29 Apr

Using Comic Books in the Classroom


I have regularly used comic books in class, and have been known to buy in bulk from charity shops / ebay – then spend hours trawling them to find suitable and good-condition ones! Happily, it seems tablet computers have made that a thing of the past! The crisp and clear screens are perfect for displaying the comics and they don't suffer from wear and tear!

Comics are useful in a variety of situations – and the 'classic' universes – Batman/Superman/X-Men and so on are very popular and well known with the children.

There are others available though, classic stories in comic form, other characters and less well-known superheroes. This means that, given some ownership, children could find comics that they enjoy and that they may not normally have access to. Forming opinions, reading for pleasure and following long story arcs are all perfectly possible.

Why Comics?

Comics allow for the children to read independently as well as group focus for guided reading. The characters and narrative tend to be well suited to focused work and many of the children are familiar with the setting as they recognise them from movies or games.

  • In guided reading, the visual aspect of comics means that children can practice many skills (inferring, predicting) without worrying too much about the actual text.
  • Use as you would a usual text – the same questioning and activities can still apply.
  • Remember as well that these texts may motivate the more reluctant reader to get involved.
  • Longer stories – Graphic Novels – or adapted stories can also be found on iBooks – searching for Graphic Novels will throw up many intriguing titles.
What apps can be used?


Comics+Kids is a great app which has some brilliant free comics – including the Bone #1 – 'The Map

Comixology also contains many well known issues – but you will need to check the suitability!

Marvel's great app is here – again may not always be suitable for younger children.

The folks over at Me Books also have a great app – Me Comics! I wrote about Me Books here.

Android viewers can be found here

This is by no means an exhaustive list – but do give them a try – ask the children for their opinion! It's a great way to get them interested in their reading!

28 Apr

Fleet Tutors


Online Tutoring from Fleet Tutors – Guest Post

Looking for a way to extend learning beyond the classroom?

Using tutors can be a cost effective way of providing 1:1 support for pupils – and the use of communication technology to support the delivery of these sessions makes perfect sense. For some it makes more sense than time in the library, or revision.

Fleet tutors is one of a growing number of companies who offer a Live OnlineTutoring service delivered by experienced and qualified UK- based tutors. You can contact them on twitter here : @fleettutors

Making use of the internet and communication software such as Skype, the service connects the tutor and the student directly. Linking video, interactive whiteboards and voice, tutors and students are able to interact in a natural and engaging manner. The tutors have established track records of raising standards and work with students throughout the world. The flexibility of the service means that parents and teachers can use tutors with a wide variety of subjects and out of the usual school system.

They have already helped hundreds of thousands of pupils.

Why use Fleet Tutors?


  • It’s Effective. As effective as face-to-face tuition.
  • It’s Convenient. Student can access their tutor and have lessons anywhere.
  • It’s Flexible. The time is used according to the students’ needs and wherever the student happens to be – home, school, university, or travelling.
  • It’s Simple. All you need is a broadband connection and a webcam (ideal).
  • It’s Safe. Live online tutors are CRB checked, interviewed and trained.
  • It’s Fun. Many young people prefer live online tuition (to Face-to-Face) due to their life-long familiarity with computers.


It’s a great way to boost confidence for pupils, prepare for exams or support a specific subject. Please take a look here to find out more.


26 Apr

A scheme of work for Primary Computing?

Do we need a scheme of work for primary computing?

An interesting discussion over on the Computing At School site had me thinking about the various schemes of work that have been made available for Primary Schools over the last year for computing. There seems to be a huge rush to make ‘computing’ as easy as all of the other schemes that are out there for aspects of the curriculum, and the well worn and recognised companies have delivered their wares..

It’s worth considering that some of these ‘coding’ lesson are add ons to the existing package (and in many cases have been offered free of charge this year) – in that case they may be of some use for staff anyway.

2 Simple 

Rising Stars – Switch on ICT 

Education City (existing subscribers) 

Espresso (existing subscribers – free for a limited time)

However there are lots of reasons why you don’t need to buy in to a new scheme of work..

Depending how far you went with the old curriculum staff in your school will be aware of many of the elements of the new computing curriculum already. Upon sharing Scratch with staff many commented how it was just like Logo – which is true. Many will be familiar with control, roamers, beebots etc… You will probably have some of these items in school already.

Lots of tech tools and coding tools are around that cost nothing – some mentioned here – the fact that you are reading this suggests that you can experiment with one or two and build them into your curriculum.

Now is the chance to tailor your curriculum, and the coding elements can be a really creative and tailored element of that – remember if you purchase a scheme you will lose that freedom.

Give teachers the chance to try the different tools – why limit what the school uses before you’ve had the chance to really play?


It would be interesting to see how schools get on with this – I think introducing new curriculum is the perfect time to tailor it to what your school would like to do.

So where do you start?

Take a look at the work done by other schools and teachers already, here is how I started . There is a great resource here, crowd sourced, for teacher training.

There is an easy to read checklist here  and the brilliant resource by Simon Haughton here.

In short there is lots and lots of help!

Ask some key questions:

  • How shall we show progression through the school?
  • What experiences do we want our children to have?

