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I am an educator living in Tasmania Australia. Currently a relief teacher trying to create and personalise my learning journey.

Simon Youd

Code Combat, reflecting on using

4 min read


Using CodeCombat in the class

Codecombat is a game that helps to introduce some of the concepts in computer science and the coding languages of javascript or python. You learn about syntax, loops, if this then that sequences, and computational thinking.  Using a game to learn brings gamification to life it also sparks interest working with students that at times have lower literacy levels, lower interest levels (in starting to code or working with computers), they can play a game and learn

I played through the game myself, completing the first 18 parts of section 1 so far. I really enjoyed the game and as I advanced through further levels became faster at recognising what need to be written and any shortcuts that could be used to write faster or less. I had fun this was not traditional learning it was playing a game to learn how to do computer coding. Computer coding is something that I've always wanted to learn but never sat down and spent the time to do, yet now through this game, personally I am learning and practicing using JavaScript as a language to start coding.

I used this as an introduction to computing and coding with students in a juvenile detention centre. Not everyone wanted to play, but those that did really got into and often didn’t want the lesson to end or leave, this never happens normally. Some wanted to play every lesson I taught them, from the start of the lesson, till after time was up, no loss of desire to learn and participate. This was not everyone, but definitely some.

Limitations in setting used

I had some issues with students not allowed to have access to email or chat facilities. The log on required an email address, I made email accounts and used passwords for the sign in that were different to email account logins. I had control of these and this was the only way I could progress with using this in the class. There was some risk in trying this and was definitely outside the norm for what these students would experience in a typical class at this school.

My use of CodeCombat

This is the final level for the first section. You not only need to move your character but you also need to place blocks between you, as a fence, and the enemies that are trying to attack you. The graphics of the game are really good, you have to think through what you are going to do and each level progresses you further into skills and coding.  

I discovered codecombat after listening to an episode of TIDE (today in digital education) where Doug Belshaw (twitter, blog, was using this to start coding at an after school coding club. I bookmarked the site and always thought one day I would come back to it but now I have and used it to learn for myself and in class with students. The engagement levels, of those who wanted to learn more about coding, was high. There was also a high allowance for learning with students who did not have a high literacy level.


I faced a fear and overcame it (previous article), making a go of something to try a new task and push myself out of that comfort zone. I learnt a new skill, used a new tool, and many students did also. I am glad I did this, more risk, bigger risks can lead to bigger rewards. Take the chance and try something new, see where it takes you.... But most importantly, share it with others.

Simon Youd

Why EdTech? Why not Ed Tools?

3 min read

The conversation often seems to have this unhealthy focus on education technology as a separate thing, something that lives in its own ecosphere. Yet if we were to talk about technology in the classroom why are writing implements not counted, or: electricity, group tables, paper, pens erasers? The focus needs to be on using the right tool for the job. If you were teaching calligraphy would you ban pens? If you were drawing would you ban pencils? Then why, is technology, the easy target to remove from learning. Most students when not in the class or after graduating from school will carry a phone in their pocket, yet most are unlikely to carry a pen or pencil in their pocket. Teaching then needs to include targeted use of this “technology” to be a productive and purposeful part of their lives. Almost all will use it outside school so why not bring it in?


José Picardo wrote an article about the obsession of technology in education by those teachers who wish to practice teaching and learning using modern tools. What a wild and carefree attitude for teachers to have. He points out that many technology tools currently used are in their infancy, and any “evidence of learning” is almost impossible to produce, if there is such a thing to be truly found. Those who complain about technology being used and believe it should be banned may be the ones that have more problems and a bias towards (against) technology than the teachers and educators that believe it is a valuable tool to use in the classroom.


Mark Weston discusses the ways that education is failing technology in his article, Shift Paradigms – Quit Failing Technology. If this article does not challenge us as educators to find ways to make great teaching and learning even greater through the proper use of technology , then nothing will. Technology has revolutionarily changed many business and habits of life previously unthought of, yet education struggles to cohesively find a way to use technology that delivers those same changes and benefits to students.


Use the right tool, after using the right pedagogy then plan which tool enhances learning. Technology sometimes fills that bill, but other times it does not, we should not use it just because it is there. I have made mistakes in using technology just because, and know attempt to think through what learning experiences I would like students to have and then what tool(s) would enhance that.


Simon Youd

I am nobody, but that doesn’t matter. Because I share.

2 min read

I am nobody, but that doesn’t matter.


Because I share.


