Give it a try – our pick of the best apps and tools, part 10

Each week in our newsletter we highlight a favourite free or low-cost app/tool/resource/piece of software that we think might be useful or fun in your classroom or school. Every few weeks we round them up here on the blog.

We’d love to hear what you think about them if you give them a go, and any others you’d like to share – leave a comment in the box below. Catch up with all the tools in Give it a try, part 1 part 2, part 3 part 4, part 5, part 6part 7, part 8 and part 9.

Don’t want to wait for the roundup? Sign up to our newsletter to get a new ‘give it a try’ in your inbox every Thursday lunchtime.

One of Hour of Code’s new backgrounds, designed by Amy Zhou – find out more below.

Stay Focusd
Use Chrome? Easily distracted? Stay Focusd is a free Chrome extension that will shut down specified time suck sites, such as Twitter or Facebook, after a set time and not allow you back on. It also has a nuclear option…

Storyboarding PDFs for iMovie trailers
Why would I want to create an iMovie trailer, I hear you ask? Well, they can be a fun way to show learning, explain vocabulary, document experiments and summarise things.  iMovie for iOS has 14 trailer templates, each with its own musical score and graphics, and to make your own trailer, you simply choose a template, insert your text and fill each shot with a video or photo. iMovie offers its own outline and storyboard for each template but Tony Vincent found them limiting so, brilliantly, he’s created his own set of fillable PDFs for each template and shared them.

Children one of our Tate Exchange projects – find out more about Tate’s digital Art Parts below.

Art Parts
We’re proud to partner with Tate on its Tate Exchange programme (earlier this year we worked with 170 pupils from 20 schools to deliver our Making Moves workshop at the gallery) and really like its fun Arts Parts game which encourages children to fill in the gaps (digitally!) on some of its famous artworks.

Poets in action
Why not bring inspiration into the classroom with some great films of poets in action, including Julia Donaldson, John Hegley and Roger McGough, or this series especially for KS1 and KS2 with the wonderful Joseph Coelho explaining how poetry is relatable, fun, and achievable.

Can you spot when you’re being phished?
Phishing attacks – when fraudsters send you emails pretending to be from someone you know in the hope that you’ll share sensitive information or click links in fake websites  – are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Could you be taken in, putting yourself or your school at risk? Take the test and find out…

Does your school’s internet filtering make the grade?
This great little tool from the UK Safer Internet Centre is incredibly simple to use and tests how appropriate your school’s internet filtering is and if it adheres to SWGFL’s filtering guidelines.

Family link
Google has introduced a new app allowing parents to manage their children’s screen time. Available on both iOS and Android, it enables parents to “set digital ground rules”, approve or block apps, manage in-app purchases and set device bedtimes. Could be worth sharing with parents.

Is your school making the most of digital technologies for teaching and learning? SELFIE (Self-reflection on Effective Learning by Fostering the use of Innovative Educational Technologies) is an EU-funded tool designed to help schools embed digital technologies into teaching, learning and student assessment. It claims to highlight what’s working well, where improvement is needed and what the priorities should be.

Hour of Code Dance Party 2019
For this year’s Hour of Code the HofC team relaunched one of their most popular activities, Dance Party, with new backgrounds, new coding blocks, and new music. Find out more and give it your best moves!

Get doodling!

Quick, draw!
Can AI recognise your doodle? Help teach a neural network by adding your drawings to the world’s largest doodling dataset, shared publicly to help with machine learning research.

A bit of fun – can you sing like Freddie Mercury? Sing along and a neural net will tell you…

Chatterpix Kids
Hat tip to @ICTEvangelist Mark Anderson and his Appvent Calendar for this one. Bring a photo or character to life. Load the free app (for IoS or Android), add in your photo, draw a line over where you want to animate the mouth movement then hit the record button and you have 30 seconds to deliver your speech. Take a look at Mark’s post for lots of great ideas for using this in class.

Plague Inc – fake news
Misinformation spreads like the plague – infect the world with the plague of false information in a new game from fact checking charity Full Fact and Ndemic Creations. It’s a fake news version of the bestselling game Plague Inc, which challenges players to infect the world with a deadly plague. In this new scenario, players spread false information across the globe, trying to deceive everyone before fact checkers can thoroughly debunk them and save the world from chaos and confusion. Partly based on Full Fact’s experiences, and that of its fellow international fact checkers, the game is a heightened view into the extremes of misinformation and the serious consequences it can have for our democracies, health and society. Currently iOS only with PC and Android versions coming soon. Play now.

Bett 2020 free CPD workshops – find out more, part 1

Rowan Roberts

We’re partnering with Bett to deliver a day of award-winning CPD on Friday, 24 January and we’ll be bringing you six fantastic workshops led by our teaching, learning and technology experts. The sessions include:

  • Pedagogy and future software developers with Scratch, with Rowan Roberts
  • Storytelling with digital technologies with Sarah Horrocks and Caitlin McMillan
  • Enhancing primary history and geography with digital technologies, with Peter Lillington and Caitlin McMillan
  • Technology in early years with Sarah Horrocks and Louise Wade
  • Schools – saving time, working smarter, with Peter Lillington
  • Leadership of technology and digital strategy with Sarah Horrocks and Peter Lillington

In this blog post we’ll be telling you a bit more about the first three workshops, with more detail on the second three coming right at the start of the new year. 

The workshops are completely free and are run on a first come, first served basis so please do arrive in plenty of time before the start time to be sure to get a place. We’ll also have some very special offers lined up for Bett attendees so make sure you don’t miss out!

1. Pedagogy and future software developers with Scratch

Scratch coding example

Scratch is London CLC’s go-to tool for teaching KS2 computing in a way that is flexible, encourages creativity and provides the complexity to challenge pupils and teachers alike. This talk will explore the ways that pedagogical approaches developed by the likes of KCL and UCL can get the most out of Scratch activities, with a particular focus on how children can learn to approach programming projects in a way that will get them thinking and working like future software developers. 

