Category Archives for Technology

Update on Using Open Badges with Year 7

Great homework badge

So, Year 7 and I are rocking and rolling with our badges! (If you want to know where we started read this post!)

The students have created some super badges, ranging from Great homework to Going the Extra Mile and Problem Solver. Almost without exception they have found the project fun, creative and have learnt a great deal. One noted; “This has been the BEST project ever”.  The criteria, as expected, was the hardest part with some students doing this very well and others needing more support – from their fellow students rather than me. I have only intervened to try to create a relatively standard approach to make it easier (and less time consuming ) to track and award badges.

The emphasis is on the student to track and then claim their badges (again, taken from Martin Waller’s work with his class). All students have created a table listing the badges they can earn, the criteria and a column to track them. I then tell them when I am awarding them a ‘credit’ towards a particular badge. For example, in Tuesday’s lesson two students who rarely speak earned a ‘credit’ towards their confidence badge as they spoke out voluntarily in class. They need 10 credits to earn their badge.

It’s an evolving project and the first time any of us have done this, so of course we are all learning along the way. Every single student has designed something creative and original in their badge and it been a great way of getting the students working together, encouraging their creativity, collaboration and critical thinking skills.

This has been one of the best projects I have ever taught in terms of the positive reaction from the pupils and the ongoing benefits. Anecdotally I have noticed a huge difference in the students’ independence, willingness to ask questions and collaborate. The process has encouraged them to work together, obtaining regular feedback and striving to improve their work. I’m going to be getting some analysis from the students and will publish the results when I have them.

Furthermore, producing a badge that others will earn has no doubteldy contributed to motivation and a desire to produce a high standard of work and I hope the ability to earn their own and peer’s badges will of course encourage the behaviours that the badges reward! It’s a shame we are not able to use the Mozilla backpack at the moment, due to the students being under 13, however Mozilla I know are looking at ways of resolving this, so I’m certainly hoping in the future we will be able to try open, rather than digital badges.

Meanwhile we’re going old school with a document table for the, to track but I intent for them to use a Google site later this term to be able to keep their badges and best work on – eportfolio style (similar to Carrie-Ann Philbin’s work with her classes). I’m also looking at getting some stickers made. I think seeing their work printed out and stuck in their peers homework diaries would be pretty cool. in I’ll continue to update you on how the tracking / monitoring works towards the end of term, however for now I am looking forward to awarding some badges to my very well-deserving students!

Also, do check out James Michie and Duncan MacLeod’s work with their respective students – both are very generous with their ideas and undertaking some excellent student-centred work involving badges.

Our badge design process:


  • What have you obtained badges or certificates for outside and inside school?
  • What badges would you like to earn at school in ICT?
  • What skills/behaviours can we reward that are not currently recognised?
  • What makes an effectively designed badge?


  • Decide on badge you will design & what needs to be included & sketch out criteria
  • Sketch 4 different designs & obtain feedback
  • Decide upon final design & mock up in detail
  • Obtain feedback & change as necessary
  • Design badge using Adobe Fireworks
  • Obtain feedback & change as necessary


  • Finalise criteria & gain further feedback to ensure is easy to follow for peers

Share & Track

  • Submit to shared folder
  • Design tracking sheet

Start earning / collecting badges!

How my ipad has improved my teaching and workflow


I’ve been using my ipad more and more in my teaching.

I just find it so easy to work with, both at home and at school and love the fact I can integrate the resources I plan at home (or quite literally anywhere) into my lessons so easily.

I thought I’d run through some of my favourite apps and my workflow.



I first fell in love with the keynote app a couple of years ago, and it remains one of my favourites. Presentations are super easy to design and. Depending on where I am, I either simply mirror my ipad to the projector (see below for more info), or I use my plug, or upload to Dropbox / Google Drive and I sign into one of those accounts and I’m off. I really do love keynote!

