Newsletter of the Association for Information Technology in Teacher Education

ISSN 1362-9433

Spring 2016

Welcome to the new format ITTE Newsletter delivered to your inbox via email.
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The Editor has a say...

Winter is finally over and not once did I get my sledge out…I only managed a small snowman that some nefarious lads then threw at my window as they went past…I wept for days…

So, Spring is in the air again and with it a new look for the Newsletter which I hope you will enjoy, and which proves, once again, that A) David Longman is a good teacher, and that B) Alison Hramiak can actually be taught! Many thanks to David for helping me put this together and for bringing me into the 21st century.

Much of what I was going to say is detailed below in the Chair’s Report so all I will do is let you get on with reading. Do let me have feedback via email about the new format of the newsletter (constructive please). I also welcome, via email all appropriate, articles for the Newsletter too.

Best wishes to all

Chair's Report - Spring 2016

Helen Boulton

Welcome to the Spring Newsletter.  We hope you like the new format using MailChimp – please pass any feedback to Alison Hramiak (, who does a sterling job of putting this Newsletter together.  Please send any articles for the next Newsletter to Alison.

We are delighted that Lord Jim Knight has agreed to be Patron for ITTE.  Lord Knight brings with him a wealth of experience and contacts.  Lord Knight was the longest serving Schools Minister in the last Labour government and is now Chief Education Adviser to Times Education Supplement.  He is also Chair of XRapid Ltd, working to develop solar solutions for delivering education in remote areas of the world.

An announcement has been posted on the ITTE website.

As a Visiting Professor for the London Knowledge Lab and the Institute of Education Jim has much in common with ITTE.  He has agreed to give a keynote at our summer conference and to open an international event ITTE is planning in April.
We are pleased to formally welcome Andy Connell (ex-Chair and long-standing member of ITTE) as our new Treasurer.  We are all sad to say goodbye to Peter Bradshaw, ex-Treasurer, from our Executive Committee but know that he will remain an active member of ITTE. Thank you Pete for your contributions and friendship over the years.  We are also sorry to note that Neil Stanley is no longer able to continue with his regular Web Wanderings. Again, thank you Neil and we hope to see you at future conferences.

Other changes include Patrick Carmichael stepping down as the Editor of our Journal, Technology, Pedagogy and Education.  We are delighted the Steve Kennewell, ex-Editor, has agreed to take on the role as Editor until Dr Sarah Younie is able to step into this role towards the end of this academic year.  Thanks to Patrick, Steve and Sarah for what will be a smooth transition and congratulations to Sarah in taking on this role.
ITTE is increasingly active in a number of areas. For example the ITTE National Executive Committee (NEC) submitted, on behalf of ITTE, a response to the Department for Education’s consultation for Teachers' Professional Development standards in October 2015.  Responding to Consultations is a key area of our Strategic Plan, an update of which is included in this Newsletter. If you are aware of Consultations that ITTE should be involved in please email the Chair or the Vice-Chair.

Working in teacher education involves us all in responding to new challenges and observing that some universities are withdrawing from teacher education.  We are also facing recruitment caps and recruitment shortfalls for some subjects; computing recruited only 75% of its national target figure last year.  However, we are seeing a stronger continuum for teachers from pre-service training, through NQT to professional CPD which will be welcomed by the ITTE community.

This development will improve the experience for teachers and will provide a focussed role for Universities through a broader offer to partnership schools, possibly resulting in changes to our current business models but which may strengthen Universities roles in both initial teacher education and CPD.

The NEC are delighted with the response from members to the call for applications to the Research Fellowship Programme under our Knowledge Mobilisation Strategy.   Four teams were successful and are now working on their 18 month projects.  Further funding under this development will be available next year. Further information on this development is included in this Newsletter.
Final planning for this year’s annual conference, which will be our 30th conference, is now well underway.  Booking for the event will be open by the end of this month and will be held on 2 July 2016 at last year’s venue, Regent High School, London, NW1 (near St Pancras International Station). The main conference page is now on the website with links to the conference booking page and to the proposal submission form. Further information will be added as it becomes available. As always there will be a packed agenda with opportunities to network and share practice-focussed research.
On 21st April (pm) ITTE members who have contributed to the 'Learning to Teach' series of books, published by Routledge will be meeting for an event at the House of Lords.  If you have contributed to these publications look out for your invitation in the post/email.  Prior to this event there will be an international education forum, a co-badged event led by ITTE, MirandaNet and BERA.  Further information on this forum event will be emailed out to members.
On 26th April I will be presenting on behalf of ITTE members at the Westminster Education Forum: 'Digital technologies and innovative teaching practices in the classroom: latest thinking policy options'.  It is great to see several members of ITTE are also presenting at this event.  If you are coming along please do say hello to myself and Sarah Jones (Vice-Chair) who will also be coming along to represent ITTE members.
Finally, we have a vacancy on the Committee for a member of the ITTE community to take on the role of Publicity and Marketing.  If you would be interested in this voluntary role on the NEC please contact either myself or the Vice-Chair Sarah Jones.
I hope that you enjoy this Newsletter.  We welcome contributions from all of our members.  Do please feel free to email me at any time if you would like to become more involved with ITTE.  My email is