London CLC teaching and learning consultant Rowan Roberts has consulted software industry professionals to come up with a range of practices that can turn a good Scratch programmer into a great one. She’s turned it all into a brilliant free online short course for Tech Pathways London. You can get a taster of the course and of Rowan’s Bett CPD talk in her long read blog post: Code like a pro: Scratch for future software developers.

This session will also be informed by our involvement in the UCL Knowledge Lab’s ScratchMaths research project.

2. Storytelling with digital technologies

Stories are at the heart of so much that we do and children have an innate drive to create, tell and retell stories. While storytelling is as old as human culture itself and requires nothing more than an imagination, digital tools can help us to tell the stories in new forms, from creating Minecraft worlds to devising animations. We can create story worlds, record our own audiobooks, be inspired by a wealth of digital media and share our digital publications. 

Through working with children in schools on digital aids to storytelling, we’ve discovered some key ways that digital technology can support, inspire and enhance story work in the classroom. 

Think about how a silent film could encourage empathy, deduction and inference and allow children to use their imaginations to fill the gaps, create backstory and decide what happens next (try Robert Showalter’s poignant short film The Lonely Robot, above!)

Covering the making of digital books, the creation of virtual worlds and the use of technology to structure and plan, this workshop will explore these tools and practical ideas for using digital to support storytelling in your setting across a variety of different technological media.

Get a taster of some of the tools London CLC’s director, Sarah Horrocks, and teaching and learning consultant Caitlin McMillan will be covering in this session in their blog post: Four practical ways digital tools can inspire stories in the classroom.

3. Enhancing primary history and geography with digital technologies

This workshop will explore how digital technology can enhance the teaching of history and geography using digital tools you already have in school as well as highlight the plethora of free online resources available. From using Google maps to travel around the world to creating digital timelines and bringing figures from history back to life with green screen, chatterpix and film, we’ll be supporting you to create resources and explore ignored corners of history and geography education.

The workshop will also include options such as film making and blogging that support synthesis of knowledge from a range of sources and empathy with historical events.

The News Project: seeing critical news literacy in action

What happens when you bring together teams of children who have been learning to look at the news with a critical eye? Find out in our blog post about the grand finale of our News Project with First News Education.

Last month we were delighted that nine schools brought their teams of pupil reporters, journalists, fact checkers and editors together at London CLC for a brand new type of event, the culmination of our collaboration with First News Education.

We’ve mentioned this special project earlier in the year, and for the past month, classes in the participating schools have been hard at work learning about the news, where it comes from and how to be critical consumers and producers of news in its many forms and sources. 

The teams that took over the whole building and collaborated as well as competed were:

The Honeywell News Hounds
The Dreamers (Heathbrook Primary)
The Cathedral Challengers
The Junior Journalists (Van Gogh Primary)
The Destined Dragons (St Leonard’s Primary)
Team Basil (St Luke’s Primary)
Jurassic Tigers (St Saviour’s Primary)
Four News Banks (Woodmansterne)
The Proud Squad (Hill Mead Primary)

In the know

With no assistance from their teachers the teams started off with a challenging News Quiz ‘In the know’ with four rounds played on team iPads via Kahoot!, which, with its sound effects and tension-building countdowns and leaderboards, created a terrific atmosphere.

Incidentally, teachers at our Computing Conference last week enjoyed round one of the quiz, but were not quite so ‘on it’ as the children’s teams (sorry teachers).

Congratulations to the winners by quite a margin: the St Saviour’s Jurassic Tigers (superb results in the Science round), followed by St Leonard’s then Honeywell.

Self-driving cars and Californian wildfires

In the next challenge each team had quite a short time frame to plan and film a vox pop on news opinion rather than facts. Teams rose to the challenge and we saw some lovely results. Topics ranged from self-driving cars to California’s wildfires. Self-driving cars was a popular topic among the children where they speculated whether they are safe or not. California’s wildfire’s topic emphasised the effect us humans are having on the planet and how we need to be gentle to the world around us. 

The rest of the day involved some collaborative activity, on the themes of News Aware (how do we know what’s true and accurate) and Choosing the News. The children were mixed into new collaborative teams – all credit to them for getting on with each other and with the task in hand, in a nod to the adult workplace. The afternoon challenge saw them making editorial choices about a selection of articles which appeared in the following week’s printed copy of the First News newspaper distributed to schools across the country. Some distinction! Another skill the children learned was reading ‘in between the lines’ and spotting the difference between factual and opinionated news. The key thing the children left from the day was understanding the phrase “I think” – is an opinion and the phrase “It is” – Is a factual piece of information. Reading in between the lines is a great way of deciding if the chosen source is reliable or not.

Learning to collaborate

The First News Project day allowed children to collaborate in teams with children from neighbouring schools. The one thing they all shared in common was their year group. 

Throughout the day, children were interviewed and gave their opinions of how they felt collaborating with strangers. One child said, “suddenly when we finish the work it all goes silent but then we all start laughing because we are thinking the same thing.” In the same group, a child mentioned, “it’s fun knowing other people’s opinions and what they like.” Comments like these highlight that these kinds of activities are great icebreakers and life skills for children to develop. From an early age, they are gathering the understanding that it’s okay to feel shy because the person you don’t know might (usually do) feel the same way. 

Over lunchtime, those children who wanted to could record their thoughts about the news on camera, and we also had a roving microphone during the day (thanks Afeefa!) to capture reflections and feelings from children and teachers.

Identifying ‘fake news’

One child said, “because of everything we have learned, sometimes I think it’s fake news, sometimes I don’t and I find it really surprising because of everything we have learned, it’s quite different now actually.” The point of not knowing the difference between real and fake news is one adults struggle to differentiate between. It was nice to hear the children mention such a relevant point. 

We finished the day with a major awards ceremony, to recognise all the hard work during the day, with recognition for great collaboration skills as well as competitive results.

When asked about what they enjoyed most about the day, a lot of children mentioned the Kahoot quiz because “it’s testing you on what you already know…on News iHub it just asks you things you have just found out so you’re not too sure about it but when you know things, you just for sure, know it”.