Good Reader

The good reader app allows me to hold large numbers of PDFs on my ipad and to annotate them. This has been a bit of a revalation, particuarly in terms of saving paper (no need to print out reems of print screens). Students save their work as a PDF and then I can transfer this either via dropbox or my mac to my ipad’s good reader account. I can then mark all the work using the annotation tools and return the work to the students, again either via email or dropbox. I’ve also saved the comments I’ve made in a document so I can use this to create a more official feedback sheet for large projects and have a copy of my comments in an easy place for Parents’ Evenings etc.

I started using Socrative last year after being introduced to it by Steve Bunce and I really like the simplicity of it. On the ipad it’s even easier to create and share quizzes with students and receive instant feedback. Response from students has been over-whelmingly positive and it’s really easy to use for plenaries, recaps or even summative assessments.

Puppet Pals
Looking for ways to introduce topics in ways that will grab your students’ attention? Look no further than Puppet Pals (and Morpho below). Puppet pals has a free version, although I’ve upgraded to . You can easily create little animated stories and I use it to set homework!

Morpho and PhotoSpeak are also fun apps that you can use to have famous people talking and setting tasks. Jessica Ennis introduced our last Year 7 project 🙂 I have found that they don’t always work with the reflector app, which is a pain as this is by far and away my favourite way to use my ipad in class.

Reflector App
Having seen how easy Apple TVs make it to display an ipad’s screen on a projector at during my work at Leverhouse and Leamore primary schools, I looked for a way of doing this. Although I’d love an Apple TV, budgets are super-tight, so reflector (previously called reflections) or Air Server it was. Having trialled both (you have to be REALLY quick with your reflector trial as you only get 10 minutes!), I plumped for reflector as it worked really quickly and effectively, and Airserver had a few download issues.

I love the fact that I can now reflect whatever is on my ipad onto my gorgeous big screen in the classroom. As I teach in a lovely, but slightly awkwardly shaped room, this has, quite literally, changed my teaching life as I can walk around into the nooks and crannies, ensuring all students are engaged and passing them the ipad to get involved directly in the lesson and WAY cheaper (and more effective in my opinion) than an interactive whiteboard!

If you’re considering doing this, there are lots of posts on reflector vs air server and I would recommend you try before you buy, just to see which you prefer.

So, there you go; a quick run down of my the apps that are helping me and my ipad be a more efficient, creative teacher 🙂

cc image: Sean MacEntee

Google Sketchup Resources

Google Sketchup Logo

Last week I was lucky enough to be asked to deliver a workshop to around 20 international delegates on the use of Google Sketchup 8 for teaching design. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and we created tables, interiors and buildings in the session. I have to say that the results were some of the most impressive I’ve ever seen (far better than my own efforts) and I put that down to the creative, design-brains of the teachers involved!

Sketchup, as many of you ICT teachers already know, is an excellent, free resource for teaching 3D modelling, design, architechture (amongst many other things). It integrates brilliantly with Google Earth and really fires up the imagination. Perfect for a bit of pre-Christmas fun in the classroom!

I’d like to share the resources we used on the day – these are resources for learning, rather than teaching Sketchup. I have included a mind-map of teaching ideas and a quick idea for a pet home project. The resources are all available here. Please use as you wish.

Birthday Gifts!

It’s our birthday! To celebrate, we bought ourselves one of these fab ‘Love for Games’ posters by Axel Pfaender. We liked it so much we bought 3 more to give away!

So if you have a corner, corridor or classroom that you would like to cheer up with this colourful, fun poster, all you have to is make sure you are following us on Twitter, and RT one of our competition tweets with the hashtag #bdayposter. You can also enter by liking us on Facebook. You’d better be quick though as entries close at 5pm on Monday 19th September!

Happy Birthday!


On Monday 19th September the names of all those people who have followed us and re-tweeted one of our competition tweets with the hashtag #bdayposter on Twitter and those who have liked us on Facebook will be entered into a random name generator and 3 names will be chosen.
We will send you the poster in a poster tube to your school address (you need to supply the blue tack / pins to pin it up).

Open For Education

My presentation from the Open for Education conference.

