Category Archives: Blog

Visualisers – or is there a better way?

Over the last few weeks, in the twittersphere, I have come across three posts all about visualisers and asking whether there are good ones out there that won’t break the bank.  Sure there are great visualisers out there, but there is a far cheaper and better way to get the same effect: use a phone or tablet.

I will be recommending a lot of things in this post, but I will point out that I am not amazon affiliated or in any way getting profits from any of the products that I note below – they are for reference only, and may not be the best ones available.

The three posts…

What is a visualiser?

Working in much the same way as an Over-Head Projector used to, a visualiser projects an image of what you are displaying onto a board.  For example, if you place an example of a child’s jotter work under the visualiser, it will display it on the smart board for the class to see and as reference.

They truly are fantastic for plenaries, feedback and for showing examples of good work – even just for talking through a worksheet or drawing attention to a passage of text.

Why don’t I use visualisers?

Visualisers are clunky pieces of kit and really serve only one purpose.  They are also expensive.  The cheapest I found was £40, but you’d most likely want a good one which can be closer to £100.  There are better ways out there to achieve the same aims – at often better quality – with devices that you already have in your class and less expensive resources.

So what’s the alternative?

As I have noted in response to each tweet that I’ve seen this week regarding visualisers; my favourite solution is using your trusty mobile phone or tablet.  In past posts, I have recommended getting a VGA adapter for your device that will connect it to the SMART board.  In my case, I use iPhone; so a search for VGA to iPhone X (or VGA to lightning, as the port is named) gets me the results I’m looking for.  Most modern androids use a type C port, but typing in VGA to *phone make and model* will give you the results that you’re after.

Whilst these can be fairly expensive (around £20), they are very versatile.  I love using them to also read kindle books with the children – they can read along on the board without having to purchase multiple copies of a book.

For visualising though, simply use your phone/tablet’s camera when it is connected to the board, and your children will see what your device can see – an instant visualiser!

Go hands free…

Visualisers are good, as they hold a fixed position and you don’t need to hold a camera pointing at the work to show it.  Therefore, there is no camera shake and you get a very clear picture.  This can be achieved easily for a phone or tablet by purchasing a desk clamp stand for your device.  You can get a good one for less than £10 such as this one.

This very literally turns your device into a visualiser.

Go wireless…

I do actually love using an adapter as I don’t have to rely on a good connection or network.  You can, however, go wireless.  Many schools are getting Wi-Fi and even Apple TV.  There are also many good screen mirroring apps out there such as AirServer, as recommended by the below twitter user, and Reflector.  If you fancy going wireless then these are great things to look into.  Benefits of this include being more portable and being able to cast work from anywhere in the room to your board.

Again though, I do prefer a wired connection with a desk clamp stand when I am casting work, and would recommend this above getting a visualiser every single time!

I do hope that you all have a great week and hopefully this has given you some ideas about how to use your devices and/or real visualisers in your own practice.


Teaching Probability through Scratch

I do love using Scratch to enhance teaching other areas of the curriculum.  Whilst technically the following resource doesn’t enhance the teaching of probability outcomes, it does enhance the overall experience.  I always used to find teaching probability in the initial stages quite boring – I’m sure it’s not a great experience for the children either – “Roll a dice 20 times and record the number of times it hits each side”.  Since I started working with Scratch, however, I now ask the children to code their own dice and test how random it is by counting the number of times it lands on each side.  I use this as a way into probability.  I then ask them to, using the code below, work out how to code other common examples (such as playing cards) that can be randomly selected and record the probability of number / house / colour.  The code is very similar, however more costumes need to be created.

I find that this is quite effective as the children have a deeper understanding after it as they have not only seen the result but have also written the instructions for the ‘how’.

I hope that the following code for a random dice game is helpful and that you can see how to use it for teaching probability.  I should note, if you extend this to cards instead of dice faces, all costumes (card sides) need to be numbered from 1-52 in order that each can be randomly selected – hopefully it becomes obvious in the PPT.  Please feel free to use the below PowerPoint with your learners; I will add the ‘answer’ underneath it on this blog.

Sorry it’s a short post but I am away this weekend.

Have a great week!


The finished code should look like this:

Technology on this week’s trip to Blairvadach

I’ve blogged previously on the use of communication technologies and their impact, but this week I really wanted to do it again after a superb week away at Blairvadach with the Mosspark P7 children.  I have never enjoyed a trip so much as I did with this group of young people – truly incredible individuals, and the first time that I have ever been away and not had to check on rooms after lights out!  What made the trip even more special for me though, was being able to share memories and moments with the children’s families and being able to pass on their responses to the children.  Also, being able to let the children enjoy seeing video clips of their adventures as they came to reflect on their day in their journals.