Next steps

We’ve had some really great feedback from the schools and plan to release a podcast soon, to give you a flavour of the day, and some follow-up resources in collaboration with First News education. And as the event was such a success, with accompanying beneficial impacts in school, we’re already planning next year’s sequel. Watch this space!

Here’s what some of the teachers had to say:

Robin Morrell at Cathedral Primary: “Despite only being November, the First News project has already been a highlight of the year for my class. Everyone has enjoyed engaging with the news and discussing the articles as a group. The activities provided have been excellent and really helped the children to delve into what news is and where it comes from. Thank you again to all the staff at the CLC who have been fantastic from start to finish!”

James Ashworth at Hill Mead Primary: “The whole project was a fantastic opportunity for the children to consider how the news is made and what to be aware of when reading it. The children particularly learned about bias in the news, and to fact-check for reliability. These are important skills for the rest of their lives. Meeting children from other schools at the final event was an added bonus too.”

Olivia Ratysnki at St Saviour’s: “The whole class  thoroughly enjoyed every aspect. They loved the competitiveness that came with the ihub activities and there was a real thirst for general knowledge in the class. Children would frequently come up to me and share something they’d read in the newspaper and they’d argue over the newspapers each week. It has particularly inspired some of our lower readers who enjoy the smaller paragraphs and found the topics engaging.​ It has definitely changed the class’s reading ethos and we’ll continue to read the papers every week.”


Join us at Bett 2020 for free CPD workshops – and more

CLC Bett show

Following last year’s Bett success – we won the coveted Service and Support award and gave an acclaimed talk on critical literacy in the main arena – we’re delighted to be back again in 2020, and this time we’re hosting a whole day! Read on to find out more…

CLC Bett show

Our Big Bett News is that we’re partnering with Bett to deliver a day of award-winning CPD on Friday, 25 January. It’s part of Bett’s commitment to increase its educator-led CPD content and we’re thrilled to have the run of both the North and South Hall’s Professional Development Theatres to bring you six fantastic workshops led by our teaching, learning and technology experts. The sessions include:

  • Pedagogy and future software developers with Scratch, with Rowan Roberts
  • Schools – saving time, working smarter, with Peter Lillington
  • Enhancing primary history and geography with digital technologies,  with Peter Lillington and Caitlin McMillan
  • Technology in early years with Sarah Horrocks and Louise Wade
  • Storytelling with digital technologies with Sarah Horrocks and Caitlin McMillan
  • Leadership of technology and digital strategy with Sarah Horrocks and Peter Lillington

The workshops are completely free and are run on a first come, first served basis so please do arrive in plenty of time before the start time to be sure to get a place. We’ll also have some very special offers lined up for Bett attendees so make sure you don’t miss out!

Bett awards

The Bett awards are always an exciting time and this year even more so as we’re finalists for not one but two shiny awards. After last year’s success in the Service and Support category, we’re now on the shortlist for that category again PLUS we’re through to the finals for the Collaboration award. It recognises how an organisation has worked with a school in an innovative way to have a transformative impact and we’re celebrating our work with Iqra primary School when we brought headteacher Humaira Saleem’s vision of technology-enhanced learning for all pupils to life. Read more about it here.

The Service and Support shortlisting recognises our outstanding technical and curriculum support. We are proud to have a measurable impact on each school we support. 99% of teachers tell us that pupil learning outcomes improve following attendance at our curriculum support workshops and CPD sessions and 98% say that their own teaching practice will improve following attendance at these events (18/19 academic year).

What’s else is new at Bett 2020? Here’s what Bett have to say…

The 36th edition of Bett UK takes place on 22-25 January 2020 at the ExCeL London – and with an expanded offer of show features and content, it is an unmissable date in the global EdTech event calendar. Find out more about this year’s edition below.

A bigger, better Bett event Advancing education is what Bett is all about. We’ll once again be providing a platform to push the sectoral conversation further.

Over 34,000 educators and leaders from the UK and overseas will be there, ready to engage with more than 800 EdTech suppliers, SMEs, and start-ups. What’s more, we’ve arranged a line-up of 300 of the most influential figures in teaching and learning today.

An unrivalled guest speaker agenda

The educators, leaders, and EdTech pioneers you need to hear from are coming exclusively to Bett UK this year. We pride ourselves on giving our visitors the chance to hear from those changing the way we think about education and technology – and that’s exactly what we’re offering in 2020.

The first wave of speakers includes globally recognised figures and finest educational minds in Britain, including:

  • Linda Liukas – Author of “Hello Ruby” and Tech Evangelist
    Presenting in the Bett Arena, 23 January 2020, 10:45: One Hundred Languages
  • Professor Daniel Muijs – Head of Research, Ofsted
    Presenting in the Education Show Theatre, 25 January 2020, 11:30: Broad and Balanced curriculum
  • Arjana Blazic – Teacher Trainer, Croatian Ministry of Education
    Presenting in the Schools Theatre, 23 January 2020, 17:30: International TeachMeet
  • Dr Sue Black – Professor of Computer Science and Technology Evangelist, Durham University
    Presenting in the Bett Arena, 24 January 2020, 10:45: If I can do it so can you
  • Jos Finer – Head of Organisational & Staff Development, University of St. Andrews
    Presenting in the Higher & Further Education Theatre, 23 January 2020, 16:40: Mentoring without walls
  • Carol Allen – Education Advisor for ICT and Inclusion, Hartlepool LA
    Presenting in the Schools Theatre, 23 January 2020, 13:15: Supporting children with speech, Language and Communication needs followed by, at 16:00: Whole school SEND strategy and Planning
  • Bart Verswijvel – Senior Advisor, European Schoolnet Partnership
    Presenting in the Schools Theatre, 23 January 2020, 17:30: International TeachMeet

Check out the full agenda and our speakers updates at

The Education Show at Bett

For the first time in Bett’s history, we will be integrating the Education Show fully inside the event in the North Hall.

Hundreds of suppliers will be there, showcasing the products essential for the health and wealth of educational institutions around the world.