Education is Going Google

This post first appeared as a guest post on the Keboko blog
I’m delighted to have been asked to write this guest blog post for Keboko in which I’ll discuss some of the ways in which Google Apps for Education is being used in schools and colleges to enhance teaching and learning. From giving students new and safe ways to share their work, to increasing communication between staff and reaching out to the community, Google Apps for Education has something for every educational organisation!

Increasing collaboration and communication amongst students.
There are many ways in which Google Apps encourages students to work together. My favourite tool from the Apps suite continues to be Google Docs which allows students to work on one document in real time. This means, if desired, an entire class can collaborate on one document. In Phil Bagge’s primary class, his pupils conduct cooling experiments, enter their data on one spreadsheet and then undertake analysis as a whole class using the built in graphing tools.

Add into the mix the in-built chat facility when working on a document and you have a really powerful way that pupils can quickly and easily collaborate. In my own, and other teachers’ experience, once students have got over the initial novelty of the ability to send instant messages and work on the same document at once in Google docs, they generally use it sensibly.

Subsequently, it can have an incredibly positive impact on the way they think about and self-assess their work as shown in Oliver Quinlan’s class.  However, as James Mitchie’s experiences illustrate, even with the best of intentions, collaboration in this way is a new concept for students and takes time and careful planning to work effectively.

Another great way of increasing student collaboration is through a shared calendar on which they input their birthdays and other important dates. Responsibility for this can be shared amongst the entire class, or one or two pupils each half-term. Shared calendars are also a great way for schools to increase communication with parents.

Encouraging Parental Engagement
The ability to share and collaborate on multiple calendars means that schools can easily share important dates with parents. The calendar can be embedded into the school website, or another site, along with blogs, You Tube channels and other useful links as Helen Morgan has done in her department.

Google Sites are a very simple web design tool for children to use and Ian Addison’s pupils have been creating their own websites to share information about their local area. Many schools are also starting to use Google Apps instead of expensive virtual learning environments and Kevin McLaughlin outlines the process he went through to do just that here.

Furthermore, Google forms are also a superb way to find out what parents are thinking and collect anything from feedback on the school website to preferences for appointment times at parents’ evenings. The beauty of course with forms, other than the ease with which they can be created and shared via email or embedded into a website, is that the results are automatically collated into a spreadsheet, complete with timestamp. It is therefore hugely beneficial for schools who have been collecting such information via paper forms. Google includes some good instructions to using forms here.

Increase Teacher Productivity
Forms can also be used in many ways, to collect data and opinions and saving teachers time which they can then use to focus on teaching. There are some fantastic ideas from teachers all over the World in Tom Barrett’s fantastic ‘Interesting Ways’ series.  Another great, time-saving way of using forms is to create self-grading quizzes for pupils. A detailed tutorial of how to do this is here.

Moreover, communication and collaboration between staff becomes easier using Google Apps. Sharing departmental or administrative documents is simple and they can be worked on by multiple staff simultaneously meaning less time spent on administration and more time for teaching.

Similarly, the ability to share calendars with different groups allows senior managers and departments to have their own shared calendars which makes arranging meetings or checking when people are available very straightforward. A school can also set up a room, or laptop trolly as a resource, making booking that room or trolley very simple and one less administrative task for someone to have to manage. Reminders can be sent via email, popups or text message, making life easier for busy teachers.

Indeed, the ability to access email, documents & all information from home & any device with internet connection means staff can access their work from anywhere and at anytime, if they choose to do so, and being able to publish calendar events directly to twitter is fantastic for a school that is trying to increase communication with parents. Danny Silva shows you how here.

Although I have really only been able to scratch the surface of what can be achieved with Google Apps for Education in this post, I hope I have shared with you how the Apps suite is offering great collaboration and communication opportunities for students, staff and parents alike. Put simply, Google Apps has real scope to enhance teaching and learning in any educational organisation. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to Go Google!

Zoe Ross is founder of DoDigital, a social enterprise which promotes the creative use of technology in education. A ICT teacher, Zoe is a Google Certified Trainer and together with other Google Certified Teachers is running a Google Apps for Education workshop on 8th June in London.

