Sunday, 2 December 2012

Be Creative with Google's Story Builder

I came across this app before, but must admit that I didn't know what I was looking at. At first glance, it just looks like a screen recording of Google Docs but taking the time to actually watch the video made it clearer. With this app you can choose up to 10 different characters and their names will appear beside the Google Doc cursor. You can then enter and edit text as those characters to create short, but engaging, 'stories'. Finally, you can choose to add music before sharing with the world.

Take a look at the videos here ('Ark' is my personal favourite) and then consider the applications. Click here to explore and create.

Some ideas that come to mind for when this could be useful:

  • Express ideas on characters from history or literature, as in this example
  • Explore perspectives as different characters edit collaborative efforts e.g. legal proposals being edited by different political parties or the 3 little pigs' versus the wolf's account of what happened
  • Simply get creative - a new way of storytelling or adapting old tales 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

FCC10: Giving Learners Choice

Make Music: Jam, Incredibox & Ambient Mixer

Incredibox is aptly named and highly addictive. Add up to seven human 'beatboxers' and allocate them a riff to produce. The best way to learn about it is to give it a go here but make sure you haven't left anything on the stove before you do. Alternatively, you could watch the fruits of someone else's labour and click on the video below.

Jam with Chrome: Start by choosing an instrument from a range of string, brass and drums before inviting up to 4 friends to do the same for a jamming session. The video below explains more.

And finally, there's Ambient Mixer where you can combine and edit professionally produced sounds to create your own soundtracks.

  • With these four tools (along with Soundation), there's no longer a need to worry about finding copy-free music for projects; allow learners to create their own
  • Create ambient music to change the mood and pace of parts of your lessons
  • Use as part of a dramatic production; another way to allow learners to contribute with their own creativity
  • Use produced pieces as inspiration for free writing or discussion

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Concept to Classroom: A Series of Workshops

Professional learning programs which demand that all teachers sit in a designated space at a fixed time and listen to a day of lectures (or if you're slightly more fortunate - participate in workshops) from externally-hired 'experts' is pretty much the norm in many schools. How this is justified given the massive drive toward personalisation in learning is something of a mystery, but the wealth of material available online to support personal professional learning goals means that we can set the direction of our learning and use these tools to support us.

The screenshot below shows the options for workshops offered by one such source - ThirteenEd.

"The site features a series of FREE, self-paced workshops covering a wide variety of hot topics in education. Some of the workshops are based in theory, some are based in methodology - but all of the workshops include plenty of tips and strategies for making classrooms work."

All the courses have been designed by recognised experts, and the site provides justification for each course being accredited by your school's PL director. Having received positive feedback from a colleague on their 'Inquiry Based Learning' module, I feel justified in recommending it as a source for exploring chosen aspects of education. And anything that helps us escape that lecture hall model can only be good, right?

"Concept to Classroom: Course Menu." Concept to Classroom: Course Menu. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2012. <>.

Couros, Dr A. "Open Thinking." #etmooc: Let'€™s Get Started! N.p., 04 Sept. 2012. Web. 03 Nov. 2012. <>.

Siebel, Cindy. "Technology for Learning." 4 Steps to Personalized Professional Development. N.p., 12 Apr. 2009. Web. 03 Nov. 2012. <>.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Zondle: A Truly 'WOW!' Game Engine

