19 Jan

#BlappSnapp – My Story World

#BlappSnapp is a great idea by Julian Wood (@ideasfactory) as a way of sharing great apps,either Android or ioS, for education.

As you know, I rarely push specific apps – but I do get asked for recommendations regularly and have some here.

For my #BlappSnapp I thought I’d examine the use of story telling app My Story World.
My Story World is, at it’s most basic is a Story Telling App, the free download comes with three versions of Grimms’ Fairy Tales. It is possible to create an account for access to all stories on the iPad – and I should mention that I did work with the developers and so recieved these accounts for the schools.

Concentrate on the ‘free’ stories however, they are told delightfully, with the usual options to ‘Play and Learn’ (simple questions) or simply ‘Read to Me’. It works really well over AirServer, and is intuitive enough for Year 1 and Year 2 to work independently.

Stories have a distinctive style and the occasional modern twist!

Once the stories are finished the children get to recreate a version of their own using simple characters and a recognisable structure. The ‘Make a Story’ option allows the children to build a story using a framework supplied by the app. They set the scene, create a ‘beginning’, ‘middle’ and ‘end’.
They can place characters, move them, voice them and act out a story – similar to Puppet Pals.


It’s possible to resize and change the pose of the character.


The reason why I’m sharing this app is really simple: it seems to fit a ‘gap’ that teachers ask for. Stories that can be explored and ask simple inference questions as they go and then a creative activity!

How can it be used?
  • It can be used whole class or with groups – great for a guided reading activity.
  • It fits in really well with KS1 literacy- story telling, planning, sequencing and so on.
  • Encourage the children to plan their story first, playing with characters and dialogue.
  • Creating an account to access all the stories is great value, and they have a great choice of recogniseable stories with beautiful illustrations!
Of course there are always some improvements that could be made:
  • It would be great to be able to export the made story to the camera roll.
  • The ‘Make a Story’ section is only available once you finish the story, meaning that you need to show the children how to fast forward through the story.
  • As usual it works best if the children know which iPad they are working on… So do number the iPads.


Thanks for reading the #blappsnapp – see others here!


12 Jan

Digital Strategy – Planning for Change

A discussion on the Computing At School website here prompted me to think about how I have gone about changing and introducing change to a digital strategy in school.



Even before I know exactly what I want to do I would always start with a staff meeting – even anonymously posting ideas on to a Padlet – but you can share an audit of skills or examine what they do now.. CPD the needs to be a huge part of your strategy, different staff to access different skills and to share across the school what they are doing.

Curriculum Needs

From there I would look at the curriculum, there is lots of information out there to help with this, and you will need a whole school decision about the curriculum before you commit. However you can begin with a look at what i've done here and also a general look here by @michaelt1979. Lots of support from NAACE here too.

Devices and Resources

Begin with what devices you already have, I think most aspects of the new curriculum can be reached on laptops / computers but the chances are, if you carry out an audit of what resources are in school, you will be able to begin to plan activities which fit with the new curriculum.

From there look for gaps. I'm a fan of a choice of tech in the classroom for group / individual use, but that won't work everywhere. Plot what's missing and begin to budget.

Technical Support

This brings me to one of the most overlooked part of the strategy – technical support and advice! When carrying out an audit of resources use your technical support! Ensure that the devices you do have work properly! Nothing will discourage staff from experimentation than faulty computers or dodgy WiFi. Budget for technical support, especially if you are planning to buy more equipment. Good technical support will also be able to advise on purchases, improving WiFi and to give ideas for curriculum use.

Teacher and Pupil Champions!

Teacher champions will be vital in getting the curriculum up and running, particularly if you are buying new equipment. The ICT coordinator can begin with a project, and then share any success with staff. Pupil Digital Leaders (wide community here) can be trained to use certain programmes then lead that with their class or troubleshoot to support staff. For example how the interactive whiteboards should be set up.

Again CPD will be needed at this stage – share the use of simple programming skills such as Scratch – or regsiter for a Code Club Volunteer here.


My final advice for software s to think creatively! When lesson planning work with staff to find what they want to do and source tools that do that. There is lots and lots of help out there! For example using Google Sketch Up for 3D Design.