Summer Workshops

Workshops LogoLast week we launched DoDigital’s summer workshop programme for teachers. As always, the workshops will be fast-paced, hands-on and focussed on teaching and learning, the emphasis being on our core belief that ICT should be creative, engaging and inspiring.

I’m particularly excited by the collaborative workshops that are going to be happening with some of those teachers that have, and continue to inspire me, in my own professional career.

For example, the ICT teachers that are joining me for the Creative ICT for KS3 workshop all share the same philosophy in making ICT a more dynamic, engaging, challenging and exciting subject. Subsequently, the sessions they will lead, from which teachers can choose, cover a fantastic range of topics, from App Inventor to Google Sketchup, Flash and Aviary, which really can transform ICT lessons in school.

There is much interest in Google Apps for Education at the moment, for a variety of reasons, particularly to do with the superb collaborative learning opportunities provided by Google’s suite and the low (free!) cost. Therefore, I am absolutely thrilled that some of those educators with both enthusiasm for Google Apps and experience of using Google tools in a variety of ways within their own classrooms and schools are joining me for the Google Apps training workshop.

Sheffield Deputy Head Julian Wood will also be sharing his considerable expertise and great enthusiasm for web2.0 tools to inspire writing in the Storytech Workshop he is delivering where he will demonstrate how digital technologies can be used to enhance written and oral storytelling and raise achievement in literacy.

There are also workshops in using Scratch & BYOB, Primary Computing, and using Flash and Dreamweaver. They promise to be inspirational days which will support teachers in using innovative technology in their classrooms and schools to support good practice, encourage creativity and help teachers to teach and students to learn. That’s what it’s all about.

City Learning Centres: the end?

In this guest post, Terry Freedman, respected independent ICT consultant, discusses the fate of City Learning Centres.

Becta. The Harnessing Technology grant. Building Schools for the Future. The once-familiar landmarks of the English educational technology landscape are disappearing or gone. The indications are that they are being followed by City Learning Centres. These CLCs, set up around a decade ago to both provide facilities for local businesses and serve as beacons of innovation and excellence to the schools in a locality, are being closed down, threatened with closure, or reduced in staffing and funding. The question is, though: should we mourn?

While many (possibly all) CLCs have carried out excellent work, there is a case for saying that they are becoming increasingly irrelevant, if not inappropriate. Despite the recent cuts in educational budgets, the facts remain that over the last 14 years we have enjoyed an unprecedented investment in educational ICT, at the same time as advances in technology and falling prices have enabled all schools to have acquired a quantity and variety of ‘kit’ which not that long ago would have seemed as likely as finding Shangri La.

During this period there has been a change in perceptions, not unconnected with the developments described above, about the desirability or otherwise of there being a computer lab in schools. The prevailing majority view these days is that the technology needs to be where students want to use it, rendering the concept of a computer room redundant. (I’m not saying I wholeheartedly agree with this view; I am merely reporting its existence.)

All this being the case, is it not a rather archaic practice to have children visit an outside location in order to see and take part in exciting ICT work? If taking a class along a corridor to a computer room is no longer acceptable, how can taking them outside the school completely even be considered?

I have a more philosophical objection to CLCs. They were created in order that schools could see new technology, and do exciting things with it. The phrase often heard was “cutting edge”. Apart from the fact that I, personally, saw almost nothing that I would describe as truly remarkable, surely this is a clear case of the technology tail wagging the pedagogy dog? What makes something exciting is how it is used to solve a problem. Doing something like, say, making and editing digital videos is, in itself pointless. There needs to be a reason for doing so. Besides, the actual technology skills involved in such activities are largely irrelevant anyway: it’s the development of ‘soft’ skills like co-operating with other people through different roles — like scriptwriter, camera person, editor —  that matters more, surely?

