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Monday, 24 August 2015

Use technology to start the new year with a Bang!

As we near the end of the summer break, most teachers will be preparing themselves for the start of another busy year. Many will be thinking of how to start the year to engage and inspire their students! Using technology positively and to its potential, can transform learning in so many ways. I always try to share and promote ways in which technology can do this. For the teacher, technology should eventually save time and in some cases money. The problem for some teachers is that when they embrace technology it doesn't replace something else and becomes another job on top of what seems a never ending pile!

Here are a few ideas for how you can use technology from the start of the year and transform learning in your classroom -

1. Create an online platform for your class

In simple terms... BLOG!!! Blogging has been one if not the most powerful tools in my classroom. I was surprised that it wasn't included in the new curriculum and so many schools don't do it. There are a few myths with blogging that can discourage teachers -
  • It is pricey - You can create a blog for free, PrimaryBlogger will allow you to create a blog for free and you just pay if you want storage. 
  • It is hard to do - Yes initially setting up the blog may take a while but once it is up and running using an app such as Easy Blog Jr makes it incredibly easy to blog from an iPad or iPhone.
  • It is unsafe - Make sure you update your school policy and gain permission from parents to put images on your blog.
Blogging works for so many reasons, this brilliant image from @sylviaduckworth sums up a few - 

If you are blogging, use the blog to replace other tasks. Use it for weekly newsletters and homework tasks. Flip your classroom and create video tutorials that are shared on the blog for children to access prior to the lesson. 

Other alternatives to having a school blog, could be using Google Classroom. This FREE service allows teachers to set up accounts for their class with emails and unlimited cloud storage. It also gives you access to all the google apps including docs, sheets and slides. Here is a quick video all about it - 

Another alternative, if you have access to tablets would be the app Showbie. This fantastic app can turn your classroom paperless, saving you so much time and printing costs. After setting your class up you can set assignments for children to submit, in class or at home, and give feedback in a variety of ways. This video from the fantastic @digitalroadtrip explain how Showbie works, however, the app has been updated since.

The key to a successful blog is an enthusiastic teacher! You have to really make a fuss when children blog at home, introduce a blogger of the week award or get parents involved. Be pro-active in getting your student's work seen, which brings me onto my next point. 

2. Embrace Social Media

If you want your blog to work, you need to get it seen. This means sharing the good work! This can be done by having a class/school twitter and facebook account. You are not encouraging children to use these sites, instead demonstrating safe and positive use by sharing their work with the world. Save time by using tools to automatically link your blog to your twitter or facebook page. The website DLVR.IT provides this service. 

A couple of useful tips - update your policies if you are going to have a school/class twitter or facebook account. Make it clear that it is a one-way communication tool for parents and not a forum for discussion to avoid negative or unnecessary comments.

3. Create a digital portfolio for your class

One of my favourite apps is SeeSaw. This brilliant app allows students and teachers to create digital portfolios to show progression using a range of different media. This can be shared with parents but essentially allows you as a teacher to gather and collect evidence of pupil's learning throughout the year. It is fantastic for certain objectives that cannot be assessed by a written piece of work in a book. For example - 
En4/2.2a    develop positive attitudes to reading, and an understanding of what they read, by:preparing poems and play scripts to read aloud and to perform, showing understanding through intonation, tone, volume and action
Using SeeSaw this can be easily evidence using the iPad camera. Here is a quick tutorial of the app -

4. Integrate Show and Tell with Technology

I was excited to see the release of a Padlet app over the summer and it is a fantastic tool for the classroom. The app/web tool allows you to create interactive online sticky note board that allows anyone to contribute and share ideas relating to the question asked. I have used Padlet for so many different uses including an online Remembrance Sunday wall or a collection of opening lines from children's books

Why not create a padlet wall for show and tell, giving children the ability to upload or create videos or pictures about a trip or object they want to discuss in class. Encourage them to use different apps like adobe voice, vidra or shadow puppets to create a video that can be added to the padlet wall. During the show and tell session in class, display the padlet wall on your whiteboard, watch the content and allow the student to elaborate or do a Q&A. 

5. Start a video diary using 1 second everyday.

The 1 second everyday app is a great way to create a video diary. I have previously blogged about all the possibilities here. Start on the first day using the app to snap different moments throughout the day. Before the day ends, share what you have recorded with your class and ask them to choose which moment will be chosen for that day. This is a great way to promote positive relationships within the class. By the end of the year, you will have a 6 minute video that shows the journey of your class throughout the whole year and provides the children with a great keepsake!

I hope you find these ideas useful and would love to hear how you get on using them in your class. If you are interested in other ways in which technology can raise standards in the classroom, Mr P can provide INSET and training sessions for staff. More details can be found here. 

Monday, 17 August 2015

Epic For Educators - Epic Win!

Epic is an online reading library available on iOS, Android and through the web. It gives you access to a wealth of different online books. Many of the books have a 'read to me' feature that allows children to listen and look at the story.

There is a HUGE range of books available from first readers to non-fiction to enjoy. The app also provides incentives through badges and achievements given when children reach a certain goal.

Probably the best thing about Epic is that for teachers it is completely FREE!

All you have to do is visit the website and create an account and then download the app! Log in once the app is downloaded and you have access to a wealth of online books!

Here is the link to create an account - Epic Website

Here is a link to the iOS app - Epic for iPad


Thursday, 13 August 2015

Social Media Resources - Guest Blog post by Michelle Ainley

Over the last two years there has been significant changes and new policies for how computing, technology and online networks are explored and used in schools; however in July 2015 we saw the new revised version of Keeping Children Safe in Education.