I do love technology, however also realise the value of being away from it.  I can’t emphasise enough how important this is, especially on outdoor learning adventures, yet I also think it can play a huge role when used well to record and share memories and engage families in their children’s learning away.  In my mind, if I am ever blessed with having children, and they come home from a week away and I ask how it was and I am greeted with “great”, I would love to have some footage or photos to look at and use as visual stimulation for great conversations about the learning.

Indeed, I wish that I had had the technology to do all of this when I was a child – my only memories from my outdoor learning experiences as a child are some blurry photos.  Now though, we have the technology to really capture and share moments with families throughout a course.  In this blog, I want to show how we did it, and the ways that we made it as simple as we could.  Before I continue though, I’d love to give a huge shout out to the team at Blairvadach for, not only the wonderful job that they did with our young people – some of the most nurturing instructors I have ever worked with – but also for their use of social media. Almost all of the instructors now use twitter to share what their groups were up to and it allowed the parents to not only engage with the school but see the instructors comments and feedback on a regular basis.


I know that there are lots of social media platforms out there that schools use, from their own websites to facebook and instagram.  The reason that I love twitter (aside from it being a truly fantastic PLN) is that it is concise.  You don’t feel the need to write essays about what everyone did – it restricts that.  Similarly, videos are restricted to 2mins 20 so you don’t feel the need to post absolutely everything – just highlights.

I have said this loads before, and I will again; if you are on Twitter, use hashtags and let parents know what one you are using.  Make sure that it is unique so that when parents search for it they don’t find loads of other tweets on the same subject.  For example, this year instead of using #Blairvadach for our trip (as loads of schools may have used this) we used #MPBlairvadach19 and if you click on it, you will see all of the tweets from our trip away.

What was most amazing was the engagement we had from so many parents on it.  We also provided a link to our twitter feed on our school app and website for those parents who didn’t use Twitter.


In order to create simple, short videos using the media that we had taken each day, we used Clips (this is an apple app though – similar apps are availavle for android such as Quik by GoPro).  Using clips, we were able to quickly collate our photos and sections of video into simple but effective videos that highlighted each group’s learning.

Here’s one from the final day (watch to the end if you want a laugh!):

A very simple and yet great way to share learning – lots of tutorials online and CPD available in using clips, so do check it out if you haven’t already.

Pic Collage (or similar)

Pic Collage is a great way to compile multiple photos into one image.  As Twitter can only take four images at a time, instead of posting 7 tweets on the same subject to put out all of the photos, you can use Pic Collage.  What’s more, Pic collage can be used for video as well as photos.  We had great fun capturing some Slow Mo videos of the children jumping into “the jacuzzi” but couldn’t add them all into the clips due to the length of time available, so used pic collage to merge some.

Class Camera

I took my Olympus Tough and GoPro with me, both of which are old and I didn’t mind too much having them on the course.  These weren’t for me to use though.  As there were only three teachers, but four groups, and we wanted to capture every activity that the children did, some of our camera club children were in charge of documenting their activities if there was no school teacher with them.  They loved this responsibility, and it meant that we had evidence from all of the activities.

Whilst you may not have a camera that you are willing to take, there are normally old school or class cameras that have become almost redundant now that we have iPads: why not take these and let the children record some of their experiences on activity!

Heres some of the footage taken by one of our children:

Waterproof Phone Cases

The best and most simple thing that you can take with you to ensure that you don’t miss a moment is a cheap waterproof phone pouch.  An example is one like this that I took with me for the other two staff on the trip – it was a two-pack so worked out really cheap in the end!


I do hope that there were some ideas that you can take from this – even just by looking at our twitter hashtag  you’ll be able to see how we, and indeed the instructors, were using twitter to engage families and our wider school community.  Some of the responses from parents have been fantastic, and truly make it all worthwhile.

I hope that you all have a great week,



ICT for Early Years

There are lots of computing concepts and skills that can be taught in the early years; and indeed, the CfE asks that we teach a number of these.  However, I have spoken to a number of practitioners in the past who say that they don’t really do any computing with children in P1.  In this post, I want to look at ways to make teaching computing easy for P1 – what’s worked for me and how to develop skills so that children are able to use the devices available proficiently.  In this blog, I will focus only on computer skills, as our young learners are mostly quite proficient on tablet devices having often had a lot of exposure to them at home.

I’ve been meaning to write this blog ever since having a debate about P1 SNSA tests – this is a controversial subject, so I won’t post my views on here as that is irrelevant – but what I did take from it was the teacher saying “but most of our P1s can’t use a mouse, so it took a really long time as we had to support them 1-1”.

I do believe that all P1s should be able to use a mouse, and as such, mouse control is the skill that I will say is the most important thing that you can develop with your learners.  I will note how I have done this below; however, let’s first look at the experiences and outcomes (and benchmarks) for early years.

What’s worked for me?