You could argue that the point about playing around with new kit is that you don’t know what kind of problems you could solve with it until you’ve experimented with it. You might suggest that we may not even think of these problems until we’ve explored the technology. You’d be right. But surely the answer – or at least a better answer – would have been to have given the money to schools in the form of an innovation fund? When I headed up a large team in a Local Authority I set aside around £1000 a year for ‘innovation’. This was nearly ten years ago, so that was an even more substantial amount of money than it sounds.

We used this money to try out new-fangled devices like visualisers (document cameras), tablet computers, mobile devices, student response systems and other exciting stuff. Sometimes, of course, we acquired evaluation versions, which saved us money, but the money was there if we needed it. The innovation fund idea was definitely a good one, because it enabled us to experiment and then – and this is the critical bit I think – advise colleagues on (a) whether the kit was worth investing in and (b), if so, what they could do with it. We were able to demonstrate the equipment and even use it for real purposes, such as when we wheeled out the student response system for senior management meetings.

Having an innovation fund, together with an enlightened approach by my bosses which meant that failure, ie buying something which turned out to be useless, was very much an option, proved pivotal to our success as a team. We were able to discuss what kit to buy, and then try it out and discuss it when convenient to ourselves. Had we have been obliged to book a slot in a room belonging to an external organisation in order to try out equipment which we had no or little say in purchasing, I daresay we wouldn’t have done so. Apart from anything else, there simply would not have been the time.

There are problems with giving people the brief of doing something ‘cutting edge’ without also imposing on them the obligation to answer that most dreaded of questions: ‘so what?’. I saw some pretty mundane stuff at one particular CLC, but because the person in charge did not feel an obligation to assess its impact on learning and achievement it went largely unchallenged.

Also, some pretty silly buildings were constructed, the kind designed by architects out to win design awards rather than provide a working educational environment. And the waste! When you give people the task of spending a sack-full of money on software, spend it they will – regardless of whether something even better could have been acquired through Open Source means.

Equality of access is another issue. Where CLCs were built next to or as part of an existing school, as often as not that school would either be given, or would assume, greater rights of access than other schools. That meant they could take up valuable time and resources  using the CLC as, in effect, an extra classroom, while a school down the road would have been delighted to have had more opportunities to do real cutting edge stuff.

So what is the future of CLCs, and what might we hope for? There’s no doubt that many CLCs have excellent staff who have developed brilliant practices, expertise and resources over the years.  It would be unfortunate to lose all this if losing it is unnecessary. A great idea would be to implement the solution adopted by one Local Authority I am familiar with, that of creating a virtual CLC. This dispenses with the need for a dedicated building. Instead, the CLC staff are based in different schools on a rotational basis. They work with pupils and teachers in the schools, taking the relevant kit with them. That requires a discussion about aims and problems to be solved, and assessment, and involves no loss of teaching time taken up travelling to and from an external centre. There are no extra facilities or building costs, only the staffing costs (which, admittedly, are often substantial).

Clearly, such a solution is not without its challenges, not the least of which is moving equipment around and setting up shop in a new environment every year. But it has the merits of not only addressing many of the drawbacks of CLCs as we have come to know them, but of retaining the staff and, crucially, keeping alive the main underlying reason for having CLCs in the first place, that of encouraging innovation.

Terry Freedman is an independent educational ICT consultant. He publishes the ICT in Education website and blog, and Computers in Classrooms, the free e-newsletter for those with a professional interest in educational ICT.

Becoming a Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer

This article first appeared as a guest post at ICT in Education.

I recently became the first Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer in the UK. In this post I’ll explain why and what that means, at least to me.My enthusiasm for Google Apps, Google’s online suite of collaborative tools, began last January when I began using Google Docs with my GCSE class using simply my own gmail account. The easy, yet impressive, whole-class collaboration allowed me to spice up my lesson activities and create a more interactive learning environment.

As a result of blogging about my experiences, I became one of the lead learners at the Google Teacher Academy in London last July, leading a session on using Google Docs – a great experience, the chance meet up with 50+ innovative teachers and learn loads about Google.

