Seek and ye shall find!

I recently discovered a new iPad / iPhone app called Seek by iNaturalist.. When I was a lot younger and out walking in the countryside I valued having someone with me who could help me identify the birds, trees, insects or wild flowers, who could give me their alternative names and perhaps some of the folk lore surrounding them. Sadly there are fewer and fewer people around like that anymore.

Green Screen and the Iceni

This week I have been introducing some Year 4 pupils to using green screen techniques. This particular class were pretending to be part of the Icena tribe and they had made some horses in order to go in search of the Romans. Time was limited but we managed to produce this short story which will be followed later by the other Year 4 classes contributions. You can see more of their work on the Romans on their class blog.

Videos like this allow us to integrate computing into a number of different topics. Obviously history but we could also use it for literacy by asking pupils to write about how the Iceni warriors would have felt leaving the relative safety of their village and all their family to go off into the unknown where they might meet the Romans. And how would our lone warrior have felt being left behind?

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.

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.


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”!

iPad Ambassadors

I have recently started to run an iPad Ambassadors after school club of about 10 pupils in a primary school. The idea of the club is to train them up as experts in the use and care of the class set of iPads and for them to act rather like Digital Leaders. They will become the experts who can support the teachers and pupils in the use and care of the iPads and promote their appropriate use on a daily basis.

Our first session covered unplugging them, getting them out of the storage cases, putting them away, checking that they are charging, switching them on and off, muting and volume control, gestures (one to five fingers!) and using the camera with Morfo.


Our second session looked at two free iBook packages – Book Creator and Story Creator. I asked the pupils to explore them both and very quickly they discovered features in Book Creator that I had overlooked. At the end of the session I asked them to rate both packages out of 5 and they gave both of them full marks! However, when we started to discuss them in more detail they decided that Book Creator was the better package. Book Creator allows you to easily add photos, video, text, and sound, edit the background and export as an iBook or pdf to Dropbox or similar. Story Creator could do some but not all of these things, looks to be aimed at younger children, did allow freehand drawing on the screen but the biggest limitation was that the finished book could only be exported to the developer’s website and not to Dropbox or other cloud storage. Also, since Story Creator seems to be aimed at younger children it seemed a bit strange that the preferred method of logging in to the website was via Facebook!

So far the iPad Ambassadors have enjoyed what they have done showing great enthusiasm even when the iOS7 update reduced our last session to only four iPads. I am looking forward to hearing back from the teachers and the pupils how their skills and responsibilities affect their learning and behaviour over the next few months.

A class set of iPads

ipadI have been fortunate enough to be involved in a project to set up a class set of 30 iPads in a local primary school. The iPad 2 tablets have 16GB memory, are stored in three iLuv cabinets and are connected to a Mac Mini running the latest server software with Apple Configurator. One of the reasons for using Apple Configurator is that it allows you to use the Apple Volume Purchase Program.

The initial set up was very straightforward, after installing Apple Configurator and “configuring” it there are three choices:

  • prepare
  • supervise
  • assign

Assign is useful if you are going to use iPads as personal devices but as these iPads are going to be shared between a large number of pupils we opted for supervising them.

The first step was to prepare the new iPads. I prepared one iPad using Configurator with no additional apps, made sure that all the settings were how I wanted them and then backed it up using Apple Configurator.

I then used Prepare to create several profiles, one for wireless, one for the proxy settings, one for additional Web Clips (web page shortcuts) that I wanted on the tablet screen and one for restrictions. I set up separate profiles so that I could enable or disable one at a time if needed, for example, I may want to remove the restrictions so that I can test things out and it is easier to just untick the restrictions profile than to keep editing a single profile. It is also easier to do fault finding this way.

I used iTunes to download iPad apps that I wanted onto the Mac Mini and then used Apple Configurator to add and select the required apps.

The Prepare section allows you to sequentially number your iPads as you prepare them and to restore a backup image so after setting these I hit the Prepare button and plugged the iPads in one by one. Not long later I had 30 iPads all setup and configured for use! Simples!

Supervise allows you to maintain control over groups of iPads. Each time you plug an iPad back into the cabinet and press the sync button it is automatically restored to the configuration that you set. This allows you to easily add or remove apps or settings without having to completely rebuild the iPads from scratch though there are some things that you can’t manage this way.

I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to setup 30 iPads using Configurator. I also prepared them to use a Mobile Device Management (MDM) package called Meraki which is free and works using cloud management but currently the Internet provider blocks this and so I haven’t been able to test it in school (it seems to work brilliantly when tested from my workshop!)

So, what problems have I hit?