We’ll also be offering accredited CPD-led sessions, covering a wide range of topics on educators’ needs in the brand-new Education Show Theatre, for a complete picture of modern education.

Six new inspirational content themes

We have introduced six new themes to structure the conference programme, ensuring every learner and educator can benefit from this year’s content. They include:

  • Innovation
  • Wellbeing
  • Empowering Teaching & Learning
  • Inclusion, Social Mobility and SEND
  • Future Tech and Trends
  • Skills

Our newly appointed Advisory Board, made up of the industry experts, has steered our content in the right direction and to make sure our finger is firmly on the pulse when assessing the latest developments in the education industry.

“Bett provides a hub to connect together like-minded and engaged educators around technology,” says Advisory Board member, Jon Audin of the University of Winchester. “Once a year, everything that you need around the field of EdTech and its use can be found under one roof. With talks, teachers, students and companies sharing the latest practise and ideas it encourages the searching questions of whether this technology will make a difference to students we teach.”

Expanding Bett’s CPD offer

Teacher and leader development is essential to what Bett is all about. With this in mind, the event’s programme of educator-led sessions has been expanded. In 2020, you’ll find more CPD driven content than ever before.

Visitors will benefit from a diverse range of peer-to-peer learnings, insights and expertise. We have also invested in fresh CPD-focussed features, including the launch of the Professional Development Theatres, offering free workshops to educators of all levels.

Better navigation for a higher return on time

We know. Bett is busy. Very busy. Getting a strong return on your time is vitally important.

It will be easy to navigate around Bett 2020. The floorplan has been simplified, making it simple to find the solutions, products and partners you want to see, have better, productive conversations, and take back better technology and learnings to your schools.

The show is now split into six different events zones each with a different focus:

  • The Education Show
  • Equipment & hardware
  • Management solutions
  • Teaching Tech
  • Learning Tech
  • Global Showcase

Further networking opportunities at Bett

Bett 2020 will have more networking opportunities onsite, with a Staff Room for educators to have space to discuss the content sessions they’ve experienced and reflect upon what’s inspired them.

On top of this, we have the Connect@Bett networking app, which will enable visitors to set up meetings with relevant exhibitors and fellow educators to help them maximise their time.

Join us at Bett UK 2020

Bett 2020 is open for visitor registration. Join us at the latest instalment on 22-25 January 2020 at the London ExCeL. Register now!

Exploring AI in the classroom: Empower2Learn kicks off

Artificial intelligence and personalised learning in the classroom is a hot topic. London CLC’s Peter Lillington and Rowan Roberts introduce the issues as they embark on a European project to explore its complexities.


From robots replacing teachers to chatbots in the school office, artificial intelligence (AI) in education is a hot topic. It’s also a controversial topic, with both fears and hopes for this emerging technology at an equally high pitch. We’re looking to cut through some of the noise at both ends of the spectrum through a new Erasmus+ project, Empower2 Learn.

Empower2 Learn is considering the benefits of technology for personalising learning and will include machine learning and artificial intelligence alongside other digital tools. For example, through our involvement in the Rosendale Primary research school ReflectED project around metacognition we know that tools such as the Seesaw platform can have beneficial impacts in personalising learning.

We recently embarked on the first stage of the project and had meetings with our project partners from four other countries. They include two universities in Belgium and the Netherlands. We are also working with the Swedish municipal department of education in Norrköping, with whom we have links from our existing Erasmus project Co-think, which is entering its final phase, and Arnhem CLC from the Netherlands who visited us during the Bett show 2018.

Will robots replace teachers?

Early research suggests that although some teachers may fear that AI is a way to replace teachers in the classroom, this is unlikely to be the case. There is certainly evidence that

this technology can be good at some aspects of teaching or functions that support a teacher and with impacts beneficial to learners. 

Examples of such technology currently in use include Mindspark for maths learning and Whizz education in the UK and Kenya. AI and big data have also been used to evaluate the impact of CPD on school integration of technology, such as in the case of Profuturo in Brazil.

IBM’s WATSON AI has been used to support (older) students with queries not directly related to teaching and learning such as assignment due dates and timetabling of classes. In that case, queries that couldn’t be answered by the system’s data training on forum posts were passed on to a real teacher to answer. There are also systems available to grade essays through pattern matching around certain criteria – again, where there is any doubt, reference is made to a real marker.

Augmenting human teachers

However, what is becoming clear is that, despite the very big advances of the last ten years, artificial intelligence cannot currently and perhaps may never fully be able to replace the more multifaceted intelligence and skill set of a teacher. 

As Neil Selwyn points out in his interesting book Should Robots Replace Teachers, what needs to be considered carefully is that the systems are only as good as the data that they analyse. They are not so capable of weighing up factors dependent upon context, whether social or otherwise (eg has a child had enough to eat, are they sleepy or upset because of a family event).

He identifies five ways that a human teacher can support learning that cannot be fully replicated through technology:

  • Human teachers have learnt what they know so can empathise with learners (who benefit from the teacher’s memory of learning)
  • Human teachers can make cognitive connections by putting themselves in a learner’s shoes
  • Human teachers can make social connections- there is a mutual obligation between teachers and learners; teachers use interpersonal skillsHuman teachers can think out loud, adjusting to audience reaction
  • Human teachers perform with their whole bodies, including moving around a room 

Starting points

Within Empower2Learn London CLC is responsible for coordinating an initial literature review with the aim of saving educators’ time and providing some pointers for those who would like to learn a little more about the potential of this area. There will also be a CPD element further down the line and a toolkit for teachers and educators.

From our very early look at some recent papers and updates in this area we are keen to highlight resources recently published by the Educate team at UCL, which come in a graphic form as well as a report for those who have time to read it. There are three posters:

Is Artificial Intelligence intelligent?

Can machines learn?

What is the future of AI in education?

We plan to introduce some of you to these helpful AI and machine learning posters at our Computing Conference next week (there is still a chance to book – email We’ll be talking through them and finding out what you think.

