Really getting into Coding with Scratch

It has been too long since I have written here (there are dozens of unfinished posts over the past 3 years, but few published). I am now in Vietnam and teaching ICT, rather than a classroom teacher, and it has been a whirlwind of difference. It is a much bigger school, but as I teach most of the students I get to know them all and it allows me to be the kind of teacher that I normally am.

Big change as been, other than having access to Google again, the amount of coding that I teach using Scratch and it can be upwards of 15 hours a week. I feel that I now dream in Blockly and ‘if then’ or ‘forever’ loops. It is like being immersed in a language and it has increased my knowledge beyond all belief.

Year 1 throughscratch-music 3 are using the offline editor and are learning to make instruments play a tune or making balls bounce around the screen and play a recorded sound when they collide. Year 4-6 are making playable video games and now beginning to realise that they are able to create games in their own time (such as the final scratchgame).

Scratch has recently introduced Educator Accounts, for which you need to apply and get approval (a day to wait), but this now allows you to manage multiple online classes, reset their forgotten passwords, add or remove students and sign them up without the need for email addresses to login – such a time s
aver and it may help me keep my hair a few more years.

There are scores of resources out there, any question that you have is answered by a forum post or YouTube tutorial and once you give it a go your students will love it. I know that when they get to Secondary they will be problem solvers, better at logic and reasoning and have a good understanding about how code is laid out and how to change variables and create loops and conditionals.

My first successful game (Even though it has a glitch or too)


This game was created by a student as part of his International Week homework to teach visiting year 2 and 3 students about Ecuador in a fun way.



So simple, so clever, so quick and perfect to compare and contrast images over time. I screen captured two google earth images that were taken 10 years apart, added them to my Dropbox then the website did the rest (and all on the iPad). It gives you an embed code and then you have two images on top of each other and you have the ability to slide over to view one or the other image.

Incidental Inquiry – finding something dead and taking it to class.

As the times that the busses arrive vary between 8 and 8:30 we make sure that there is always a mini-lesson happening as the kids arrive for them to join into. As many of my children are multi-lingual I see this as a great time to build vocabulary, have some thinking skill games and build a team environment. Things like Tony Ryan’s Thinkers Keys are a good example and large Where’s Wally/Waldo scavenger hunts on the IWB are tré popular.

Master Mantis


Today was something different, as just as I was to get in the morning Taxi I saw an enormous Preying Mantis on the ground, legs in the air and well and truly dead. Now, as I am living in China, love Kung Fu Panda and Master Mantis of the Furious Five is my favourite animated character of the last 10 years I knew that this was too good an opportunity to let pass. To the disgust of the many adults I scooped up the fallen hero and took him to school.

The students walked into class (they are all 6 years old) and reeled back in disgust or zoomed in with curiosity. Is it dead? What is it? Will it attack? Will it bite? where did you find it? Was it in the class? How did you get it to…

So we sat in a circle around the Preying Mantis and began to talk (It was easier as there was a power cut). Parts were named, zoomed in on with a magnifying glass, precise language was developed.  We took photos, sketched and drew diagrams on wipe boards. We labeled the diagrams, translated the words into Chinese and Korean and soon all were using gentle hands to feel the pincers on the feet grip onto our skin or gaze through the Transparent wings.

Questions were asked, anatomy of an insect was defined, compared and labeled and the learning was unmeasurable and I feel will be one of those lasting primary memories… “I remember the day when my teacher with a beard, I can’t remember his name, brought in that huge Praying Mantis and we got to touch it”.

Then it began to twitch a little… we placed a stop-motion camera on the twitching part for 2 hours and yes it did move, but no other part did. Is there something still alive in the insect trying to get out? Has it been paralyzed by spray or poison and is still alive? Is it just drying and decomposing? Unfortunately these questions were not answered as it was home time on a Friday, so they may stay unanswered, but the development of curiosity has been phenomenal and well worth the time and effort.  I think that is the first true mini inquiry that I have done since my time with Kath Murdoch and after seeing the power of the experience I know that it will not be the last.

A chance discovery.

The first tentative touches.

