More Web Hacks for Key Stage 2 – After Hackasaurus

Many teachers have used Hackasaurus a Mozilla Foundation tool that exposes users to the lines of code that make up websites.

I wrote a post about how I’d used this web hacking tool myself, to customise the BBC News web page. The “hack” is an excellent introduction to web building and can also work as a writing frame to support young reluctant writers too. It beats just typing out on Word.

Since Hackasaurus appeared online, the community of Mozilla web makers have offered more tutorials and “hacks”. These can be found in the gallery of Here you can explore the Thimble projects which offer interactive web pages that encourage you to remix by changing lines of code.

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 23.15.21

Today I have been playing with Tobias Leingruber‘s tutorial and Javascript snippet. When activated this code will change the colour of a web page and (with some refinement) fill the background with user defined images.

desktop change

So, of course I changed Google to include a background of Doctor Who themed animated gif files.

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You can try it yourself by following the tutorial here:


The hacking and playing should not end there and teachers and pupils should follow the advice at the footnote of the tutorial.

Now apply your new skills further! Play around. Hack. Tinker. Become a maker of the web.

Obvious links here with the Switched On ICT unit for Year 6 – We are Web Developers or aspects of the new Switched On Computing.



Coding with Javascript in Upper Key Stage 2 – Here could be how..


Excuse me if you’ve seen this before elsewhere, but it is new to me.

Code Monster runs in a a browser and allows you to amend existing Javascript in the left window and see the results immediately on the right.

It works better on a Mac or PC and is workable on an iPad too, though a bit tricky.

At first it looks all a bit straight forward and the monster gives you the impression that this is cutesy, but as you progress through the lessons then things get quite complex.

I counted around 50 lessons in total, each with text instructions from “the monster”. The activities range from simple shape drawing to working with physics. I think this would be most appropriate to use at around Year 5 or 6 and perhaps gifted and talented pupils in year 4.

Description of Code Monster from the site:

Code Monster from Crunchzilla is live Javascript programming for fun. The focus is on action. Code changes immediately yield visible results.

Projects start with simple boxes and colors, rapidly progressing into exciting experiments with simple animation and fractals. Important programming concepts like variables, loops, conditionals, expressions, and functions are introduced by example.

Code Monster is a gentle and fun introduction to programming concepts. It is a first step in learning to program. It is not intended to teach all of computer science and programming.

Code Monster is based in Seattle, WA. It is part of the Crunchzilla suite of game and educational projects developed by Geeky Ventures.

Here is a video tutorial/introduction I came across on Vimeo from School Library Journal

Info Active – Looks like an amazing Data Infographic Mashup Thing

Graph Like image here from


In 2014, I hope to see this, fresh from Kickstarter, tool being used in both my own and many other schools.

Infoactive appears to combine three very useful functions:

Make info-graphic creation simpler
Help to visualise the results of a google form
Bring data to life

It is still in the private beta stage for now, but I believe the vision is for this to be a usable app/tool for business and educators. You can visit the site though and sign up early, if like me you are keen to play around.

Worth noting, that Data Handling is now called Statistics in the new Primary Curriculum. Year 3 teachers could potentially employ this tool as a way to “present and interpret data”.

If you are using Rising Stars, Switched On ICT, then it would be interesting to see how the unit , We are Opinion Pollsters could be enhanced by using this tool.

23rd June 2013 – The Piano Alternatives, Geography App, Videos 2 iPads & Mr Mood idea

Each week my Flipboard app, Twitter responses, my kids, my Kindle Fire and my Google reader deliver a collection of new web tools, apps, books, crazy experiences, random rants  and must read articles or books.

An Alternative to the Piano

Don’t you just love the National Literacy Strategy Unit on the Piano. I never tire of the Aidan Gibbons film and all the great talk and writing you can inspire from it. But it is down as both a Year 5 and a Year 6 Unit. It can happen that both Year Groups want to cover this unit, so is there anything else that could be used.

I had given this some thought and was reminded on Twitter of a very powerful film that throws up a lot of questions and has no conventional beginning, middle or happy end. Last year, I showed my Year 6 class Replay and their writing was amazing. It may not be a flashback narrative, but it does lend itself to voice overs, explorations of emotions and a wealth of unanswered questions to discuss and back stories to fill in. Thank you to @Tomsale on Twitter for reminding me of this one.

And then – thanks to another very kind Twitter pal, @garethk007, I was alerted to these two fantastic animations. He claims that that this one made his TA cry and the kids loved it. Well see what you think:

Gareth must have been on a bit of a role as he gave me this one from Vimeo too. Though Vimeo is blocked in my school, so I will need to download it first. This film, Ruin by Wes Ball, is a post-apocalyptic vision of a world that has been overrun by nature. It feels like an action movie and there is not a hint of old men tinkling the ivories anywhere. But, there are lots of unanswered questions and an engaging if albeit brief chase narrative to stimulate some amazing writing,


RUIN from Wes Ball on Vimeo.

An App that Gamifies Geography Knowledge

I have been playing with Geo Brain 2. An app that quizzes you on Geography and by that I mean locations and facts about countries and cities, not oxbow lakes and cliff erosion. What I like about this app is that it not only corrects you, it also gives you direct links to Wikipedia pages about the place you are being asked about. It feels like the ICT lesson we have all done, where you ask a child to do some research about a place except with this app you have more direction and frankly more fun.