There is always plenty of providers ready to offer solutions:

do check with your Local Authority - some source group discounts for licenses. 

Espresso Coding – their answer to the coding elements of the new curriculum.

Purple Mash and their range of 2Simple Software offer solutions as well.

Use iPads – lots of apps support the new curriculum.



05 Jan

Blogging – a useful learning tool?

Since I posted a page which had tips on how to get blogging started in school blogging seems to be increasing in popularity, certainly within the primary schools I work in we have teachers, and pupils, blogging for all sorts of reasons.

More and more research is available on the subject asking about the quality of learning. Researchers seem to be interested in the activities which takes place whilst blogging, and in the collaborative element.

Consider this, from a recent paper in the excellent International Journal of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning ( Alterman & Larusson 2012)

At one level, blogging is an activity composed of writing, reading, and commenting, and at a second level, the students share their thoughts in their own voices. At a third level, over the course of the semester, the student posts and commentary form a commons of information that can be mined later in the semester for other kinds of learning activities. Knowledge creation, distribution, and accumulation are analyzed in terms of student participation at both the level of individual events and from the perspective of an ongoing community

It's worth pointing out that the case study was looking at adult learners who were expected to blog twice a week – however elements can be applied to primary schools. For example comments, and how important it is for learners to give effective comments (feedback) – something we regualrly model to our pupils.

Then there is this article by Tse et al in 2010 – they were interested in how blogging can support children who were learning another language, and summarize why others have been very positive about the efffects of blogging:

Chen and Zhang (2003) found that encouraging blogging (a) allows teachers and student to share information and ideas and (b) lets others comment or respond to their postings. Such feedback encourages writers to think about how they are expressing themselves, and prompts bloggers to amend and update blogs. Such blog interactions not only encourage students to read and write, they also stimulate thinking. Wu and Chen (2006) found that blogging helps to boost the confidence of computer users to learn independently, to share experiences and ideas through blogs and to contribute, if only in tiny ways, to the construction of knowledge.

They point out several postive outcomes for the learning of Chinese and English in their paper, such as the pupils independently seeking out English language sites, the development of different language for different social situations and the manner in which pupils who accessed the English language blogs displayed superior English reading performance. The recommendations from the authors include the very relevant fact that pupils were accessing these sites whether or not we used them in school, so it made social and educational sense to use them, and to curate and identify useful material for the pupils.

Duffy (2008) identified uses of blogs in the classroom from their paper:

  • promote critical and analytical thinking;
  • ƒpromote creative, intuitive and associational thinking;
  • ƒpromote analogical thinking;
  • ƒpotential for increased access and exposure to quality information;
  • ƒcombination of solitary and social interaction

Within a personal academic perspective a blog can support; ƒ

  • reflection on teaching experiences;
  • ƒresources and methodologies for teaching;
  • ƒramblings regarding professional challenges and teaching tips for other academics, and
  • ƒillustration of specific technology-related tips for other colleague.

Within an organizational perspective a blog can support; ƒ

  • a common online presence for unit-related information such as calendars, events, assignments and resources, and an
  • ƒ online area for students to post contact details and queries relating to assessment

Within a pedagogical perspective a blog can support; ƒ

  • comments based on content, literature readings and student responses;
  • ƒ a collaborative space for students to act as reviewers for course-related materials;
  • ƒ images and reflections related to industry placement;
  • ƒ an online gallery space for review of works, writings, etc., in progress, making use especially of the commenting feature;
  • ƒ teachers encouraging reactions, reflections and ideas by commenting on their students' blogs, and
  • ƒ the development of a student portfolio of work

How many of these do you recognise. How many can we use within our schools? And how effective are they? As is mentioned by several authors, we are waiting for the longitundinal data, but the research is beginning to show the uses and the positive outcomes.

As usual I would love to hear of any brilliant examples – I will be updating my own advice to schools soon.



Duffy, P (2008) Engaging the YouTube Google-Eyed Generation: Strategies for Using Web 2.0 in Teaching and Learning – The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong – Electronic Journal of e-learning.