Over the years I've come across some great game generators but as time has gone on, they have either changed to subscription-based models or disappeared. Enter Zondle which promises to always be free. This site allows you to enter questions with over 20 different formats to choose from. Once the questions have been typed in, the site automatically generates 50+ different games to review the knowledge.
After a rapid-fire round of emails with the very helpful Dougi of Zondle Support, I had my class usernames and passwords set up in less than half an hour last night. Today my learners logged on and...well, I've never heard them beg for more learning. After 20 minutes of playing games which tested their 'knowledge' of Shakespeare - we have not yet launched the topic and they have had no direct instruction - they were individually able to give me newly-learned facts simply from their gaming. When I asked if this was really a useful tool for learning, there was a resounding 'Yes!' vote.
What I love about Zondle is that it generates so many engaging activities from so little input. It is a very simple-to-use interface that requires only basic ICT skills and learners as well as teachers can author the activities.
What I have yet to try is the 'Team Play' mode which I've only previewed so far, but it is so slick and professional-looking that it's sure to be great for whole class involvement.
Did I mention that you can use 3rd-party devices for teams to enter their own answers? Or that you can integrate it with your teaching materials? There are so many great features that if the video below doesn't convince you, a visit to the site certainly will. Click here.

Learner Reflection: Read & Respond

Yesterday, one of my learners posted to her learning journal with the opening, 'Consider this a rant.' Well, a rant it my have been but this 16-year-old is clearly as sick of the exam mill we put our learners through as I am. Have a read and share your thoughts on her blog. Click here.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Halloween's Approaching

As Halloween is just around the corner, many bloggers and sites have been offering various resources to use this season.
One of my favourites is Trapped!, a low-level punctuation game from the BBC suitable for reviewing the basics of punctuation as a warm-up activity or quick filler,
For older learners, I have started a publicly-editable collection of short stories, one category being 'Halloween/Scary' so take a look, get some ideas and add your own. 

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Ways of Learning

Like many bloggers, I have more than one place where I collect and collate so today I'm taking the opportunity to share another of my sites here.
I created this site to gather information on different methodologies as my department began exploring the notion of thematic planning. Since its beginning, I have also added in sections for the Flipped Classroom model and PBL (Project-Based Learning). Hopefully the site will offer other teachers some alternative ways of delivering curriculum content. 
As always, feel free to get in touch with suggestions or comments which are always appreciated.

Click here to visit the site.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Interesting Ways with Thinglink

Anyone can add to this presentation, so if you have more great ideas, do share!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Contribution & Collaboration #flatclass

I've just finished Chapter 6 of Flattening Classrooms and what a great read! Lots of useful reminders about the things we need to consider when collaborating online, including avoiding 'lurking' where people watch but do not contribute. What is the justification of just 'taking' from the community and giving nothing in return? Apart from preventing others benefiting from your insights or challenges, you deny yourself the energy and inspiration that comes from such communication.
One of the key questions that arose was:
Am I embedding opportunities for collaboration and related assessment into curriculum design?
I think I don't do badly on this front, but there's more to be done. I now need to start formally assessing contributions alongside subject-related content. Hasn't it been shown time and time again that if it's not being assessed, it's probably not being heeded much by learners?
Up to this point, I've used rubrics for collaboration as stand-alone assessment (AfL) tools, but for summative assessments I can see the benefit in having these criteria given prominence alongside the other skills and knowledge traditionally assessed in the classroom. The tension remains, however, between school-dictated assessment models based on rather outdated standards and the need to move our learners into the 21st Century workplace with an appropriate toolkit.
And it's not all plain sailing. Without a doubt, online collaboration is extremely challenging with asynchronous workflows and the associated time-lags allowing for disengagement, and miscommunication. With the online conference happening tomorrow, it'll be very interesting to hear others' experiences of this mode of learning with all the inherent challenges. Do the suggested solutions really yield positive outcomes? Watch this space...

Sunday, 16 September 2012

PL Overload?