Poor vision and hearing amongst schoolchildren – a hidden cause of under-attainment.

Free screening for all primary school pupils

Christina Preston and David Longman
MirandaNet Fellowship

Vision and Learning

Learning can be defined as the acquisition of understanding through all the senses. But, while all of the senses are important conduits of information, vision and hearing are particularly important in this respect.  It follows that any form of degradation of vision is likely to have some effect on a child’s capacity to learn. A child who cannot see distant things clearly or who cannot maintain a clear, close focus when reading, must be disadvantaged to some extent in the school environment.

The importance of good vision during the formative years was understood over 100 years ago in the UK and led to the introduction of routine vision screening before school. But drawing on his own daughter’s experience in primary school, Professor David Thomson, an eminent member of The College of Optometrists, became aware in the 1990s that many children with visual problems were not being detected by this pre-school screening. His research showed that a significant number of young school children had remediable visual defects that if not picked up in the pre-school screening could impair their learning. Unfortunately, these children do not complain of symptoms because they think their poor eyesight is normal: they have known no different since birth. Sometimes, for example, young children are diagnosed with dyslexia when in fact their problem is defective eyesight which can be solved instantly with the correct prescription for spectacles.

While existing pre-school screening programmes have been less than perfect, there is no doubt that they have provided a useful safety net, detecting children with significant vision problems at an early stage before these impacted on their educational development. However, less severe conditions are often not being picked up. In addition conventional ways of screening pupils are time-consuming and require experts to conduct the tests with each pupil in a clinical setting. In addition, research has indicated that too often the screening appointments for pre-school children were not kept. David Thomson realized that he needed to find a way to screen all pupils when they first entered school that teachers and school nurses would be able to manage easily.

A digital screening solution

Since 1995, Thomson’s team from City University London has been investigating ways of improving the sensitivity, specificity, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of screening in schools. One of the outcomes of this work is a computer system known as School Screener. This system offers a radical new digital solution for providing efficient and effective software to screen vision and hearing.

The program provides a self-contained digital vision screening system capable of generating questionnaires, presenting test stimuli on a standard computer monitor, performing an expert analysis of results, managing a database of each child's visual history, generating reports for parents, optometrists, doctors and teachers and providing summary statistics relating to the overall screening program.

The children respond very well to the screening tests, perceiving the whole process as a computer game. For example, in vision screening, a cartoon character gives the child exact instructions about when to cover each eye and put on the “special” glasses. Instructions can be spoken in 27 different languages or muted so that the nurse gives the instructions. The child is seated in front of the laptop screen and watches three cartoon characters appear on the screen. The child is asked to report which of the characters “squeaks”. The tones are presented to each ear at the predetermined frequencies and following the recommended protocols.

Overall by making appropriate use of technology, School Screener provides a localized, high quality and efficient screening programme while actually reducing the demands on school nurses. With appropriate organisation within the schools it is possible to screen between 10 and 15 children per hour using a single computer.


A national rollout

Thomson Screening, a company formed by City University, London, has now partnered with Specsavers to roll out a new version of the software known as SchoolScreener EZ™. This roll-out of the software is also being supported by Tablet Academy, a nationwide independent consultancy specialising in the use of innovative technologies in schools. Tablet Academy will troubleshoot the installation and use of the software, but technical challenges are expected to be minimal because the SchoolScreener EZ™ software is browser based and so independent of any particular platform (although devices with very small screens are not suitable).

This three-minute screening test detects most common eye problems as well as less obvious ones. The software, which has been designed to be operated by teachers and other school staff or volunteers, is being made available at no cost to all 27,000 primary and secondary schools in the UK. Following the test, the software automatically generates reports for parents and carers to help them make informed decisions about their child’s vision. These personalised reports were also very well received.

Specsavers founder and optometrist, Dame Mary Perkins, adds: “We are delighted to be able to offer this free vision screening tool to all schools nationwide. A child’s eyesight will continue to develop right up to the age of eight years old and a number of eye care issues can be corrected by an optician if detected before this time. Thus the ability to screen children’s vision regularly throughout their early schooling will be very beneficial.