Richard, R & Larusson, J A (2013) Participation and common knowledge in a case study of student blogging International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning June 2013, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 149-187

Tse, S. K., Yuen, A. H. K., Loh, E. K. Y., Lam, J. W. I. & Ng, R. H. W. (2010). The impact of blogging on Hong Kong primary school students' bilingual reading literacy. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(2), 164-179. http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet26/tse.html



03 Jan

Collaborative Learning

I am currently beginning my research for my dissertation and, in part thanks to my experience with the iPad in school, I have decided to focus on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning. Whilst the specifics of my research are yet to be worked out preliminary reading around the subject has proven very interesting and has already got me asking questions about my own teaching.

One of the first really interesting aspects of this is the historical one. Researchers were interested in this topic from the very early days, and many predicted the problems, and the freedoms we are experiencing now. This paper by Roschelle and Pea described how Wireless Internet Learning Devices (WILDs they termed them – catchy!) can be used to improve/augment the classroom for collaborative learning.

We have suggested five WILD application affordances already illustrated by early

handheld CSCL applications: (1) augmenting physical space; (2) leveraging topological

space, of two distinct kinds; (3) aggregating coherently across all students' individual

contributions; (4) conducting classroom performances; and (5) “act becomes artifact

Their work also talks about how teachers talked very favourably about such devices (which back then were items such as palm pilots) but were worried about children going off task, or not paying attention. Sounds familiar?!

Scott et al – in their 2003 paper demonstrate favourable activity such as engagment and participation chiefly when children can interact at the same time – and from their 2003 study they make the following useful recommendations:

  1. Support should be provided for concurrent interaction. The results of this work show that this can help to engage children in a collaborative activity and enable them to participate equally.
  2. Multiple interaction styles should be supported in both hardware and software. This will allow children to explore a variety of collaborative strategies and to choose the most suitable one(s) for the activity and their personalities.
  3. Consider designing collaborative applications for use on a shared display, especially those where the children would benefit from a shared understanding of the workspace (e.g. a spatial learning activity).
  4. The goal of the activity should be considered before choosing a collaborative setting. No collaborative setting is best suited for all situations. As shown above, children who found the collaborative math activity the easiest in the shared-display setting, did not necessarily find it the most enjoyable. Many enjoyed the challenge of communicating in the separated-displays setting. Conversely, if a teacher is trying to coach a child through an activity, sharing a display may help facilitate richer communication to allow them to concentrate on the activity, rather than on trying to understand each other.

These recommendations are very relevant now – designing the technology for the learning rather than the other way round is incredibly important. The talk of a shared display, whether it be interactive whiteboard or iPad screen is also interesting – do we get more talk / more collaboration when children are sharing screens and is it relevant to their learning?

Dillenbourg (1999) has written extensively on the subject and poses many questions that are relevant to teachers:

  • What evidence do we have that collaborative learning is an effective way of learning? How are we measuring this?
  • Do we measure the group as a learning community or the individuals learning? Why?
  • Are we interested in measuring activities such as engagement / participation / off task activity?
  • What will the role of the teacher become? In ten years can we say it has changed? (Probably not)


As an aside my next stop will be Gerry Stahl – and to refine my own research idea.

Thanks for reading!

References – apologies, not all of these are freely available.

Demb A, Erickson, D and Hawkins-Wilding, S (2004) The laptop alternative: Student reactions and strategic implications Computers & Education 43 (4) 383 – 401


Dillenbourg, P. (1999) What do you mean by Collaborative Learning? In P. Dillenbourg (ed) Collaborative Learning : Cognitive and Computational Approaches (PP 1 – 19) Oxford : Elsevier


Miyake, N Computer Supported Collaborative Learning in Andrews, R and Haythornthwaite, C (eds) The Sage Handbook of E-Learning (2007) Sage : London


Roschelle, J and Pea, R. (2002) A Walk on the WILD side: How Wireless handhelds may change computer-supported collaborative learning. International Journal of Cognition and Technology (2002) 1 (1) 145-168


Roschelle, J (2003) Unlocking the learning value of wireless mobile devices. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 19 (3) 260 – 272


Scott, S D, Mandryk, RL and Inkpen, K M (2003) Understanding children's collaborative interactions in shared environments. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning (2003) 19 220-228


Zurita, G and Nussbaum, M (2004) Computer supported collaborative learning using wirelessly interconnected handheld computers. Computers & Education (2004) 289-213