14 Aug

Reading with technology – an update!

This post is an update to the most popular post on this site – Guided Reading on the iPad. This post has been read thousands of times, and lots of the apps and ideas there are still relevant, but times are changing and I thought it would be interesting to revisit at why using a tablet like device can be beneficial for reading. I won’t go through the activities and ideas in detail, instead I’ll look at what else has been happening with technology and reading in the classroom.

Not just the iPad

Much of the two year old post was based on my work which was specific to iPads. My experiences have now been across chrome, android and kindle devices. Much of what I wrote about in my initial post still rings true and there is now a huge increase in apps available for all platforms, and indeed all devices can be seen in the classroom.

Group work:

if you are organised into groups, tablet devices work very well. Many of the apps detailed in the previous post are now available for android, including the fab Explain Everything (which as I write this is also coming to Chrome) and there are some really great apps out there for testing word skills, spelling, sentence structure etc. Obviously it depends what your focus is, but I know that with the increased focus on spelling and grammar many great apps are appearing that would work great as a paired activity.


Some of the new iPad apps i've bee using


  • Alan Peat’s apps include grammar references, word play games and references for the national curriculum. iPad and android. Works very well on small screens.
  • Puppet Pals on the iPad has had a complete overall with Puppet Pals 2 – and is jam packed with even more features.
  • Book Creator is now also available on Android, and remains a brilliant way to get children to create something quickly, or work as a group to repsond to something
  • Google apps have a wide variety of word processing, comic creating, animating etc. The collaborative nature of these, as well as the way in which teachers can be involved make them ideal for responding to text work (interviewing, imagining endings and so on).
  • Web sites such as Oxford Owls who have online books, with partners and tasks such as reviewing orquestioning each other children can get alot from these services.
Individual work

Putting aside the individual scope for production and creation eBooks with features such as dictionaries, links to other books and read along (or aloud) features are now mich more common. Kindles have worked very well in my experience alongside the traditional classroom library, can be seen as a reward (though not always!) and borrowed by children who may benefit. Alternatively a class reader on the kindle, then used with targeted readers has also worked very well. Motivation, easier to read text (often resulting in a feeling that they are reading more) and cheaper books. Kindles are also much cheaper than some tablets, and don’t have so much distraction (though they are online now) – turning parental controls on however is a very simple process. Other than that publishers are coming round to putting books out electronically, and they can be a huge space saver in the classroom.

There has been a huge increase in story telling apps. Many I discussed already elsewhere on this site – I always enjoy reviewing these as some of them are absolutely gorgeous. There have been some great new ones as well. Mr Glue is an iPad app which supports the retelling and creation of books. Me Books is a fabulously creative book app on both android and iPad. Story telling apps should all now include recording, breat voice acting, recording of your own, and some level of control over how the narrative paces. It’s worth asking the developer for a free trial before you commit the school!

Mr Glue Stories - easy and fun


I hope this update proves useful for those of you using digital technologies in the classroom. Please let me know what you’ve found useful in the classroom!


What is guided reading? A guide from Scholastic!

Top Tips for using Kindles in the Classroom


06 Sep

Classroom Collaboration – what you can try straight away!

Classroom collaboration was cited as one of the key reasons to begin using technology in the classroom in a recent (and quick) question and answer session….

There are many, many ways to get your pupils to collaborate more, and obviously using tech is only one strand of this. From role play, drama, team games and problem solving; once you get your pupils used to the different roles and the collaborative techniques of listening and working together it all becomes so much easier. How then can digital technology help?

An incredibly effective way to get collaboration is through a classroom (or school) blog. If the school is reluctant to get involved with this there are plenty of ways that you, as a class teacher, could get involved. It is very simple to start a blog through a free service such as blogger – and then use it in class to get children to collaborate on ideas such as storytelling or problem solving. Children can add their contributions in the classroom.

Give a voice…

A side effect of collaboration is that there will always be some children that are not heard, or who dot get to contribute. Programmes which allow for pupils to get involved without standing up in front of their classmates, or even saying anything, can be useful.


This example from educationismylife.com .

