Monday, February 23, 2015

Erase all kittens

I'm just going to put it out there. I'm not a cat lover. Dogs are way more fun. Just to clarify in case some of you are cat lovers, I don't hate cats, I just have a preference for dogs so don't hate me. Because of my mild dislike of felines, I was quite amused when I heard about an online platform game called Erase all Kittens. 

In the game you are a character called Arca, a creature banished to the ruins of the ancient internet. Arca's only friends were kittens but they then start to go missing. Arca must try to save the kittens or risk being alone for ever.

The beauty of the game is that it teaches children how to code and create on the web. It does this by encouraging them to hack into levels written in html5 and CSS to complete the game. An early example is lengthening a platform by changing the code inside (simply done by increasing the amount of text in the box) so that the main character can then jump across a narrower gap. 
I guarantee you will find this game a fun way to teach kids how to code. Check it out.



Friday, February 6, 2015

My days of expensive hardware are over


I have always been reluctant to spend money on software when there are so many free options available but I have always thought that buying expensive hardware was a good investment. That was until recently when my expensive investment in an iMac has been slowly gathering dust in the corner.When I first bought it 3 years ago, I used it for almost everything. Now, I use it to watch a movie about once a week. So what changed?
About a year ago we were investigating a possible implementation of Chromebooks so I was given a Samsung Series 3 to test its functionality. From the moment I took it out of the box I was impressed. I pressed the power button and within 10 seconds, it was ready to go. The look and feel was a bit like a Macbook Air , albeit on a budget. I am not going to lie and say it is a better machine than a Macbook Air, but if you work on a principle of 'good enough to do everything I need' then it is truly impressive.
What I didn't realise when I first used the Chromebook was how much of my computing was done in the cloud. I expected to have to use my iMac regularly but I found that almost everything I had to do, both work and personal I could do on the Chromebook. There were occasional frustrations and barriers (like no Skype for one!) but in most cases, you can find a Chrome Extension or App that does what you need.
There is also another advantage. I happen to use Chrome as my primary browser in school so when I close the lid on my Chromebook at home and go in to school, I can open up where I left off on my desktop. Also the range of useful third party apps is remarkable. If you already use Google Chrome, check out the web store.
With every OS upgrade, my Mac is getting slower and slower. Soon it will need to be replaced. I think it is highly unlikely that I will buy another Mac, as excellent as they are, when I can buy a Chromebook for a fraction of the price with all the functionality I need. Right now I have my eye on this one , but I will keep using my Mac until it dies and who knows what model will be available then.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Everyone who knows me knows I love everything Google but...

Every now and then, when Google Now predicts where I am going to walk to on Sunday, I do get a little bit worried. Should we worry or should we trust that they will 'do no evil'.


How Much Does Google Really Know About You? #infographicYou can also find more infographics at Visualistan

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Creating surveys using Google Forms

One of the most common questions I get asked by colleagues is how to usefully collect and collate information using Google Forms. Google forms are extremely useful for polling students, conducting short assessments and keeping records of staff activities.

Rather than re-invent the wheel with this one, I thought I would point you towards Google's own support pages. These are worth exploring in detail as there is wealth of information on using Google apps but for now, check out how to use forms and then give it a go yourself.

Here is the link

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Time for a change







If anyone is still out there following this blog (I'd be surprised if you were as I haven't posted much this year!), you should hopefully see some changes in the coming months. I started this blog about 18 months ago and was originally blogging twice a week, before the baby arrived. I am very grateful to the guest posters who have kept it going in the mean time and I will be posting lots of new content this summer.
My big plan is to completely overhaul the template that I use and get rid of the depressing grey colours in favour of something lighter and brighter. If anyone knows of any good blogger templates, let me know.
There will also be a change to the content. So far, I have been writing mostly about free software. I am going to widen my scope to include good value, cost saving hardware, working towards reducing paper consumption, and also have a greater focus on effective digital pedagogy.  I might sometimes also write about software which is not free if I feel it provides a good cost saving for schools. This is in part driven by my own schools move towards certain paid-for solutions.
Thank you for following Free Tech for Schools and I hope that my continued contribution to the blogosphere will help you with using technology to enhance the learning experience for the students you teach.