suite (doc, slides, sheets etc…) into our curriculum and are moving our planning onto slides and our server onto drive.  This will allow our teachers to plan from home without needing to remote access our school’s server.”


And. of course, there are also the very useful CPD workshops.  There were four on offer in Zoom breakout groups.

EYFS computational thinking with Peter Lillington was packed full of resources to help those in early years introduce more computational thinking activities in the classroom, appropriate to the age group. Peter included longtime favourite Linda Liukas and Hello Ruby, new Barefoot Computing lessons, Hour of Code unplugged and our own Co-Make project.  The workshop presentation and resources are all captured on this padlet

Top tools for creating dialogue with Caitlin McMillan was a whistlestop tour around three incredibly useful yet simple to use tools – Google Forms, Flipgrid and Mentimeter. Caitlin showed how to create quizzes in Google Forms, create and facilitate video discussion in Flipgrid and set up polls in Mentimeter. Catch up with the presentation.

Cross curricular learning in Scratch with Rowan Roberts shared examples of the types of Scratch and Scratch Jr projects that easily lend themselves to special projects. Rowan ran through two in Scratch Jnr – touch to talk and simple animation – and two in Scratch: animated documentary and virtual museum. She explained how they were made and how to try it yourself. Find out more on this padlet.

Working in partnership with parents during Covid with Sarah Horrocks was full of advice and practical guidance to building better relationships with parents, from ‘jigsaw pieces’ to help parent engagement to scaffolding questions and particular support for parents of children with SEND. Learn more here.

Computing conferences 2021

If your appetite has been whetted by the riches on offer (with or without sandwiches), don’t miss our next conference on Tuesday 8 June. 

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