Digital competencies

While at our start-up meeting in Norrköping we were able to hear from Linda Mannila, a Finnish academic who now works in Sweden and is one of our project partners. She gave an interesting introduction to significant changes in the Swedish and Finnish education systems, with a particular focus on digital competencies for pupils and staff. 

We and our European Partners value the 2017 DigiCompEdu (European Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators) and it is one of the more recent frameworks for digital competencies that have appeared across the world – we’ll particularly be focusing on Area 5: Empowering learners using digital technologies to enhance inclusion, personalisation and learners’ active engagement. 

This is broken down into:

5.1 Accessibility and Inclusion; 

5.2 Differentiation and personalisation

5.3 Actively engaging learners

Swedish primary school Oxel Bergsskolen

We also had a visit to local primary school Oxel Bergsskolan and heard of some of their challenges but also successes in how they have supported staff in adopting G Suite. They had two interested and knowledgeable staff acting as champions, to show examples and support in various ways and making use of an impressive range of other digital platforms and tools. In a lesson we observed pupils in small groups sound recording strategies for calculation to demonstrate thinking to their teacher. We were also given a demonstration of the platform which has the ability to translate on the fly and has given some Arabic-speaking pupils more direct access to the Swedish curriculum (it can translate a variety of languages).

After an inspiring week we are now turning our attention to the first intellectual output of this project, which is a review of current research and practice in this area. So far this has been a great opportunity for members of the London CLC team to learn and think deeply about an aspect of technology that promises to play a major part in the learning experiences of the pupils of the present and the future.

London CLC is a Bett Awards 2020 finalist – twice!

CLC Bett show

London CLC is through to the finals of TWO Bett Awards – the Collaboration with a School and the Service and Support categories of the Bett Awards 2020. Hurray!

CLC Bett show

The prestigious Bett Awards are a celebration of the inspirational creativity and innovation that can be found throughout technology for education. 

The Service and Support award, which we won last year, celebrates companies and educational organisations that provide effective services, support and professional development to ensure that ICT really makes an impact in the classroom. The Collaboration award recognises how an organisation has worked with a school in an innovative way to have a transformative impact upon either educational standards or the operational running of the school.

We’re delighted to have our work recognised by the Bett judges in both categories and we’re immensely grateful to everyone who’s contributed to that work, especially the schools, teachers, children and organisations we work with and for.

Collaborating with Iqra Primary School to bring a vision to life

Iqra Primary School’s head teacher Humaira Saleem had a vision for her school: that every child should be able to access technology and make full use of it to support their learning, developing the skills they need for the 21st century. We worked closely with Humaira and her team to understand their context and requirements and deliver on their shared vision. The positive impact on teachers and pupils from the innovative collaboration between Iqra and London CLC to realise technology-enhanced learning has been shown in numerous ways.

  • 81% of teachers said that the support had a high positive impact on their own technical skills
  • 72% of teachers said that the support had a high positive impact on pupils’ skills with technology
  • 63% of teachers said that the support had a high positive impact on the whole school

Alongside collaborating to bring Humaira’s vision to life, the school has also saved money as a result of the support and advice from London CLC. Humaira had this to say: “Getting the technical support as well as curriculum support and CPD for teachers meant the strategic partnership has supported the school throughout the change.”

Outstanding technical and curriculum support

We are proud to have a measurable impact on each school we support. 99% of teachers tell us that pupil learning outcomes improve following attendance at our curriculum support workshops and CPD sessions and 98% say that their own teaching practice will improve following attendance at these events (18/19 academic year). 

“London CLC has the best technical and curriculum support team I have worked with in the 15 years I have been involved in education. Their expertise, enthusiasm and patience has led them to them creating a safe, supportive environment for our children and staff to develop and learn. They manage to make the complex world of technology as simple as possible! London CLC just get it right. We are very lucky to have them.”
Deputy headteacher, St Jude’s Primary

Meet us at Bett

Christian and Caitlin representing London CLC at last year’s award ceremony.

We are delighted and excited to announce that the London CLC team will be hosting a full day of practical CPD workshops on Friday 24 January on a range of topics – find us in the Professional Development Theatre.

We’ll also be giving another talk in the main arena on Thursday 23 January – more details to follow! In the meantime, check out last year’s talk and resources, Fact or Fake: developing critical learners in the digital age.

The Bett Awards

The Bett Awards form an integral part of Bett each year, the world’s leading showcase of education technology solutions. The winners are seen to have excelled in ICT provision and support for nurseries, schools, colleges and special schools alike with a clear focus on what works in the classroom.

Recognised as the ultimate showcase for the exceptional and the innovative, winning a Bett Award is without doubt the industry’s highest accolade.

The winners will be announced at the Bett Awards 2020 ceremony on 22 January 2020 in London. Find out more and the full list of finalists on the Bett Awards website.

Code like a pro: Scratch for future software developers – long read and free online course

Scratch coding example

The ability to create, evaluate and improve the inner workings of software at a range of levels of detail is becoming an increasingly valuable skill in the 21st-century workplace. But are we teaching children to code in a way that supports this? 

London CLC teaching and learning consultant Rowan Roberts has consulted software industry professionals to come up with a range of practices that can turn a good Scratch programmer into a great one – and she’s turned it all into a brilliant free online short course for Tech Pathways London.

Here we’re offering a flavour of it.  It’s in seven parts – read the first couple here, get a taste of parts two to seven and head over to Tech Pathways to enjoy the rest.

Introduction: What makes high quality code? 

What makes high quality code? It’s a difficult question, and one that even industry professionals often struggle to answer. When learning to program, particularly informal environments, most of us learn that there are many ways to solve a problem and that, as long as your solution achieves the desired outcome, it’s as valuable as the next person’s. But is this really true? 

In the tech industry the vast majority of developers are not working in isolation on discrete problems, but as part of a wider creative team made up of people with different roles, skills and knowledge. They need to be able to understand their part in this process, developing effective means of communicating ideas. They need to create solutions that can be adapted, improved or grown as problems change.

