27 Nov

Apps for Good – Inquiry led learning?

The Apps for Good programme was developed to link industry experts with schools to give pupils the chance to create their own apps – you can find out more here.

For by first 'blog' entry I thought i'd investigate how Apps for Good has worked for my primary class.

I went into the Apps for Good programme for many reasons:

  • developing my own practice
  • giving the children a real challenge and genuine purpose whilst developing new skills
  • challenging the school – raising the profile of technology within the school community.

I wanted to explore the curriculum in a manner that would give the pupils something real to work with – I figured Y6 deserve something special to focus on…

The Apps for Good site organises it's lessons in a very specific way:

  • An online diary for pupils to record thoughts and any questions – 'assignments'
  • Presentations and expert video ready to go
  • Clear targets and direction for the teacher – e.g. 4 sections to a module with clear time for reflection

This organisation has meant that delivery of the programme is a simple task, both teacher and pupils aware of expectations. From my point of view, as long as I have reviewed where we need to be by the end of that module it is a matter of facilitating access to the subject matter. My role is reduced to organising the resources and enabling discussion. Something that I thought I would have trouble with. In fact, we can call on experts to support us in the more technical aspects of the course, they can support through skype if need be.

This is beginning to have some interesting consequences for my own thinking – it is rapidly becoming a genuine inquiry led development. Learners directing themselves is not new and 'flipped classrooms' is the latest term. That is not to say that my classroom is 'flipped' – it's not – however the children are definitely dictating the direction of this project. They tell me when they have moved on, they notify me that they have finished an assignment and, as yet I have not had to insist on a deadline. They are self organising, and will go back and review video when they have to.

A random encounter in twitter led me to this blog, (thanks @eddykayshun) and to consider the thoughts of Sugata Mitre. His now near-famous 'hole in the wall' computer experiment kick started the SOLE debate. Is the self-organised learning environment something which I am experiencing now?

That is not to say that the concept of completely self directed learning is something I am happy with… However it has been great fun to explore a new way of leading learning. It helps of course that the technical element of the Apps For Good programme is so well thought out.

My thoughts:

  • Setting online diary 'assignments' has really freed up the classroom, and the children are beginning to work independently of teacher instruction.
  • The children have really begun to move into their roles – as they decided how their team would be developed, and how they would meet their challenges.
  • The children look forward to, and enjoy watching 'expert' video – time will tell for how they react to visiting experts. However they will rewatch the video, and even presentations when responding to the online diary.

Worth mentioning that currently all of this is done in school time, with school resources. I'm still not convinced when pupils insist they have all manner of electronics at home nor am I convinced that setting homework will yield anything at all.





Apps for Good – Award Winners 2013

What can we learn from SOLE? – Shuttleworth Foundation

We need schools, not factories – Sugata Mitra


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23 Nov

Speaking and Listening

The iPad can be used in many ways to develop and promote a wide variety of speaking and listening activites. Although having one in the classroom means the teacher can record conversations and share them – there are some great apps out there which can promote language and encourage listening.

Explain Everything

I have talked about this app extensively – it really is great for all kinds of activites. Take a photograph and ask the children to record their description. Use short videos and ask children to narrate what action is taking place. Children can create instruction video for activities such as cooking or art. The emphasis here is in not needing to get it right, they can re-record or try again on the next slide. You can then use the video within the lesson.

Casestudy : lesson objective was to develop a persuasive argument – children were asked to take part in a debate about bullying – they had to pitch their idea for an antibullying campaign. Using the app they could illustrate their idea, and explain it in detail orally. They had a model the teacher had created and created a wishlist (or success criteria) they were then able to give each other feedback on their ‘pitch’ for the campaign.

Story Building – Developing Writing

Interacting with books with My Story World.

I have discussed using the iPad for writing here – it is a great tool for collecting ideas, creating plans and collaborating on writing. However the oral sequencing of events, retelling a story and rehearsing sentences are all valubale skills that can be practised and made fun with the iPad. Especially for younger children. The app Puppet Pals can be used to act out scenes in a story. The app Story Builder is also great, especially as it encourages the formation of full and correct sentences by asking questions. There are many interactive books as well which encourage the retelling and sequencing of stories, sucb as Me Books, My Story World and the excellent Collins Big Cat series.

Puppet Pals – the fairy tale character set contains characters many children will be familiar with.

Case study : retelling stories – as a guided reading activity the children were asked to retell a fairy tale they had been reading. They had read this in class and could choose any way they wanted to do this. Using the app Puppet Pals HD they could retell the story and explore the character interaction.

Skill Building

Speaking and listening relies on children developing their confidence from an early age, developing the standard of use English so that they can make themselves understood and playing with language features such as rhetorical questions. The iPad can also be used for the children to produce their own video and to learn to give feedback to each other.