So, the PBLU course is finally yielding some interesting assignments for which I have to engage my grey matter...and it's challenging! With a return to work (albeit part-time) and the FCCT course underway, I am well and truly feeling the pressure. Add to this the maintenance of collaboration ties with several schools in the US and I'm definitely working no less intensely than this period last year when I was a full-timer.
In my enthusiasm to get on board with the Flat Classroom Project, I somehow read, but did not digest, the fact that this is a Masters-level course. Having completed an MA in Education, I had previously stated that I was done with adding such a study load to my work load and look at me now. But I am enjoying it. The workaholic in me lives on...
For the FCP we've been considering 'Communication' and we were grouped into 4s to give Quadblogging a go. I've never participated in such a venture and it'll be interesting to see what results it yields. The asynchronous mode of working is not exactly new to me, but the absolute lack of time to chat in the gaps is. As this is what the learners will be doing on the project (CCA starts tomorrow!) I guess it's only fair that we go through the process ourselves and it'll be a useful learning experience I'm sure.
Having completed 2 of the PBLU courses, I was feeling rather underwhelmed by it all but quite smug to see how far along the inquiry-based learning route our school already is. However, today's assignment which asked, 'How do you assess 21st Century skills such as critical thinking?' made me stop and wonder. In all honesty, I am guilty of talking about these skills a lot and expecting my learners to employ them but I have not once included assessment of these explicitly on a rubric or otherwise. What an oversight! So definitely some learning for me today.
Conference 2 is tomorrow so I still have reading to do and it's not exactly skim-reading material so time to get back to it. More soon (if I haven't cracked...)

Storyboard That: Drag n Drop in a Flash

I noticed Storyboard That from a tweet by Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne) a couple of days ago and set aside 5 minutes to have a quick look. It offfers a very simple interface for creating anything from basic to detailed frames.

As an entire year group at my school is currently producing video for a film festival I can see an immediate application, but the tool could also be used for providing instruction e.g. a process in Science, a technique in PE or a summary of historical events. Of course, being an English teacher, using this as a reading response assessment is also a possibility but I think my first exploration of Storyboard That will be to create frames (extracted by screenshot) for my teaching sites to engage learners and provide guidance at certain parts of the lessons. How could you use it?

Friday, 14 September 2012

A Re-post: Advice for Shy Presenters

I had this blog post bookmarked for a while as I prefer to have a look at a recommendation before passing it on, but as I have recently been focusing on presentations with my learners, it rose from the bottom of my 'bloggable' folder.
The post is from the excellent FreeTechForTeachers site and has a 5-minute video on how to overcome shyness in front of an audience with a truly useful article attached.
If you or your learners struggle with public address, this could be a great resource to explore, share and discuss.

Soundation: Create Your Own Soundtracks

As elements of operating systems are being replaced bit-by-bit with Web 2.0 tools,  Soundation is another free service to add to your kit. As with Garage Band, you can splice and mix uploaded tracks or choose from over 600 clips available from their library.

Results can then be used in group projects without the concern for copyright that is becoming an ever-increasing concern. Click here.


Just read this and had to share it. Now I know my destination!

"Teacherpreneurs enjoy autonomy and empowerment and sometimes the working environment attracts them as much as the financial incentives. As a good entrepreneur abhors unprofitable venture, likewise, teacherpreneurs resist lose-lose situations where they are forced into methodologies that are not reaching their students or curriculum that doesn't meet their high standards. Teacherpreneurs want to see students engaged and learning...Good teacherpreneurs aren't renegades; they are connectors."

Lindsay, J & David VA Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds, Pearson 2013, p44-45

Thursday, 13 September 2012

PicLits: An Adaptation on Concrete Poetry?

PicLits is a site that I was reminded of by a recent blogpost. Visitors click on a picture of their choice from a selection provided and then they can drag and drop words onto the picture to create a type of art-based poem or PicLit. The word banks are customised to each picture so that something relevant is likely to be produced. 

A great tool to get learners started on composing while avoiding 'blank page syndrome' or it could be used as inspiration for descriptive writing. There is also a Learn It section on the site where visitors can take writing Master Classes.

Teachers may think this is restricted to use in the English classroom, but why not start your Science or Math lesson with a bit of a creative burst? Click here to give it a go.

Warning: Check the day's gallery (not on the home page) before sharing with learners as some of the results may be inappropriate for your context.