I made a short video / screen grab below to give you a flavour of just part of it.

BTW it is free.

Continue reading

Tools, Sites, Apps and Stuff you have to read w/c 3rd June 2013

Each week my Flipboard app, Twitter responses, my kids, my Kindle Fire and my Google reader deliver a collection of new web tools, apps, books, crazy experiences, random rants  and must read articles or books.


Another great find from Vimeo – a site which is sadly blocked in some schools, so best download it first. This is four minutes of stark contrasts of the light outside of the dank ailing toy factory. The robot who is forced to work here is finally released/escapes at the end of the film. And I guess that is your starting point for writing.

Obsolete from Smoking Robot on Vimeo.

Combining Sound/ Music Apps

Though I love playing with apps like Figure and Rebirth  I will admit to being in need of some musical instruction and inspiration to help me move beyond the messing about stage. This is where tutorials from the likes of Julian Coultas come in. Here is a great video from him on using a number of music related apps together to make music for a podcast.

Creative Audio on the iPad from Digital Roadtrip on Vimeo.

Mailshot Pro

mailshot iconOne thing that really vexed me over the last year was sending group emails from an iPad. Obviously there are bigger things in my life, but  for a time this was a conundrum that I simply had to solve. I wanted my iPad to be a mobile office and not have to fire up the PC every-time I wanted to send an email to all of Year 4, the LSA team or even the whole school.

Now unless things have changed in the last few minutes then I am pretty sure that IOS devices do not let you send group emails from the mail app. It is not Outlook you know! However we did find “an app for that” in the shape of Mailshot pro.

Though this cost £2.49, it did do what it said on the tin. They have a support site with clear instructions on how to set up your mailing lists too.


Google Forms

This is an oldie for me really. I have been using google forms for some time, both in class and to do evaluations at the end of training sessions. You can forget how good they are though! This week I needed to create a staff survey and we used google forms as a means of collecting  the information. It is such a time saver and if you phrase your questions correctly you can get a good mix of  text-based answers and measurable numerical data which is displayed back to you viewable as pie charts.

Ian Addison is a busy man, but he once gave up ten minutes of his life to create this really handy video for people who would like to use Google Forms, but perhaps lack the confidence.

Animation Chefs

Ok, so these guys rock! They are like anarchic CPD on animation that is both funny and bursting with fresh and helpful ideas. I love watching their videos and picking up tips and new ways for using animation.

Visit their site for more animation craziness.

Why are you Shouting at Us?

why2Managing behaviour is so important and no matter how long you have been a teacher, you can always develop your strategies for dealing with difficult pupil and class situations.  I am reading a range of Kindle based books at the moment, but this one held my attention right the way until the end.

The authors are both practical and honest and I have found myself using some of their tips and approaches this week. I would highly recommend this feature on the reading list of new and older teachers alike.

Oh and buy – Phil Beadle – How to Teach as Well!


Tools, Sites, Apps and Stuff you have to read w/c 17th March 2012

Each week my Flipboard app, Twitter responses and Google reader deliver a collection of new web tools, apps, books and must read articles.

Here is this weeks Stuff I have seen:

Bible Buddies App

appicon_1349154685_12466I love Puppet Pals and have enjoyed using it to bring play scripts alive this year. By chance the boys and I discovered Bible Buddies, which is made by the same people who brought us Puppet Pals. Bible Buddies is basically Puppet Pals but with Biblical Characters, though it should be said most of these are in-app purchases. Here is Leo and Charlie’s versions of Jonah and the Whale made with the app.

Jam with Chrome

If you have seen digital music in action on Garageband on iPad but you don’t have iPads, then Jam with Chrome maybe a viable alternative. You have a broad range of instruments, collaboration with others, autoplay and funky effects all via Chrome. Another reason to ensure your school machines has Chrome installed as well as Internet Explorer.

Whitecap – Visuals for your Disco


Last Saturday, I helped a friend out by resurrecting my old DJ skills and DJ equipment. Though things have moved on since my hey day behind the decks. You can see in the picture what my set up used to look like, last week the CD players were replaced by 2 iPads, Spotify playlists and a laptop running Youtube. I had a projector to show video clips, but when these were not running we used Whitecap. I had not seen this Windows download before and I was really pleased with how well it worked. Essentially Whitecap produces visuals in response to music it detects via your computer microphone. Think the fractals you get from Windows Media Player visualizations, but with more control by you.


Hackasaurus Video from Ian Addison

I love Hackasaurus and the more I use it with classes the more risks they and I take with it. If you have not seen it before then take a look at Ian’s video which gives you an idea of how to use it. Hackasaurus works as both an insight into html and an uber writing frame, which is how I have been using it, presenting children with a BBC News web page and asking them to change the news to fit in with a local or topic based story.

Anyway here is one of Ian’s under ten minutes videos which make tools like this more accessible.

Raspberry Pi and other unofficial Manuals

Raspberry-pi-guide have created another one of their fantastic free help guide/manual thingys. This time they have created a guide about the Raspberry Pi. Aside from this guide you can find a range of other helpful guide on their site including Google Analytics, Gmail and Evernote.