It was here where I first heard about becoming an Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer, which seemed a natural progression for me from being a Google Apps Certified Teacher as I have been delivering lots of Google Apps training to schools, organisations and businesses since starting my own company. As a Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer I would be able to advertise in the Google Marketplace and gain Google’s stamp of approval. As Google say:

‘Google Apps for Education Certified Trainers provide professional development services designed to make the most of your Google Apps implementation. Certified Trainers are carefully vetted by Google and meet rigorous qualification standards.’

There are three steps in becoming a Certified Trainer:

  • 6 tests based on the Apps for Education suite
  • a 2 minute video
  • an application form

Finding the time to focus on the process was a challenge, however, being snowed in at Christmas was the perfect opportunity to revise for and pass the exams, which cost $15 each.  I actually learnt a great deal from taking the tests, particularly about the intricacies of what Apps can do. I found that I really needed to know my stuff and the Training Centre was invaluable (it’s also a great point of reference for any teacher or school wanting to know specific details).

My video focused on how to access gmail offline. Danny Silva’s blog post was of great help to me and, as he advises, I used the Camtasia free trial to record and edit the video and finally, I  completed an online application, highlighting the training that I had and was delivering to teachers and schools.

I was very pleased to be accepted quickly as a Certified Trainer and applied to be in the Google marketplace. This cost $100 dollars for my first marketplace listing. The listing process is relatively straightforward – you need to create yourself a vendor profile and then create your  listing. The criteria for acceptance is strict though and it was a relief when I got the email to say I’d been approved.

Becoming a Certified Trainer has, for me, been a positive experience and well worth the time, effort (and money). Not only have I learnt a great deal and am officially recognised by Google, I have access to great resources and a whole community of trainers. Of course, it’s this collaboration that lies at the hear of Google Apps and it’s a bit lonely in the Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer UK contingent at the moment – I hope that will change very soon!

The Purpose of Education

A Two-Way Street
Yesterday, I visited a group of 8 and 9 year old children taught by Peter Rafferty at Green Park School. I came home and deleted all I had written in several days of planning this blog post.

The way in which the children conducted themselves and the work they shared left me astounded. Several pupils discussed and explained their work and one boy took to the interactive whiteboard for 15 minutes to give a relaxed and proficient demonstration of how he customises his WordPress blog, adds his own widgets and edits the html code.

Only this weekend I had been discussing with other teachers whether WordPress was a suitable blogging tool for children of this age, and several teachers held the view that WordPress was too complicated. The pupils I met yesterday demonstrated with great aplomb that this is not the case. They made me view things differently and see previously unknown possibilities. That is, for me, the purpose of education.

Opening Minds
I was lucky to be brought up in a home where books were plentiful, school was supported and hard work expected (although as a teenager ‘lucky’ is not a word I would have used). However, my experiences as a teacher, particularly my time as head of year, have taught me that this is not the case for many children.

Someone* recently tweeted that during a reading survey, some children indicated that they had no books in their house. This is the reality for a large section of society for whom sensational and imbalanced red-top media, which serves merely to perpetuate stereotypes, is the only acceptable reading material.

For the young people, and indeed adults, for whom this is the case, education can and should help them to think more broadly about previously unknown topics, enabling them to see the possibilities of what they can achieve and encouraging them to fulfil their potential.

Education, for so many people, is their escape route; a way out of poverty, abuse or a lifetime of mediocre achievement and happiness. However, many young people do not have the confidence in either themselves or those adults around them to enable them to see this. It is very daunting for students who would like to break out of the mold that society and their upbringing has created around them. Education can ensure that they are given access to ways in which they can take alternative paths and help them to construct a roadmap to guide them through the minefield of life.

Giving young people, and adults, the confidence to think for themselves, challenge widely held opinions and present their ideas in a coherent and persuasive manner are all, in my view, key purposes of education.

Thus, supported, relaxed and collaborative learning environments in which children are encouraged to try new ideas and see different possibilities in their world, are essential components of any formalised education system. This was demonstrated deftly in the classroom I visited yesterday and I look forward to seeing them again to continue my own education.


*If it was you, please let me know and I’ll credit you!

1 2 3