Alternatives to Picassa for Web Albums

Earlier today a colleague asked why she couldn't make her Picassa albums public outside our school domain, as she wanted to embed a slideshow in a Google Site. The answer: Picassa has moved to Google+ and therefore sharing is controlled through that portal. If your school doesn't have Google+ enabled, your hands are rather tied on this one. 

Albums are a great way to showcase learners' work or share learning moments with a wider audience so it's well worth finding one that meets your needs.

In a quest to find an alternative, I discovered two services that are a bit different but perhaps even better? Judge for yourself:

Dropmocks is a service that could not be simpler. Simply drag files from your computer onto the screen and they will be uploaded. No registration; no time wasted. Click on an image to bring it into focus while the rest sit behind blurred out. Embed in a Google Site using the iframe gadget. Here's an example below.

Wallwisher is no newcomer, but how about combining different media for a notice board display rather than a traditional slideshow? Combine artwork and video to enhance your pictures and visitors can leave comments (if you set the permissions appropriately). And even better - it's a collaborative tool so all your learners can contribute. 
To embed in Google Sites, simply copy and paste the embed code as usual. It will display best on a site that is 800 px wide, or visitors will have to scroll around to see all content. Example here:

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Assessing Critical Thinking

Today, I was given an assignment from PBLU to consider how I'd assess 21st Century skills, specifically critical thinking. At first glance, I thought, 'easy' but when it came to actually getting it down in black and white I realised that I had a glaring omission in my assessment toolset. While I talk about critical thinking skills with my learners (a lot!), I couldn't recall a time when I'd included it in the assessment criteria of a rubric or given written feedback to even one learner using that actual term. I mean, of course I've asked them to expand on a point in their learning blog, evaluate a process they've been through and make their thinking 'visible' but why on earth would they be doing this as a matter of practice when I don't explicitly assess it (or at least not since our 'Thinking Together' program 2 years ago which new learners never experienced)? And here's me after a year of focusing on 'Clarity in the Classroom'. Appalling!
Recovering from the immobility of shame, I watched the recommended video below to get started. I realise that I am going to need resources to focus on critical thinking more explicitly and, as mentioned by a colleague in a discussion yesterday, it's time for us to make audio & video recordings a regular feature of classroom activity. In this way, we'll be able to make thinking an aspect for reflection as with any other skill. Below the video are some resources that I've read through but I'm sure there are lots more out there to be discovered, and I'll be looking out for resources to use with learners in particular.

Scholastic $1 Deal Sale Now On!

Time for a Change

Until now, I have kept my PL blog and my teaching resources blog separate but after conversations with several colleagues & 'networkees', it's time for a change. In future, I will share my musings and discoveries on methodology and pedagogy here using the label ReflectionsI have been the lucky participant of such good courses, summits, online conferences, webinars and PLN connections that I really feel it's time to share.
I will continue to curate the best of Web 2.0 tools for the classroom as well as professional learning resources, but hopefully this bit of reorganisation will give me more scope to incorporate consideration of what exactly this all adds up to. 
So bear with me and feel free to filter out my ramblings using the Labels menu on the right to get right to 'the good stuff.'


Monday, 10 September 2012


Just read this and had to share it. Despite the frustrations, we are not alone!

"Teacherpreneurs enjoy autonomy and empowerment and sometimes the working environment attracts them as much as the financial incentives. As a good entrepreneur abhors unprofitable venture, likewise, teacherpreneurs resist lost-lost situations where they are forced in to methodologies that are not reaching their students or curriculum that doesn't meet their high standards. Teacherpreneurs want to see students engaged and learning...Good teacherpreneurs aren't renegades; they are connectors."

