“I’ve come to talk to the IT expert!”

By Helen Wilson

Three years ago there were a number of words which were not in my vocabulary – upload, blog post, hashtag, app. There were also words which made me fearful enough to bring on a mild panic attack  – HDMI cable, computer room lesson, interactive whiteboard. I was, in all ways, a technophobe.

hdmi cable

I had been a full-time mum to my three children for more or less 13 years,  and there had not been much need to keep up with the revolution in technology whilst I was running toddler groups, building lego models and doing some very messy painting. When I left my job with a London Accountancy firm in 1996, we would often argue about who had to take the team’s laptop home from a client because it was so heavy and cumbersome.

finger painting

So three years ago, I decided to tackle my phobia head on,  not only to enable me to do my job effectively, but also so that my own children could have conversations with me that I would be able to understand.

To start with it was hard – my head of department went so far as to label wires on the back of computers with stickers and letters so that I would know what to attach to what; I had to be prepared to seek help from the IT support team and respond to their explanations with “you are saying a lot of words which I know exist but I have no idea what they mean”; and I had to make sure that every time someone explained to me how to do something , I wrote down in my own words what I needed to do, and then did it repeatedly in a short space of time so that I wouldn’t forget.

not understanding

For a year and a half, I battled. Then, slowly but surely, I gained confidence. I started to write my own smartnotebook files for lessons, building up my own bank of resources. I learnt how to use the technology in the room to have an impact on pupils’ learning, not just because it was there. I also learnt how to search effectively for resources and save myself time recreating what others had already done.

But the revolution for me happened when I discovered twitter. At first I was a tentative user, wanting to know what my children were getting involved in, so I followed a few newspaper columnists and some family and friends. But it wasn’t long before I discovered the massive presence of teachers (tweechers) on twitter and found that it was an incredible way to learn new skills, share ideas, find out what is happening on the ground in classrooms around the country and around the world.

Soon I was coming across ideas and resources just by scrolling down my twitter feed – ideas came to me and I didn’t need to go searching. How did I find ways of using display for learning? – twitter (thanks to @mrprcollins  amongst others); how did I discover new ways of engaging pupils with activities which allowed both collaboration and individual working? – twitter (thanks to @numberloving,  and others too numerous to mention); how did I become confident enough to trial what I call “pre-lesson-learning” with my classes? – yes, twitter; and there are so many other aspects of my teaching which I would never have had the confidence to try without the encouragement of the fantastic teachers on twitter.

But through twitter (and with the inspiration of @beaumontmusic, @beaumontdrama and @beaumontPE)  I also developed the confidence to create a blog for use by pupils in maths, http://mathsatbeaumontschool.blogspot.co.uk/ – with links to resources held together in a pearltree (more in a later blog post). I was starting to feel that maybe all things IT weren’t so scary after all.

At the end of last term, another teacher came in to the maths department and called out “I’ve come to talk to the IT expert” – I looked around for someone from the IT team before realising that they were looking at me! My IT consultant husband found it hard to believe that his technophobe wife had found a new label.


My message, if there needs to be one, is that learning about new technologies is possible for everyone – if a 40 something technophobe can start a blog and find the confidence to suggest education apps to the head of IT – pretty much anyone can have a go at learning new ways of working, just by trying out and practising one or two things at a time.

I love Twitter!

by Sarah Hosegoodtwitter image 1I attended the Teaching and Learning Team meeting on Monday 21 October and realised I was missing out on a fantastic T&L resource – Twitter. I have been resisting Twitter for a while  now because I thought it would take too much time to get my head around it,or it would take over my life looking at what celebrities were up to, but it has turned out to be the best T&L CPD I have had in years. I signed up on Monday evening and followed a few people Helen, Zoe and Jo were following. Then this evening I have spent an hour looking for new resources and ideas and now have too many ideas! 

 Just from this evening I am going to take the ideas below and try them out in my lessons over the next couple of weeks: 

1) Magpie Cards: when working in small groups give each group a ‘Magpie Card’ which they can only use once. It entitles them to speak to another group to steal ideas from that group for two minutes. The card is then returned to the teacher. 

 2) Classroom Bunting: at the end of a topic give each student quite a large triangle of card. They summarise their learning from this topic on the piece of bunting and present them back to the class. The triangles can then be put together or strung up to make a ‘learning bunting’. 


3) Student reflection: similar to the maths example we have seen at the learning lunches this is an image which enables students to show progress during their lesson. The image is below and the questions which went with it were:

  • Which person on the staircase best represents your learning in this lesson?
  • Which person represents a better position for you?
  • What are you going to do to try and reach the top of the staircase next time if you are not there already?
  • What is going to stop you falling to the bottom of the staircase?


This could be used at the start, middle and end of the lesson to show progress. 

 4) Using cardboard Scrabble tiles: you can download a template for all the Scrabble tiles quite easily on the internet. You could give individual students some tiles for them to spell out as many key words from the topic they are studying or they could compete with a partner to take it in turns to spell out key terms, the person who spells the most wins. Great link to literacy as well! 

 5) Mini or main plenary idea: ‘My Brain’ – students to draw a brain in their exercise books and they have to fill it with what they have learnt in the lesson. This could be done half way through to show progress and then added to at the end of the lesson with a different coloured pen to show continued progress!