I’ve been teaching NCCT cover computing to P1 (and all stages) for 45 minutes per week for the last three and a half years.  Until December, my focus is always on mouse control.  I do use strategies to make teaching computing easier to P1, which I will note below, but in order that we can progress with all aspects of computing, it is important that the children can coordinate mouse movements and clicks.  To do this, I use my favourite program: Microsoft Paint, which is available on all GCC (and I imagine all other authorities) desktop and laptop devices. For the first few sessions, I load MS Paint onto the children’s computers and show them how to use the mouse to “click” (for a dot) or “hold” for a line.  We practise in the air first – in the same way you might practise writing letters with imaginary pens.  And then I ask them to draw a picture of their class teacher or make a self portrait.  For the first few weeks, I do the same lesson to really reinforce the mouse control aspect but with different things to draw.  I always have the children working in pairs for this.

After most of the children are more proficient in using the mouse and MS paint, normally after a few weeks, I show them how to navigate to and open MS Paint.  I don’t generally pin it to the task bar or have it as a desktop shortcut, as I like them to get the practise of opening the START menu (we call this “the rainbow flag”) and then clicking on the paint icon.  Soon after learning to open Paint, the children also learn to close it using “the red x” and “pressing the middle button” (don’t save).

We continue using paint for lessons, but the complexity of what we draws increases as we add in selecting different colours, different brush types and fill.  We normally work up to the start of December and create winter scenes.  I know this seems like a lot of just using paint, but it really does work and with P1 I don’t get to start until mid-to-late September.

We also start to experiment with different programs at this time – learning to navigate to and open Microsoft Word, for example – and the children practice writing their names and opening / closing it.

After December, and where I am just now, we look at course A where the children begin to learn basic coding using arrows to navigate the angry bird to a pig.  I use offline tools as well – floor arrows to code partners to places in the room for example.  As this is very progressive, children who are more able can go off at their own pace, but generally speaking I have all children working in pairs.

We always start with “lesson 4, number 2” and I save the link to course A in the favourites bar at the top of the computer.  Children can therefore navigate to the course themselves, and they know to “look down for the number 4, and across to the number 2” (number 1 is a video, and the previous lessons are either videos or unplugged courses that I do at other times).  Each week, I start with this for a number of weeks until I feel that almost all of the children have a good understanding of how the program works and how to control the mouse well.  It does depend on the learners as to how quickly we progress and move on, and how far through the course we go.

Finally, in term 4, we look at typing basic words, such as ‘cat’, and do this in Google to find images.  We also look at basic passwords on the iPads – using a passcode to access the content.  Internet safety and cyber security is something that I cover throughout the year, but I won’t write about it here as I have made several other blog posts on the subject.

Making it easier

  1. Don’t use class log ins.  We ditched this years ago and it was the best thing ever.  Agree on one whole-school log in (e.g. a P7a one or one that you have decided on) and have your digital leaders or a small group of P7 children log in each morning at registration time.  Don’t log out of the computers until the end of the day.  This saves a huge amount of time in lessons and maximises the actual teaching time.  If you want children to learn to log off and log on then that can be built into your lesson – but for most lessons you won’t want this.
  2. Put a small sticker on the ‘left-click’ button on the mouse, as this is the only button that you will be wanting your children (in early years) to be pressing.  This is possible the hardest part about using a mouse for P1 children, so having a visual cue really helps them.
  3. Use a lot of repetition and repetitive language.  Each time, when we start a new lesson, we go over how to navigate and use exactly the same wording so that the children can chant along.
  4. For internet programs, use the favourites bar and create a favourites folder called “P1” or whatever the class name is and save websites as icons here.  Don’t expect your children to also type in web addresses, and don’t give yourself extra work by having to do it for each child – this wastes time!
  5. Get rid of the keyboard – well, not really – just push it far back as the children won’t be using it until term 4.  At the start, in the same way that P1 children require larger lines for writing and lots of room for making shapes, they need lots of space for using a mouse.  Make room by moving the keyboard out of the way.


Hopefully this has been helpful.  It has worked for me, and by the end of the year we have achieved a good coverage of all of the CfE Es and Os for early years and most of my learners are ready to start first level in P2 having done this.  I hope it works for you – but if not, if you can take anything from this, please teach mouse control and also get rid of class log ins!

Have a great week,




Coding with Coordinates

An aspect of mathematics that I love teaching is coordinates.  There are incredible resources available that really engage the children – most notably the ‘plot and draw’ type activities in which the children are given a series of coordinates to plot and then join up in a dot-to-dot type exercise.  The resulting image gives great satisfaction to the children as it provides a very instant visual self-assessment for the children to reflect on how well they did: additionally, they often love colouring it in!

Recently, though, in teaching coordinates I have not started as I normally would using sheets and paper, I have started with the below PowerPoint and Scratch coding.  The Scratch interface uses coordinates as a means of locating/moving sprites.  By far, the simplest way to teach children to code sprites to move is for them to understand what it means to alter a sprite’s ‘x’ or ‘y’ position.