Lindsay, J & David VA Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds, Pearson 2013, p44-45

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Tubechop: Extract Video Clips Online

Tubechop is a service could prove to be an essential part of a teacher's online toolkit. Use it to 'chop' the bits of Youtube videos that you want to use. No more having to make a note of timings; simply chop the section you want and then embed it using the code provided or share it via your social network. Easy.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Free PBL courses from PBLU

This is too good to keep to yourself. PBLU are offering free courses to anyone interested in implementing the PBL model. As these guys are an offshoot of BIE - the heavyweights in the world of PBL - they are well worth a look. By completing the 6 courses on offer, including the final capstone project, you will receive certification as a PBL teacher. 
If you are one of the many who have been curious as to why there's so much hype around PBL, this is the perfect opportunity to be properly informed and explore the methodology with your own learners.
As the site itself is in beta, I'm wondering if the courses will remain free after this first trial run. Not waiting to find out, I'm all signed up and raring to go. Join me!

(The site also contains a range of PBL projects will which at the time of blogging will shortly be available. Be sure to peruse the examples for inspiration.)

Change Should be a Reality

A colleague sent me this blog post from Eric Sheninger and it immediately struck a chord so I though it worth sharing.

"Change in education seems to be as illusive as the Loch Ness Monster. Everyone seems to be talking about it, but little action leading to meaningful results seems to be the mainstay in many schools. Through my work over the years as a teacher, educational administrator, and learner through I have identified common roadblocks to the change process. If identified and addressed appropriately these roadblocks can be overcome."  

That's the intro to give you a taster. It's well worth a read, it's concise and if you recognise any of these barriers in your own school, why not pass it on and start a discussion? 

Monday, 9 July 2012

Bit by Bit

So, my copy of the PBL Starter Kit arrived last week from BIE and I read it cover-to-cover in one evening. A lot of it was encouraging as I realised I'm further along in mastering the PBL method than I had previously thought, but it also threw up some very important warnings. Among the most pertinent of these was probably the need to for induction of learners into the process, and remembering that regular AfL is absolutely essential to keep projects on track and of a high standard with regard to outcomes. These ideas are not entirely new but do serve as useful reminders.
The book is also well worth getting for the rubrics and the way it really guides you into the PBL model, suggesting that we start small and then work our way up to more ambitious projects involving various parties and subject areas.
On another note, one disappointment from the book was how little a spark it seemed to generate from my Head of Department (HoD). At the moment, I'm a bit of a lone island when it comes to my curiosity about PBL although our PL leader expressed actual excitement at my exploration of this area, feeling it is very in tune with the school's philosophy and forward-thinking 'ness.' That's enough to keep me going for now, and to be honest, the further I delve into it the more convinced I am that this 'real world' application of teaching is something our learners deserve if we are to truly prepare them for what's next. The skills that they learn echo those they will call upon not only in the workplace, but in the everyday interactions and tasks that are part of life. We can't know the nature of future work places or patterns but one thing I am pretty sure of is that the qualities practised and refined through PBL can only be of benefit to any path life might offer: resilience, independence, self-management and flexibility along with all the opportunities to hone confidence in interpersonal and ICT skills - what's not to love?

Monday, 2 July 2012

Teaching Channel: Professional Community

Looking for something to supplement your school's PL program? The Teaching Channel is a repository for a wealth of useful video resources for those interested in professional learning. It catalogues the one-hour weekly program aired on PBS but even if you haven't got the time or patience to sit through a full episode, there are lots of shorter videos to showcase inspirational teaching ideas, such as this 2-minute video below on using kids' books with older learners for literary analysis.
Register for their newsletter, follow their blog and have a good browse through your subject or area or whole-school interest.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Vialogues: Dialogue around video

  • Use to flip the classroom and promote learner discussion around videos.
  • Great for collaborating with classes in other locations.
  • Media learners can give each other precise feedback from afar.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Launching the Change

Recently my department decided to move away from the traditional 6-week focus on poetry, prose, media etc toward thematic planning. As a result of this I started looking into different teaching models (even more) and soon realised that taking the best of all the great ideas out there is what I think will work for me. I already 'flip' a bit and thematic planning paired with PBL is one powerful way to get learners thinking...I mean really thinking.