All this might sound like high level stuff, but working in this way would be easier for all of us if we picked up better habits earlier on in our programming careers. Here are some suggestions for practices we can teach children to use when they are programming with visual programming languages like Scratch to support them when they enter the world of text-based coding and eventually, for some of them, the software industry.

1. Make your code efficient and adaptable

Let’s say you want to program a Scratch sprite to count to 10. What would be the first thing you’d do? Maybe you’d simply make a list of blocks, each of which gets it to speak a different number:

You can test this script in this project by pressing the green flag and listening to Robot 1.

As you can see, it solves the problem perfectly well. But is it the best solution?

One way to improve the code would be to make it more efficient. Robot 1 uses ten different “Speak” blocks to count. This is not a very efficient piece of code, since although the blocks aren’t identical the instructions are pretty repetitive. Perhaps we could use a repeat block? But we can’t just repeat the same instruction, as our robot needs to say a different number each time it speaks.

This means we need a variable. In programming, a variable is like a label or name which can act as a number in your program, except that the value of this number can change. When you count you can think of the number you say each time you speak as a variable. Each time you speak it gets one bigger. Other common examples of variables are scores, health or timers in games.

In Scratch there is a “Variables” section in the block library. Here you can make your own variable and call it whatever you like; I did this for Robot 2 and called my variable ‘currentnumber’. This script I used is below:

As you can see it’s much more compact, and uses far fewer blocks than the previous script. And as long as the problem is limited to counting in ones it’s perfectly serviceable. If you needed to adjust it so that it only counted to five, or went all the way to 100, you could easily just change the repeat number. 

But what if you wanted it to count up in 10s insteads of ones? Or what if you wanted to use the script to recite the 7 times tables? 

In the software industry developers are constantly implementing ideas with half an eye on how they might need to change in the future. At the moment the script above can be adapted to, for example, recite the 9 times tables, but in order to do so it would be necessary to change both the increment that the variable changes by (‘change currentnumber by_’), and the starting number (‘set currentnumber to_”), to 9. These changes might seem small, but when a piece of code is just one part of a much more complicated project, the time taken to complete them adds up and creates more opportunities for human error.

For this reason, Robot 3 invites you to build your own version of this script. This time, though, the robot should ask the user which times table they’d like to hear, then recite it. When you run an “Ask” command in Scratch and enter an answer, whatever you type is stored as a variable in the small blue “Answer” block. This answer can then be used in your code; so if your answer is 7, you can make the robot count in 7s. But if you answer is different next time you answer the question your robot can tell you a different times table. Try building the script this yourself or use the example below to guide you, by clicking “See inside”, choosing Robot 3 and defining “COUNT(3)”.

This solution achieved something slightly different to the original script, but if you answer “1” the counting part looks exactly the same. It is, however, a much more efficient and adaptable piece of code, giving it the potential to be far more useful.

Enjoyed the first part of the course? Here’s a favour of the rest:

2. Make use of methods and procedures: use ‘More Blocks’

If you’re collaborating on any piece of work with a colleague, it’s important that they can read and understand it. This applies just as much to code as it would to a natural language, but a common habit among the keenest of young Scratchers is to relish building the longest and most logically complex scripts they can manage. While it can be fun to challenge ourselves in this way it can make it near impossible to explain how our code works to someone else, and can even mean that, if we haven’t seen it in a while, we can forget how it works. Not to mention the fact that if something in our code isn’t working properly it’s a lot harder to fix.

Go to Tech Pathways London to see more examples and read the rest of this lesson.

3. Test your projects thoroughly

You might not necessarily think of testing as being part of the process of actually coding, but it’s pretty fundamental at any level, and particularly so in the software industry.

Let’s take an example; can you test this project? Start by clicking “See inside”. What do you think will happen when you run the code? Test it out by clicking the green flag. Does it do what you expected?

If it does… you probably haven’t tested it properly! To test this program fully you need to know what happens when you get the answers wrong as well as right. 

Go to Tech Pathways London to see more examples and read the rest of this lesson.

4. Organise your code

As we saw in the last activity, it can be really confusing when the assets (sprites, costume, sounds etc) in your project are not named in a way that describes what they do or makes them easy to identify. The Scratch team have actually made this easier in Scratch 3 by automatically naming any new Sprite something that relates to its appearance if you choose it from the costume library, but if you draw your own you’ll still find it automatically named “Sprite1”, “Sprite2” etc. 

Go to Tech Pathways London to see more examples and read the rest of this lesson.

5. Use the comment function

Many of the suggestions I’ve made so far have been to do with making code as easy as possible to understand. But there’s an even more straightforward way to achieve this; simply explaining it. 

By right-clicking on any block in your Scratch script area you can attach a comment to it. This can be useful for all sorts of reasons. As a teacher it can be a way to ask your pupils to demonstrate understanding by annotating their code. You can sometimes use it to deliver instructions within a project like this one, which talks you through the process of creating a Maya calendar. You can also use comments to provide further explanation, as in this Egyptian hieroglyphs project. This can be useful for differentiating activities or supporting independent work. 

Go to Tech Pathways London to see more examples and read the rest of this lesson.

6. Conclusion and next steps

I have focused here on defining quality in code, but it’s also helpful to be aware of some of the pitfalls of poor quality code, known in the industry as “code smell”. Quality for blocks has some great explanations of what code smell is, what it looks like in Scratch, and how you and your pupils can avoid it.

I hope some of the example projects used above might give you some ideas for activities you could use with children, but as well as considering what we teach students it’s also important to think about how we are teaching it. 

For evidence-informed ideas on how to structure programming activities I highly recommend anything published by KCL computer science education department, and in particular an approach called PRIMM. It’s a way of structuring coding activities by moving through five steps: predict, run, investigate, modify, make. Using this basic structure you can often create a really engaging activity simply by finding a progression-appropriate example project on the Scratch website, or making one yourself. 

You are also welcome to browse my own Scratch page which contains lots of the projects I’ve used with pupils over the years, the more recent of which tend to include instructions or notes to help support their use with pupils. If you give any of them a try I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments. 