Well, initially I set Apple Configurator so that the iPads didn’t do any updates. Then I did an update to Apple Configurator which seems to have set iPad update as on by default and I didn’t notice. The result? iOS7 was released and 27 iPads tried to update to iOS7. Unfortunately Apple Configurator wasn’t iOS7 compliant and the whole system fell flat with the iPads all showing an iTunes connection image on their screens. It took me several hours to get them back up and running and I wasn’t able to downgrade them to iOS6 though apparently there are ways of doing this. Searching the Internet shows that quite a lot of people were hit by this problem and have had to spend a considerable amount of time sorting it out. Next week I intend to rebuild them all with a fresh “base image” of an iOS7 built iPad so as to get all the settings correct.

What’s missing?

For me, the biggest thing that is missing from Configurator is a way of arranging the apps on the screen of the iPad and in folders. I can do this in the base image but if I add a new app later I don’t want to be going back to build a new image. It would be great to be able to add a new app from Configurator and say I want it in this folder or at a particular place on screen 3.

There are also some restrictions that I haven’t yet worked out and the documentation is a little thin on, fortunately you can put iPads into groups on Configurator and I will be experimenting with one or two iPads by putting them into their own group and applying different profiles to test these settings out.

I am also looking forward to the school’s Internet Provider changing their settings so that we can use the additional features of Meraki though I will also be exploring other MDMs like Airwatch. I also hope to be able to use the Assign feature of Configurator to manage staff iPads. More on these later.

Useful links

Connecting iPads to projectors in the classroom

A teacher with an iPad, what a fantastic pair! In an ideal world the teacher can wander around the classroom with their iPad whilst showing images, videos or other apps on the screen at the front of the class. You see a great piece of work as you wander, photograph it with the iPad and display it at the front of the class in seconds. You find that pupils are struggling with a concept so you quickly pull up a web page or video to help.

How is this possible? Well iPads come with a system called AirPlay which can mirror the iPad screen on an AirPlay receiver device using wireless networking.

What AirPlay receiver devices are there?
appletvThe best known AirPlay receiver device is probably the AppleTV which is a small box costing about £75 that has an HDMI output so that you can connect it to a suitable projector or screen using an HDMI cable (or an HDMI to VGA converter such as the Kanex ATVPRO). The iPad transmits its screen and sound to the AppleTV which makes it appear on the screen. This is a brilliant solution but in a classroom with a workstation attached to a monitor and projector you will probably also need a VGA splitter / switch so that the PC and iPad can be switched between to project on both the screen and projector. Costs soon mount up and the cabling can be a bit untidy!

airserverIf you have a PC or Mac workstation or laptop already attached to your projector and you have decent wireless (you will have this already, won’t you, in order to run all those iPads!) then there are software packages which can turn your desktop / laptop into an AirPlay receiver allowing you to keep the cabling simpler and reducing the cost quite significantly. Two packages I have looked at are AirServer and Reflector. AirServer works on both Macs and PCs but you have to be running Windows 7 or better on the PC. Reflector works on Macs and PCs including Windows XP. You can try both for a trial period to see how well they work for you. I would strongly recommend that you investigate them first before buying an AppleTV. There are some restrictions eg your iPad and workstation need to be on the same network (sometimes school wireless is set up on a separate network from the workstations) and your wireless connectivity needs to be good. Cost? From about $4 depending upon licences required.

Another, but more expensive option, is to buy a projector with built in AirPlay, ethernet connection or wireless that can either be connected to directly using an iPad. There are some available now and this may be worth considering if you are replacing or buying new projectors.

Of course, an AppleTV does far more than mirror your iPad to another screen but you may not want all these additional functions in the classroom.

So, if you are a teacher and you have an iPad, why not try out the software for free and revolutionise your classroom?

iPad Apps – Epic Citadel

epic-citadel1Many of you may already be aware of Tim Rylands, “an extremely gifted and inspirational teacher, with a love of the creative potential of technology and an excellent rapport with his pupils”. Tim really inspires pupils to be creative through the use of technology and you can see an example of one of his presentations on his website.

Tim is a great fan of using virtual worlds to inspire creative story telling and one of these worlds is Epic Citadel. This is available free on the iPad and you can see Tim’s use of it about 5 minutes into the Learning Without Frontiers presentation. The tools that the children used to make their presentations are also relatively cheap and really inspire children to learn.

If you are interested in using this sort of technology in the classroom but you are not quite sure where to start then why not contact me?

iPad Apps: Using Mobile Podcaster to podcast to PrimaryBlogger

mobilepodcasterWhy Podcast?

Over the next few weeks I am going to be working with groups of primary school pupils to try and improve their speaking and listening skills. One way of helping with this is to record them and play back the recordings so that they can hear and analyse themselves.

There are lots of podcasting solutions available for the iPad but I wanted to find a simple way of recording pupils using an iPad, reviewing / re-recording them and then publishing straight onto a PrimaryBlogger site based on WordPress. One of the more popular ways of doing this is with Audioboo and I will look at this in another posting.