A simple idea is Padlet – and I’ve mentioned this lots on the site already – Padlet allows you to create a very quick whiteboard space which can be added to by clicking. You could set up a Padlet during a lesson with a question -and leave it on the computer for them to contribute to. For example – different ways to start a story, or solutions to maths questions. Using that Padlet’s code they can also contribute from home or through a different device in the classroom. I have already shared several examples of this – this post here looks at the use of Padlet for questioning.  However it has many uses – and even more so if you have a classroom blog which can be accessed from home-  groups can work on Padlets for different concepts, science planning and questioning for example. You can even password protect the Padlet so only children from your class can contribute.  The use is limitless – and a great way to get contributions from your pupils.

Popplet is another collaborative tool – allowing the group discussions to be contributed to, and accessed by anyone with the code for that popplet. It is also an app, and a website -so again if you have more devices in class the children can contribute as they see fit. I have used this versatile tool when story planning, allowing children to take their story off in different branches whilst we watched on the whiteboard. Again – I have written about Popplet before – and their are many examples of it’s use to be found!

Be creative…

More creative forms of collaboration were also mentioned by those advocates of technology in the classroom – a group working together to create something. iPads and tablet devices work brilliantly for this kind of thing – whether working together around one device or sharing and adding to their work. Obvious contendors for the iPad are Book Creator, Garage Band and Explain Everything. Garage Band is a particularly powerful tool – for example creating a radio advertisment with voice and music can be a powerful group task and the results using this app will sound impressive,


These apps are all incredibly easy to get started with and easily share the work within the tablet systems. But computers and laptops can be just as good for collaboration: Google Drive is another great way for pupils to contribute – registering your class as a user (either with a class email, or a temporary made up one) and when the pupils log in they can all share work and contribute to it. Of course, if the infrastructure is there you could register indiviuals in order to better control their work. This presentation has lots of ways to get you started!

Online apps such as Scratch also allow for collaboration – saving the class work, (or your example) on there lets the children take what you have created and then ‘tinker’ – indeed improving and debugging forms part of the KS2 computing curriculum anyway and Scratch is a perfect way of doing that.

General Tips

Just getting started with collaboraton can be tough in a primary classroom – it will only work if children are aware of the point of the collaboration and the behaviours expected!

  • Begin by giving roles – for example within a science lesson you might have a ‘recorder’ ‘analyst’ ‘equipment manager.
  • Demonstrate and be a role model for how you expect the groups to work -e.g. you might have to take part as a member of a group and then refer to the class for solutions when problems arise. An example might be a maths puzzle – one person may be the ‘accuracy checker’ – and then ask teh class what happens if you find a mistake? What should you do?
  • In the beginning have a tight hold on the technology – for example a blog where each group is to record their end result – model how you expect it to be used.
  • Then ‘loosen up’ – once the children are aware of the different tools at their disposal let them choose – for example how they present their art project is up to them – and the key is that they don’t have to make use of any digital technology at all!


I hope this helps – other common uses for technology came out of the twitter chat, and I’ll explore those later! Thanks for reading – feel free to comment!


10 May

Questioning in the Digital Classroom

A huge part of our day – much has been written about how, why, when and who…

Questioning crops up as pupil targets for improvement, on school development plans and in teacher lesson observations. A recent focus for us was whether or not our increased use of technology actually supported questioning skills in the classroom. We moved away from looking purely at teacher questioning, and looked at how we could get pupils to ask more questions in class, and indeed, move away from the simple, 'lower order' questions.

Here are our five top tips for using technology to improve questioning in the classroom!
  1. Confidence! Use microphones/video/iPads to allow pupils to rehearse their questions.
  2. Improving – group mind mapping ideas such as Popplet, or online 'whiteboards' such as Padlet will encourage pupils to build on their ideas.
  3. Restrictions – use technology that children are familiar with to restrict words/characters and focus their questions to what they actually want to say!
  4. Sharing! Both in the classroom and out of the classroom – Blogs / video / even on the iPad through the whiteboard – children can quickly and easily share questions with a wider audience now. Use YouTube or other Social Media to 'ask experts' or a school blog to ask the community. Not only does it refine questioning skills but it also teaches the positive uses for Social Media. See an example here with Padlet and Twitter!
  5. Subject based apps and specific questioning practice. There are plenty of mobile apps out there that support specific objectives, such as Super Duper's range for literacy questioning skills.

More ideas?

This excellent blog from @Langwitches showcases much much more than is discussed here! Including an excellent look at Bloom's Taxonomy and iPad Apps.

ICTEvangelist's Blog here has more great ideas!


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!

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!


15 Dec

We’ve got the iPads, now what?