One of the first lessons that I do with children, and indeed the lesson that I have started P4 and P5 with this week has been to learn about a sprite’s position and alter it using coordinates.  This PowerPoint serves as my introduction to the lesson and then we learn to code our own sprites to move using what we have learned.  I find that teaching coordinates after doing this lesson is much easier, as children have a much deeper understanding of how the ‘x-axis’ and ‘y-axis’ function.

Let’s quickly look at the brand-new Scratch 3.0 interface so that you too can get your children coding sprites to move ‘when’ buttons are pressed.  I will be leading a CPD session in February in using Scratch 3.0 as part of the upcoming GameJam training – more info to come soon!


Below is an image of the scratch interface as soon as you press the ‘create’ button.  On the left hand side you have three tabs:

  1. ‘code’, where you can locate all of the blocks with which you code your sprite.  You can drag these blocks into the blank space to the right of the blocks menu and link them together to create scripts.
  2. ‘costumes’, where you can edit the look of your sprite/backdrop depending on which you have selected.
  3. ‘sounds’ where you can add and edit sounds.

For this lesson, we will only be working with the code tab.


Left: Your children can change the size of their sprite and view its position on the x and y axis with the sprite editor section.  They can also select a sprite (by clicking on its icon), delete a sprite (by clicking on the (x) within the sprite icon box, or select a new sprite in the sprite selection menu.



Hopefully this mini-IDL link will come in handy over the coming weeks/terms.

As always, if you have any questions or suggestions for future blogs, do not hesitate to get in touch via twitter: @mrfeistsclass


Have a great week,


The best app?

Just short blog this week, as it’s been quite a hectic week and I’ve just not had the time I normally would.  I am writing on the iPad as I commute just now, and spell check is playing havoc, so apologies in advance if I miss a complete corker as I go.

This week, I want to look at my favourite all for ‘the digital plenary’ and arguably the best app of all time (in my opinion).  This is because I’ve been seeing quite a bit of debate on Twitter about the ‘good lesson’ structure and whether people still use a plenary at the end.  I personally love a plenary – even if it’s just a quick recap at the end about what the LI and SC were and what we have achieved – I find it a nice way round up a lesson, however, as we all know, a plenary can happen at any point in a lesson, or even at the start of a future lesson to recap something learned previously.  Enter the digital plenary.

There are two apps that I swear by for plenaries.  The first, Plickers, is an app that I have talked about previously so won’t really cover here. Currently, I use Plickers more than my favourite app, as it works better hen you don’t have many connected devices. Kahoot! however is what I want to focus on.  Now, I have actually written about Kahoot in the past also, but not extensively and certainly not since their recent updates and changes.  In my previous school, we had iPads that connected to WiFi – I really look forward to that being the case again this year in my current school, as I was able to use Kahoot a lot to review learning, track responses to questions and summatively assess understanding, but most of all, we were able to use it to have fun.  At its very heart, Kahoot is a Quiz app.  It is fun and engaging and can be used for a multitude of purposes.  It is free (although new paid premium services can now be added for as little as £1 pcm).  I genuinely love it.  You can create your own quizzes or search for ones that have already been made by teachers across the country.  In my last school, we created a ‘class’ account, where the children were able to sign in and create their own quizzes for peer assessment (and for fun) to review each other’s learning.

It works in browser and there are free apps also. Heck, I’ve even used it for a fundraising Harry Potter Quiz night with friends at my house.

If you do anything today, check out Kahoot.  They are also on Twitter | @getkahoot

Here’s a video clip of Kahoot being used in a medical science lecture.

Truly, I can’t recommend it enough, and hope that you enjoy using it as much as I do.

See you next week!


Teaching Internet Safety – Online Gaming

Happy New Year!

With #SaferInternetDay2019 just around the corner on 5.2.19, I thought that a good way to start my posts for 2019 would be with an input on Internet Safety, including: where to find good resources; misinterpretation of internet safety; and ideas for teaching and talking to your children about internet safety.

I hope that this article is informative.  I often cringe when I see articles on Internet safety as they are always so negative – the truth is, the internet is an amazing place for children (and adults) to play and learn, but, as with everything there are dangers.  There are those out there who will try to convince you that you should never let your children play games online or have social media.  I disagree, and hopefully this post will justify my thoughts on this.  Of course, as with all of my posts, this is my opinion and I would always advise you look at other sources (noted throughout this post) to inform your own ideas.


The internet is truly vast, and truthfully, it’s impossible to know what your children are doing all the time online.  In the same way that, if you let your child go to the park or out to the shops alone or with friends, you are putting trust in them.  As access to the internet is so great, I am going to focus on online gaming.  I talk, not only as someone who has worked with many children and discussed online habits, and not only as someone who has read a lot of academic studies on online safety in gaming, but as a gamer myself.  I love gaming, and realise both the benefits and dangers that it can pose.  Unfortunately, it is also an area that is often greatly misreported in the media, with scare stories being created frequently, that do nothing to educate us and children about how to stay safe online, but rather blame individual games for not protecting our children.  The truth is, that it is us that should be doing more to protect our children.  I’ll go into this more below in the ‘safeguarding our children’ section.