The partnership between Thomson Screening, Specsavers and Tablet Academy will help to ensure that all schools in the UK have the opportunity to offer their children a comprehensive, age appropriate, vision screening. This can only have positive results on pupils’ learning achievements.

For further information, please see where schools can register for free, as well as learn how the solution has supported other schools to make a difference.

CASComputational thinking at the heart of the new computing curriculum

John Woollard
Chair CAS Assessment working group
Coordinator CAS Tenderfoot project

John Woollard is a leading and long-term member of Computing At School in the UK. He chairs the CAS Assessment working group and coordinates the CAS Tenderfoot project. John supports doctorate students researching aspects of e-learning and computing at Southampton Education School in the University of Southampton

How computational thinking is driving the computing curriculum in England
Computational thinking has come to the fore with the advent of the new Computing National Curriculum in September 2014 ( Computational thinking is explicitly and thoroughly embedded in the curriculum from early years to key stage 4:

 “A high quality computing education equips pupils to use computational thinking and creativity to understand and change the world”

Computational thinking lies at the heart of the computing curriculum but it also supports learning and thinking in other areas of the curriculum. Computational thinking gives a new paradigm for thinking about and understanding the world more generally. In a talk filmed at TEDxExeter ( Simon Peyton-Jones, chair of Computing At School, succinctly explains why learning computer science and computational thinking is a core life skill, as well as being eminently transferable,

Computational thinking skills are the set of mental skills that convert “complex, messy, partially defined, real world problems into a form that a mindless computer can tackle without further assistance from a human,” (the Chartered Institute for IT, In the UK, the term 'computational thinking' has been described in different ways for different audiences but there is a growing consensus that computational thinking is a cognitive or thought process involving logical reasoning by which problems are solved and artefacts, procedures and systems are better understood. It embraces:
  • the ability to think algorithmically;

  • the ability to think in terms of decomposition;

  • the ability to think in generalisations,
  • the ability to identify and make use of patterns;
  • the ability to think in abstractions, choosing good representations; and

  • the ability to think in terms of evaluation.
Computational thinking skills enable pupils to access parts of the Computing subject content. Importantly, however, they also relate to thinking skills and problem solving across the whole curriculum and through life in general.

Where these thinking skills are being promoted we see the pupils adopting approaches to problem solving such as: tinkering, creating, debugging, persevering and collaborating. These are key features associated with successful learning in computing and across the curriculum.  Computing, computer programming in particular, enables tinkering to occur. Learners are genuinely learning through trial and improvement. We all know that perseverance is necessary when debugging programs and we appreciate the reward and feeling of satisfaction when creating and collaborating.

There are a number of techniques employed to enhance computational thinking. Think of this as ‘computational doing’ and are the computing equivalent of ‘scientific methods’. They are the tools by which computational thinking is put into practice in the classroom, workplace and home: reflecting, coding, designing, analysing and applying. These techniques enable computational thinking skills to be developed. Reflection is the skill of making judgements (evaluations) that are fair and honest in complex situations that are not value-free. Within computer science this evaluation is based on criteria used to specify the product, heuristics (or rules of thumb) and user needs to guide the judgements.

Google’s Computational Thinking MOOC is an excellent resource for introducing computational thinking to colleagues in other areas and for convincing colleagues in our subject of the value of abstraction, algorithm, decomposition, generalisation and evaluation in everyday life.

Recently released by CAS. "Computational Thinking a guide for teachers" outlines the rationale for teaching computational thinking. It also contains the Barefoot poster for primary schools and a key stage 3 analysis of techniques associated with computational thinking.
  • Computational thinking is at the heart of the Computing curriculum;
  • Computer programming, in all of its guises is a good way of developing computational thinking skills;
  • Unplugged activities also support computational thinking in a rich and motivating way.
Other Resources readers might find useful:

Time to plug back in?
The role of “unplugged” computing in primary schools

Chris Shelton
Principal Lecturer
Institute of Education, University of Chichester

Since ICT changed to Computing in the 2014 National Curriculum, lots of much needed advice has appeared for primary teachers about how they might teach computing. One of the more consistent messages in this advice seems to be the encouragement to try out “unplugged” activities – lessons or sequences of lessons that teach some aspect of the computing curriculum without actually using a computer. These range from completing simple worksheets or playing at being a robot to choreographing dances or solving logic problems with marbles and much more.

