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Tools to help Quiet and Shy Learners join in

I have always felt nervous when speaking in front of groups.

At School, at University, and now even in Lecturer Meetings I have always been a bit worried and unsure when the focus shifts to me and I worry whether or not what I have to say is interesting and/ or correct.

It is unusual that I am a Lecturer now but I love my subject and I love learning so the fact that I am now in a position to help students like me get through their nerves transcends any anxiety I may have. Using educational technology in class has helped me to remove any barriers to learning that my quiet and shy teenage students may encounter when we engage in activities to assess their understanding of a lesson.

Twitter – We use hashtags to discuss topics at the start of every lecture as a starter or plenary to get the learners involved, analysing and debating the topic at hand. Learners are encouraged to tweet in on a tag we make that morning and I curate them as they appear on the screen using Twitterfall or Tweetbeam - by doing this it allows me a chance to ask follow up questions to the contributor once the discussion has begun (alleviating the worry of speaking first in class). We also often have cross college discussions with other students, guest tweeters hosting debates, and industry experts who can guide the learners through a topic to help them build confidence in their digital literacy, critical thinking, and communication skills.

Facebook – Learners can ask questions they may be too embarrassed about asking their Lecturers in front of their classmates on Facebook. We have found that when the students can see key information about the course, share interesting links/ videos and engage with links and materials from the Lecturer they are more likely to expand and consolidate learning outside of the class whilst building up rapport with their peers. Learners reluctant to talk in class can add comments or private message their peers once they have been rounded up in to a group and can use it to gather research, manage projects, and keep one another informed of deadlines whilst print-screening said evidence for their assessments.

Socrative – Learners can join in a gamified quiz on the screen by responding to open-ended or closed questions via their device or computer. This also provides a chance to receive feedback from the Lecturer about right/ wrong answers on screen whilst a report detailing each students individual performance can be analysed afterwards to see if they need further help on a particular topic. Socrative can be a useful starter activity to help you gather evidence of their development at different stages throughout a topic leading up to and including the exam/ final assessment itself. Teams of learners can even go up against each other in the ‘space race’ feature which help galvanize the students in teams as they compete to get the most correct answers quickest/ propel their rocket to the finishing line.

Once the learners gain more confidence you can try these…..

Vine – Create 6 second looping clips on their devices to communicate key information. For example, I ask my students to state an objective for their future self in 90 minutes time that they have to meet in that lesson. At the end of the lesson the learner watches the clip back to review whether it has been met or not.

Instagram - Photographing their work to evidence their process and annotate the pictures with text to encourage reflection and evaluation at each stage of the project. The video feature offers a chance to document mini-vlogs on their work as well in teams or individually.

Podcasts – If the learner is reluctant to appear on camera they can capture evidence of their learning as a discussion using SoundCloud or AudioBoo. You can challenge them to produce something succinct and specific to your criteria within clear parameters (3 mins/use 5 key words each) independently.

Vlogs – Using handycams, webcams, or their device the learners can respond to questions in short clips or, if they are more creative, as News Reports or in comedy sketches to demonstrate their knowledge.

Providing differentiation (learners always have a a vlog/ podcast/ written option where possible) like this gives my less traditionally able learners a real chance of performing and creating evidence of their knowledge.

Sometimes home-life, health, being awkward around the person they fancy in class, or any number of the other external variables that can effect a learners confidence in the classroom can stop them from participating in class.

By opening up and varying the streams of communication between us and our learners we can provide them with more chances to show how much they have learned while simultaneously providing us with more fun and valid conduits for measuring evidence of their progress.


A New Approach for those in Danger of Failure?

As a teacher, how does this grab you as a challenge? You are to be part of a team working with 30 pupils from the south side of Glasgow? They are identified as being at risk of disengagement, but with the potential to become successful apprentices and good citizens. You must remain true to the principles of Curriculum for Excellence. What might be different for you is that your organisation is ready to wipe the slate with your experience in the classroom. You are going to look at the pedagogies of what works and use them in your practice every day – with only three other colleagues.

“Three?” I hear you ask. Correct. The curriculum will be delivered by four teachers – Science, IT, Maths and English, but also by partner organisations, made up of the private businesses who are not only investing in the venture, but who are guaranteeing apprenticeships to those young people who complete the course and FE colleges which are guaranteeing places for the NJC leavers.

This is the plan for Newlands Junior College, the brainchild of Jim McColl, Scottish entrepreneur. His vision is to take young people who are heading for failure and give them a real prospect of success.