More importantly – let people have a play! Time to get to grips with anything new is always in short supply!

Feel free to leave any questions, ideas, or further resources here!

Link to No Hands Up here – site with great ideas!


24 Apr

Five fab free ed tech tools!!

wpid-Photo-20140424225253.jpgWhilst I recognise that we shouldn’t always expect tools and services completely free of charge, there are many great tools that can be used in the primary school free of charge!


  1. Skype – check out the Skype in the Classroom site here. Great for inspiring ideas, connecting with all kinds of experts. I have a couple posts on this site describing my Skype Adventures!
  2. Padlet – a great tool for collaboration and sharing ideas. The ‘walls’ can be embedded into a blog, and then be accessed from home. Also great for use in staff meetings to collate ideas.
  3. Haiku Deck – a really great free presentation tool that is also an app. Super easy to use, and with a very different feel to PowerPoints – the images are great, and because it can be logged on over different devices can also be used for collaboration and critique.
  4. Scratch – the darling of the Primary Coders at the moment, I have written about a couple of projects here, and there is lots of advice at the fantastic Code-It.co.uk website.
  5. Twitter! I can’t stress enough what great CPD can be found on twitter – and for beginners there is a great guide here from the Bring a Teacher to Twitter group and a great guide for beginners here.

I really could go on… But thought 5 for teachers to investigate would be a good start! Would love to hear of your favourite free tools.

Thanks for reading!


12 Apr

From Padlet to Twitter – a Digital Classroom Journey!

I thought I would share a recent example of of the integrated way in which various digital/social platforms can be linked and used in the classroom.

Context first:

Y6 class, space topic.

The pupils have a blog, created on blogger, which the teacher updates.


Literacy unit (and linked work) was newspaper linked, journalistic writing and so on.


How we started:

A very simple lesson – aimed at questioning skills and linked to interviewing an astronaut – the children had to think of questions they would ask and build these into a report they were writing. These were collated on a Padlet, which was embedded in to their class blog.


The pupils are well versed in contributing to Padlet – and did so at home.


Next we linked to Twitter. The pupils are aware that there is a school Twitter account, it has been used before for contacting local businesses and sharing photographs of work. We discussed how we might limit the questions in order to keep to the restricted number of characters, and, more importantly how we could find someone to ask…

It's all about relevance…

Luckily for us the Channel 4 Space Season and been a hit – and that has hash tags and twitter handles all over it. So we started there… It's worth mentioning that I did do 'live' twitter search – but I used an iPad and Air Server and so was able to put Air Server on once search completed….

We then tweeted what looked like a willing volunteer, an Astronaut who had been on the Space Station itself – who – amazingly replied!! (Huge thanks to him!!) He was able to answer several questions, and used photographs and links to the Space Station live to get his messages across.


Every day that week I was able to show the children more photos, more answers and really keep the topic alive! – The links for their writing, and with the blog at home were really clear – genuinely exciting (for staff and pupils) – and produced some awesome, genuinelt motivated work! Enthusiasm was everywhere, and the whole school buzzed with the pictures and replies we were getting!


What we learnt:
  • It was great for e-safety, the other twitter users who got involved provided the perfect opportunity to discuss advertising and online 'stranger danger'.
  • Use of the blog both in and outside the classroom was also beneficial, those children who cannot access the blog were still a big part of the lesson.



11 Apr

How much computer is needed in Computer Supported Collaborative Learning?

You may know that I am currently working on my MA research – which will examine the role of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning in our primary classrooms. Specifically mobile technology. My initial thoughts are here.

In planning this research, the role of the ‘computer supported' aspect intrigues me, and as I am currently planning the study I need to come up with an activity for the pupils that is sufficiently 'computer supported.' Many studies discuss the 'distance' aspect of collaborative learning; contributing to a joint wiki, or taking part in group presentations. Less so are the studies which examine these situations within the classroom itself.

Stahl, et al discusses the nature of computer supported:

Computer support for such collaboration is central to a CSCL approach to e-learning. Stimulating and sustaining productive student interaction is difficult to achieve, requiring skillful planning, coordination and implementation of curriculum, pedagogy and technology.

The nature of the pedagogy, the learning intention and the support provided by the computer environment all need careful consideration. Does the computer need to prompt every step of the learning? What is the role of the teacher whilst the activites are taking place? Should I look at an activity which can be carried out on a desktop PC as well? (Some extra comparison?)

I have several ideas – and would welcome the thoughts of those reading this!

  1. Defining roles within the collaboration is often seen as an important part of the process, would a scientific experiment, either virtual or real, then reported using an iPad be a sufficient use of 'computer supported'?
  2. Mathematical learning fits the bill for a collaborative experience, again using an App – such as Pearson's Talk Maths (which requires pairs) – or giving the pupils problem to solve and asking them to present their findings.
  3. A specific task, such as Google Blockly, which will take place completely on the iPad. These may be more restrictive in the behaviours that I observe however…

These activities need to be planned in the same way as any learning activity, and the roles which the learners have will need to be defined, even if the pupils pick their own.


I would welcome readers sharing their examples of activities which could be deemed computer supported collaborative learning!