Not always and not regularly, but I do share. I share stories I recommend on Medium, through IFTTT, as tweets. I bookmark pages on my Known site and then auto share the links through a tweet. I auto share videos I like on YouTube again through tweets. I blog, not as regularly as I should, but I try to write and share.


Sharing makes anything you do open and available. Wes Fryer in his article How much should teachers share online referred to a quote as follows


In her video, Amy cites Austin Kleon (@austinkleon), author of “Show Your Work,”who says:

“Your work doesn’t exist unless it is online.”

Does that then transfer into a quote remix of saying that: "I share therefore I am". What we share is what other people see of us, what we do, think, read and write. It does not matter who we are, what we do, or don’t do, how experienced we are or how good a teacher we view ourselves as. The fact that we share and put ourselves and our thoughts out there is ultimately what matters.

Share what you think, others can question you on it, challenge your thinking, support you, help you crystallize your focus and thought patterns moving forward. Share your work, others will take it and run with it, making their job easier, refining and tweaking what you have done for their situation, and hopefully provide feedback to help you both grow. Share your reflections and reactions to other people's work and thoughts, grow and learn together, conversation adds meaning and develops that deeper understanding. …..Hmmm….. That sounds like something that teachers should be doing.

Let’s share, learn and grow together, becoming better educators for all students we influence, not just the ones in our classroom walls.

I am a relief teacher (supply, replacement, contract) living in Tasmania, Australia. Yet through sharing, I have made connections with educators in the UK, USA, Asia, and throughout the rest of the world. Who could you connect to that might help them, help you, or help students?


Simon Youd

What do we Allow in our Classrooms?

3 min read

A.J. Juliani is an educational change thinker, reformer and writer that always challenges me with his writing and thinking. AJ and his partner in crime, and podcasting, John Spencer often  talked about knowledge bombs being dropped in their podcast classroom questions. In AJ’s article Creating the Conditions for Innovative Teaching and Learning he talked about the PLASMA framework for how to be innovative and intentional in education change.


Picture from article, link



   The allow is for what do we allow to happen in our classroom to promote change and innovation. The less control we try to have and maintain the further the boundaries can be pushed by those who have a variety of ideas. This is what gave me the open mouth thought, what could we allow. Then I hung my head in shame at what I thought next. Everything bad that has happened in my class and classroom is because I allowed it.

   The curriculum is only crowded if I allow it to be. Teaching to the test will only happen if I allow it. Teacher centred, compliance controlled classrooms only happen if I make it so. What have I allowed to happen in my classrooms that has deprived students of opportunities that I should have given them?

The Challenge

The challenge then is what is going to be allowed to happen in the classroom? How can innovation be driven by the teacher getting out of the way and letting students take control. We still need to guide and assist, but as mentors and coaches, not as the team captain.


If we don’t allow for inquiry, choice, collaboration, digital tools, failure…then usually only the people in charge are allowed to have ideas.”

The Curriculum Problem

   This is one that I have when teaching math and science. There is knowledge that you see as being necessary, although that may be challenged by many as to who relevant and necessary it is. Might this be achieved by setting some guidelines and framework for what knowledge is to be covered, but then leaving students to choose how they wish to proceed with the learning.

   One way I have seen this covered is by making the outline of what topics need to be covered in the curriculum. But then students created what was to be covered as the learning. This was done by them creating an iTunesU course and publishing the materials there as a subject plan for others to use if they so desired.

What Will I Allow?


   Once you find a problem or challenge, to ignore it moving forward is to willfully make bad decisions. The change I want to see in education must be the change that I allow. Less me, more students. Students actively participating in learning, in creating their path forward. Education is done to students, learning is done with them. What will you allow your students to do and achieve? Let’s not hold them back, but push them forward.



Simon Youd

Fear of Failure Holds Me Back

2 min read

Recently I read John Spencer's post This Could Fail, in which he talks about all creative endeavours possibly failing. Whilst this may seem as a negative he uses it as a positive, that anything might fail, but if you do nothing you won't gain. Failure is a step on the pathway to success, you must fail to ultimately succeed and to become a success. 

I let the fear of failure hold me back, why I don't write enough, why I am still procrastinating over launching a podcast. All the what ifs hinder my progress. I fear no one will read, nobody will want to listen to what I have to say, so I don't, or I find an excuse to delay even more. I must find courage in the face of fear. 

Courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

Yet even if nobody does read, and nobody does listen, I have learnt and reflected through the practice of creating and thinking through material that I use to create posts. So it will be a success if it is only for me. And so I write this, to reflect and share if it only helps me to clarify what I am doing and thinking then it works. Yet, if somebody else reads this because I dared to publish and beat back that fear of failure, even if only for an instant, then the success is multiplied. I must let go of control, it is only a fallacy anyway. Control is not ours, we can merely put it out there and think for ourselves. If I, and others, feared less and did more, what could we achieve?

If I, and others, feared less and did more, what could we achieve? Release the fear and give it a go, you beat fear and succeeded by doing something, anything else after that is a bonus. 

Simon Youd

Disconnected as a relief Teacher

2 min read

As a relief teacher coming into a class you often have a disconnect with students as they are being out off their routine of the normal teacher with you being there in the classroom. This prevents you having the relationship build up with students to engage them in class and use as a preventer at times for poor behaviour escalation.

Relationships though are not the only area where you can be disconnected as a relief teacher. The lesson that you are about to teach may hold some relevance with the normal teacher who has planned the lesson and placed it in the scheme of work they are doing. Yet walking in you have no connection to how this work fits into the overall direction for where learning is heading, or has already been. 

Teaching, when you plan and implement it, has a structure and sequence to lessons and materials. Walking in partway through for a short period of time often prevents knowing or seeing the bigger picture and purpose of how the current lesson fits in. This disconnect then means that I can be teaching material I see no reason to do so, or unable to link learning to previous or future tasks that will add relevance to the current task. How do you fix this? 

How do you fix this? I don't expect an essay on what has been covered or future plans from the classroom teacher. It just makes it harder at times not knowing the why. This is also a view many students may hold.

Simon Youd

Quotes That Can Help Us As Educators

12 min read

   I recently read the article 10 Incredible Quotes To Guide Your Life by Jon Westernberg found on Medium. This gave me the idea of applying some of these quotes to teachers and educators (I kept the original numbers for the quotes). Doug Belshaw in his work on digital literacies often writes about the ability to remix work and apply it to new situations, chop and change what someone else has done to represent you and your work. The quotes are Jon’s, and where they come from, but the thoughts are mine applied differently.


1. You have to participate.

“There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.”

― Marshall Mcluhan

   We as teachers must actively participate in improving education and the outcomes for students. If we don't stand up for students in the meetings behind closed doors at our schools then who will? We need to participate in conversations that drive our schools forward, I have all too often stood back and not said what I should have, not stood up for what was right or needed. Instead listening to the politically correct path that would be followed into the future. We get one shot at life, be deliberate in where you want it to go.

   Not only must we work in our individual schools but to share and participate in the greater online community. Share your work and encourage others, we no longer need to be confined by the school building that we work within. We need to participate to the best of our ability, not just be there in body, but be fully present in what we do. What if what you share has the impact on just one other teacher, but that teacher influences at least another 20 students, and how many other teachers and educators through further sharing? How big an impact could we have if we were willing to participate better?


3. Don’t try to leave yourself behind.

“I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 A.M. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.”

― Joan Didion

   As we strive and drive for self-improvement we need to not forget we we came form, others are in that place right now struggling to grow, improve, or even hold on, someone is sitting thinking about quitting this noble profession of education. Growth is about gradual change, never dramatic changes, it is a path we travel, and where we have been, always forms part of who we are now. Remembering who we were and using that as part of who we are now, makes us more relatable to everyone that crosses our paths. Who were and where we have been can serve as a guide and inspiration for another who is struggling through what we once did and where we previously travelled. If we forget who we were and where we have come form, then we lose part of ourselves and become incomplete.


4. Take care of each other.

“We’re all just walking each other home.”

― Ram Dass

   Teaching can be such an isolating profession if we allow it to become so, we get in our class/es, our office and get stuck into what we have to do, often forgetting the others around us. Collaboration and sharing is part of caring for each other. Work together to improve the outcomes for students. If one of us is good, what can two, three or four of us together be? Combining what we are capable of, improving each other's thoughts and ideas, revising and moving forward are all part of the reflective practice we are meant to undertake.

   When we share a resource online that was made then someone else gets to not have to do that preparation, and when they share someone else gets to benefit, a way of paying it forward. The sharing and refining of work benefits us all as we strive to develop the best possible resources and educational opportunities for all students. The care also needs to be for students, develop the best learning, not just education, for them. Our goal needs to also be caring for the whole person, not just the student in your class today.