Magnified for better detail.

Time Lapse – Sorry the file would not upload to youtube ;(

Sketches & Diagrams

Táng Láng in Chinese.

Samagi in Korean.

Global Classroom Lead Teachers 2012-13

Was not expecting this, but truly honored to be named as a Global Classroom Lead Teacher and looking forward to contributing and collaborating more with the Global Classroom in 2013-14 from China.
There is an old Maori Proverb that I feel suits the Global Classroom Project and why it works.
He aha te mea nui?
He tangata.
He tangata.
He tangata.

Which translates to:
What is the most important thing? It is people, it is people, it is people.

Kiaora and thank you.

The Global Classroom Project


We’d like to formally congratulate the Global Classroom Lead Teachers for 2012-13.

We are proud to work with such an amazing group of international educators, who are shining examples of teachers who “connect, learn, share, collaborate and lead globally”.

This year, our Lead Teachers were nominated by the #globalclassroom community and @gcporganisers, recognising their special contribution to the development and success of the #globalclassroom community.

Over the course of 2012-13, our Lead Teachers  have made:

  • Significant contributions to the professional learning of teachers around the world (through our blog & Twitter chats)
  • Inspired efforts to enhance their students’ learning through their global connections
  • Assisted with the development and maintenance of the #globalclassroom online learning spaces
  • Created innovative, pioneering projects which showcase new ways for teachers and students to connect, learn, share, and collaborate globally.

New and experienced global educators alike, we highly recommend adding our #globalclassroom Lead Teachers to your PLNs.

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Am I an inquiry teacher or a teacher who does inquiry?

It has been two weeks since my workshop with Kath Murdoch, but it has been some thing at the forefront of my mind as it left me thinking that I am Screen Shot 2013-07-20 at 2.57.53 PMon the right track, but at the same time missing some simple, but very important parts of the equation.

As soon as she began her presentation everything seemed to make sense and I was making connections left, right and center.

First self-discovery

There was no Wi-Fi & I was at a loss. I am now a person who needs to Google all that I don’t know instantly, as by searching the Googalable I identify the real learning faster.

Then Kath posed 4 questions that made many shift in their seats when they thought of the answers and If there was just one aspect to take away it would be the reflections and discussions with colleagues over the past fortnight relating to the four questions below.

Am I an inquiry teacher or a teacher who does inquiry?

Is this an inquiry classroom?

Are my students inquirers all through the day?

Am I an inquirer?

I am happy to say that I know I am an inquirer, but as to the other three questions I would have to say that this is where my next learning focus lies. At times I would answer yes to the first three questions but not constantly.

I incorporate elements of inquiry into my literacy program, but after looking at the blog of Bruce Ferrington, using inquiry in Maths, I know that there is huge scope for development of my numeracy and that this approach would be so much more meaningful as we learn through investigation rather than being told the answer.

Quick Lego reflection identifying that I may have jumped a few steps in the process... hence need to jump back to the start sometimes.

Quick Lego reflection identifying that I may have jumped a few steps in the process… hence need to jump back to the start sometimes.

Is my classroom an inquiry classroom – Yes, most definitely, but there is a lot that can be tweaked and developed. The physical environment and the tools are there. The openness to question, reflect and create meaning and understanding, but the language of the process is one area I am planning on really looking closely at as I feel that my students need to be able to articulate their learning as well as they can articulate their writing or strategy using  mathematics.  Guy Claxton’s Split Screen Lesson is one way that I feel that I will be able to remove the mystery behind the learning and identify the skills and contexts behind the content.  I know that when I plan a lesson all of these components are taken into account, but it is imperative that I make them clear for the students.

Do I ‘Do’ inquiry? No, but I know that I need to cut the strings and allow more times for independent inquiry.  This has been a goal of mine for a long time and I have looked a lot into the Genius Hour (do not like that title) or 20% time and the other models that have sprung up, Kath calls it ‘I Time’ as you have Inquiry, Investigative, Interest, Innovative and all the other I words that seem to fit within the independent inquiry.