  • Sign up to our weekly newsletter to get edtech news and views, free resources and reviews direct to your inbox every Thursday lunchtime – including a weekly ‘give it a try’ app or tool recommendation.

Ada College and London CLC: bridging the digital skills gap

Caitlin McMillan, teaching and learning consultant, shares the connections between London CLC and Ada, the National College for Digital Skills

Computer code
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Some meetings were just meant to be. 

When our teaching and learning consultant Rowan Roberts got chatting to Tina Götschi from Ada College at a National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE) facilitators course, it was clear that this was one of those meetings.

Ada, the National College for Digital Skills, is an FE college which places tech at the heart of their curriculum; all of its students take computing as part of their programme of study. 

At London CLC, we have long been fans of the work of Ada College and the work that it does, so we were delighted to welcome Tina and her colleague John Mella to London CLC this term. 

During our conversation, it became clear that our two organisations have rather a lot in common, from our belief in the core necessity of digital education in the 21st century to our hands-on approach to learning, and even that a former CLC teaching and learning consultant and current Google software engineer Joe Halloran had been part of Ada’s first cohort of apprentices. 

The connections between London CLC and Ada College don’t end there. One of Ada’s unique features is its close connection with industry – its curriculum is designed with direct input from founding industry partners industry partners Bank of America Merrill Lynch, King, Gamesys, Deloitte, IBM and the Aldridge Foundation, and industry partnerships and opportunities for students are core to their offering. 

This direct connection between education and industry has been at the heart of our TechPathways London project. Funded as part of the Mayor of London’s Digital Talent programme, the project helps educators support young people in developing the digital skills they need to succeed in the modern workforce. 

Chatting to Tina and John, it became clear that our goals are aligned: bridging the digital skills gap between education and the 21st century job market, and providing young people with the best possible opportunity to take advantage of everything that the digital workplace has to offer. 

Watch this space for future collaborations.

We’ll leave you with some words from Joe Halloran, who we’re very happy that London CLC and Ada College have in common:

“Like some Darwinian fallacy, I am the ‘missing link’ between London CLC and Ada. During my software engineering apprenticeship, I was extremely fortunate to attend Ada to get a foundation degree in digital innovation. Before my apprenticeship I spent 10 years working for London CLC where we helped primary schools to use technology to support learning.

These two organisations, Ada and London CLC, nurture the relationship between technology and learning. Both teams are bristling with innovators. Both harbour a healthy suspicion for fads and instead take a thoughtful and long-term view of technology and its role in our society. Both have young people, with all their energy and insight, at the heart of everything they do. I am lucky to be linked to these amazing organisations and lucky to know the amazing people who make it all happen.”

  • Sign up to our weekly newsletter to get edtech news and views, free resources and reviews direct to your inbox every Thursday lunchtime – including a weekly ‘give it a try’ app or tool recommendation.

Steve McQueen Year 3: a glimpse into the lives of London’s children – and how to safeguard the process

Afeefa Wilson, London CLC’s teaching assistant and workshop facilitator, reports back on a busy three weeks involved with the Steve McQueen Year 3 exhibition at Tate Britain – plus notes from the launch!

Year 3 Photoshoot at Tyssen Community Primary School (9) © Tate.jpg
Behind the scenes with Tyssen Community Primary School © Tate

Last year Turner Prize-winning artist and Oscar-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen invited every year 3 class in all of London’s primary schools to have their photograph taken by a team of Tate photographers. (See Tate children’s website page about Steve McQueen here.) He’s turned these thousands of photographs into a massive artwork that will be exhibited at the TATE Britain for six months, alongside a shorter outdoor exhibition on full-size billboards and underground stations. The outdoor exhibition precedes the gallery exhibition and will be displayed across locations in all 33 London boroughs. 

I believe one of the purposes of this amazing art installation is to show the future potential of London as represented by year 3 pupils in their hundreds and thousands. London is one of the world’s most diverse cities and the portraits reflect this.

As you might imagine, taking and displaying thousands of images of children is not a simple undertaking and behind the art there has been a whole raft of activity around safeguarding and education.

Safeguarding and duty of care

London Connected Learning Centre’s involvement within the project has been quite specific for the Outdoor Exhibition.  We prepared assembly and workshop presentation resources for the team of duty of care workshop facilitators to use in schools. These workshops are different from the school gallery visits to Tate that will take place now that the exhibition is underway: we participated in a two-day training event in September for school SLT from the 53 schools which feature in the billboard exhibition and campaign. This brought together all partners involved, TATE, Artangel and A New Direction, together with NSPCC, who have overseen all safeguarding advice and considerations throughout the project.

My role as a London Connected Learning Centre facilitator is to present an assembly and workshops to the class (now in Year 4) about general knowledge of the exhibition and possible scenarios that might occur while their portrait is displayed in the indoor and outdoor exhibition. 

I worked on the project for the past three weeks in schools across London, giving in-depth information about the project and issues such as consent or permission, safeguarding and how to avoid possible risks within the time their work is exhibited. 

Year 3 Photoshoot at Tyssen Community Primary School (8) © Tate.jpg
Behind the scenes with Tyssen Community Primary School © Tate

Throughout that time, I have been impressed with the extensive amount of knowledge children already have and their understanding about staying safe online. 

Feedback from the children has been rewarding. Here’s a flavour of some of the things they’ve said:

“I will tell my mum not to post everything I do online to keep me and my family safe.” 

“Today has been so fun! I know I should go to a trusted adult if I find out the class photo has been posted on social media”, 

“Only show pictures to people who are close to you.” 

Sense of excitement

Throughout all of the schools I have visited there has been a great sense of excitement within the building, all the way from the reception staff to the year 4 class. The adults are as passionate as the children about the exhibition.

From the conversations I have encountered with the children, it is safe to say the project has been enlightening. The assembly and workshops have given the children a greater understanding of how the online world intertwines with the real world. They recognise that actions made online can leave a trail even if they have deleted a post and, in the worst case scenario, they realise a thoughtless accident online can affect your real life and that of people close to you.