  • Use the iPad to record short video – it could be a book review or answering questions. Encourage the use of ‘correct’ language and model the standard you want.
  • The use of technical language within subjects such as science or maths can be encouraged by asking children to create video for a plenary which explains their findings or solutions to a problem


Using Garage Band


Garage Band has lots of uses! The recording function works well for podcasting and straightforward recording, however you can also change your voice, add sound effects and use percussion to tell a story. My tip? Get some headphones for the class!


Case study : using the podcast facility the children recorded a diary linked to the 2012 Olympics. This dairy, which was meant to be informal and context-specific was then developed into a written account, with each child choosing the section they wanted to develop further.

Have you had any success with a particular app or activity? Please add it to this Padlet!


22 Nov

iPad and Learning Needs

PocketPond delivers incredibly realistic sound and images.

I often get asked about apps for Special Educational Needs – and in schools where I work the iPad has overtaken other options for supporting many pupils’ learning needs. The reasons are many, but the ease of use and the range of apps seems to be key. It quickly becomes a toolkit for staff to use with children with a variety of needs.

There are tools on the iPad which you can use without purchasing apps, but there will always be apps that can support a specific need. For example you could use the iPad to take video of the lesson to support the pupil, or create a visual timetable filled with familiar friends – these sorts of activities just become easier with an integrated device.

There are however loads of specific apps – and here I bring together some that we have found the most useful. It’s worth thinking though that specific subject needs such as times tables learning can be addressed with a focus using games or apps.

Beginning with Explain Everything – this amazing app is perfect for children who struggle with concentration, sentence construction or who may need support to complete tasks.

  • You can record and annotate whole or portions of video, leaving the iPad with the pupil or adult support.
  • They could record their work, for example orally explaining their solution to a problem rather than writing.
  • They (or support) can record their own work, photograph what they have done, use the app to annotate.
  • Specific support such as recording letter formation, or oral sentences for child to use.

The key is that Explain Everything allows you to forward on and use the video so easily, so stills can be printed, video emailed, used in a different app or uploaded to the server.

Apps which allow you to draw and play, such as Sand Drawing (pictured) or Doodle Buddy can be used for motor skills and letter formation. Memory games such as Memory are also good fun

Language and Vocabulary

You can try dictation such as Dragon Dictation – but they can be unreliable. Far more milage can be had from structured language, and there are lots of apps which combine recording with video or story prompts.

Understanding Inferences

Understanding Inferences is one of my favourites, and more so because you can buy the physical cards too. The app allows you to select specific types of inferences as well as multiple players if you want to keep score.




Story Builder, one of many apps from Mobile Education which develop language, is perfect for exploring story, allowing you to record a story sequence verbally with a series of picture prompts. The recorded story could then be used for writing.

There are also plenty of opportunities to use the iPad for conversation, social stories and vocabulary through interactive books and apps such as the Toca Boca range. The Night Zookeeper Drawing Torch app is one which is great for discussion, language and conversation. Using simple instructions and a ‘mission’ style the pupils create elements to the story.

Understanding Emotion

You could create your own flashcards for emotion and behavioural support using versatile app MadPad – which will let you truly personalise the flashcards or use specific apps such as Artikpix to create a unique set of flashcards and language linked images. Other story linked apps such as Positive Penguins can be great fun and support emotion recognition.



The great thing about the iPad is how it can be used as a tool – it can be collaborative or personalised! I hope that this post can be of some inspiration to others!


Further Links


Wandsworth CLC iPad in SEN environment report

Inspiring personal story about the iPad as a communication tool.

Apps for Children With Special Needs

iPad and Personalised Learning


17 Nov

Reviewing the Computing Curriculum

We’ve now had around 3 months of playing time with the new curriculum and have begun to reflect on our progress – what has this meant for the teachers and pupils at the school?

Working with ‘Scratch’


If you’re planning for the new curriculum, maybe this post can help organise your thinking.



What we’ve done:

  • Plan – long term! Share a two/three year ‘vision’ with the governing body – what do you want ICT provision to look like? Include infrastructure details as well as curriculum needs. How will you bring digital technologies into the classroom and teach the new ‘computing’ requirements?
  • Encourage teachers to use technology – a video competition linked to a school theme is a great wayof encouraging staff to play with technology. Look at an ‘old’ style ICT unit of work and adapt it together. You need them to see why they might use it, it shouldn’t be forced in an unnatural way!
  • Blog! Once a couple of year groups were doing it everyone wanted it! It’s a great way of showcasing work, sharing news a d giving a purpose to writing. Parents and pupils love it as well!
  • Introduce new applications in small jumps – for example: work with Year 1 to introduce some simple apps for basic introduction to coding, and they then share their work with the rest of the school. Year 5 and 6 worked with other programmes and then they could do the same.
  • Use clubs and extra curricular activities to give children the confidence and show staff what can be done! We have used Code Club for a while, and teachers will regularly drop in to see what’s happening – it’s really supported the ICT coordinator to develop their own skills.

