Ed Tech software costs

I am pricing up software for use next year. I really love Prezi, Socrative and Quizlet, among others. The free versions all have limitations, however, so I am considering “going Pro”.

The sum of the premium licenses for those three items comes to… $114 or about £88 at today’s (terrible) exchange rate. And I’m sure that I’ll discover, over the summer, lots of other software I want to buy.

What software have you bought for teaching and why? Let me know here or on Twitter, and I’ll do a longer blog post in a few weeks.


Manchester Baby 

I’m at Manchester Museum of Science and Industry (they used to call it MoSI but no more, something to do with branding…)

Ive been learning about Baby (see pics), rebuilt in the 90s to the original spec. It uses the Williams-Kilburn Cathode Ray Tube memory store, which I found hard to grasp until today, when a helpful volunteer showed me it close up. Never underestimate the value of physical demonstration to get across difficult concepts. 

The store holds 32 words of 32 bits each, or 128 bytes in new money. This was used to store programs and data, in the world’s first proper stored-program computer. 
They used to have iPads in front of the machine, to encourage people to compare computing power between 1948 and today. However they found that this distracted the kids and diminished the message. 

I’ve used clips of The Imitation Game showing another early machine (Turing’s Bombe) and drag/drop guess the year of the old machine exercises in my classroom, but I think I’ll plan a trip here at some point. 

How would you get across the difference between 128 bytes and 750 instructions per second, and the power of an iPad? 


Repeat after me: PGCE is hard!

I received my PGCE confirmation letter today. Although I knew the result, it’s nice to see it  become”official”.  I mentioned in an earlier post how hard it was. I just read this from 2010 on the TES forums: “however hard you imagine its going to be, times it by 100 and thats actually how hard its going to be. I never thought it would be THIS difficult.”

I’ve actually described it a few times as two years work in one. The coursework and study (if you do it properly) could consume most of the year on its own. As could the teaching practice.

What were your experiences? I am particularly interested in what teaching standards you found hard. Was it the Behaviour? Planning? Differentiation? Comment below, or tweet or DM me.


Computing Ed. Echo Chamber

I have just discovered this “echo chamber” blog, which curates the best Computing/ICT blog posts from the UK. I hope it is useful.


Teacher blogs I follow

I’ve just followed a handful of Teacher blogs mentioned in this article. If you know any good ones to follow let me know in the comments. Teacher blogs: who should I be reading? | Teacher Network | The Guardian

Incidentally, I use WordPress itself to follow other WP blogs, and Feedly for everything else. It pains me that some of the “kids today” don’t use RSS, preferring to distribute updates via social media, and don’t get me started on subscribing to blogs “by email”. What weirdo does that?


Trafford CAS Hub

If you are interested in Computing at School in the Trafford area, please see my new post here asking for input. This is your chance to suggest activites for the Trafford Hub.

Thank you.



Brexit and Accountability.

Like many in Education, I was dismayed by the referendum result. The EU may be flawed – what organisation isn’t – but on the whole it was a huge force for good, lending opportunity to young people to live, work and study overseas, protecting workers’ rights and defending equality.

More pragmatically, I am furious at the power vacuum and absence of any plan to take us forward after the vote was won. I believe the best option now would be an early General Election, before which all parties could set out their plan for Brexit (or indeed to reject Brexit as the Lib Dems have suggested). This would restore some measure of accountability to the result, sadly lacking in the ridiculous referendum we have just suffered. To that end, I wrote this letter today, to my MP Mike Kane. I hope this might be useful to others who are as despondent as me at the mess we’re in.

I am writing to ask you to vote against any motion to invoke Article 50
of the Lisbon Treaty, should it come to a vote in Parliament, and to
continue to campaign for the UK to remain in the EU. It is my wish that
Labour call for an early General Election wherein each party stands on
a Manifesto pledge to either Remain or Leave the EU. This way, we will
have a refreshed mandate which, crucially, comes with the
accountability that was lacking in the Referendum, thus ensuring that
each side is "on the hook" for their promises with respect to the UK's
future inside or outside the EU.