Scotland’s schools are very good. I don’t think that’s in question here. But there is – and always has been – a group of young people who just don’t get a good deal. They are not academically driven, have perhaps a challenging background or a family whose experience of education is entirely negative, but who nonetheless have some kind of talent or ability. They are not heading for university, but exist in a system which is designed to make them feel that the only achievement that really counts is getting in to university. Yet business is crying out for people with good practical skills and the right attitude to work.

These are exactly the people that McColl’s Newlands Junior College appears to be designed to cater for. If only they could be prevented from disengaging, as they often do.

The college has started to engage staff.  They will be working in a very special environment, with the best technology and with unrivalled opportunities to develop their pedagogical skills.

Iain White, Principal of the College and former Head Teacher of Govan High, which serves one of the most deprived areas of Scotland, makes no secret of the formula “This will be an organisation built on relationships – there will be no room for messing around, but we intend to be like a family, where – like every family – we will have our moments, but we are all here for the same reason. We will all be motivated towards what we want to achieve together. That togetherness will be based on mutual respect and a mutual understanding of what we are here for.”

And for the young people who, through the selection process, get a place, that achievement will be quite something. With resources available to equip every pupil with a handheld computer, cutting edge IT provision and links with future employers who will not only provide curriculum input, but mentoring relationships and guidance, the prospects for these otherwise potentially-failing pupils are suddenly looking dramatically brighter.

Of course schools try very hard to prevent young people dropping out. But Newlands will have some crucial advantages. It will be able to guarantee the outcomes (apprenticeships and college places for every successful leaver) . Also, it is not school. Whatever Hollywood tells us about inspirational teachers and innovative and ground-breaking approaches to learning, sometimes the problem is simply that school is the wrong place for disenchanted teenagers. Newlands Junior College, based in real place of work, with its top quality adult environment is clearly not a school. So many things are different from the quality of design to the close involvement of students in everything including the preparation of meals. At Newlands, they not only know what works, but (more importantly) for these students they know what doesn’t.

An education for the 21st century has to very different from the classroom of the past. It has to be suited to each individual in a way that is unique and inspiring. It has to connect to adult life and the real world in ways that every student can understand. Every day, every student has to feel valued and believe in the possibility of success.

I look forward to schools and indeed, colleges, of all descriptions providing a wide and varied menu of education, utilising top technology, demanding top professionals and producing top quality graduates upon whom employers can rely, as they have had an input to their education and training. The destinations are guaranteed – not as some kind of social responsibility policy – but as a real engagement between young people, their parents, teachers, employers and trainers. I look forward to more initiatives like this and not only that, but I look forward to them being supported as complementary to the current school system.

Newlands Junior College is still looking for a Science teacher and a Maths teacher, so if you think you might enjoy this kind of opportunity, check out the website and application form here.

Still twittering but what changes? 3 years on.
Image by flickr.com/photos/mkhmarketingImage by flickr.com/photos/mkhmarketing

Twittering in the classroom, that was a long time ago.

The cohort that I wrote that blog about left school last week. They were just starting S4 at the time.

It has been a fair fast flowing few years and we have seen social media grow over that time.

Am I going to be annihilated by the bosses for using twitter? Well no, I wasn’t.

Still, some colleagues gently patted me on the head, smiled and said something along the lines of “The GTCs would fry us!”

So I contacted the GTCs and got a very supportive response. Essentially telling me I am not going to be in trouble with the GTCs, so long as my bosses are ok with it.

The framework we were using was approved and, these years on, I think we are safely using twitter appropriately.

How has it developed?

Now, several parents follow the feed

This is a very important, if unexpected, development. Some children tell me they are not permitted to use social media. By using this life skill in our work, parents are letting go a little but also following themselves. The fact we can help pupils understand when they make a mistake and tweet something poorly thought out.

In fact, in that time, I have had two pupils make comments that were a bit “off” but nothing major. For most people, Social Media is rather self-regulating.

We link with local community

So, imagine when the local MP or councillors tweet a link or comment about Pay Day loans. My local MP, whose office is right across from the school, is Fiona O’Donnell who is a big campaigner. The numbers are interesting, the links to poverty and to modern studies etc.

This lets us get that message out to the kids. Maths is awesome (stop singing that song!)

I also follow the local sports teams of every sport, it gives me a heads up when a pupil gets a gold medal in a swimming contest or similar. I can’t rely on the kids telling me (they ARE teenagers after all) but they do love getting praised, so long as thy can whinge about it too.