The inquiry-based nature of both these models, the potential for collaboration across subjects (and schools) as well as genuinely useful real-world outcomes has convinced me that this is the way to go. So, in a bid to be as prepared as possible, I've taken several steps including:
  • returning to Edmodo to find it is without a doubt the most support and helpful online teaching community I've ever had the luck to find; 
  • registering for the Flat Classroom Certified Teacher program so I can partake in the project with much guidance; 
  • using the BIE site as a launchpad for really getting to grips with PBL; 
  • registering on the upcoming PBLU courses also run by BIE and 
  • launching this Ways to Learn site to gather all the info I find. 

So far I've had an overwhelmingly positive response to my callout for classrooms to collaborate resulting in a group of 5 of us who will be working closely in the next academic year. With teachers from the US and Australia I am hopeful that the learners will be as excited as I am about what comes next.

I am interested to see how successful we will be as there are many obstacles to be overcome but as most of us are one-to-one I'm hoping that the pace will be maintained and learners will be fully engaged throughout. Lots to do before then though so let's see!

Monday, 18 June 2012

Contemporary Music & Canonical Literature

Here's a handy list of songs that someone has compiled as suggestions to accompany literary texts. Everyone likes music (don't they?) and it's a great way to introduce a novel or kick off discussion around a particular theme.
Click here for the list. 

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Visual Writing Prompts from Pinterest

I came across this great Pinterest page and I'll be using it to give learners ideas when they're doing 'free writing.' Below is a screenshot of just a few of the many examples. Click here to check out the pins and be inspired!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Beyond Youtube: Video Resources for Education

Youtube is a great go-to for videos covering pretty much anything, but it isn't the only collection out there that might be of interest for the classroom. Below are a few more video options for when Youtube yields nothing useful. These are great resources for flipping the classroom, self-access or simply explaining a concept as part of a lesson.
"We believe that everyone should have the same opportunity to learn. The best way to make this possible, we believe, is to organize into one, super directory the hundreds of thousands of good videos currently available on the Internet. To make this a reality, we invite teachers, instructors and educators to suggest videos for inclusion into our directory, and then to review, approve, and assign those videos into appropriate categories using a wiki framework and philosophy. The videos are the highest quality found on the World Wide Web, cover all major educational topics from elementary to secondary schools (or age range 1 – 18), and are Kid Safe!"
Click here

"Classroom Clips allows users to search and explore a wide range of educational content which has been correlated to the Virginia Standards of Learning. Featuring many locally produced programs, users are able to stream video and audio clips on topics such as history, government, science, and art."
Click here

The Science and Education section of - also available at - has videos (and articles) covering a range of topics from how to write a literary essay to how to make a model volcano.
Click here

There are many more sites that offer at least some video content among their resources, but these are the top 3 I've found for consistently yielding useful results. Hope you find them useful too!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Dropcanvas: Share Stored Files Instantly

Dropcanvas is a very simple yet useful service. Go the the homepage, drag files onto the page and a url will be generated for sharing. Pass it on to whoever you want to and that's it! At the time of writing, there is no limit on how much you can store in total, although there is a healthy 5GB limit per canvas. Another great way to share files and folders with minimal hassle.


  • This is a really handy alternative to other forms of instant file sharing such as Bluetooth or shared servers; learners just need access to the Internet to share files so distance is no object.
  • Use this to supplement file-sharing from other locations such as Google Drive or Dropbox.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

PBL: Getting Started with Project-Based Learning

I've blogged about a few resources for the PBL classroom, which can be found in these search results, but a recent forum discussion and a chat with a colleague made me realise that not everyone is clear about PBL; many have the impression that it is simply incorporating projects into learning, but it rather more involved than this traditional classroom phenomenon. I intend to incorporate the elements that I find most suited to my learners such as the 'real world' focus and it complements my move toward thematic planning, providing a wealth of ideas to get started. My post on BIE is still a good place to start for those who are in the dark, but below are a few other resources that should make the ideas behind PBL a bit clearer, not least to myself!

