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Sunday, 29 December 2013

Sneak peak into Coleg Cymunedol Y Dderwen

So when your son needs a walk and you need a break from the festive family celebrations, what is a Director of Digital Learning and Innovation to do? Well, if like me your in-laws live around the corner from one of Wales' most innovative schools, you take a walk and have a look (even though it may be getting a little dark).

Coleg Cymunedol Y Dderwen (Oak Community College) is descirbed as a 'super school' and was formed from Ogmore Comprehensive School and Ynysawdre Comprehensive School. I understand that the school uses 1:1 iPads and from my look through the windows, it was clear they were also using large flat screen displays and Apple TV. There are write-on surfaces as shown below and large areas of communal seating.

Other than this sneak peak though, there isn't alot more I can tell you about  Coleg Cymunedol Y Dderwen - there website is here - - however, I couldn't get much information from this.

With it being just around the corner from my in-laws, I hope in time I will be able to find out more and possibly explore inside sometime.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Love this! Merry Christmas Everyone!

I wish all readers of my blog a very Merry Christmas! I saw this Apple advert on TV tonight and instantly loved it, if you haven't seen it - please enjoy.

PRESS RELEASE - Coding Immersion Day

On Tuesday 17th December, students from the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy took part in a Coding Immersion Day at the Portland Academy’s Osprey Quay Campus. The event was offered to students to refine their programming skills to support their work towards their Computing GCSE. Director of Digital Learning and Innovation at the Academy, Mr. Gary Spracklen, explains how, ‘Computer Science is fast becoming an essential skill for anyone wishing to get ahead in business, media or the creative arts. We are delighted that as an Academy we are developing an all-through approach to Computer Science that ensures that all pupils get the maximum exposure to learn new skills and concepts’.

Speaking about the experience, Year 9 pupil Kyle Creasy said, ‘I found it quite hard at first and needed help when I got stuck. As the day progressed though, I developed in confidence and found out that I can code much better than I ever thought. I am really looking forward to developing my skills as my course continues’.

The Coding Immersion Day was supported by Mr. Jordan Day who is completing his sandwich year at IPACA before returning to Brunel University for the final year of his Computer Science degree. Speaking about the students involved in the day, Mr. Day said, ‘all involved today worked really well to develop and test their ideas. Their determination to succeed was excellent and many of them showed real potential’. He added, ‘it is great to see IPACA leading the way in this field and very exciting to be part of such a forward-thinking establishment’.

Finally, Mr. Spracklen notes, ‘Many of the students who were involved today will be traveling to London in January to represent IPACA at the BETT show (the world’s largest educational technology show)’. He adds, ‘We are passionate about the difference technology is making here at IPACA and the positive impact it is having on learning. We are delighted that we are the most improved local school and look forward to continuing this development in 2014’.

To find out more about how IPACA embeds Digital Technology to support learning please visit -

Friday, 13 December 2013

IPACA FM Continues

Last night we had another great Digital Leaders meeting at Royal Manor Campus.

We broke into two groups, the first group continued there work with Will. Check out their podcast below -

Our second group, continued to explore @IPACA_Praise which is our Twitter platform for sharing praise and rewards. Check out their latest tweets from below -

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

SWGfL Trust - Innovation Panel

It was great to be at SWGfL (South West Grid for Learning) HQ today in Exeter for the first 'SWGfL Trust - Innovation Panel'. The aims of the sessions were outlined by Julia Adamson (Education Manager, SWGfL) -

The panel focused around three session.

Online Safety and SWGfL School Internet Services

Ken Cornish led an activity with a focus on 'risk'. We explored as a group key online safety risks and consider those risks which had the biggest impact and those risk which are most frequent. We also explored how risk is assessed and what resources are required.

Ken shared how success comes from choosing the right resources and managing them successfully.

SWGfL Communications

The group explored with Julia Adamson the current communications SWGfL make with schools and how these could be developed moving forward.

Road Map

In the final session, the SWGfL Road Map was shared.

CFGS with @ben40forte

It was great to visit Ben Forte (@ben40forte) at Churston Ferrers Grammar School, Torbay today. Left really inspired by his use of Google Apps for Education and a custom built in-house PHP platform know as 'CFGS Live'.

A particularly impressive element of CFGS Live is Ben's custom-built library system, this is agreat system all powered by Google Books API.

Check out the site now at -

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Guest Post - PISA Cake

The below post has been written by Chris Wadley (Head of Faculty of Communication)

You might have read or seen the results of the latest PISA test in the press recently, and noticed that England was accused of stagnating (or even going backwards) in the global ranking for schools. If not, it was reported like this:

The PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) test is an international exam taken by about 50,000 students. Basically, it tests reading, maths or science in rotation, and each country participating has to put forward 5,000 students (or everyone, if the country is smaller) to be assessed. This, coupled with questionnaires about living conditions and a bit of mathematical jiggling of the figures, allows a league table of how well different countries have done in comparison to each other to be drawn up – although the results are controversial, with Singapore and Hong Kong always scoring highly despite not actually being countries!

The IPACA English Department decided it would be an interesting exercise, given that our students have never, ever been asked to participate but get lumped in with the “must do better” results, to sit one of the Reading tests and see how we did.