Whilst I couldn’t find statistics for the number of children playing online in the UK, “There are 23.1m people aged between 6 and 64 playing games in the UK, or 49% of the population in that age group.” (source) From my experience in talking to young people, most children in P4-P7 do play games online with people that they don’t know.  Now, that last sentence is one that strikes fear into people who don’t play online – ‘with people that they don’t know’.  This does not mean that your children are at risk; it is how your children act in that environment that puts them at risk or not – again, I will talk more about this in the ‘safeguarding our children’ section.

In 2014, IAB released the below infographic from their ‘Gaming Revolution’ study (source):

Gaming is a worry for parents and teachers alike.  It is however something that will not go away therefore it is vital for us to teach our children to be responsible citizens both offline and online in order to keep them safe.


Safeguarding our children

In the same way that, if your child is playing in public, or in the shops, or out with friends, people can come up to them and talk to them – this is true whenever your child is online.  Outside, we always teach our children “never talk to strangers” – although, I should point out that we sometimes encourage them to make friends outside with children that they’ve never met before, and we teach them that if they are lost they should talk to a police officer, or a shop keeper or someone in uniform.  We teach our children about dangers outside: crossing roads, people who might try to ‘take them away’, seeing and hearing things that upset them, bullying.  ALL of these things apply on the internet – okay, there are no roads to cross, however, children have to navigate between websites, and notice links and pop ups that might be harmful.  Whenever our children are online, they can be ‘approached’ by people that they don’t know.  Our children will often come across images, media and behaviours that are not appropriate – even in games that are for children.  Also, cyber bullying is a huge problem.  Yet, whilst we often have weekly inputs in outside safety, or road safety; and whilst parents will almost always remind children to stay safe outside, it is rare that this happens before children go onto computers.


I will refer to the game ‘Fortnite’ for this example, as I play it and know it well.  In Fortnite, in every match, you are playing a game with up to 100 other people.  Some of those people will be children and some will be adults.  If you are playing in squads, it is possible for you to talk to up to three other people via microphone, and you can sent written messages to anyone (although, this normally only applies on the computer platform as it is really cumbersome to send messages from a console).  I have to say, I have never received a random message, and I have been playing the game most days for the last year and a half.  Did you know that the audio chat feature can be turned off?  it’s very easy to do.  But, even if it’s not turned off, your child is not necessarily at risk just because they are talking in a public forum.  For example, if your child is in a random squad with people he/she doesn’t know, and he/she asks where the team is landing in-game – or what their objective is, that is ‘safe’ in-game chat.  They have not given any information about themselves away to anyone, and are simply asking instructions: liken this to your child being sent into a shop to get something, but they don’t know where it is so they ask someone to help them find it.  They’ve not revealed any information that puts them at risk.

The problem comes when a child reveals personal information.  Did you know, it only takes three pieces of personal information for someone to be able to work out where you live?

If we teach our children how to be safe and responsible in how they use communication features, then we are giving them the opportunity to enjoy their games safely.


Plickers is a fantastic tool for assessing and ‘quizzing’ your children.  This week, I have been using it with P4-7 in a 5-question ‘quiz’ about safe online gaming.  Here are the questions that I put to the children:

You will notice in these questions that two of them are about adding ‘friends’.  The media continually reports about games ‘not doing enough to safeguard young people’ as there are options to talk to people that you don’t know.  Whilst this is true that more could be done, most games (and all of the games that I’ve ever played) have the option to turn off chat/communication features – I know this because I always turn them off.  The problem is that children often want to be sen as having lots of ‘friends’ and so add people that they don’t know or aren’t sure if they know.  This instantly gives another person access to their profile, and the ability to talk to them even if their chat features are turned off.  I know that lots of children do this – not because I have asked in school, but because every day that I play games, when I do particularly well, I receive between 20-30 ‘friend requests’.  I should point out now that I always reject those requests as I know it is most likely children looking for a strong player to join their team and I would never have children on my account (with the exception of my wee cousin).  I always talk about this in school and the dangers of adding people you don’t know/accepting requests and often just flip it round and say (after telling them that if they ever try to add me, I will block them!) “Look, I know and you know that you can trust me.  However, just imagine that you are that child that didn’t know me and you added me and I wasn’t a safe person and didn’t block you.  How would you feel if you knew that you had added a 29 year old adult man, who lives alone, to your list of ‘friends’?”  No disrespect to any 29 year old men who live alone out there, as I am one of them.  I know most adults are safe and lovely people, but there is always one who isn’t.  There are predators out there, and with out frightening our children, we do need to make them realise the importance of only having friends and talking to people that they know in real life.  We also have to remind them that, if they have the chance to talk to other people, it must only be about the game.