Banter is good

Banter, or “Bant’r” with a strong east coast accent. This is important for teenagers. We don’t instigate Banter with kids, but we do with other departments. When the English department tweeted a photo of the debating team standing in the Disney store with kermit and Miss Piggy. It was my DUTY to tweet “who is the muppet on the right?” And yes it was a DHT and no I didn’t get sacked. Maths and English having a laugh together. Suddenly pupils see the maths and English department are not great enemies. This stuff matters to some kids.

24/7 support when it is needed

That is not a by-product of the experiment. It is the reason for being.
Pupils don’t panic about my homework, they don’t worry about what day a test is one. And as three teachers now use the same account, I no longer have to answer all the queries by myself, and I also get to help kids I don’t know. It is like a Quality Assurance exercise, and it helps children.

A little nuclear weapon in parental discussions.

“I have had to get a tutor as he struggles with his maths homework”
“He knows he can tweet me any time for help. Take a photo of the page and…”

“Wait ’till I get home and see him!”

Every department has it now

Culture has changed. The pedagoo power of positivity became a critical mass. No longer am I the geeky one (I never was geeky, mind!)
Some people were afraid I was letting kids use their phones in class. This was not true, because it was against the school rules. If I wanted people to trust me, I had to use their familiar boundaries in general. Once they realised I was not against the grain, really, people joined in.
Now we really have feeds for parents from the main school account and kids can “tune in” to what ever school feeds they feel helpful. No point in getting chemistry feeds if you don’t study it or find it interesting.
PE, Sport, RE, Maths, English, Chemistry, Physics, the list just kept growing. That is fab.

Keeping up foreign relations.

I don’t mean the other side of the world, but other maths departments locally. Most teachers don’t see the council boundary lines as reasons to avoid talking either so tweets to and from maths departments in the region and beyond just enrich the learning experience. It also builds up resources and links. “See how you tweeted that you had just finished a Nat 4 homework book….”

Just interesting to see how it all changed.

And now from being the hunter, to being the hunted. This is the first pedagoo post that I have had to await approval of. #pedagooAdmin (RTD)

Teaching and Learning Toolkit

My toolkit contains tips, tricks, ideas, strategies, suggestions, resources and information for teachers across all subjects, ages and phases of education!

The toolkit is a central location for teaching and learning related posts laid out in a simple to use and interpret fashion. The information is short and snappy and links to what is needed are always provided.


You can search for a post using a particular keyword or you can filter the posts based on their tags. Such as literacy, group work, independent learning and so on.

The toolkit is designed to allow teachers to become more creative, more inventive and most importantly allows them to save time by using some of the effective ideas that have been shared. The posts usually contain images showing the activity in action and provide links to further reading if relevant.

Currently the toolkit contains over 215 activities that have been tried and tested by teachers. I know they are effective because the activities I post are ones that are being used in classrooms. Ones that have been used and been successful with the students I teach.

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 15.14.17

To date the toolkit has had over 550,000 views and is used worldwide! Many posts are currently being edited/updated to include the variations educators have made having seen the original idea from the toolkit.


The principle behind the toolkit is to create more agile teachers who want to liven up the learning of their students. The toolkit is also a central hub to share important information such as the changes in Special Needs provision in the UK and so on. Some ideas you will love, some you will think about, others you may not agree with at all. That’s the beauty of the toolkit- it is guaranteed to cater for some of everybody’s teaching methods. If an activity doesn’t sit well with you, simply ignore it and try another? :)

If you would like to guest post and share an activity that you have used in your lessons on the toolkit then please email me on aal@cheney.oxon.sch.uk over 30 teachers have written a guest post to date.

Get in touch… @ASTSupportAAli


The toolkit was recently featured on BBC News show BBC Click in the #Webscape section as a fantastic tool for educators worldwide.


The toolkit is also linked to many websites/blogs.

You can help spread the world by sharing posts on twitter, facebook and google +.





Jamie’s Flipped: (almost) a year with a flipped classroom

There are lots of different ideas about Flipping your classroom, see this TED talk for more. But essentially you provide your learners with resources and videos to allow them to ‘learn’ the material as homework and then build on this with skills in your classroom. Starting in September 2013, and as part of my MSc research, I have implemented my own interpretation of a flipped classroom with really interesting results. This post is a brief into to the research behind the flipped classroom and then I discuss how I have implemented it and the power of blogging to engage students outside of the classroom.

