Training day

On the 5th September, 2011 I delivered a team development day for the team I am lucky enough to  work with in Lincolnshire. I had been asked to look at Web 2.0 applications, blogging, tweeting and other things of which they should be aware. The team covers all areas of Primary support and so there will be a need to look across the curriculum rather than focusing purely on literacy and numeracy.For many of you who read this blog there will not be a huge amount which is necessarily new but you will be aware that I am keen that schools avoid a rollercoaster of experience. It is vital that approaches (if not necessarily the applications) which have been discussed online and at conferences for months or, in some cases, years are shared with whole school staffs rather than individuals.

I wrote this blog in preparation for the day over several days and on one of them I was following the live video stream for the Teachmeet in Sydney, Australia (at 8:30 in the morning UK time) and saw a presentation from Liam Dunphy on the power of social media. As well as promoting the use of Twitter for educati0nalists (“Facebook is for people you went to school with, Twitter is for people you wish you went to school with” he gave this great quote which sums up an issue in our use of ICT in Primary schools in England.

We need to be role models to our students by collaborating together – Liam Dunphy

Liam’s comment is certainly more of a call to arms than the concern I voiced last year at Teachmeet Yorks and Humber

We have invested millions of pounds in classroom technology and left it solely in the hands of the one person in the room who isn’t trusted at home with the TV remote control.


I have written an article for the Primary News Magazine in Lincolnshire called “Will 2011 be the year of blogging?” (a question I first heard asked by Simon Finch of Northern Grid) which shows what I consider to be the benefits to children’s writing that can be derived from using blogging in your class. I also expressed some concerns that it be seen as a “silver bullet” for writing standards – we all know that a silver bullet is only effective if you know how to fire it accurately! – I remember the excitement when teachers started using PowerPoint as an authoring tool however, whilst many examples had the most wonderful sound clips of applause, whooshes and pings, there were too many examples where the quality of writing was significantly lower than when the children wrote in their books. This is a concern that I have over some blogging in that if schools invest time in it and there is no net result in terms of the standards of writing then it will be no more sustained than podcasting which was introduced with great fanfares in the mid 00s. It is vital that teachers and schools have a clear vision of what they want blogging in their schools to achieve – the sense of purpose and how they will seek to create an audience for their pupils will be vital in this. Teachers need to strike a balance between gaining engagement through giving the children a space to write and also giving a strong model of how to write accurately using different text types.



Heathfield Primary’s Year 6 blog





Heathfield Primary school started on their journey towards blogging two academic years ago under the direction of David Mitchell and have received much attention as a result of their work. It is noticeable that they collate their blogs by classes rather than giving individual pupils blogs (an approach driven by several school website design companies which doesn’t seem to work as well in my opinion) and that they have managed to find the balance between giving pupils a voice and ensuring that there is an educational benefit from all of the time spent. David was inspired by a presentation by John Sutton who runs Creative Blogs which is a commercial provider of blogs, support and advice for schools. I am lucky enough to have worked with John at one of his conferences and am delighted to see that this year he appears to be advertising the setting up of a new Creative school blog almost on a weekly basis!

One of the things which you can do with these blogs is to connect with other schools – one example of this was ‘Blog the World Cup’ where 32 classes took on a different country in the 2010 World Cup whilst another is ‘Blog the News’ where news blogged  by classes can be tagged with a specific tag which means that not only will it appear on their own class blog but on the national site.

May I never grow to old to treasure ‘once upon a time’. – Anonymous

Conkers topic blog


There are free alternatives which schools can use and which do not require a huge amount of technical expertise – the main implications are making sure that someone takes responsibility for moderating the site and keeping a general weather on the blog. I personally use this wordpress blog and a posterous blog for other sites I work on and love the idea of setting up a quickfire blog on posterous to record events on one day. A great example of this is from Kevin Mclaughlin’s class at Old Mill Primary School in Leicestershire where the children undertook a topic on Conkers including having battles! This was set up to allow all of the work just from this topic to be collated in one place. Other free to access alternatives include Primary Blogger, edublogs  and Blogger.