Another interesting question is the second one – asking a name.  Some children say to me “but what if I’m playing in a squad, and they need to know my name so that they can tell me if there’s an enemy nearby?”  I always reply with “use a nickname – call yourself unicorn if you need to, just don’t use your name.”  If children can ask themselves “why does he/she need to know that?” and can’t answer it, they shouldn’t say it.

I love plickers, as, in addition to being a great tool for assessing knowledge, it is an incredible conversation starter.  I’d strongly recommend using it and using similar questions to those above to find out from your children what their understanding is – I think it would shock you.  I should say, the answers are that the first one is ‘okay’ and the other three are ‘not okay’.  The final one is ‘tell an adult’ (I’ll talk about this below), but some children will say ‘ignore it’ (as they’re not giving anything personal away) but then say, but they’d tell an adult if it happened again.

Tell an adult – don’t ban them!

The most important one of the SMART internet safety rules; TELL an adult.  Yet, this is also the one that many children are unlikely to do.  In school, I always say to children if something makes them feel uncomfortable or upset, or someone has tried to ask for personal information – TELL an adult.  However, this adult does not have to be mum or dad.  Unfortunately, many children know that if they were to say to their parent that someone had tried to talk to them online (even if they did the right thing and did not give any personal details away) they would be banned from that game or console “for their own safety”.  Yet, adults often talk to people that they don’t know online – heck, whole relationships are often started online these days through dating websites.  I’m talking to loads of people that I don’t know right now.  We need to teach children to be responsible online citizens, and how to be safe in instances when someone talks to them online as they need to know these skills for later life.  Banning children when they come to you with an issue will almost always guarantee that they won’t come to you again in the future.  For the children though, I talk about lots of places that they can ‘talk to an adult’ if something goes wrong.  Parents, older siblings, grandparents, aunties/uncles, teachers, police/CEOP and childline are my favourite. Children often have other ideas too, but if they can all think of someone that they know that they will go to if something goes wrong, then immediately they are a little safer.  The problem is, and will always be, if the child doesn’t talk about it, and continues talking to whomever it was that they have ‘met’ online.

Check the content

Please, please do this before you let a child get a game.  Checking the content of a game is not tricky.  you don’t even need to be in a shop to do this.  Look for someone playing the game on YouTube and see what it’s like before you agree to your child getting it.  I have heard parents say they don’t let their child play Fortnite because they heard in the media that it’s a shooting game (I’d like to point out, its cartoony and so unrealistic – I would allow my children to play it if I had any) yet they allow their child to play Grand Theft Auto (also known as GTA) because their child said it was driving fast cars.

When I showed them this clip of GTA, they realised the mistake.  Please note, the clip has offensive language and scenes of a sexual nature and should NOT be watched with young people.  There are many games that I would never allow children to play – GTA is one of them: heck, I wouldn’t play it as I find it deeply offensive and disgusting.

The problem is though, once a child has started playing a game, removing it because it’s not appropriate is another thing akin to banning a child from playing altogether – it takes away trust as you had allowed them to play it.  If you are in doubt about a game, watch clips of it being played, check the age/content rating, and speak to your school’s DLoL.


There are many resources available for teaching about Internet Safety, both at home and in school.  My favourite places to go for resources is the official Safer Internet Day website.  Another great website to visit with your children is ThinkUKnow.


If you know of a child or young person who is at risk, or who is being groomed online, you must report it to the police.  CEOP, or the “Child Exploitation and Online Protection command” is the service that you should use.  They are fantastic and help to save countless lives each year.  If a child is being groomed, it is likely that he/she will be exhibiting unusual personality traits, and they will likely act very angrily when it is discovered.  You must persevere through this and follow the advice offered by CEOP.  It is never okay, and it is never something that should be ignored, even if you are not sure that it is a case of grooming.



I hope that this post has been informative and helpful.  I should note, I am note an expert on Internet Safety, and you should seek advice from the above sources if you are unsure about anything that your child has disclosed or is doing online.

Have a great week,


Christmas Coding

This is just going to be a very quick blog post as my main post for this week was published yesterday.  Moreover, this will be my last post until after Christmas, as with all of the concerts and additional engagements at this time of year, finding time to schedule writing is very tricky indeed.

I’m looking forward to seeing lots of you at Mosspark’s Digital School Open Doors on Wednesday.  Please note that this is fully subscribed now with a waiting list, so if you can no longer attend, please cancel your place so that someone else may be able to come!

Below, you will find guides for two simple Scratch projects that can be created with your children in the festive build-up.

Have a very Merry Christmas and see you all in 2019!





The Value of Music Education

Me playing the bagpipes at Christmas for the family, aged 10.