Flipped learning? Flipping mad?

Flipped learning is “…a form of blended learning that encompasses any use of technology to leverage the learning in a classroom, so a teacher can spend more time interacting with students instead of lecturing” where the instructor provides “an opportunity for academics to provide more personal feedback and assistance to students, but also to receive feedback from their students about the activities that they are undertaking and what they don’t yet understand.” (Wiley and Gardner, 2013).


Several papers have reported on the impact of ‘flipped learning’ on undergraduate psychology courses and suggested that there is a positive impact of this on students’ attitudes toward the class and instructors as well as on students’ performance in the class (Wilson, 2013). There are far too many technological changes to how we are teaching and learning to list here, but they all suggest that same fundamental question: How do students learn best? (Halpern, 2013) and the possibility the flipped learning could be a step forward should be considered.

Using videos to support students’ learning has attracted the attention of a large number of researchers (Young and Asensio, 2002) and a key concept within the idea of flipped learning is the use of new technologies to support learning; or as some would label: blended learning (Garrison & Kanuka, 2004). To successfully implement the flipped classroom approach, a change is needed to the existing traditional teaching approach. These changes have been conceptualised by Hamdan et.al. (2013) into four important elements referred to as four Pillars of F-L-I-P. These four pillars stand for Flexible Environment, Learning Culture, Intentional Content, and Professional Educator.

An interesting comment from Wilson’s (2013) action research where she attempted to flip her classroom is that she suggests that what she implemented was not totally a flipped classroom:

Although I have attempted to ‘‘flip’’ my classroom, what I have achieved is really a half- or three-quarters flip. I have removed much, but not all, lecture content from the course. (pg. 197)

This raises the idea that a flipped classroom is a binary entity – it is either flipped with no teacher delivery of knowledge or it is not. This I disagree with. Flipped teaching is just another tool which teachers should embed into their lessons when and where appropriate. Especially at post-16 level it would be difficult (impossible?) to completely flip ones lessons and expect all learners to assimilate all of the knowledge of A Level  outside of the class.

The Power of Blogging

For the best part of a decade I have been using blogs to stretch my students and have given several lectures, INSETS or workshops on the topic. This started with PsychBLOG in 2007 where I hoped to provide wider reading and current research for my students – now a site getting ~25,000 views a month. Moving on our department has had a blog and posted notes and extra tasks for the last four years with great success.

Blogging software is becoming more advanced with each  day and now it takes nothing more than a few clicks to create your own part of the internet. There are really an infinite number of uses for blogs within the field of education: writing and collating new and relevant news for your students, giving students a summary of what was covered in that past week, leaving homework assignments, and so many others. Not only can you write your blog posts but students, other teachers and colleagues can comment on your writing and start discussions about what was raised.

There are many kinds of blogging software but the two most popular ones are WordPress and google’s Blogger. Both of these sites allow you to set up your own blog online and post articles or general musings through a web-based interface allowing access wherever you have the Internet. If used well blogs can provide to be a central part of teaching and independent learning, however, general rules of web etiquette still apply and all users need to be aware of this.

With this in mind, I decided that a blog would make an excellent platform for my flipped classroom

Jamie’s Flipped…

I’ve written before about flipped classrooms and how you can flip your classroom with Resourcd. This year I have partially flipped my classroom with one flipped task each week for students to complete over the weekend before their first session of the week – you can see it at jamiesflipped.co.uk or @jamiesflipped. I talked a little about my experiences of my flipped classroom at a ‘teachmeet‘ back in October (notes and video here)

My approach to flipped learning involved giving students a ‘task’ each week to compete which introduced the topic for the next week. This flipped task involved reading a chapter (a few pages) from their course reader, watching a video clip and completing a quick multiple-choice quiz (see the gallery for screenshots).

One reason the flipped experiment was so successful was the addition of the quiz each week. This ensured that I could monitor the completion of the tasks. It is also good to stand by the classroom door and know before the students arrive who has not completed their homework task. After a few weeks the students knew there was no escaping it.

As well as the flipped tasks, each week I would publish the work that was going to be completed in class, the powerpoint and extension tasks on Jamie’s Flipped. I was surprised how many students actually read the articles, watched the videos or completed the extra tasks. Many commenting that they would do them on the bus on the way into college or while sat watching television.