The reason one writes isn’t the fact he wants to say something. He writes because he has something to say   – F. Scott Fitzgerald


One of the most exciting developments this year repeated for the next academic year is Quadblogging ( whichis a system where four schools have a partnership/agreement that would mean that for a four week cycle, each school’s blog would be the focus for one week out of four. Each school in the Quad would spend some time visiting the blog of the school for that week, leave comments etc. After that week, another one of the four schools would be the focus and this would be repeated for the four week cycle and then repeated. It wouldn’t take the pupils long to work out that during their week, they would get a boost in visitor numbers and comments. This would give a real focus to have posts online ready for this bulge in visits. During the other three weeks, pupils get to visit and comment on other blogs in their quad. Pupils being pupils, they would also venture out of the quads and visit other blogs that are linked.

This video will explain it in more detail

In thinking about children receiving feedback on their work I am always reminded of the quote from the actor and director, Robert Duvall.

Listening to critics is like letting Muhammad Ali decide which astronaut goes to the moon.

It is important that the children see that their critics as relevant and someone worth listening to, something which I am not convinced we can always apply to their teacher. Mark Prensky once argued that the average Year 5 saw their average audience as their teacher, their tray and the bin so quadblogging is a fantastic device to give our young writers a wider audience and a relevant source of feedback.At this I encouraged colleagues to look at blogs from schools as well looking at how easy it is to set up a site. Sites to look at include:                                        (Class 5)                                                                                                         


I have blogged several times about the use of Twitter in the classroom and am a great enthusiast of its use in Primary classrooms. There are great examples of its use as schools as a means of improving contact with parents, in Key Stage Two classes to flag up new posts on their class blog or web site, as a link to Twitpics and audioboos. The best examples for me have been Key Stage One classes which Twitter has allowed to share their writing with much wider audiences, it has been wonderful working with the Year 1 Giraffes and watching their writing develop over the space of an academic year as well as their great confidence in themselves as writers.

Twitpic is an application which works alongside Twitter to allow posters to share photos. This is an example from the signing of an agreement between Mansfield Town Football club and the club’s Supporters’ Trust which saw the Trust take a shareholding in the club. The photo was shared with fans within minutes of the agreement being signed before a game. This is an example from @giraffeclass sharing their work.

Initial review of the Giraffes’ early period of tweeting

The Giraffes tweet with a comedian

Using Twitcam in Literacy


With the massive investments in technology over recent years it has been disappointing how many Primary schools are yet to use it to widen reach across the globe and especially through the use of Skype and other videoconferencing methods. There are many authorities which ban Skype due to its domination of bandwith in a school when in use which seems the sort of decision based on refusing to trust teachers or institutions with the management of IT. (The sort of attitude which we then see and criticise in some teachers presentation of technology to their pupils).

I am fortunate to have made links with @globalrams , a class in St Louis, Missouri,  through their teacher and will, whenever I can, get together with them on skype to chat about books. For those interested there is the Skype Twitter stream for teachers to get together on the Skype Classroom. This is a dating agency for schools and one which is free to use and easy to set up for classes to get together. As with all Skype chats there can be issues about losing connectivity but it is rare for things to fail.

Another more formal approach would be to sign up with Global Leap which is a more formalised “dating agency” putting schools in touch with other schools, museums, faith groups and other groups want to use VC. At my last school we used Global Leap (at an annual cost of something around £250) to find appropriate people to communicate with. The highlights included being taught how to put on togas by a ‘real’ Roman Legionary from the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter, UK, learning about Viking sailing from the National Maritime Museum and adding to knowledge in RE talking to members of faiths. It appears that Global Leap has moved from an annual subscription to a pay as you go approach. I do like the fact that you can download a diary to select events from which (in our case) allowed us to ensure that this was a whole school approach rather than something which stayed in the classrooms of enthusiasts.

In recent weeks Google have launched Google+ which has the hangout facility allowing groups of users to videoconference at the same time. This could be a potential gamechanger as it will sidestep Local Authority firewalls.

One videoconference project I was involved in took place in Rotherham organised by LA Consultants based around the Ahlberg book ‘The Jolly Postman’. The children were set tasks based around the theft of the Postman’s postbag by Burglar Bill and part of their work saw them preparing questions to ask the villain over Videoconference.