So two days and my head was full and buzzing.  I had a list of things to do and things to change and things to keep on doing like I am doing at the moment. I want to make time for meaningful ‘Independent Inquiries’, but I need to make sure that the scaffolding is there to support the process. I need to make the learning context and skills more transparent, but that comes down to the language that I choose to use in the class – Choice Words needs a re-read over the holidays. I need to keep on being a passionate teacher, but that is not going to change. I need to be an Inquirer, not just model the process, but I feel that I am an inquirer, so I just need to again make that more visible to my students. I need to ensure that my class is an ‘Inquiry’ class always, not just on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, but always.

Finally, a bit off track, but I have tried to get staff onto Twitter, to try it, to test their toes in the water with only one taker. Kath walks into the room talks Tweets, mentions that we had communicated through twitter the day before and now it seems that Twitter is the new thing.

Second Self discovery
You can lead a horse to water, but only Kath Murdoch can make them Tweet.

Screen Shot 2013-07-20 at 3.03.15 PM

Think that I need to add this tweet to my CV. Kath Murdoch’s Roadie would look good under job history.

All good things come to an end – When a Blog Retires

On the 26th of March 2009 I began my blogging journey and this week that first blog retires.

It began as a chore, it was a requirement as part of an ICT contractblog archive and I struggled to see the worth of blogging. Parents didn’t comment, I didn’t post. The blog floundered and only 12 posts happened that year.  Then I tried a bit harder and a bit more happened, but not really a lot. By June of 2011, two years after inception we had only reached the milestone of 3,500 pageviews.
What was the problem? There was inconsistency of posting, little interactivity with the blog and people not having a reason to visit the blog.
2012 began and we blogged it all… and it worked. We entered the Interface Awards and became finalists. We reached 10,000 views in September and have not looked back. With the introduction of the iPad and my iPhone we could blog and post on the go gorilla style anywhere and we have.
Like my first car, I will miss this blog and have fond memories, but I will have new blogs as I head to new classes. Success and mistakes that I have had and learned will be applied or considered in the future. Although the url is ‘MrDyerHFS’ the author was not me alone, it was the 140 students that I have taught over the past 4 years and 3 months that it has been active.

My Highlights include…

Blogging the Triathlon as it happened.

My first real gorilla blogging experience with images, comments and video.

A City in a Day
When our class swarmed from 20 to 30 overnight with refugees from the Christchurch Earthquake we built a city as a way to look at what a city might need and what makes a city other than the people.

Connecting with parents and grandparents

We have had comments in German and we have had comments in Italian and comments from aunties in America


Our one Skype chat with a year 1 class in Hamilton. THey were fascinated at our snow (They had never seen snow), we were fascinated with their bus (it had their schools name on it).


Interface Awards Finalist 2012

This is where I became inspired by, connected to and friends with…

30,000 views celebration cake

The title says it all…

A Cake for the Class from Dukelyer on Vimeo.

And then there has been awesomeness such as


The Travelling Rhino Project


iPad at interviews – Demonstrating Maths level through Apps

Just copied this from my class blog. It was a follow up blog post to share the Apps that we talked about at interviews.  Using the iPad, especially the Math Slide Apps, really demonstrated their place value and basic fact knowledge and have the parents a better understanding of their child’s level and next step.

Taken from

Maths Apps that we talked about at Interviews

Hello there all,
The other night at interviews there were a couple of iPad apps that we shared that I said  would add to the blog for reference so here we are.  Most of them also have the ability to be added to iPods and remember that the competition component of some of the apps can be removed by single player option and this will remove any stress around the new learning.

The there are 6 Math Slide Apps, four are free and all are fantastic. They are on the iPad and iPod/iPhone and are great visual ways to really understand what each number looks like ( in money, fingers, blocks or bundles of sticks) and they range from early stages to more difficult.

Maths Machine is free for Maori Language Week and is great for consolidating your counting in English and Te Reo.

Then we have School A-Z where I really like the Spelling Bee Component as you can add your own words and record your own voice reading the word for the test.
Mathletics is the last App and our passwords that have been sent home apply here – sadly this is an iPad only App.