At the first consultation evening of the year I canvased opinion as to my new approach and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive with students stating that they liked the format of the tasks, it was more ‘fun’ than usual homework, and that they found the lessons easier as they had an underlying knowledge about what was going to be covered. More than this it gave me more time in class to complete tasks and develop my students understanding of the content and experiment with other activities that I would not usually have had time for.

My experience of ‘flipping’ my classroom this year has been a really positive one and it is something that I will continue to develop and use in future years. As well as all the benefits of the flipped classroom my students know that all of their resources, homework and guidance is going to be ‘on flipped’. They know where to go if they miss a lesson to get the resources, and where to get extension exercises from when revising. It has required an investment of time – but nothing horrific – and now that I have the lessons for this year, as with everything in teaching, I can adapt and reuse these next year.

Flipping great!


I have had loads of emails and tweets from people that would like to flip their classroom but don’t know where to start.

Here is a short (~15 minute) video that I have made that will take you from nothing to having a blog with your first flipped task containing text for your students to read, a document for them to download, a video for them to watch from youtube and a quiz to check their progress.

Here are links that I mention in the screen-cast:

resourcd.com – teacher resource sharing site
resourcdblogs.com – where it all takes place
wordpress.com / blogger.com / edublogs.com – other sites you can set up a blog
If you are considering flipped learning or just giving your students a different type of homework once in a while then this could be an excellent opportunity to experiment.

I could have spent hours talking about wordpress and all the ins-and-outs of it – so it might feel a little rushed. The best thing you can do it set yourself up a blog and spend an hour experimenting and seeing what you can achieve.

Let me know how you get on

Post original written on jamiedavies.co.

Ofsted Prep: How 5 good habits can lead to excellent teaching and learning

I recently had an observation with my line manager. I used to dread observations, especially when being judged by an expert teacher. I think the thing that even the most experienced teachers fear is an Ofsted inspection. Having received positive feedback for my recent lesson observation, I looked back on what I did and realised that most of it was automated, I do these things every lesson without thinking.

I came to learn about these techniques through our head of CPD (@HFletcherWood) whose numerous techniques come from the books of Doug Lemov and also talks and inset by Dylan William (See Youtube for a taster). By automating these good habits, we can free ourselves (literally and mentally) to address student’s queries more effectively. Since the beginning of the year, I have managed to automate 5 techniques which have had a huge impact on my teaching:

1) Start the class with a “Do Now”

This should have a low threshold for entry and plenty of room for growth. My example was simply to state what you like/dislike about the following posters and to suggest improvements.


2) Positive framing (Catching them when they’re good)

By using positive framing; only announcing names of people who were doing the right thing, it encourages those who are slow to start. “I can see James has started jotting down some ideas…I can see Megan has put one point for improvement”. Within 30 seconds, everyone is settled, they all have opinions and are scribbling away. This is the most challenging class in the school. Those who looked like they had finished were asked to suggest improvements to the posters or think of general rules to make the posters better.

Compare that to negative framing where you call out people’s names for being slow to start, “Ryan, you’ve been in here 5 minutes and you still haven’t got out a pen…Janet, why are you walking around?”. This type of framing adds a negative vibe to the lesson and may also lead to confrontation.

3) No hands up and no opt out

Asking only students who put their hands up is probably one of the worst habits you can get into according to Dylan William. The shyer students never get to contribute, those who are feeling a bit lazy will simply opt out and those with their hands up will get frustrated when you don’t pick them. Using nametags or lollipop sticks on the other hand keeps the class on their toes.

Source: goddividedbyzero.blogspot.com 

In combination with Doug Lemov’s “No opt out”, it ensures that all students will contribute when asked to give an answer. If a student answers “I don’t know”, you can respond with “I know you don’t know, I just want to know what you think”. Every student has something in their head. If they’re still hesitant, simply reinforcing that there is no right or wrong answer will build their confidence and even the shyest students will usually contribute an answer.

Extra tip: There are times when the question is so difficult that there is a good 30-40% of students who do not know the answer and do not even know where to start to think. In these situations, it is a good idea to do a “Think-Pair-Share”. A think pair share with a written outcome means you can quickly see if the majority now have an answer to give or if you need to go from pairs to fours to widen the pool further.

4) Student routines

All the aforementioned are teacher routines. As a Computing teacher, you will appreciate that we have one big distraction in front of every student, their own screen. For some teachers, they dread laptops or a lesson in the Computer lab as it just leads to students going on Facebook. Social networks aren’t even blocked in our school, but a student has never gone on a social network in any of our classes as far as I can recall simply because the consequences are so severe. Some teachers also find it difficult to get students attention. I would recommend asking students to close their laptop screens to 45 degrees on a countdown of 3-2-1. Some people call this “pacman screens”, I’ve heard of teachers literally holding up a hand in the shape of a pacman which seems quite novel and efficient. I just call it “45″-efficiency in routines is important!