There are a couple of things you need before you start:

  • a WordPress blog (we use Primaryblogger)
  • your blog administrator needs to enable the Blubrry PowerPress plugin (thanks to Ed at PrimaryBlogger who made this available) and preferably configure it to display the audio player correctly
  • Mobile Podcaster installed onto your iPad (£1.99 from the app store)
  • I would also suggest that you create a separate user for publishing podcasts to the blog and that this user is set as a Contributor so that you can moderate blogs before they are published
  • You can also create a Podcast category and set the app to automatically post into this category.

Mobile Podcaster is very easy to use, you can view a video on how to use it to publish a podcast, optional text and picture straight to you class blog.

Limitations of this method:

  • you cannot edit the recording before publishing – it would be nice to be able to trim the beginning and end if necessary
  • the sound files are stored on the WordPress site so you may soon run out of space and have to upgrade
  • you are currently limited to 15 minutes recording (not that this will be a problem for the work we are currently doing!)

I will add some links to some of our podcasts shortly.

Using YouTube to embed videos in your blog using an iPad

One of the problems with publishing videos on your blog is making sure that the video can be seen from all platforms. If you publish a video directly from an iPad it may not play automatically on a PC and vice versa. One way around this problem is to publish your videos via a third party site such as YouTube or Vimeo (Vimeo has the advantage of not showing adverts!) In this article I will explain one way of embedding videos in your class WordPress blog by uploading them to YouTube.

You will need the following:

  • a WordPress based blog eg PrimaryBlogger
  • a school or class YouTube account
  • an iPad with the iMovies and WordPress apps installed

First, make your movie in iMovies. This could be a simple video of someone reading aloud or a sophisticated movie that has been considerably edited. Once you have your movie, go back to the main iMovie projects screen, select your movie, click on the share icon and select YouTube. You will be asked to sign in, enter your username and password (these will now be stored) and you will arrive at the Share Project screen. Here you can fill in details about the video – remember not to reveal any details that you shouldn’t. Under Privacy I strongly recommend that you select “Unlisted” – Private would mean that no one else would be able to see it, Public means that it is listed for everyone to find. When you have completed this click on “Share” and the movie will be exported to YouTube. This may take some time depending upon the size of the movie and your connection speed.

Once uploaded, you will get a screen offering a number of options. I suggest you click on “Tell a Friend” and that you email yourself the link.

Open your email, copy and paste the URL into your post and then add the following text directly to the end :


So that it looks something like:

This extra bit of text makes sure that no adverts or suggested videos appear after the video has finished.

Publish your blog and the video should now be visible from most screens.

iPad Apps: Class Dojo

Actually, this is far more than an iPad app. Class Dojo is a website based classroom tool that helps teachers improve the behaviour in their classrooms. Many teachers use a reward points system, Class Dojo is one of those systems with bells on.

Once you have registered you can set up your class or classes. Each child gets an avatar (a character icon) to represent them. You can also set up behaviours, both positive and negative. At the beginning of the lesson you can go to the website, register the children as present or absent, and then as your lesson progresses you can add behaviour points to the children accompanied by a sound. If you have an iPad, iPhone or one of many other smartphone / tablet devices, then you can download an app so that you can add behaviour points whilst you are on the move. During the lesson you are able to let the children know what you are awarding them and show them a running total of their points. At the end of the lesson or day you can close the session and produce reports.

Another great feature is that both pupils and parents can have logins to see relevant reports and reports can be automatically emailed to parents.

There are a number of other features, and there are some ones that I would like to see. The people who have produced Class Dojo are working on adding new features all the time and you can make a request for ones you would like to see.

Perhaps the best thing about this tool is that it does work and it’s free!

Here are some comments I have received about Class Dojo:

“Perhaps it’s the note or the tone, but the moment that they hear the ‘ding’ of a Dojo point the children are suddenly the best behaved class in school.”

“It’s so good pupilx went home and set Class Dojo up for his teddies!”

Early Years – Profiling

2Simple have done it again! They have produced an early years record keeping app that will run on iPhones, iPads and Android devices. It is called 2Build a Profile and is described as:

“A simple and fun way to log children’s achievements against the EYFS profile. Every child has an individual portfolio of achievements. Take photos for evidence, then tag them with children’s names and Foundation Stage targets.”

The app is very simple to use, saves time and reduces paperwork. It is a finalist in the 2013 Bett Awards and like all 2Simple software it is “simply the best”!