Resource 1
Got 3 minutes and 50 seconds? This video from BIE explains what PBL is:

Like this? There are lots more on the BIE Youtube Channel and their project search tool on the right-hand side of this page is a great way to see what potential projects look like.

Resource 2 
Got a bit more time? Click here to access the Project-Based Learning Professional Development Guide from Edutopia.

Resource 3
Ready to get serious? Click here to access TechLearning's 25+ links to uncovering PBL online.

Hopefully, these resources provide a clearer picture of PBL in its purest form as well as the various ways it can be 'diluted' to suit other models of learning. Many professional forums, including those on the sites above, have threads around this topic, so jump in and join the discussion.

ACMI Generator: a creative space for video-makers

"Generator is a creative studio space for teachers and students to explore exemplary work by their peers and industry professionals. Comment, tag, and share creative work and education resources."

This resource from the Australian Centre for the Moving Image is jam-packed with media tools and opportunities to explore and share great work. 
One the best feature of this site is the storyboard generator where you can "create and share animated storyboards from a selection of existing scripts. You can also choose to create your own script and storyboard." Extensive instructions are provided, so it's easy to get started; choose from Horror, Comedy or Romance and let your creative juices flow!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Publishing tools for learners: a collection of options

I can't quite remember where I came across this lino (something like an online notice-board), but it's a great source for finding ways of giving learners' options when it comes to presenting their work. It's a public lino so anyone can add notes to it. Explore and add your own ideas.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Visual Literacy: Inspiration for Literacy Activities

I came across a great resource a couple of days ago on TES containing a link to a posterous site set up by one Rob Smith. Although only a couple of months old, the blog already contains over 50 video clips with suggested activities from creative writing to discussion, inference and deduction and much more. The clips are generally short and the ideas are great for seeing just how many ways there are to incorporate this engaging material into lessons. If you've got 10 minutes to spare, have a browse and see what gems you uncover.

Rob seems to be a Primary teacher, but there is plenty in here for the Secondary classroom too. Be inspired!

Click The Literacy Shed to visit the site.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Lunapic: Online Image Editor

Lunapic is a product I came across when trying to find a way to remove the white background for images I want to place on my sites containing lessons. Often, I use coloured backgrounds and the usual white filler is visually unattractive. Step in Lunapic. It performs a myriad of tasks to edit an image, but the one I bookmarked it for was the ability to make backgrounds transparent.


  • Use Lunapic to brighten up your own learning sites
  • Learners can use Lunapic to enhance presentation of tasks they complete, particularly if they are for the public domain

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

LogoTypeMaker: Create custom logos

LogoTypeMaker makes it very easy to create your own logo. It's as simple as entering your brand name, and waiting a few seconds while it generates a selection of different logos, rather than just one.
I came across this while researching resources for an Apprentice unit that I'll be doing with my learners soon. This will give them the opportunity to create their own brand visual for use in their pitches and presentations. Here's one I created in less than 30 seconds.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

ZombieMe: Zombify Yourself

Warning: If you're easily grossed out, look away now!

As I was researching resources for a unit based around 'Horror', I came across ZombieMe which allows you to upload a picture of yourself and then add scars, necrosis and other zombie features to create a picture you can use however you choose. Definitely not one for the younger learners, but with the recent trends in the zombie genre, perhaps this would allow your learners some creativity in the classroom?

  • Learners could create zombies for their own horror photostory
  • Use creations to inspire creative descriptive writing
  • Use as a lead-in for Biology lessons looking at decomposition; a zombified teacher will certainly capture their attention!

Monday, 28 May 2012

Google 3D Photo Tours of Famous Landmarks

Google has launched yet another great tool that has great potential for the classroom - Photo Tours. Tekzilla explain it all in the video below.