Source: itnews.com.au

By having routines for handing out folders, getting students’ attention, you make your life as a teacher much easier. Expectations are clear and students do not need to think about their actions, they just do it and in turn you’re making their lives easier. By having clear consequences for not following the routines, most students are quick to latch on.

5) Ending with an exit ticket

Ending with an Exit ticket is the quickest way to find out what students have learnt in your lesson. No student can leave the room before giving you their exit ticket. With these little slips (No smaller than a Post-It Note and no bigger than A5) you can quickly spot misconceptions and it also helps plan the start of your next lesson. It’s one of the most efficient forms of assessment. Some teachers sort these exit tickets into piles, one for those who will be rewarded with housepoints next lesson, one which is the average pile and the last pile is the one where students simply “did not get it”. The last group can also be pulled up for a quick lunchtime mastery/catchup session before your next lesson with the class. As mentioned earlier, these piles go directly to inform your planning. Very quickly you can plan for the top and the bottom.

Closing thoughts

When you get the dreaded Ofsted call, remember that there is no way that any teacher can change their teaching style for one lesson observation without seeming un-natural about it. The kids spot it, your observer spots it and you just end up running around the classroom sweating whilst trying to do a load of things you’ve never done before. Yes, I’ve been there loads of times, in fact probably for every single observation in my first 6 years of teaching! It took a school culture which does not believe in “performing for observations” or “pulling out an outstanding lesson with lots of gimmickery” which really changed my practice. The most important lesson I’ve learnt this year (mainly from my amazing head of CPD), is that in order to be excellent, you have to practice (and practise) excellence everyday. As your good habits become automated, you end up freeing up some of your mental capacity and therefore you are able to do even more for your students.

Paperless. Well, almost…
February 2, 2014
Image by flickr.com/photos/featheredtarImage by flickr.com/photos/featheredtar

“It is important to remember that educational software, is only one tool in the learning process. Neither can be a substitute for well-trained teachers, leadership, and parental involvement.” – Keith Krueger

I wonder to what extent we agree with this quote from Krueger? Most definitely for me, technology and ICT has a huge role in enhancing learning and teaching within our classrooms. In my opinion, it should be an integral part of lessons, meaningfully delivered by great teachers and not something added on, to tick a box. ICT can, most definitely, enhance lessons for pupils but can it also help teachers to work smarter?

When Santa was kind enough to treat me to an iPad for Christmas, I must admit, my main motivation for choosing this particular gift was the possibilities it might provide within my Art and Design classroom and not so that I could waste hours of my personal life to Candy Crush or Netflix. My primary interest was in the use of Idoceo as a tool for tracking and monitoring, having heard so much about it from fellow art educational ‘tweeters’ south of the border. I hoped that this app might finally be what I’d been looking for in terms of a way to visually record pupil progress within Art and Design. Let’s just say I got a lot more than I bargained for…

Initially it took a wee while to get the hang of Idoceo’s functionality and the wide range of ways in which it can be used. I started by inputting all my class data for each year group, using the really helpful website tutorials as guidance. Very quickly, I was up and running and visualizing the power which this app could have in transforming learning and teaching within my classroom. On Day 1, I was keen to show off my new toy to my Higher pupils and explain how I was now able to photograph their artwork, essentially tagging this under their name within the class register. Pupils were keen to have their work photographed and it instantly helped capture their progress at a given point. This was helpful for me to later look back on and instantly see pupil improvement visually but also to aid feedback discussions with pupils on how to improve work and identifying next steps. As I became more confident, I was able to quickly work around other classes photographing their paintings, graffiti ideas boards, and recording evidence of learning. The app has allowed me to record written comments about pupil progress or to record video or audio feedback to aid discussions with pupils. I have yet to encounter how powerful this will be during parent’s evenings, however I have already found it particularly useful during a one to one meeting with a concerned parent. At the touch of the screen, I was able to easily show the parent the progress of her child’s Expressive unit and the areas identified as next steps.