Year 10 duly sat down in early December, and worked through the questions on a past paper. Many were multiple choice, asking students to confirm if a library would be open at a certain time by consulting the published hours of business or to work out which items a customer had purchased by looking at a receipt. Others asked for short answers, such as what action the reader would take on receiving a letter about charity, or longer responses, like reading a story about a court case in a foreign country and comparing it to what would have happened in the same circumstances in this country.

This was quite a useful exercise, as it not only demonstrated to the students what the international standard was, but also provided good practice for the Language GCSE the students will take next year, increasingly based as it is on reading comprehension. Several youngsters, for instance, thought that a library open from 9am to 8pm would be shut at 6pm just because that time wasn’t explicitly mentioned on the timetable!

The exam took about 90 minutes, and was then marked out of 28 and averaged as a mean of all the students sitting it, before being turned into a score out of 800.

The average score in the actual PISA test this year was about 17 out of 28. Our students averaged 23 out of 28. Not only was this above average, but beat the score for the top 3 entries on the league table, who averaged about 20.

Now, obviously our 124 students didn’t quite match the 5,000 that most countries enter (although Iceland and Greenland couldn’t find that many 15 year olds either), and the averages have been worked out by Mr Wadley who isn’t the world’s authority on the “Rasch model of item response theory” that PISA say they use to weight the questions.

But the evidence would seem to suggest that if Portland broke away from the mainland, declared itself an independent nation, and just entered IPACA for the PISA, we’d score in the 650s for reading and be declared the brainiest nation in the world.

Hey, if Shanghai can get away with it…!

Contributed by -

Chris Wadley
Head of Faculty of Communication
Royal Manor Campus
Weston Road

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Great Digital Leader Meeting - #DLChat

We had a great Digital Leaders meeting here at the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy tonight. Read below to see what we got up to -

Group One - This group worked with former IPACA pupil Will to continue exploring the world of online audio recording and made the below podcast:

Group Two - Our second group tonight worked with Mr. Day to create a new device to power our 65" digital display. Previously this screen was being powered by a Macbook Pro with an Apple TV connected. Digital Leaders felt these devices could be much better placed in a classroom to support learning and instead swapped the Apple kit out for a Raspberry Pi.

Group Two are going to pick up on this again next week, but already they have got the display up and running and are exploring how a Makey Makey invention kit can be used to refresh the digital display.

Close - To close the meeting we all headed down to the Sports Hall where we all had a go at flying IPACA's new AR Drone.

Check out the video below of it below in action -

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

IFTTT - Superb Site

Thanks to Alastair Nisbett (@Alastair) who shared this superb website with me.

IFTT (If This Then Than) enables users to create and share "Recipes" that fit the simple statement: "if this then that". The “this” part of a Recipe is called a Trigger. Some example Triggers are “I’m tagged in a photo on Facebook” or “I check in on Foursquare”. The “that” part of a Recipe is called an Action. Some example Actions are “send me a text message” or “create a status message on Facebook”. The combination of a Trigger and an Action from a user's active channels are called Recipes. The service offers Triggers and Actions for 72 channels, such as Twitter, Foursquare, Flickr, and Box. 

In June 2012, the service entered the Internet of Things space by integrating with Belkin WeMo devices, allowing Recipes to interact with the physical world. By combining IFTTT with other services such as Yahoo! Pipes, one can build elaborate systems that enable easier consumption of content from a variety of sources.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Google Drive and Cover Lessons

As always with this time of year, there have been a number of staff stepping in to lessons that they wouldn't normally teach. This 'covering' of sessions can sometimes be 'tricky' on both the part of the teacher who is absent and the teacher taking the session. Increasingly though, at the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy, Google Drive is being used to support learning during these sessions.

As an example, see the below Geography lesson shared with me to deliver -

As the use of Google Drive to support cover lessons becomes more common, I have three top tips to help ensure success.

- Share Settings - When setting up files to be used during a cover lesson, always ensure you share it with all staff. The best way to do this is to put the files in the 'Staff Masterdrive', this will allow every member of staff access without having the annoying 'shared with you' email from Google.

When it comes to sharing with students, again the 'Student Masterdrive' is probably the best way to go. This file on Google Drive will allow students view access but not edit rights, so if you need this encourage them to make their own copy of the document.

However you choose to share your files, be sure to make it clear in the plan you leave how to access these files which will support learning in the lesson.

- Collaboration - When leaving a cover lesson on Google Drive it can be easy to think of independent tasks which will keep a class submissive in their approach to learning. Don't be afraid to engage in collaborative tasks though and leave tasks such as discuss with your partner, find someone else in class that shares your views, etc, etc.

Working collaboratively on a single document or presentation through Google Drive can also really enhance learning. Working in this way, with one class, can also mean you can keep an eye on what they are all doing, even if you are not in the same room.

Finally, for collaboration, encourage through your plan for colleagues to get the students working not just 1:1 on devices. Sometimes the best discussion on learning comes from talking things through with a peer. For this reason alone, 1:2 and 1:3 use of devices can sometimes be much more powerful for learning.

- Feedback - Finally, feedback is really important. If you have missed a lesson for any reason, don't wait until next lesson to see how students got on. We all now have great tools at our disposal to continue learning outside the classroom so why not put them to good use to gain feedback and help support future learning opportunities. This could be done through many means, ask throught Twitter, send an email or set up a shared documents for all students to share their thoughts.