More details about the app can be found on their website and you can try it free for 30 days.

iPad Apps: Comic Strip

Comic Strip is an app which provides a simple way of producing a comic strip! Comic strips have so many possible uses and advantages including:

  • they are motivating
  • they are a great alternative way of telling a story – see the example below
  • they are visual so visual learners can benefit from using them especially where text might get in the way of the learning process
  • they can be used to give a set of instructions or pupils can make a comic strip using photos and speech bubbles to create their own instructions or to record what they have done eg making a cake, writing a letter, doing a multiplication, etc
  • they are popular culture – pupils understand them and enjoy them. Making their own bridges a gap between the cultures of the classroom and the home
  • The Comic Strip app is so easy to use, you can take photos or grab images from the Internet, pop them into one of several comic strip formats, add speech bubbles and text and then save the result as an image, publish to Facebook or Twitter (of course pupils won’t be doing the last two!)
    Here is a comic strip celebrating my son’s newly learnt skills on skis:


    And I forgot to say, it’s free!

    iPad apps: Morfo

    Morfo may seem a strange iPad app to use in the classroom but we have had some fun using it to improve writing and reading confidence.

    Morfo allows you to take an image of a face, preferably a face-on portrait, which you then line up the position and size of the different parts of the face. The more care you take over this the better the results. You can then record your voice onto the iPad and play the recording back as if the face is saying your words. We have used the faces of pupils and teaching staff with other people’s voices but it is even more fun if you load a face from a historic painting eg one of Henry VIII. We have had pupils write and record short speeches that Henry might have made. These can be saved as videos or shared via Facebook. A very short example is shown here.

    There are lots of other features. You can morph the face and make it move in all sorts of ways. You can also pay to have access to even more features but I think the free version provides enough for most teachers.

    Blogging from an iPad

    I regularly use an iPad to blog, both for my own blogs and for blogs with teachers and pupils. I also use Windows Live Writer on a PC, and web browsers on both PCs and Apples. As I mostly use blogs based on WordPress I use the WordPress app on the iPad. Since it was updated to the latest version it has become my choice method of blogging, it is so easy! Words, photos and videos can so easily published, it is often a case of point, click, type a few words and then press “Publish”.

    There are occasions where I want to do something a little more clever, like position a picture so that text flows around it, then I have to resort to a browser or Liver Writer, but usually the iPad app does the business.

    Once published, it is very easy to see any comments that are made relating to a post and to moderate them. It is also quite easy to view statistics relating to visitors to the blog if Jet Pack is configured on the blog.
    The outcome? Teaching staff with iPads are able to publish their students work with very little effort increasing their audience, their motivation and involving their parents and relatives in their learning process.

    It’s free as well, making it a win, win, win app for me!

    iPad and Mathletics

    At last it is here. Mathletics can be downloaded and run on the iPad. I will be giving it a good test run tomorrow with some pupils and will let you know how it goes, in the meantime aMathletics mad friend has been testing it out and there are no negatives so far.

    The iPad app has a slick new interface with 10 new levels written especially for the iPad with more to come. A Mathletics Teacher app is also available which gives you access to live class data from your iPhone or iPad and allows you to edit lessons. An Android version will be available soon.

    More later!

    Printing from an iPad – FingerPrint

    Printing from an iPad in schools can be a bit of a pain, especially if you don’t have any Apple computers or AirPrint enabled printers.

    One piece of software I have found particularly useful is Fingerprint from Collobus. It runs on a PC and shares whichever printers you want shared to the iPads – so it can be different from the ones shared to PCs. You can also set it up so that it opens a document on the PC, a useful way of transferring a file or image into PDF format and onto the PC at the same time.

    It is easy to install, costs under £7 and there is a 30 day free trial available though the trial version puts a water mark across the printout.

    I think this is a good piece of software, it is under continual development and I have had no problems with it so far – much easer than setting up the AirPrint software on a PC.

    Books or e-books, that is the question


    In Star Trek: The Next Generation Captain Jean-Luc Picard has a preference for paper books over digital books. Science fiction has now become science fact and we have access to small e-book readers such as the Kindle, and other tablets that we can read books on like the iPad that I am currently blogging from. The advantages of these devices does seem quite obvious to some of us – they are small, have long battery life, can carry huge numbers of books and documents including dictionaries, thesauri, text books and novels. It is easy to search for words or phrases and you can usually annotate your work. Added to that is the excitement and enthusiasm they can produce in students.

    However, there is now some suggestion that Captain Picard may have something in his preference for paper based books. People who read paper may actually remember more! In an interesting blog post Maia Szalavitz suggests that there are issues in remembering not only what is in the book but also the names of characters. She concludes that "more studies will likely show what material is best suited for learning in a digital format, and what type of lessons best remain in traditional textbooks".

    I wonder what Captain thingumabob would have to say?

    iPad, Mathletics and Lexia

    It’s good to hear that both Mathletics and Lexia are developing apps for the iPad, even though they cannot give a time scale. Are there other educational software writers out there like these two who are developing their apps for the iPad? Let me know if you know!