I have now found myself using the Idoceo app to record attendance, homework and test scores quickly and easily. Tonight I sat and did my planning for the week within the schedule for each class, and my paper planner has literally become defunct. At last week’s staff meeting I swapped my notepad and colourful gel pens for my iPad and challenged myself to use technology instead. This actually saved me time because I was able to quickly email my notes from the meeting to absent colleagues within the department instead of then spending another 10 minutes typing up an email. I now write my daily ‘to do’ list within the app and can set reminders for specific classes. Last week, I also purchased a lightening to VGA adapter and this has further opened up the possibilities as now I can use my interactive whiteboard to project my iPad for all pupils to see. This came in handy last Thursday when I had prepared a range of visual resources to inspire pupils and added them as a note to the class pinboard within the app. I was then easily able to share this with the whole class on the projector as opposed to finding the images on iPad and then emailing them to my school account to access. My own next steps are now to uncover the possibilities for capturing all of this data and producing an overall pupil report which can be printed, saved or emailed to parents or staff in order to allow others to view and understand progress. You could say I’m converted. So much potential to not only effectively record pupil evidence and progress of learning but more than that, to allow meaningful discussion with pupils, parents and other staff in order to improve.

I’ll be the first to admit that for me it was a challenge to give up my notepad and coloured gel pens of which I am so protective off. Initially, I found myself doubling my workload by planning in more than one place; on both my iPad as well as a paper copy almost like a comfort blanket. I found it difficult to let go of my previous need to have everything written down on paper, however it really is amazing how quickly I am adapting. And once I was completely comfortable with the app’s ability to back up data to Dropbox, Googledrive or iCloud, I felt a bit more reassured. Now I feel like I truly am working smarter.

However, I suppose I’m still very much at the start of my journey towards being paperless. Whilst I can see the huge potential of an app such as this due to its ease of use and instant ability to record, track and monitor pupil progress visually, in video or audio format, I do however feel challenged by the assortment of systems we have in place for doing this. In today’s world, I think it’s vital that we are working smarter not harder, and are using systems which are integral to learning and teaching. Currently, within my department we use Seemis as a whole school tracking system, however we also have a departmental approach to tracking and monitoring as we feel the Seemis system does not work effectively or provide enough information for us as a department. Now I have found the possibilities of Idoceo, I feel that by far this is app is the most useful and effective form of tracking and monitoring for the department. But surely it cannot be productive to have three different systems in place? In addition, the obvious cost implications of using Idoceo as a department tool would require the purchase of iPads, however I am determined not to let that daunt us.

We still have lots to discuss, lots to try out and lots to learn before I believe we as a department are in a position to decide on our most effective method of tracking and monitoring. However, I do believe that whilst iDoceo is most definitely not a substitute for effective teachers, strong leadership and parental involvement as Krueger suggests, it is indeed a very effective tool in capturing effective everyday interactions with pupils. And that, in my opinion, can only be a good thing.

Using Canva in the Classroom

or “Class-pic Civilization” Sorry about the pun.

I tried using Canva.com in the classroom with my AS Classical Civilization group today. Part of what they need to learn for the exam is key quotes from each book of the Iliad, and I wanted to find a way to make the quotes more memorable. The text is written in the Greek Epic Poetry style, and not all that easy to memorize.

I decided to try using Canva.com, a new design website, which is free to use to have the students make graphic representations of the quotes. The website has great flexibility in how the backgrounds, images, text and formatting can be manipulated, as well as a large selection of free creative commons images that can be imported. It also has the facility to upload images, so the graphics you produce can look really polished and professional. You can use the templates provided, of which there are many and produce work only using content from the website. Here are some examples of my students work using the content from the website:










You can also import images from your documents, or other sources if you need to produce more specific content. Here are some examples of my students doing that:










There is a lot of creative freedom in the graphic you can produce here, and I think it could be used to great effect in many subjects. The plan is next lesson I will have had these printed out, and the class is going to arrange the quotes in the order they appear in the text. A nice way to make a very dense text visual, which I hope will assist in them learning the quotes.

Just a quick post, but I was really impressed with the work that they produced. What do you think, how else could you use this tool in your classroom?


Cross Posted from createinnovateexplore.com

Little boys lost
January 23, 2014
Boys by flickr.com/photos/mtsofanBoys by flickr.com/photos/mtsofan

How can we help white working class boys? By Jonathan Ovenden

Only 26 per cent of white working class boys on free school meals achieve five or more GCSEs, including English and maths, when compared to the national average of 63 per cent.

I know that there is much, much more to this figure than what happens in the classroom – family background, the aspirations of parents, deprivation – but those challenges do not stop us wanting things to change.

