Teachers, Children and Technology

The week before last I presented at the OER Schools conference in Leicester. The event was organised to support a landmark decision by Leicester Council to give blanket permission to teachers in the Leicester area employed by the council to share their learning and teaching resources under an open licence. All slides and videos from the day are now online.


One of the workshops I attended (led by Miles Berry, Principal Lecturer, Subject Leader for Computing Education at University of Roehampton) was looking at OER resource building in the area of computing – the idea behind it was to get students and teachers thinking about attribution and licensing). Some of the tools we looked at during the session made me reflect on a post I wrote about Children and technology back in January 2014.

The new UK Computing curriculum was published in September 2013 and aims to teach children “children computer science, information technology and digital literacy: teaching them how to code, and how to create their own programs; not just how to work a computer, but how a computer works and how to make it work for you.

This is a significant rethinking and requires work beyond Powerpoint and spreadsheets! In the workshop I attended we were looking at KS1 and KS2 – for a full description of what is required to be taught at those levels see this PDF. At the start of the session Miles pointed out the curriculum clearly states that the should be time in the day for non-national curriculum activities. While many teachers laughed out loud at statement Miles suggested that they should use reference to justify work that they felt was appropriate – such as teaching about open content and licensing.

So here are some of the tools that we looked at or were mentioned during the session:

Coding tools

I mentioned Scratch in my previous post but here are a few tools that build on it:

  • Enchanting is a free and open-source cross-platform educational programming language designed to program Lego Mindstorms NXT robots. It is powered by leJOS NXJ (Java for the NXT).
  • Scratch Junior is from the MIT who’ve worked on Scratch. They’ve redesigned the Scratch interface and programming language to make it developmentally appropriate for younger children and released it as an app to be used on ipads and phones.
  • Snap (formerly BYOB) is a visual, drag-and-drop programming language. It is an extended reimplementation of Scratch (a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab) that allows you to Build Your Own Blocks.

Image finding tools

We did quite a bit of work around finding usable images online. I attended a Jisc Digital Media workshop on this a while back, which gave me a good grounding. Other tools mentioned that I’d not come across include:

  • Photo pin which uses the Flickr API and searches creative commons photos, very user friendly
  • Pixabay which is great for Clipart
  • John Johnston image search which gives you the embed code and allows you to stamp an image (and add the attribution to the actual image)

    Other stuff

    Other sites mention here are:


    The OER Schools conference was an excellent event and for me is the first time I’ve really felt that open education and OERs is becoming mainstream and part of people’s everyday working practice. Open education, and open learning and teaching practices in particular, has a great deal to offer the distributed world that we live and work in. Young people need to learn about the brave new world we live in and be able to embrace the opportunities it brings. I’ll be looking out for any new work in this area!

    Miles has made his slides on how ‘to create a medium term plan to teach an aspect of IP or open licensing to primary pupils’ available from Google docs.