"Brexit" is a disaster for the UK, economically, socially and
politically. The referendum result has caused an unprecedented
constitutional crisis which may see the break-up of the UK, the
collapse of the Irish peace process and the deepest recession of modern
times. The Leave campaign and subsequent success at the ballot box has
stirred up racism and xenophobia and caused terrible rifts in the
fabric of society that may take decades to heal. The UK's reputation as
a globally respected example of political stability, economic prudence
and social harmony has been rocked to its core.

It is clear, now, that we have arrived at this point due to an
outrageously dishonest campaign from the official and unofficial Leave
campaigns. According to Michael Dougan, professor of European law at
the University of Liverpool, the Leave campaign was "criminally
irresponsible" and involved "industrial scale dishonesty". Promises
such as £350m for the NHS and curbs on immigration are rapidly being
walked back. It's clear that Leave said whatever it took to win the
vote, with no plan for the country on success.

As Professor Dougan advises, MPs have a "constitutional responsibility
to protect the national interest". I urge you to vote down any attempt
to invoke Article 50 at this time. I also urge you campaign for an
early General Election and ensure that the electorate get the
opportunity to properly decide between competing plans for implementing
the will of the people, be that inside or outside the EU.

Yours sincerely,

Alan J. Harrison, BSc, MBCS, CISSP, PGCE
Sale resident and teacher in Trafford.

PGCE, the best rollercoaster ever. 

I found myself in front of next September’s PGCE cohort yesterday. It was an accident, I was at MMU Brooks building for the CAS Manchester Hub meeting, and spotted my tutor. Introductions duly completed,  I found myself talking rather freely about the year just ended. 

I told them of the ups and downs, the “punch the air” days, and the “kick the dog” days*. How you will need to store up the good stuff, to get you through the bad. I recommend keeping a diary, blog, social media feed… something you can look back on for encouragement when things go wrong. 

It is only June, and the trainees are on the Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE). I advised them to make good use of the summer: read the course overview, familiarise yourself with the coursework requirements and the teachers’ standards. The better prepared you are now, the easier it will be to ride out the coming storm. 

And get fixed in your mind, now, why you’re doing this. Why are you going into teaching? What’s the difference you’re going to make? Why is it important to you? One thing is certain, you’re going to question your ability to teach, at some point in the coming year. Get your answer straight now, and that self-doubt won’t become a crisis. 

Fill your mind with teaching knowledge, read education books, listen to education podcasts, talk to other teachers and to people young and old about their education. You’ll be writing several essays based on education literature, use the summer to get ahead on coursework and simply to grow the teacher in you. 

Finally, talk to your friends and family, warn them of the tough year coming upup. It’s more intense than undergraduate studies. You’ll need understanding, supportive people around you. 

Its not my intention to scare anyone, but to prepare you. It’s been  a tough year, but possibly the best year of my life. To see those lightbulbs come on over kids heads, to get a spontaneous round of applause from a previously awkward class, to get heartfelt, hand-made leaving cards from dozens of kids… there’s no job in the world like it. Go in prepared and make the most of it. 

*No dogs were harmed in the making of this teacher. 



Welcome to my blog. I am a newly qualified Computer Science Teacher in an 11-18 Catholic Secondary school in Cheshire. Formerly an IT consultant and manager and an IT security expert, I have just completed my PGCE at Manchester Metropolitan University where I benefited from the BCS scholarship, and I plan to become a Computing At School (CAS) Master Teacher in time, and at some point complete my Masters degree.

This blog intends to capture my thoughts as an NQT, a budding CAS Master Teacher and a collector of all things #EdTech, with hints and tips, a bit of politics and general chit-chat thrown in.

Feel free to comment, I will leave comments open and retro-moderate (for spam, offence and inappropriate content only, never for criticism) unless it becomes a problem, so play nice!

First post will be a round up of my PGCE year with hints and tips for new PGCEs, and second may well be a #Brexit moan, you have been warned.

Follow me on Twitter: @tech_magpie in the meantime, see you there?