This is mentioned to me more than I'd like – usually by exasperated teachers who discover that the school has 30 locked away somewhere that are never used or subject coordinators who have been 'given' iPads to raise standards… But little else in the way of support.


Schools are spending more than ever on technology it seems and, according to many articles a large portion of this money is going on tablet computers. A September article from the TES claims technology spending to be around £600 million this year, whilst at the same time a blog post in Wired points to a crisis in technology education.

Investment in iPads seems to be especially controversial at the moment and the stories are not always positive. Google iPads in Primary Schools and amongst the blogs, apps and ideas you will get plenty of articles about how it has gone horribly, and publicly, wrong! So, if you have already invested, or are considering here is a quick guide to makes sure your investment impacts on standards!

Begimming to use your school iPads falls into five key areas:

  1. Be prepared and plan ahead.
  2. Measure impact in a variety of ways – through pupil voice – talking to staff – and data.
  3. Let staff explore their use.
  4. Give time to talk to your technical support!
  5. Share success and encourage experimentation.
  • Know why you are getting them…

If you already have them in school, skip this point! However it is crucial you, or your Senior Lead, are aware of why you are investing in the technology. There can be many reasons for iPads or tablet computers in school – they do open up more learning space – they do allow for access to technology for all the school, rather than just in the ICT suite. They are cost effective and the huge range of apps means that they can, arguably, be used in all areas of the curriculum. However they should be one part of provision in the school, and a clear plan should be in place to ensure that curriculum provision is being met.

  • Share the aim with the teachers..

In fact, I would argue that there is no point buying iPads for pupil use if teachers can't use them. Buy them for staff, or let staff use them over the holidays. Especially subject coordinators. Set up some modelling of lesson use by teachers from other schools if necessary. Invest some money in a days inset with a recommended trainer.

Share articles and example of iPad use (I have put some at the bottom of the article) but bring them into staff meetings too – e.g. a staff meeting about learning environments could include the staff videoing their favourite display. A quick five minutes could include how the iPad can be linked to the whiteboard as a visualiser. Share key apps and brainstorm ideas.

  • Talk to your technical support

This should probably be first!! Be clear about your vision with your technical support. iPads are easy to use, no doubt about it, but you will need to be clear about the effect they will have on your infrastructure. Get your wi-fi tested to find out how much use it can take. Discuss the use of air-server or reflections to get your iPad onto your whiteboard in the classroom. How will you set up and run the volume purchasing programme? Berealistic about limitations – continue to invest in computer suites. Your teachers won't be able to manage this side of things alone.

  • Use them…

Sounds ridiculous right? But I have been to schools where thousands of pounds worth of equipment was locked away. Think about what you have and assign them if necessary. No matter how many you have! If don't start letting staff explore them you will never see the possibilities. Key message here(and I can't repeat this enough) use staff who are enthusiastic already, don't force use. Share success! Encourage experimentation.


One class set of 15? Leave them with a teacher that will use them. The rest of the school can book them from that class – but give them to an enthusiastic teacher and you will see results. You could put 1:1 in a class, but some permanently in classrooms are more beneficial. Even put 8 in a class across the school rather than one set locked away somewhere..

Group set? Assign them a specific use for some year groups, e.g. A maths focus every morning in Y5 and have an aim. You could with engagement as an aim, but let the class teacher decide how they could be used amd give them ownership over the data and use. For example use during guided reading, or a blog project.

Signing out procedures… Always an issue for any resource. Don't keep the iPads where they can't be reached, and encouarge a signing out book, or booking out on the staffroom board. Stick to it!

  • Limit the apps…

I have mentioned this before on this blog, but there are such possibilities with a limited number of apps that I would only really start with five/six apps. If staff want more iPads let them pitch their use of the app in a 2 min of the staff meeting. I really wouldn't start sharing too many apps.

  • A project?

If iPads are languishing unused somewhere then get a project started! An after school comic creating club, or a book creating project? Make movies using iMovie (book trailers are super simple).


I hope this is helpful! I didn't want to do a 'what not to do' post as it seems to me that many headteachers/senior leads have already bought the technology but don't always have an idea of what to do next! Teachers can therefore be left to make the best use they can! Do contact me with any questions you have!


Why iPads in school?

Digital Roadtrip @digitalroadtrip has an awesome blog for those interested in more!

A look at iPad and collaboration:

Looking for a particular app? You will find it here! http://www.ipadsinprimary.co.uk

Great all round advice from @ictevangelist at his site