I know this isn’t a digital post – in fact, it is a personal one.  I will post a short digital blog tomorrow, but after my various concerts this week I have been reflecting quite considerably on how music has allowed me to get to the position that I am in.

Some of the comments over the week such as ‘please don’t tag my school as I might be bullied’ when doing posts about our learning and ‘my son’s dyslexia is really benefiting from his time in choir’ have made me really want to make this post.

In this blog, amongst other things, I want to share my experience as a young boy learning music; singing with school choirs and mixed choirs, and bullying that came with that; finding out about the National Boys Choir and then progressing through NYCOS to singing across the world with them; before studying at the RSAMD and setting out to be a teacher with a goal to bring music to children.

I don’t normally do personal blogs, but today I really want to just describe my journey into teaching and how music truly shaped who I am today.  I hope that this post inspires you to find avenues for your children – especially boys – into music as I wouldn’t be where I am without it, and I know that I speak for many people and not just myself when I say that.

Why is music important?

Have you ever tried watching a scene from a movie that has had the music cut?

In fact, rather than me talking about it, just ‘enjoy’ the below clip from Jurassic park with no music.

The fact of the matter is that music is part of life, and educating ourselves to appreciate, enjoy and create music is vital.  Many studies can be found that show the scientific and educational value of music – that’s not what I want to look at today though.  Today, I just want to let you all see how music changed my life in the hopes that it will change other lives in the same way.

The Bullies vs Boys

So, I am going to write from the point of view of a boy.  Not only because I am a (sort of grown up) boy, but also because boys are the most likely statistically to be put off from studying music.  In most people’s minds, there’s ‘cool’ or ‘good’ music and there’s ‘uncool’ or ‘bad’ music.  Realistically though, there is just music.  To appreciate one type of music, you should be able to appreciate (even if you don’t like) other types of music.

What I’m trying to say is that to learn music, you have to practice and join a choir or a band or get lessons or experiment.  However, some people may not ‘like’ the type of music that you are learning or studying, and so pick on you for it.  As a child, I studied singing, flute and bagpipes (and dabbled in guitar and piano).  It was my choice, and I wasn’t pushed into it.  However, I nearly stopped many times due to the incredible bullying that I received for it.  I was targeted with homophobic language, physically beaten regularly, and it was more often that I would be addressed as ‘singer boy’ or ‘nerd’ when homophobic language wasn’t being used.  I am only 28 years old just now, so we are not talking many decades ago – in fact, all of this happened within the last 10-15 years.  I was driven to self harm, drink and smoke to try and seem ‘cool’ at that age – and why?  Singing in school choirs, as one of only two boys, in an otherwise girl dominated environment actually nearly stopped me from singing all together.  The other boy did stop.

I am not saying that girls aren’t the target of this sort of hate for studying music, I know that’s not true, but again we need to encourage more boys to develop their creativity.

National Boys Choir

It was just at the time that I was going to stop singing all together – when I was at the lowest point of my young life, in 2002, that a flyer for a new ‘boys only’ choir came to our school.  The National Boys Choir; part of the National Youth Choir Of Scotland.  I liked this idea; a place where I could sing and be myself and make friends with boys that had similar interests.  If you look closely, you might even spot me in the picture – second boy in the back row from the left.

Sure enough, I made my lifelong friends in NBC and later in NYCOS too – friends which I still hold dear, and I was able to get a music scholarship to Lomond School where I got away from the bullies.  My story was lucky in that sense – I kept going.  Many didn’t though, and I know that lots of the boys who came to NBC still had the issue of bullying to contend with and did eventually stop singing.

The National Youth Choir Of Scotland

As I progressed through NBC and NYCOS, I was given so many opportunities.  Firstly, and most importantly was the musical education that I received.  NYCOS use Kodaly methodology to teach music through fun and active games.  You can find out more about the NYCOS approach here.  As well as a first class musical education, I was able to travel literally all over the world singing with the choir.

From touring Germany, Hungary, Central Europe, Chicago and Wyoming; I sang in the Royal Albert Hall, had solos in the Mozart Requiem in the Cathedral in Vienna that Mozart was married.  In Chicago, I was one of the choir who sang in front of 15’000 people for their Independence Day concert.  I’ve worked with world class conductors, and the most inspirational choral director – Christopher Bell.

Even though I was not a professional musician, music had shaped my life, and I took it to the next step when I was accepted into the RSAMD (now RCS) to study on the BMus Singing course.


Even though I was studying music, teaching was where I wanted to go.  I wanted to make a difference and give children the opportunity that I had.  I worked with several choirs, including Coisir nam Balach, the RJs, Helensburgh Dorian Choir and even won some prestigious awards with Govan Gaelic Choir.  However, the choir that has given me the most satisfaction is NYCOS East Dunbartonshire Boys Choir, which I started in 2012.  Giving boys the safe environment to sing that I was blessed with a decade before was huge to me, and I have been so lucky to watch the boys grow and successfully apply for the National Boys Choir, with one this year applying for main NYCOS.