   Teaching is not a competitive job, we are all in it for the same outcomes, well developed young people who engage through a love of learning. Collaborate, share, encourage and check in that your colleagues are doing okay, sometimes we just need someone to say hi, how are you. Don’t do this in isolation, we are team, one that extends beyond the space we work in.


5. Dreams are good. But Living is just as important.

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

― J.K. Rowling

   We all have goals and aims for how we would like to change education in our classrooms, yet we still need to stay grounded in where they are know. Change is what we want and continue to work towards, but we must work plan and teach where things are now. Each day with what we do we still achieve, we engage and develop relationships with students, coworkers and other educators. Celebrate what you do today, even small or minor successes drive us and fuel the desire for further growth and achievement, don’t live in the past or the future.

   Where we want to go and take our classroom must be based in the here and now, what can we do today, this lesson, this week to move our class, students and self forward to the future we want. Anxiety is from focussing too much on the future, depression from dwelling on the past, mindfulness is from living in the present. We need goals and places we want to go to, but these must still be aligned with a path from here and now, be your future, grow and change from know, not from some distant point in the future.


6. Stop being ashamed of your work.

“Everything that I’ve ever done I can still relate to, and feel connected to it in a way. There’s no part of my life that I look at and go, ‘I don’t recognize that person at all.’”

― Ian Mckaye

   Just because we aren’t that teacher on stage giving the talk or writing those long blog posts doesn’t mean that we don’t have something that is worth sharing. Every teacher started out doing a university degree and then had to spend their first day and first year teaching in the classroom. Whilst different people start their teaching careers at various ages, some take gap years, others, like myself. enter university as a mature age student after a career elsewhere. But everybody had their first day in the classroom, and their first year of teaching.

   Whatever you do and wherever you are in your journey, someone else can gain from your understanding and point of view, together we are more than the sum of our parts. Reflecting, growing and sharing in public provides others with a view of where you have come from. A journey that you can celebrate and reflect on also, blog, podcast, write, share resources, tweet, put yourself and your work out there online, you WILL make a difference to somebody else just through sharing. Grow and succeed then celebrate that, personally and openly, contribute the field of education. You have a voice, please it to share.


7. Let yourself believe.

“Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

   Believe that there is better for you, have your dreams of what you would like to do and where you would like to be. Dreams fuel the actions of today, and provide the direction for tomorrow. Have a place to escape in your head and heart, not just for work but all aspects of you, that escape and dreams can help make now better and easier. Read fiction, watch movies, listen to music, use these to escape and dream. In the movie Collateral with Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx, Jamie's character is a taxi driver, a job he finds very mundane at times. To escape this he has a picture of a tropical island on the back of his fold down visor, whenever he wants a break from reality to visit his dreams. He looks at his picture and escapes the here and know, even if only for a few seconds, to relax and recharge. Your imagination is a gift to use, not ignore.


8. Don’t overthink it.

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”

― Dr. Seuss

   We as teachers can so often be guilty of overthinking things, lessons, ideas, units, students, co-teachers, any number of possibilities. This lesson, this student, these parents, our fellow staff members are here and know, we don’t need to go miles into the future, just deal with the hear and know. This lesson whilst fitting into the bigger picture of how we want to teach, can be simple, and often simple things can drag students in so much deeper than we would have given it credit for.

   This doesn’t mean that we don’t plan for the future or plan whole units with individual lesson organised also, but that we let go of some of that stress associated with having too many balls on the go at once. Teaching is juggling, but we can deal with individual items at a time. Simple solutions can often be the best, easier for us to figure out, and everyone else to follow or understand. The field of education is complicated enough, without us making it more so but in unnecessary ways.


9. Let the days come and go.

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

   We have good days and we have bad days, but we still go on regardless. If we have the day from hell, our lessons fell apart, students misbehaving, parent complaining we didn’t do something right….. guess what?? Tomorrow the sun still rises in the east and sets in the west. Jon writes: Many sports coaches treat winning and losing the same way, you celebrate your wins or grovel in your loss for the same amount of time, then move on. Onwards and upwards. Learn from it, but move on, no need to dwell on either as what you are about to do is more important that what you have already done.


10. Think about the consequences.

“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”

― Isaac Asimov

   Again Jon writes:

Because we can do things, doesn’t always mean that we should. For me, this quote is up there with Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park — scientists are too concerned with whether they can, they don’t stop to ask if they should.