 “Unplugged” computing activities have been around for a very long time. Some of the most interesting ones can be found on the csunplugged website ( ) and have been used for over 20 years. The authors of these activities claim that they enable children to learn fundamental computer science concepts without confusing the ideas with a specific programming language. They also suggest that not using expensive computers makes their activities accessible for all.

In the UK, the 1998 QCA Scheme of Work for IT contained many “Setting the Scene” activities that helped pupils to connect the work they did with a computer to alternatives without technology.  One of these activities – a lesson that asked children to “program” each other as if they were robots and was suggested as suitable for year one children has recently appeared in computing lessons aimed at year six.

But there are some differences in how “unplugged” activities are conceived of and used. In the 1980 classic “Mindstorms”, Seymour Papert explained how children could learn to program by making connections between the Logo turtle and their bodies (he called this body-syntonicity). He encouraged children to “play turtle” and physically act out the problems they were trying to solve on screen.  Here the “unplugged” activity was not an alternative to using the computer but rather a way to better understand what was happening and to solve problems.

In contrast, some “unplugged” activities are more focussed on introducing and explaining concepts without providing a context in which these make sense. And often the obvious context in which to introduce these ideas is when children are creating their own programs. There are many examples of developmentally appropriate technologies that even very young children can use to create programs. Some of these have been used for a long time, for example, programming Bee-bots or Roamer, and on-screen so
ftware such as Roamer World to 2simple 2go. Others are newer: Scratch Jr requires iPads or Android tablets to work but allows Key Stage One children to create meaningful animations and games for each other to play.

It might be argued that the emphasis on “unplugged” activities reflects the rise of “computational thinking” as a key outcome of the curriculum. Computational thinking is the current big idea in computing education and it is used as a term for the critical thinking skills used when solving problems with computers. But as Kafai and Burke (2014) point out, programming is not only about individual thinking but is also about creativity, self-expression and social participation. These things are more easily achieved if we let the children plug back in and experience the power of using their computational thinking to actually do, make and share something.

There is definitely a place in primary computing lessons for children to step away from their computers or iPads and discuss ideas, compare problems and plans, and to explore key concepts. However, these ideas, concepts and problems should be rooted in authentic contexts and these can often arise from the act of tinkering with computer programs. Children will better learn how a computer follows a precise algorithm by finding out what Bee-bot does than by being told by their teacher to be the Bee-bot. On the other hand, even young children will find it helpful to ‘play Bee-bot’ in order to solve a problem that they are stuck on.

There is a place for “unplugged” activities in primary computing lessons but we need to use them judiciously. We should try to ensure a closer relationship between unplugged activities and plugged-in ones and make sure that unplugged activities only make up a small proportion of the learning time available for teaching computing.

Knowledge Mobilisation Strategy

The ITTE committee were delighted with the community’s response to the launch of Phase 1 of the ITTE Knowledge Mobilisation Strategy. Running over 18 months udringf 2015-2016 the ITTE Research Fellowship Programme received a number of quality applications which underwent a thorough internal and external scrutiny process.
In making its decisions the panel used the stated criteria of:
  • Leading a review and synthesis of existing research on a topic of interest within the field of digital technologies in educational settings (systematic literature review).
  • Projects that supported ITTE's main aim to enhance the use of digital technology in all phases of education through effective teacher education and training and across the range of any UK curriculum.
We are delighted that it was agreed to fund 4 teams in total for an 18 month period of the award and team leaders have been notified of their outcomes. For the period of the project participants are entitled to use the post nominal, ITTE Research Fellow, as stipulated in the organisation's constitution. The Research Fellowship web page is here and, in addition, the Knowlege Hub group is here. (An account is required. Once you find the group send a request to join)
The successful teams are:
  1. Alison Iredale (LBU) and team members: Lyn Farrell (LBU), Katharine Stapleford (LBU), Jakki Sherden-Ross, (LBU) Rebecca Tickell (Wakefield Regional Partnership for Initial Teacher Training) .
    Project title: A review and synthesis of the literature around the use of social media in Initial Teacher Education.
  2. Helen Caldwell (UoN) and Anna Cox (UoN).
    Project title: How technology-enhanced learning communities enable the dissemination and transfer of innovative pedagogies in teacher education.
  3. Moira Savage and team member Anthony Barnett (UoW).
    Project title: Technology Enhanced Learning in the early years: a systematic review of published research (from the last 10 years).
  4. David Longman (Independent) and team member Sarah Younie (DMU).
    Project title: Mobilising Learning: A synoptic review of learning supported by personal devices.