These boys are lucky as I know that they are getting an incredible music education in a world where music is becoming a novelty and very expensive.  With music cuts, I do worry about the future of music.  However, there are places out there for our children.  Others can have the same chance I did.  NYCOS have 14 regional choirs based around Scotland.  You can find them all here.  My one, NYCOS East Dunbartonshire Boys (NYCOS ED), and the NYCOS Perth Boys Choir  (NYCOS PBC) are exclusively for boys, whilst the other twelve are mixed choirs, but all put a huge emphasis on music education as well as being a ‘choir’.

If you have children that you see moving away from music, I couldn’t recommend them enough.

This year NYCOS ED and PBS teamed up and sang in front of approximately 8000 people as part of the Edinburgh Light Night celebration, in addition to performing their own concerts.  As well as that, they have all been developing their musicianship skills on a weekly basis with highly trained and inspirational staff.

My choir is on Twitter and on Facebook, so do check out some of the work that we do.

Final thought

Music changed my life.

I truly believe that without the musical education that I had, I wouldn’t be a teacher.  In fact, I might have never left the school in which I was the target of bullying.  I truly don’t know what would have happened, and I’m not sure I really want to know.

Music saved me and music made me, and even though in school my focus is all things digital, that is because I am in a school that already has a huge focus on music. The opportunities for the children in my school are already great.  Were I in a different school without such a push for music, I know my focus would be on making it a priority.


Creating Digital Art

Truthfully, I didn’t know what I was going to post about until Friday, during GoldenTime, when one of our P7 Marvels (below) wanted to show the fantastic art work that he created on the iPads, and imported it into Photoshop Mix to blend it over a stock image as an overlay (we have been learning to blend overlays in Camera Club).  I want to show you how to do this so that you can teach your learners!

He was so proud of his work – and, so he should have been.  It was super.

The truth is that using technology, creativity can be tapped into and explored to a much greater degree than without.  I don’t think there’s really any debate about that.  Of course, more tactile arts and many different art forms will always require us not to use technology, the power that technology gives our young learners to explore and create is unparalleled – and what’s better is that it doesn’t have the cost of purchasing all of the resources for each individual project.

Once again, I will be focussing on using iPads, as this is the main teaching tool that I use for creativity in technology; however, most of the below applications are available on all devices – I will note which of these do.

Tayasui Sketches School

The first app that our Marvel used for his work was Tayasui Sketches School.

Once again, I would like to refer you to the Apple Books entitled “Everyone Can Create“.  The book that I’m now on to, following on from “Music” and “Photography” is their guide on using the iPad for drawing.  Most interestingly though, they highlight a non-apple app as the best drawing app available, although also show you how to use Keynote, Pages, Camera and Photos for drawing too.  It should also be noted that ‘notes’ is a very good application for younger learners to create simple drawings.

The application that apple refers you to is the one that we are looking at today: “Tayasui Sketches School”.  It is pressure sensitive and has a huge array of tools, allowing you to create really detailed, intricate work.  Whilst it works best with an apple pencil, a cheap stylus or even finger will do the job!  Even better; it’s free (although a paid, pro version is available)!  Heres a link for iOS devices and a link for android (it should be noted, I have never used it on android, so don’t know if it is free or has the same features as on iOS).

Here’s a tutorial on using Sketches by Sylvia Duckworth, available on YouTube.

The thing that sells drawing on iPads for me, more than anything, is the amount of paper that you will save.  Children love to draw and create – fact – but a LOT of paper gets used up in their quest to develop their skills.  Yes, a device has an initial price tag, but it really does save money in the long run!


Photoshop Mix

The second app that our Marvel used was Photoshop Mix.  Photoshop comes in many forms – most notably as a paid professional product that photographers use on an daily basis.  It has also released some free apps (including Fix and Mix) which are all fab.  Photoshop Mix allows you to create some really impressive composite drawings – or, in this case, blend overlays to create dramatic and creative pieces of work.

A link for Photoshop Mix for iOS is here and for android is here – note, to use it, you have to have an adobe ID.  This is free and can be created the first time that you log in.

Here is a tutorial for using Adobe Photoshop Mix by Adobe Creative Cloud, however, I should note that the video is 2 years old at the time of writing this blog, and some of the features have changed quite a bit since then.  This being said, it is still very relevant and will give you a flavour of how to use the application.


The Project

With the overview of both apps covered, I’m going to demonstrate how this pupil managed to create such a beautiful piece of art work using the above apps.  I won’t use the same images, however, you should get a very good idea of how it works from the below.

I hope the video helps, and would be great to see some of the digital art work that your learners are doing, so make sure to tag me in tweets @mrfeistsclass as I love to share great work from across the country!

Have a great week!