  • Use this tool to set up virtual field trips.
  • English teachers can guide learner toward this tool as inspiration for descriptive writing.
  • Build excitement around an actual school trip by exploring landmarks in ways not possible in the physical world; zoom up buildings, see them from above etc.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Thinglink: 27+ Interesting Ways to Use

A while back I posted about a gadget for emebedding Thinglink into a Google Site. Today, I came across this great presentation that offers up 27+ ways to use Thinglink in the classroom. It has been produced under a Creative Commons licence so anyone is free to add to the ideas. Have a look and be inspired.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012 - Slideshows with a Face! allows you to record yourself via a webcam while presenting a slideshow. The guy in the video below has over 50 years of communications experience, so I'll let him explain the rest.

  • Use it to explain concepts for lessons and make it part of your flipped-classroom toolkit.
  • Learners can use to record digital presentations for current and future learners.
  • Learners could also use it to present a portfolio of work evidencing their progress or talk their audience through the process of doing something e.g. the essay-drafting process.
  • How about a project where older learners write stories for younger learners, illustrate slides to accompany their tales and then read them aloud before sharing across the school and perhaps even with other schools?

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

A Result! Thinglink Gadget for Google Sites

After a very frustrating couple of days, the kind Andrew of Thinglink has produced a gadget to embed Thinglink images into Google Sites.

Instructions (Open your Google page before reading):
  1. Go to the Google Sites page where you want to place image and click 'edit'
  2. Click 'insert' and choose add gadget.
  3. Add a 'Gadget by URL'
  4. Enter the URL:
  5. Enter the embed code from the Thinglink image where the box is
  6. Save the page to see what it looks like; you may have to fiddle with the height and width settings depending on your image dimensions
  • Use embedded Thinglinks as a navigation menu on the splash page of your site. (Thanks to Holly for this one.)
  • Learners can use Thinglink to draw together information on a topic using a relevant image; as it's a collaborative tool, you can allow anyone to edit and add tags.
  • Learners could make a map of place that a story takes place in and then embed different media at certain locations as a way to experiment with experiencing narrative in different ways.
  • Science could set up a murder scene with tags leading to various clues or English/Language Arts teachers could do the same as a starting point for imaginative writing.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Festisite: Unleash the Creativity - Mother's Day Cards?

Festisite is an interesting platform for producing some great teaching resources, as well as getting your learners to be creative with texts. You can sign-up using an existing account such as Facebook, so no need to create a separate profile.

  • Use the money generator to produce customised cash for use in the classroom - maths?
  • Personalise cards with pictures for classroom games.
  • Create shape texts - how about one like this letter (below) for Mother's Day?

Monday, 7 May 2012

Pinterest: Visual Community Curation

One of the hottest topics at the moment is Pinterest, accounts for which are still only available via invitation. It's basically a visual curation site to gather and share content around the web on any topic you choose. Fortunately, you do not need an account to see what pin-boards others have created and here's a very useful one from David Kapuler sharing a variety of free clipart sites for use in education.


  • Pinterest is a great go-to site if you are looking for particular teaching resources that others recommend; here's another board for The Hunger Games but you can find boards for a huge variety of topics
  • Learners could use Pinterest to find curated content on research topics; my learners are currently using it for the My Hero project and have managed to find some great links
  • If learners request an account and are successful they could work together to create their own boards related to specific topics

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Sumdog: Games for Math Practice

Sumdog offers a wide range of games to practice math in a fun way. There are rewards, competitions and multi-player games to keep even the most reluctant learners engaged. There are portals for teachers, students and parents so it can be used at home too. Teachers can organise students into classes and set specific activities for them to complete.

  • The ability to create free logins for all your students, without providing e-mail addresses is a bonus for schools not yet using a school-wide email system
  • As teachers can choose which skills learners practise, activities can personalise activities and  complement classroom activities 
  • Let's face it - what teen would rather do exercises out of a traditional textbook than play interactive games online? It's a winner for motivation and engagement at all levels.