This had me thinking - don’t get me wrong there are some excellent online e-safety activities out there, however none that fully address the issues with social media- both educationally, behaviourally and more specifically how to teach children real skills which keep them safe (and I don’t mean DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS)

Online expertise is a huge spectrum, you may well know of that child in year 2 who know more and can do more online than another child in Year 6, or those children who are left to fend for themselves on mobile devices as the technology has advanced their parents.

So, whilst I pause to breathe and enjoy the summer holiday (and I don’t normally work through my summer holidays I promise!) I began to think of a way to engage in some powerful learning about social media which is accessible for all phases - even EYFS - and here it is.

The sheets I have created are more a structure for questioning and activities to engage in as opposed to a prescriptive independent paper activity. I haven’t included a lesson plan as I’m sure you are fabulous teachers who can make it work for you and also, your school probably has its own planning format. I have however included links to the computing curriculum and the Keeping Safe in Education Document.

I began in my comfort zone with upper key stage 2 - possibly where children begin to explore their online presence more independently. Some of the case study scenarios are completely fictional however many I have taken from the media and real life events to make it more meaningful. The case studies are designed to challenge thinking, I want the children to realise that their actions may not affect them, or only themselves, the scenarios are thought provoking and deal with some deep issues, but I believe that exposure with opportunities to discuss issues are more meaningful than shying away and avoiding key issues.

The key stage one resources begin to teach the children about social media, what apps are, how they are used and how they can be used positively. In the EYFS resources it gives the children the opportunity to be surrounded by vocabulary and images of devices they may encounter every day (such as iPhones) to use in role play activities.

The resources refer to Windows and Apple operating systems as many children are switching between these systems when using mobile devices.

I haven’t included sexting references in my resources as this is something I want to add in at a later date. I also want to further research extremism before I develop a resource for primary to support that. Keep an eye on my TES account for those! (Https://

Instead of using your working school Twitter account, you may also decide to set up a Facebook or twitter account purely for children to navigate around during these lessons, this makes the learning as real as it can be in a controlled environment, a simulation if you like.

Overall, the resources are designed to challenge the children, exposing them to applications, vocabulary and software which they may never have used or seen before.  There are extensive opportunities to discuss social media and how it is used and how to guide children to learn about the issues with online security.

- Thank you so much to Michelle for this! I try to really promote the use of Social Media on my training to engage parents but give children a real purpose for their learning. These resources are a great way to start discussing responsible use of different social media platforms. 

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Why you need Ditty app in your life!

I have seen first hand how powerful music can be in helping children remember facts. For a number of years, our school has used the Number Fun Songs by Dave Godfrey to help children remember important maths facts.  I have previously blogged some ideas for using these in class here.

Last night @Raff31 introduced me to a new app - Ditty. His colleague @lowndees89 was first to share an example and I was quick to download and get playing with it.

It is very simple to use - type a message of 50 characters and choose your tune or jingle and watch the text be transformed and sang to the melody.

This gives the teacher the ability to turn any short fact or instruction into a catchy song which is sure to grab the attention of the children in your class.

There are so many ways in which you can use this app and some of the great people on twitter have already shared plenty!

So plenty of uses for Maths, English and behaviour! Here are a few that I have created -

Thank you to everyone on twitter who shared some examples! Also, check out The Numeracy Shed for some more.

If you use this app make sure you share your examples by tweeting me - @ICT_MrP or posting it on my facebook page -

Monday, 10 August 2015

Google Spotlight Stories - another immersive app to inspire writing!

I am a massive fan of using film to inspire writing in class. I am also fond of immersive apps where children can discover and navigate around a virtual world. Spotlight Stories combine both to give you an amazing immersive movie experience.

The app has a showcase of these wonderful short films that include 3D animation alongside 360ยบ spherical video!

At the minute, there are four films available and I am excited about other films that will be added in the near future.

My favourite is 'Help,' a film where a meteor shower turns into an alien invasion. I can see straight away how this would inspire some amazing writing in upper KS2. What is so interesting is that each child would see something different depending on what or who they focused on when watching the film. It would encourage them to really concentrate and focus on details then rewatch the film again and see something completely new.

The immersive experience would give children so much more to work with if they were to write a recount of the film or descriptive story.

Other films like Windy Day and Buggy Day would be great for KS1.

This will be something I will be using when we get back to school so stay tuned to see what the children produce after being inspired by this fantastic app!

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Bring The New Premier League Season into Class!

Today starts the new Premier League season! Both children and adults up and down the country will be eagerly watching and hoping their teams get off to the best start possible.

What most football fans will have been pondering over for the past couple of weeks is who will make their fantasy football team!

So it got me thinking, why not create a fantasy football league for your classroom or school?

The Fantasy Premier League site allows you to create your own team and league for FREE Once a league has been created, the code can be shared with children to join. There is also an app available too.

You could give a couple of weeks at the beginning of the year for children to sign up and create their team. This could be done at home encouraging parents to get involved or as an ICT lesson. It promotes children to use the internet in a constructive way. There are plenty of other benefits for running a fantasy football league in school - 

  • It is all about the numbers! Children have to handle a simple budget, work out who will best fit their team based on goals, appearances and value.
  • Develops children's decision-making and problem-solving skills.
  • Gives the opportunity to reward and celebrate achievements with weekly awards or certificates.
  • Provides the perfect opportunity for debates and discussions about players, teams and selections backed up with children's access to statistics and facts.
  • Above all, a great way to involve all children, parents and teachers with something fun! 
We will be starting a league at our school and printing certificates weekly for children who gain the most points. Here is how my team will line up -