At this point, we spent some time looking at how easy it is to set up a blog.

Teachmeets and Kidsmeets

As someone who has been lucky enough to attend and deliver presentations at a range of Teachmeets. For me, teachmeets have given me access to some of the most fantastic practitioners and new ideas to use in my own work. We have not seen one take place in Lincolnshire to date, which is something several of us are seeking to remedy.


A development in this area is the idea of a Kidsmeet which has taken place in various formats recently. I was lucky enough to compere the first one in Blackpool during Summer term at Hawes Side Primary.  It was an absolute privilege to watch such wonderful presentations from children as young as Year One up to Year Six and I have found that being able to point people to these presentations on the web has helped my work.  This is the blog post I wrote after Kidsmeet Blackpool, this is the blog post from Pete Richardson who brought four members of his Year 1 class who presented their use of Aviary completely independently of their proud teacher, this is the presentation from the Year 6 children from Mereside Primary on their digital pencil case which is based on iPod Touches.

Sites and applications to look at
Aviary – free online image and sound editor  Aviary – Primary Pete’s use of Aviary in class
There are examples of gaming coming into real life which I have Steve Bunce use a stimulus for some of his work in the North East. Before looking at the work on Angry Birds it is worth looking at this video of Remi Gaillard.

Angry Birds in the classroom – This blog post by Kevin McLaughlin shows a really innovate use of Angry Birds as  the stimulus for cross curricular work.
Wallwisher This online version of post it notes is a  fantastic means of collating pupil views, ideas and work. 
Isle of Tune This is a free to use application which I love and have seen referenced in teachers’ blogs but have not seen used in the classroom yet. It allows the user to design a settlement on an island but the twist is that each element which is placed next to a road has a musical value and therefore a tune can be composed. When accessing it for the first time make sure that, as well as playing with building your own town, you visit the Shared Islands.
 Tagul and Wordle – these two are not the only online applications which create word clouds from text inputted but they will give you everything you need. They are great for use both in the classroom and for presenting to colleagues. Tagul and Wordle can be found on the links.


This is the most wonderful free to access tool which could have significant impact in the Primary classroom. It is important to note that tech-nervous teachers will find it threatening but could use the same approach using the recorder tool on the IWB or Photostory 2.

The beauty of Voicethread is that it can easily be embedded into a school web site or VLE and can display the work of a range of children on one page. It allows different users to post written, oral or video comments  onto the same page about the same image or video. They can annotate the image to illustrate their comments.

Ferry Lane Primary School, Haringey using Voicethread to add comments to

Heathfield Primary School, Bolton using Voicethread to develop oral rehearsal of writing ideas

Heathfield Primary School, Bolton using Voicethread for peer assessment


Storybird is a fantastic Web 2.0 application which allows the user to author their own stories on an online template using images provided by the web site. It would be brilliant for use with whole class, groups  even in one to one situations. I have seen it used to support MFL teaching as well as literacy and am a huge fan. This is the education page of the site. The images are all quites stylised but incredibly engaging for pupils who can choose images from collections by artist or theme within each artist’s work. It is very intuitive to use and has been designed to allow schools to embed stories within their web sites.



Voki is a wonderful, free tool which has been in a wide range of ways in Primary schools. It is similar to crazy talk in that it allows the user to create a visual image which apears to speak the audio file recorded.
It is incredibly intuitive for new users and can be used to support in more than just literacy (including giving feedback in Maths, science, MFL, History and Geography.)

This is one of my favourite online secrets which I cannot  believe has not been snapped up by more Primary school  teachers.  I

Ianimate Alice

know that Bill Boyd is in Australia speaking at a conference about this site at the moment but went back to one of my old blog posts after the Storytyne  event for this quote.

 Inanimate Alice

Bill Boyd talked about his work with a group of teachers using Inanimate Alice.  It tells the story of the 8 year old Alice and her adventure in China. At present the book has four different chapters in four different locations. The text is written by an award winning author and is incredibly high quality. The text is moved through page by page which can be re-visited by clicking on the relevant icon. It is an interactive text which is divided into different frames using a wide range of modes. It used diagetic and non diagetic sound, animations, video films, exploded diagrams with a handheld mobile device as the main interaction tool between the character and the user.

