Tim Rylands – an inspiration

It was with great sadness that we learnt that Tim Rylands passed away last Monday. Tim was an amazing inspiration to many educationalists and children, he was full of creative ideas and resources involving computing that made learning fun and effective. His presentations at events and his sessions in the classroom were not to be missed, his blog was full of fantastic resources. As I travel around schools I am always coming across teachers who have been inspired by him and have benefited from his sharing of wisdom and knowledge.

Below is an example of Tim in action at TEDxThessaloniki.

“Share to Classroom” extension for Chromebooks

If you are a user of Chromebooks then you may like the “Share to Classroom” extension that allows you to easily share a webpage from your device to the whole class with a couple of clicks. Sometimes it can be so difficult to get your class all on the same page! This extension helps to solve that problem.

Pupils can also share pages back to you so if they are doing research and find an amazing website it is easy to share back to you.

If you use this extension or try it out let me know what you think.

Using blogs to engage boys in learning

We all know that it can be quite difficult sometimes (or all the time) to engage boys in learning. One strategy being used at Allerton CE Primary is to use a “Football Manager” blog to encourage boys who are interested in football (and girls) to write and do arithmetic.

I well remember working for 6 months as a student with a young lad called Karl who had left school with no academic qualifications. He was working in a meat processing unit of a frozen food supplier and was supplementing his rather low pay by betting. His ability to calculate the odds and potential winnings was amazing, and he was also pretty good at calculations to do with weighing meat. All he had needed was to see a use for the skills and he acquired them.

Since football is such a huge motivation for young lads it is a great way into engaging them in their learning. Blogging about their team, players that they want and building a fantasy team on a budget in order to get results exposes them to brilliant opportunities to write and do maths.

Have a look at the ACE Football Manager site and see what you think. And if you need help getting into blogging do contact me.


Using blogs to engage parents

Often schools struggle to communicate and engage with the parents of their pupils and the wider community. We have found that blogging has an amazing potential for improving communication and engagement without too much extra work. Most blogging tools will interact with other social media such as Facebook and Twitter so it is relatively easy to write a blog post that is then automatically posted onto social media. Here are some examples:

  • If your website allows you to blog then why not use it to communicate the latest school news – the meetings about to happen, the ones that have just happened, the latest football or netball match reports (perhaps written by your pupil reporters), that amazing Ofsted report, job vacancies, new staff, etc. The list is almost endless but by making a news blog your community will be able to see what happens in your school, prospective parents and staff will be able to get a better feel of the amazing things that happen and you will have a fantastic record of your achievements.
  • Why not have an “ACE Work” blog to celebrate all the amazing achievements of your pupils (and maybe your staff!)
  • Class blogs are a superb way of sharing what is happening in that small community of the classroom and encourages engagement between pupils, teacher, parents, community and even the world. Teachers can celebrate the work of their pupils, pupil and parents can add their comments (moderated of course), homework can be set, blogs can be used as a creative medium for pupils eg story writing, reporting on news, etc. Schools can join together and comment on each others blog posts (a great example of this is “quad blogging“). By providing the world as an audience pupils can become more enthusiastic about their creative skills.
  • Blogs for clubs or subjects. I have run blogs for computing clubs for many years and this has given pupils an opportunity to show off their computing skills and has also been an interesting record of their progress. I have also set up blogs to share school weather station data making records of the weather available to other people all over the world. Weather data provides a huge opportunity for developing data handling skills.

By sharing the news of your school, your achievements and the amazing work that your pupils do you can engage so much more with your pupils, parents and community. There are lots of blogging sites and blogging tools available, some free, some that involve payment, some that are very public and some where you have lots of control. If you would like advice, help in setting up blogging in your school or training then do contact me.

Call for schools to register for aggregated tablet procurement by 6th May

The Department for Education is facilitating a procurement of tablet devices through the Crown Commercial Services (CCS) Aggregation team. The pilot procurement made a saving of 12% for participating schools.

The procurement will offer 4 tablet options: Apple iPads, Microsoft Surface Pro, LearnPads and a generic tablet, along with associated items eg. covers, security marking, charging trolleys.

Indicative timescales are April/May: gather school’s commitment and volumes, with delivery targeted in July/August.

For further information on this opportunity use the link below:

It is not clear if this will include licences for management packages eg Airwatch MDM.

Scratch your Roamer

roamer_smallI am a great fan of Scratch and use it a lot with pupils in KS1 and KS2. Scratch has many experimental extensions which allow you to connect Scratch to all sorts of devices. One I have recently come across is Roamer ScratchX which allows you to use Scratch to control the new Valiant Roamer. Valiant have published a press release about the new Roamer ScratchX and now I can’t wait to get a chance to play with one of the new Roamers.

Did I hear an invitation? 😎

Air Server

Some time ago I spoke of how wonderful Air Server is. This is a piece of software that you can run on your PC (Window 7 or newer) or Mac so that it allows you to show you iPad screen on your desktop. This is brilliant in a class situation because you can wander around your class with your iPad demonstrating things or show children’s work on your IWB at the front of the class.

Well, Air Server has gone one better! You can now right click on your Air Server window on your PC and record what is happening on your iPad. Now you can record instructions on how to use your iPad and post them on your VLE or record what your pupil does on the iPad.


Web based OCR

OCR or “Optical Character Recognition” is a technology that has been around for some time and allows you to scan a printed document and turn the picture of the text into real text. There are free OCR packages available and there are paid for packages. Some of these are incredibly good and are able to decipher page layout as well as the text eg newspaper columns. I have used OCR for many years on lots of different types of documents, particularly in connection with local and family history documents which can be quite challenging. One of the frustrations I have though is when I am in a school and want to grab the text from a printed document so I was very pleased to find a free web based OCR package that fulfils some of my needs.

free-ocr-logoFree OCR does the basics quite well. You have to put up with some fairly unobtrusive adverts and it is limited to a maximum 2MB file size but documents I have tried out so far have been pretty accurate. The site is explicit about its privacy policy which I am sure will be acceptable for most jobs but I wouldn’t scan sensitive information.


DB Primary and iPads

It is possible to put documents straight from your iPad into a gallery on DB Primary, for example, you could take pictures in class using your iPad and upload them straight into your class gallery.

Onwebdave way of doing this is to use WebDav Nav which is a free app (there is a paid for version as well). In DB Primary, go to your class gallery and look for the WebDav button. Click on it and it will open a Windows Explorer window with your gallery contents in. If you copy down the URL path in the top of window (the bit that starts http://) and use that in WebDav Nav on your iPad, along with your username and password then you can upload files. Now you can make events in your classroom available to your pupils on DB Primary “just like that”!

Office 365 SharePoint Calendar issue 1

If you regularly use Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 11 with Microsoft’s Office 365 you may notice some occasional glitches. One problem we have come across is that the SharePoint calendar may appear to be stuck in month view and not show the times of appointments.

To remedy this you need to add sharepoint.com to the “Compatibility View Settings” list. You can do this by going to the Tools menu (press Alt if you can’t see it it), select “Compatibility View Settings” and then add sharepoint.com to the list.

You should now be able to view the calendar correctly!