   How is what we are about to do going to impact others, in our setting that is usually students. Although what we do also impact parents, other teachers, especially future teachers. How we leave students as they move on from our classes directly impacts those teachers who will have them next year. Do we help our students to think differently, expect that answers won’t just fall in their laps.

   Change for change's sake isn't always good or positive, but staying still often isn’t the answer either. Mistakes are learning opportunities, so don’t be afraid to make them, but let's do it for the right reasons. We want to improve learning outcomes for students and leave them to a better world, We can never forget this in all we do. Choices of our PD, lesson styles, content, sharing, and comments. Be the good in their lives, understand what will happen as a result of what you do through good thought, not lack of planning.

   Don’t be scared of what we do and change, but be thoughtful and purposeful in all things. We can change education and students for the better.


To Finish


   These are not intended as a dig at anyone, this is what I need to focus on and improve. I can do a better job,with both my thoughts and my actions. Teaching is never easy, but we do have to remember that things won't work, and failure does happen, what we do with though is what will define it as a mistake or a lesson.


Simon Youd

Thinking outside the box

2 min read

Yesterday I was taking a relief lesson where students were learning how to do isometric drawings, which would then be used to design a money box, based on a wooden cube. This really made the students think outside the box on how they were going to design and personalise their money box. Some students started with a few ideas, but most really struggled to grasp what they would doI then brought in the idea of personalising it for them, repurposing the box, to make it theirs. If they were to show me or someone else their bedroom, what in is about them, what were they into. This got most to think some really good ideas, but others were really stuck. 

Change how you think and personlise the task

Some could not see past a 100 x 100 box. We brought out examples of previous work and this got more students to see possibilities and have ideas. The whole idea I was trying to put across was for them to personalise it, make it about them and what they are into. 

This got me to thinking about personalising tasks, whilst not strictly making them individualised. Everyone was working on the money box and had to design one based on the same shape, yet when given the creative freedom to add and change the finished product there was so much diversity and lateral thinking from almost every student. They started at wanting to be told what to do. Then using questioning I tried to lead them into thinking about what they like and how they would like to have it add to the ambience and environment in their bedroom. 

So here in action was a group task, make a money box, with individualised focus on how they produced a completed learning task. How we can create all learning tasks. Remove the standardised all hand in 20-30 of the same thing. Show me how you understand this learning objective through your choice of finished product. This is how I try to base assessment tasks, challenge students to move out of their comfort zones, don't just play school, put yourself into the finished product. 

Simon Youd

We all have achieved something

2 min read

Tim Ferriss in his interview with Seth Godin texted Seth before the podcast if he was ready, he replied I was born ready. Well not really I was born naked sacred and crying, to which Tim replied look how far you have come now then. Sometimes we look back in despair at what we have achieved and feel like nothing has been done and are achievements are zero. Negative self-talk and self-sabotage rule this space. Yet we learnt everything that ahs brought us to here, we are generally self-sufficient. To become a teacher you need to go through high school then university successfully, you have achieved and graduated at a higher level than the majority of the population. 

There are so many more things that we as teachers achieve if we look back on what we have done, and are doing now. We integrate new practices, we connect with new students, we help students graduate from school. We continue to learn and grow as professional educators, looking for new and innovative ways to engender learning in young people. 

You got up this morning and made other people and their learning your focus of the day. You achieved a very worthy goal. Teachers have the biggest influence in the world, everyone has a teacher somewhere somehow. The challenge then is what sort of teacher are we going to be for others. 

Simon Youd

Relationships not content are key to learning

2 min read

    I am currently tutoring a friend who wants to improve their math skills for a course they wish to do. She has a low belief in her current mathematical ability, yet when getting into work is quite capable. This low self-belief and then self-sabotaging thought processes has come from having a poor relationship with her high school math teacher. This relationship breakdown resulted in a low level of effort and a disengagement from the class and learning. This just reinforces how we as teachers need to ensure that we have positive relationships purposely built with our students which are a big engagement tool into out class and their learning.

Being a connected educator also means we connect in our classroom, not just outside.

    I build good relationships with most students in my class, yet know that I need to do and focus better on those who sit in the fringes of the class. The quiet recluse who does not interrupt, looks busy, and seems to have things under control. Yet if I took the time to develop that relationship purposefully then I can help them, and they feel a better connection to the class and their desire to learn the material. The ones that I don't build that relationship with then can struggle to gain maximum learning outcomes from their learning. This my responsibility and hat I really need to work at. Not just developing relationships with the easy outgoing students, but the quiet ones, who need to know you care, to help them know why they should care.