And things can indeed change. When I was a boy at school, girls achievement was often well below boys, and yet we all know how much the expectations and achievements of girls have changed in the intervening years.

Likewise, some progress is being made with the lowest achievers today too. In December, the DfE reported that the attainment gap between lower and higher achievers had been narrowed by three per cent in maths at primary level; demonstrating that the hard work is paying off.

However, there is always room to do more, and our experience with schools is showing that certain types of technology can help, particularly with boys.

At the coal face
David Godfrey, is a principal of two schools in Northumberland, both with over 50 per cent of children on FSM. The former coal mining region is predominantly white working class and many families are third generation unemployed. He is no stranger to raising the achievement and aspirations of lower achieving boys and has given us some tips for readers of this blog to consider:

1. Reward success frequently
It doesn’t take long for a child who is finding learning a challenge to start developing a belief in failure, negative self-image and a sense of helplessness – all things that can be detrimental to their long-term success in school and beyond. As David puts it, “Boys are motivated by competition, but when they do not win, they can feel like failures.”

Online learning programmes can help as they provide regular feedback for small victories when children are studying independently, meaning boys get the sensation that they are ‘winning’. Small successes lead to confidence which in turn breeds further success.

2. Personalise learning
If the right tools are chosen, they can help tailor learning to the individual so the teacher does not have to spend hours doing so. “Personalised learning is an expectation of schools but in reality, is difficult to achieve,” explains David. “The right e-learning technology, however, can help teachers diagnose issues and then present learning materials that are relevant to that child’s exact needs.”

3. Make the content – and the delivery – relevant to boys
“Technology is a fantastic enabler. It pushes many of the buttons that motivate boys and develops many of the skills we need to encourage in lower ability learners,” says David. It also encourages independent learning, something that many hard to reach pupils struggle with. Deliver a lesson on ‘bossy’ verbs via an iPad and a student suddenly wants to learn.

Think about what topics interest boys too. Girls seem to be able to adapt to most types of content, but boys less so and so it is key that the material appeals to their likes and dislikes.

4. Home help
The advantage of using online learning materials to help raise achievement is that parents can get involved too. “Parents hold the key to a child’s achievement, so anything that offers the ability to share results or activities with parents is ideal,” says David.

By choosing online learning technologies that are suited to this hard-to-reach group, you can have an impact on their achievement that will reap rewards beyond improved results. Happier pupils, more engaged parents and even more empowered teaching staff to name but a few.

Jonathan Ovenden is a director at vision2learn who will at Bett 2014 (stand F346), if you wish to discuss these issues further.

Flipping Maths!
Another Flip adapted from flickr.com/photos/82684220@N00Another Flip adapted from flickr.com/photos/82684220@N00

Time after time in my classroom I run out of time. I then ask pupils to complete tasks at home that are extensions of the work done in class to stretch them and help them progress in their learning. This is the way it has always been, instruction in class, practice and then homework to consolidate, but what if this idea of what is best is turned completely on its head? You’d get pupils engaging in well thought out and prepared instruction at home, coming into class prepared to engage in activities and, most importantly, pupils get far more time working with their teacher on more conceptual and challenging work. Well… this is the idea behind the flipped classroom and I’m trying it out!

The idea for me came from speaking with a colleague who had been to a session on this at #pedagoowonderland. That one conversation was enough to have created my first screencast lesson within a week and have two of my colleagues involved too.

The principles of this approach are that the homework prior to a lesson will be that pupils watch a screencast lesson that I’ve prepared and take notes. The lesson will have a couple of built in quick questions at the end so that they have attempted something before the class. To do this, I’ve used www. screencast-o-matic.com and recorded my Promethean flipcharts. This allows me to use a familiar visual for the pupils and the ability to write over each screen as I would usually. I record my voice over this using a microphone plugged into the computer. This is our first ever attempt of a flipped lesson that I prepared and my colleague has delivered, enjoy! (The sound before about 2 minutes in is a bit dodgy, stick with it)

So what happens when they appear in class? The plan is to reflect on what they learnt form the video and discuss how we would apply it. This should give us the opportunity to engage the pupils in higher quality dialogue about the learning as they will have had time to reflect on it and absorb it. Also, it will hopefully allow us to provide more complex and conceptual tasks to do in the classroom where they are supported by their peers and the teacher.

This is what we are trying at the moment and it would be great to hear from people who have flipped their classroom or are trying it out just now as well.