What we’ve learnt:

    • Start with what the technology you have in school (unless it’s dire!) Merely buying more devices wasn’t helpful. The teachers needed to understand what we were trying to do, and the shift in curriculum use alongside computing did not mean we needed a class set of laptops in every classroom. We started with getting teachers into the ICT suite, or using laptops/iPads for an appropiate purpose – actually planning lessons rather than it being an add-on.


  • Introduce e-safety properly, and get evidence of the lessons taking place. There is no longer any excuse for not taking e-safety seriously. Deliver a lesson to your staff so they can see how it is a standalone unit of work. Bring parents along with you through parent briefings.



  • We’ve coped! By using teachers who were already confident or willing, and sharing their experiences more and more teachers are beginning to experiment with simple coding and applications that they may not have used before. Modelling and sharing expertise within the school has really worked.


What we’ll do next:


  • Whole staff training – some insets are already planned for specific programmes and applications – not too much, small chunks!



  • Share what is working – and what isn’t! So far, keeping evidence and providing feedback in line with other school policies seems to be a challenge – but we have time to iron out these difficulties.



  • Link! There are industry and charitable groups out there that can help. We need to build these links!



There really is lots of help out there – here’s a pick of some that I have used:











Posted with BlogsyPosted with Blogsy

16 Nov

Puppet Pals

Puppet Pals is the app that seems to inspire the most fun when I show it to teachers, the creativity appears to be endless and it is incredibly easy to pick up! A quick google search will quickly show hundreds of videos that have been created with this incredibly versatile app.

To get the most from it though you do need the Director’s Pass – as whilst the basic is free – paying £1.99 means you really open up the possibilities.

Puppet Pals Mobile App from Rain on Vimeo.

To explain briefly Puppet Pals HD allows you to set up a ‘puppet show’ using a background, and populating it with characters. The app will then record your actions, allowing you to tell a story. The backdrop and characters can either be chosen in-app or created from photo’s from the photo roll. That’s one of the key changes purchasing the directors pass will give you.
It is important to stress that this app is not complicated, and will not take long for either you, or the children to pick up. I have used this app to retell a fairy tale with reception age children, and they have all produced something within the lesson. It really does create lots of opportunities for speaking and listening.
However Puppet Pals has many other uses beyond retelling a story.
In Maths Puppet Pals can be used to give drama to a real life problem, created either by yourself or during the lesson. Because Puppet Pals is so easy to use you can create great looking animations which can be used to explain how the children solved a problem.
Telling stories is very natural to Puppet Pals and because the results are so quick it can be used within other subject areas, retelling dilemmas for PHSE – creating mini e-safety video’s for Anti-Bullying Week.
History you can bring together props and actors to create stories. As the app lets you photo characters, just take a photo of the prop as a character…


13 Nov

Explain Everything

Explain Everything is the App that still amazes teachers. It’s the app that shows why the tablet computers are so popular in the classroom, and just how much can be done.

It’s an app that will has many uses, if you only have the one iPad or a full class set!

Explain Everything 2.0 from MorrisCooke on Vimeo.

As a quick explanation Explain Everything let’s you do just that – Explain Everything. It has an interactive whiteboard feel to it, which records all sound and movement that takes place within the app. It can also move on in scenes, meaning that you can record different stages of the learning.

It’s full integration with other apps on the iPad, and export functionality mean that it will quickly become an important part of the classroom!! I regularly upload the video to you tube so it can be shared, used again or embedded into the website!

Share work and model editing using Explain Everything.

Share work and model editing using Explain Everything.


Language and Literacy – In guided reading lessons, or lessons where you are pulling text apart, ask the children to explain an image, or a character, it can be done very quickly. Simply ask them to take a photo of the image, or the illustration and speak over it. Text can be added, but it is not the main feature if the app, and if you like the children could draft out their thoughts first (or group write).

In Maths, problem solving takes on a different feel when the children can write, explain and annotate how they are solving problems. Take a photograph of the problem and simply explain how they solved it. The great thing about this is that you can use these short videos for plenaries and to promote discussion amongst the children. The language and collaboration becomes a real focus for the lesson.

Geography – compare and contrast two localities by finding them on google earth and taking a snapshot of the pictures, then build up the explanations. Use atlases and maps to highlight other key information. Incidentally this works really well with local geography, use google earth to zoom in on landmarks, or the school and children can draw over their route to school. Capturing the language as the children do this at the same time.

Science – Record the experiments and their thoughts – Explain Everything lets them take short bursts of video, photos, annotate their experiments and record their evaluations. The finished product can be polished up and shared, or used by the pupils to support them writing up their findings.



I really cannot recommend this app enough, even recording simple letter formations for handwriting practice, or creating short phonic recordings that children can then use with other adults.