ITTE Committee: Roles and Responsibilities

Committee Officers

Helen Boulton Chair
Andy Connell Treasurer
Patrick Carmichael Journal Editor (outgoing)
Andrew Csizmadia Secretary
Sarah Jones Vice-Chair & Membership Secretary

Elected Members

Jon Audain Social Media & New Tutor Lead
Alison Hramiak Newsletter Editor
Marilyn Leask CfSA Liaison
Moira Savage Research Strategy
Chris Shelton Teacher Training Liaison
Sarah Younie TPE Associate Editor & International Liaison

Co-opted Committee Members

David Longman Web Administrator
Christina Preston MirandaNet Founder & Director
VACANT Publicity and Marketing

Opportunity to join the Association’s National Executive Committee (co-opted member)

The Committee would welcome a person from the ITTE community who would be willing to be co-opted onto the committee to take on the role of:
Publicity and Marketing Officer
Please email the Chair if you would like to discuss taking on this role.
ITTE Conference 2016
2nd July 2016

The Regent High School, Chalton Street, London NW1 1RX

Deadline for proposals: 5.00pm, 16th May 2016
This year's conference is entitled “Digital Futures: Transforming Practice, Raising the Bar” and is open to teachers, teacher educators, academics, policy makers and other relevant professionals interested in information technology in teacher education.

During this one-day conference, which is equally balanced between networking, sharing of best practice and presentations, we welcome two keynote speakers: We also welcome the winners of our competitive ITTE Fellowship scheme who will be reporting back on their early research project findings.

We are inviting proposals, which relate to one of the conference themes or other issues of relevance to members of the Association for Information Technology in Teacher Education.

This year’s conference themes are:
  • In the classroom: Submissions should address such questions as, how is technology used for teaching and learning in educational settings or how do we use research to support evidence based practice?
  • In the staff room: Submissions should address such questions as, how can we use technology for professional development and school organisation and what approaches support teachers to develop their use of technology?
  • In the library: Submissions should address such questions as, how we can mobilise knowledge about technology use? How can publish research and practice to maximise its impact?
Proposals are welcomed in a variety of formats including research papers, accounts of practice, workshops, TeachMeet presentations, Pecha Kucha presentations, and posters.

Titles and abstracts (where applicable) should be submitted online here by 5.00pm, May 16th 2016

This ITTE conference is being run in association with MirandaNet (

ITTE Strategy Update

As set out in our Autumn Newsletter the National Executive Committee are keen to share the developing strategy for taking the organisation forward..  Below are key actions for this cokming year together with a progress update from our February 2016 Committee Meeting.  These are as follows:
Action Progress Update Feb 2016
Review the conference strategy for the next 2-3 years to raise membership participation. Conference Strategy is now taking shape with Annual Conferences to continue in July. This year’s Conference is in the final stages of planning and will be advertised on by end of February.
The vice-Chair, Dr Sarah Jones, will email members re the venue for next year.
Contact all new tutors, welcome them into the membership and encourage them to attend the Conference. An email will be coming out to new tutors by the end of March.  If you are a new tutor or know of new tutors please can you email
New tutors will be invited to attend the ITTE Annual Conference free of charge and will be able to take advantage of the reduced hotel rate the night before the Conference if they/their university is a member of ITTE.
Continue to work with the CfSA on a strategy for engaging members of professional associations digitally. This is ongoing and will be reported on in the next Newsletter.
Continue to develop the Knowledge Mobilisation Fellowship. Four teams have been successful.  Regular updates will be via and the Newsletter.
Continue to respond to calls for evidence. Response to DfE's Teachers' Professional Development Expert Group was submitted Oct 2015.
ITTE will continue to represent members as new consultations are shared, as appropriate to the key aims of ITTE.
Explore and develop links with teaching schools and SCITTs. This is ongoing.  Membership of ITTE continues to increase.
Investigate and develop the use of MailChimp for the Newsletter. First newsletter using MailChimp will be sent out by the end of February 2016.
Move the website to WordPress. This is in progress and should be completed by the end of March 2016.
Develop and adopt a google docs repository for current and historical meetings for Committee papers. There is already an area of the ITTE website where Committee papers can be accessed by members only.
Re-organise the banking so that we gain more interest on Committee funds. This will be completed by the next Committee meeting – 22 April 2016.
Identify conferences at which ITTE can be promoted. 21 April House of Lords celebration of 25 years of 'Learning to Teach in the Secondary Schools' text books. Prior to this there will be an international education forum co-badged between ITTE, BERA and MirandaNet.
26 April - Westminster Education Forum forum - ITTE Chair invited to present.
21 and 22 June BERA SIG Conference.  Joint event with BERA SIGs: Research and Policy, Comparative International, and Higher Education.

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