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


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.




20 Jul

A year using iPads – Reflection!

So.. After a year of working with iPads in the classroom what have we learnt?

It’s fair to say that they have been a success.

The iPads have become indispensable to school life, used by all staff for all kinds of things. Video projects, reading projects, writing projects as well as the ‘usual’ apps and internet research. Children enjoy using them, and we are beginning to have a real account of school life through video, pictures and blogs. We have been able to run Skype sessions very easily, and to evidence all kinds of lessons.


1. Teachers can be incredibly creative!!

Once practical issues were sorted out the teachers began to use iPads for so much more than Internet research. Creating video, reading books and updating blogs. As the teachers became used to and confident with the technology they began to do more with it. This was brilliant to see and surpassed my expectations!! There is no need for everyone to be ‘expert’..

2. Less is more..

The first thing I do when starting at a school with iPads is limit all the apps! It’s easy to fill the iPads with one-time use or free apps and they quickly become unmanageable. Limiting the apps means that the pedagogical use can be explored. Those five apps I identified at the beginning are still the most popular!

3. You need a good system to share them..

For most schools 1:1 iPads are not feasible. Ideally the iPads would live in the classrooms, but if you need to share ensure the whole school knows how it works! Biggest problem I had was teachers ‘keeping’ one for individual projects.. So, at one of the schools I got the teachers their iPads first.

4. Be clear about their use, and model this!

We needed to make sure all staff and children are clear as to why we have iPads, and the possibilities. Run staff meetings where they are used – for one staff meeting each year group had to create a video reviewing the new curriculum. Share with parents at coffee mornings, so that they are aware of the technology their children are using.

For the future I will ensure that all teachers have access to a classroom iPad, recent changes to the curriculum have meant that more technology in classrooms will be a must!

It will be great to see what the teachers make of the technology next year..

16 Jul

Designing a New Curriculum

I’m currently in the process of developing the curriculum at the schools where I work and have decided to take an easy view next year and let staff experiment with some key activities and software.

It’s worth mentioning that I have made some very deliberate decisions:

  • Limit the number of apps on school iPads
  • Let teachers use their own iTunes accounts to experiment
  • Have a range of software – including the bought into 2Simple range
  • Allow staff to experiment with ‘coding’ and developing as much as possible.

The result have been these sheets – which will be reviewed with staff at the end of the first half term. The objectives have been roughly spread out for Key Stage coverage. Activities and apps represent software and apps that the staff will be familiar with. They are limited. Hopefully by the end of Autumn term we will be able to add to these with ideas that have worked within the individual topics and classrooms that the staff are doing.

Feel free to take these, I would love to know if they are at all useful however!









It’s worth pointing out here that I recognise the limitation of using such documents, whole school Inset, the use of Digital Leaders and the support from Senior Staff will all be needed. Recommending a year 3 class play with 2Simple is not enough to get a new curriculum going! However I hope this will be a springboard for staff to realise that there is a new language, new expectations and a different approach to ICT.