One of the activities in the workshop is being a ‘picture detective’, children really enjoy spending time analysing a picture and not just taking it for what it is – this enables them to use ‘picture detective’ skills in the real world. 

The value of the project goes far beyond the artwork itself. It allows children to be seen, heard and listened to. The exhibition reinforces the message of doing what you love and allowing them to understand they have the potential to make a career out of it. 

From the launch!

Caitlin, Afeefa, Steve McQueen launch Tate
Caitlin and Afeefa admire some of the photographs at the Steve McQueen Year 3 exhibition launch evening at Tate Britain

Afeefa and her London CLC colleagues Caitlin McMillan and Peter Lillington attended the opening launch on Monday evening 12 November and were overwhelmed by the scale and power of the exhibition.

“The cumulative effect of more than 3,000 photographs beautifully arranged in the stunning surroundings of the Tate Duveen galleries was absolutely amazing and is hard to describe – see it for yourself if you get the chance. The fact that this means that more than 76,000 London children are therefore featured in this exhibition is incredible. We mustn’t forget the school staff too – all beaming away in the class portraits,” explained Peter.

“As an erstwhile primary class teacher myself, and parent, I got a really warm positive glow – which must be a shadow of the joy and pride many of the children and schools are feeling (as the children’s comments in the BBC report are testimony to) and it was lovely to hear that the sometimes hushed and rarified atmosphere of those galleries had been really abuzz with children’s happy voices yesterday morning. Hopefully they will continue to do so over the coming days as schools are able to visit.

“It’s a really positive take on London and its future. Look out for the billboards in the next week if you haven’t seen them yet (but please remember, don’t identify schools or children by name/location!)”

Caitlin added, “the sheer scale is just incredible. It is a little window into lives that are being led across London every day that we so often don’t get to see. Also, the joy and pride shining from the faces of (most) of the children is a complete delight.”

  • The Steve McQueen TATE Year 3 outdoor exhibition runs from 4 – 18 November 2019, followed by the indoor exhibition from 12 November 2019 up to 3 May 2020 at the TATE Britain, which will consist of more than 3,000 individual class portraits, with 62% London’s primary schools represented.

Led by NSPCC, advice, recommended procedures, and resources for parents have been distributed to schools:

Associated project resources:

A New Direction ‘Learning Lenses’ resource pack:  A New Direction 

IntoFilm –


Online safety resources:

 Sign up to our weekly newsletter to get edtech news and views, free resources and reviews direct to your inbox every Thursday lunchtime – including a weekly ‘give it a try’ app or tool recommendation.

What’s an Apple Regional Training Centre and how can it help you?

London CLC’s co-director Christian Turton is an Apple Regional Training Centres (RTC) stalwart. Not only does he run one, as London CLC itself is an RTC, but he’s been going to RTC conferences on and off for 13 years. Here he shares what they are and how the RTC community support each other in delivering the regional training centre programme.

Apple Regional Training Centres is the name for schools that support other schools by running CPD courses on all things iPad and Apple. They apply to Apple to be part of the programme. Having proved their own expertise they help to build the skills and confidence of other educators to use Apple technology inside and outside the classroom to support teaching and learning. 

Apple RTC conference

The list of free courses on offer around the country – from ‘Amazing animations with iPad’ and ‘Be courageous with Keynote’ to ‘Everyone can code with Swift Playgrounds’ and ‘Reaching all learners – accessibility with iPads’ – is a rollcall of all that is creative and useful about this kind of education technology and it’s a great example of how educators can cascade their learning to each other.

More than that, though, RTCs feel like a community.  We share best practice and inspire excellence, and nowhere more so than in the regular RTC conferences that I’ve been going to since 2006. 

Pedagogically sound

In recent times the emphasis has has firmly been on pedagogically sound, evidence-informed use of iPad and the benefits learners have gained from it, a shift that feels like a very positive and welcome development to me. 

At the latest conference there were workshops on evidence-informed use of iPad and saving time and workload with technology. The session on accessibility features was especially useful for teachers as it covered those features not just for those who need them but also focused on how they can  improve productivity for all of us. For example, there’s a new feature called Voice Command on iPad that lets you open apps, dictate into them and email the note to one of your contacts, all without touching the device. We also looked further into some of the everyone can create resources (we first blogged about them a year ago, here) as they now include an early years version. We also heard about the latest developments in Swift Playground, the apple app for teaching coding in primary and secondary schools, allowing children in upper KS2 to build AR-enabled apps using Swift.

One child, one story

However, for me the most powerful part of the conference was towards the end with ‘One child, one story’ as educators shared their stories of how using iPads in the classroom has increased accessibility to learning for a wide range of learners and enabled them to pursue their passions, highlighting the power of technology to bring people ‘out of their shell’ and create and communicate when they might not otherwise be confident in doing this in class.

We heard a moving story about a child who found traditional activities in school very challenging and, as a result, was disruptive but found themselves able to communicate and access learning through the iPad. Another was about a young girl who loved art and was able to take her art and photography to the next level using the ‘everyone can create’ resources. She now designs the school’s posters and those for local community events on her iPad.

Apple RTC Digital Leadership Academy

My story centred on the Apple RTC Digital Leadership Academy and its impact on teachers. 

 London CLC ran the first Apple RTC Digital Leadership Academy in March this year and we’ll be running it again at the end of October (Find out more here). Designed for senior leaders, deputy headteachers, assistant headteachers, IT directors and others responsible for leading technology strategies within their school, it’s a two-day comprehensive academy in which you’ll learn how to strategically lead the planning and implementation of an iPad one-to-one programme across a school. We’re excited that the University of Northampton have create a PGCert in digital leadership to complement it:

  • Important! London CLC supports all devices and platforms. As well as being an Apple Regional Training Centre we are also a Google Partner and we support Microsoft products across the schools we work with. We always give independent and impartial advice to schools. 
  • Sign up to our weekly newsletter to get edtech news and views, free resources and reviews direct to your inbox every Thursday lunchtime – including a weekly ‘give it a try’ app or tool recommendation.