The character was born digital (Alice was conceived as a digital project), it is a high quality text, has highly interactive engagement, uses trans-media engagement, covers different continents, gives potential for wide curriculum coverage and is progressively challenging – she moves from 8, 10, 11 and 13 in the fourth chapter. It is used widely in the Pacific Rim particularly in Australia but is being worldwide.

Useful links

Sarah Brownsword talked about her work using Inanimate Alice in her classroom at TMEast earlier this year.


303 Squadron

This wonderful online game from Channel Four  brings to life the story of 303 Squadron: 34 Polish fighter pilots who overturned RAF prejudices to earn their chance to fight in the Battle of Britain, in which they shot down 126 Luftwaffe aircraft.

The game is here

Further details

At this point my colleague, John Jefferies, work with colleagues looking at some important tools and applications which might even be regarded as old hat. I do find it frsutrating that over the last two years I have shown teachers tools which have been around for 6 or more years and it really does appear that we are on virgin territory. There have been millions spent on Interactive Whiteboards in England and we continue to struggle to place the emphasis on interactivity within pedagogy rather than interactivity in engagement. At the same time there are occasions when I watch the “Edward Scissorhands model” of teacher where the (often young, male, Upper Junior) teacher moves about the board with inate ease and speed manipulating images, sound, video and text in a display which mesmerises the pupils but teaches them little. One of the key things I work on with schools is looking at how they get the children using the IWB during independent activities (where appropriate) or with the teaching in guided sessions. The Recorder tool is brilliant for collecting memorable moments, key tips or strategies for pupils to share with their classmates – it has also reinvigorated the plenary. Here are two examples of pupil voice being accentuated by the use of the recorder tool.

Google Maps

There is a huge amount of potential within Google Apps some of which I have not explored fully within a class context such as google docs but one which I have used widely is Google Maps to allow classes to collect information or to collect information to share with them.

This map was built up by the followers of Giraffeclass when the Year One class were studying the seaside.

View Giraffes at the seaside in a larger map

Here are two blog posts  on the use of google maps – Google for educators and 40 ideas.

 This link is to the Maths Maps  on Tom Barrett’s blog.


Another colleague, Andy Dickenson, then worked with colleagues looking at applications used on the iPad. This is an important aspect for us as we are in the position where schools are seeing the positive ‘buzz’ around the use of apps in the classroom and are asking for advice about it. It is important that, like anything else which we introduce in the classroom, we look at the impact on standards and learning and teaching. To date the work on iPads which has impressed me most has been small group (often intervention) work which has been based around guided pedagogies.

Andy shared these APPs with the team

Guardian Eyewitness – website  APP
Discover  – APP
Photoshop Express – APP
Timeline Eons  – APP
Morfo booth   – APP
Sock puppets  – APP

Epic Citadel

One example of this is the work of Simon Widdowson using Epic Citadel with a group of low confidence writers. His blog ‘Welcome to the Citadel’ is well worth a read.

The work was inspired by the wonderful, Tim Rylands, who is so skilled in finding great applications and mixing them with the best pedagogies. Tim is known as the Myst man (from his work developing writers using the computer game) but for me the strength of his work is his approach to writing. The video shows Tim showing one way of using Epic Citadel as a stimulus for high quality drama work which is then used as the driver for writing later in the teaching sequence. The first is a short clip showing Tim at Storytyne.


This clip is a much longer video of the same session with Tim inviting other adults to take part in the drama activity – this is the quality of drama which I would love to see in more classrooms.

Using the iPad in a First Grade classrooom in America

Using 24 iPads to make a single

Videos which may be of interest or ones which colleagues might use in their own presentations.

The Power of Mash ups


ICT planning
Just as I was finishing writing this blog post I saw that Ian Addison has posted up his ICT planning website which is available here. It appears to be well worth a look and is a great example of the wonderful way in which blogs can be used to share expertise.

Classroom layout
This blog by Simon Cloughlin on how he is approaching setting up his classroom this year. I love the comment that he is not certain whether it will work to remove 4 of the tables so that there are not enough chairs for all of the children but he will never find out until he tries!!!



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