Monday, September 30, 2013

Gimme S'more

I was very excited to road test a new tool today live in my lesson using a combination of paid and free technology. My school uses the Frog VLE which although a little bit glitchy, is good enough for me to plan all my lessons through and share resources with my students. I still find however that I get to do more creative things with free technologies and as long as the fact we paid for a VLE isn't a barrier to using other useful technologies (which it often is in other schools!), I am happy.

Although I am a Physics teacher by trade, I currently teach IB Environmental Systems and Societies. Today my students were looking at case studies of extinct and endangered animals and I wanted them to present it in a creative way. Lately I have been hugely impressed with sites like Padlet and Tackk that let you create high quality content without even logging in, with a simple link to share. Today I used Smore. It is similar to Padlet but focuses on creating fliers or posters rather than 'web sites'.

The impressive thing with this tool was how quickly they were able to produce high quality content which they then presented to the rest of the class. Once they completed it, they then shared the link to their poster as a comment on the class blog meaning I was able to access them quickly and they could present their work before the end of the lesson.

To give an idea of how easy it is to use I am going to create a flier ( advertising guest posting on Free Tech for Schools hint hint) and embed it here. at the bottom, I will write how long it took.

Total time, including writing and uploading photo: 4 minutes and 6 seconds

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Have you heard about Kodu. I haven't tried it myself but I've been hearing a lot about it recently. Kodu is a free program you can download which lets students create games using a simple visual programming language.

Here is what Kodu say about it

Kodu Teaches more than Programming
  • Kodu is a rich tool for narrative creation and storytelling
  • Kodu demonstrates that programming is a creative medium
  • Kodu helps children with critical thinking, breaking a complex goal into manageable steps, and iterate on the design process – an approach applicable to all academic subjects, business and personal relationships
  • Kodu introduces the logic and problem solving of programming
  • Kodu introduces conditions and sequences, which teaches cause and effect
  • Students learn about cooperation, logic and creativity in addition to programming

Kodu is currently being tried in Australian public schools.

Kodu has an emphasis on the creative side and is not just for teachers who are technically able. If you are interested, there is a classroom kit to get you started. If you try it out, or if you are already using it, let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Apps for Creativity and imagination

I stumbled across this today and thought it was worth reposting.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Learning with the kids

Last week we finally had enough students sign up for our Codecademy club meaning it can now run as an after school club. Only one problem (or opportunity). I don't know how to code. Well, what's a guy to do. Better start learning I guess!

I got a little bit of a head start and completed the first few lessons before the first session with the kids and so far I have found the Codecademy materials amazing. You get regular feedback on how you have completed small tasks and there are lots of opportunities to review and apply what you have been learning. I have found it pretty straight forward so far, but some of the kids are geniuses. They move at double my speed and I can't keep up. By next week, I will be asking them for help and trust me, I will be glad of it.

I have the feeling that Codecademy is going to be the best bit of professional development that I've had in a long time. Not just because I am learning new skills but it puts me in the place that teachers should really put themselves into more often; the position of the learner. What did I learn from my first experience (apart from a few html basics)? I learned how effective it is to learn things in small chunks with activities which are designed to progress in difficulty and build on prior knowledge.

If your school doesn't teach any coding, try and start a Codecademy club. It is really simple. Once your students set up their account they will be moving at different speeds and many will overtake you. Don't worry if you don't know how to code. The best thing you can do is cultivate an environment where students learn to collaborate and help each other (and you!).

Codecademy does provide tools for teachers although we went for the jump straight in and get the students working through it themselves route but there are materials to help you teach it if you want. I wouldn't recommend trying to teach them. You will most likely hold them back. Just let them learn and teach you a few things as they go. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

An easy way to embed videos without Youtube

Here's a little known trick for video sharing using Google Drive. If you have a video you want to share but don't particularly want to share it on Youtube, you can upload to Google Drive and then embed wherever you like.

Here are the steps:

  • Go to Google Drive and hit the upload button (the one with the arrow pointing up next to create)

  • Find the video you want to upload and upload it. Choose the option to convert to Google format (I haven't checked if it works if you don't do that).

  • Open the video with Google Drive viewer

  • Click on 'file' and then 'Embed this video'. If you have set the share settings to public then you can embed it anywhere and people can see it.

For those of you who are wondering, what the video is, it is me sparring when I used to do boxing. I'm not so fit these days.....

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Get a free Kindle book on Amazon

You need to get in quick for this offer. I only found out about it today and it expires tomorrow (20th September). You can get a free copy of 'Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering and Engineering in the classroom. This book has been described as the bible of the makers movement in schools.
I haven't read it yet but I intend to. don't be fooled by the title. It is not just for teachers of STEM subjects. The development of new technologies has turned us all into makers.

Download it free through this link. The paperback copy is normally $28!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Quick Key

Quick Key is a fantastic app for the iphone which eliminates hand grading of tests and quizzes. It turns the iphone into a hand scanner to grade quizzes and tests up to 30 questions long.

It was designed by teachers for teachers and is simple to use and best of all it's free. If you have a simple marking grid, it can recognise it and update the marks.

Here is a great little video explaining more

Now I wonder when they will create the android version.....

Monday, September 16, 2013

Share resources quickly and easily

Taught it is a great new site for sharing any resource quickly and easily. Without signing up you can share resources with the click of a button. Once you upload your resource, it provides a link and QR code for sharing the resource which are both active for 48 hours.

If you choose to sign up to the site, you can save your shared files, extend the duration of the links and make connections with other people sharing resources. Signing up is quick and easy too.
Taught it is another tool I highly recommend to encourage the less tech savvy teachers in your school to give using technology a go. The site provides links to files so short that a teacher could even get their students to write it down in their planner to access a resource for homework.

One thing this resource has got me thinking about is differentiation. We constantly talk about differentiating our lessons to provide access to all of our students, yet when it comes to technology, schools often expect teachers to fit into a one size fits all approach, normally using the expensive software solution the school has paid for. I wonder how much more technophobic teachers would use technology if schools adopted a differentiated approach and helped teachers use the most effective tools based on their skill level.

2 safe ways to download Youtube videos for free

This is a guest post from Deepak Soni at Drypin.

 There are two free ways to download videos from YouTube and other video sites like dailymotion, vimeo etc. In first way you need to download a software that we discuss below. In second way you can download videos online or without any software. Both ways supports all version of windows and also supports windows-8 PC. In both ways you may download videos to computer in all video formats like 3gp, mp4, flv etc. and also in any quality is available of video like 144p to 1080p.

Method 1
Download YouTube videos free with software In this way you need to download a software that is completely free and after installation you may continue download unlimited videos in various formats like HD, Full Hd(Formats: 144p to 1080p).
Step-1: Download Software from here
 Step-2: Open the .zip file and extract it.
Step-3: Run “YouTube Video Downloader.exe” file from zip folder
Step-4: Go to “” and copy the link from address bar of video that you wants to download.
Step-5: Now come back to software and paste the link in Video URL.
Step-6: Click on “Generate links” button to get available download formats of the video.
Step-7: Select which format you wants to download and click the button “Download Selected Video”. Step-8: Now you can see you download in the “Download” tab of software.

 Method 2
Download YouTube videos free online In this way you may download and save video to your pc without any software. You may also download all various formats and picture quality in this way also. Step-1: Open your browser and Go to the
Step-2: Go to “” and copy the link from address bar of video that you wants to download.
Step-3: Come back to the and Paste the link in Download Bar of the page.
Step-4: Press the Download Button and select the download format.
Step-5: Save the file where you want to keep it.