Google Story Builder

This has been around for quite a while now, Google Story Builder allows you (or even better, your students) to create short movies or video stories in a Google Docs style environment.

You can choose different characters, story and music and when you’re done there are a number of different sharing options. You are limited to ten characters in the story.

I find it an interesting/different way to present new content. I think it would be fantastic for use in English to presents conversations between characters in a book OR even in MFL (modern foreign languages)

In order to make your story follow these three simple steps:

1. Add your characters
2. Create your Story
3. Give your story a title and add sound track

Anyone tried using it?Would love to hear about how you’ve used it in your lesson





Today I had a double revision lesson with my year 11 GCSE class. I tried to mix up the learning methods to avoid 2 hours of “chalk and talk”. We looked at the Digital Divide by taking notes from a text book, which then were used to answer an exam question. We then did an individual task  of circling risks attached to a fake phishing email, which then evolved to paired discussion and eventually whole class.

Via  #ictcurric  I found out about Popplet which is a nifty web 2.0 piece of software that allows users to create 5 Popplets and even share/collaborate with others.

As a note taking method I got the students to work in groups and collaborate on a Popplet with the topic “How has ICT improved Banking” – I did warn them that a 6 mark exam question would be asked based on the topic at the end of the lesson.

Firstly  lots of refreshing is involved to view the contribution of others but overall the students got a hang of it quickly and produced some fantastic mindmaps. They were able to add images, embed Youtube videos and even draw their own images.  A really nice touch is the ability to view which students have contributed each piece.

After 15 minutes of researching and creating their Popplets I gave the students the exam question and was impressed with the amount they had retained. Although it did get a positive reaction from pupils and they enjoyed the collaborative aspects, I will avoid using it too frequently. Instead Popplet helps break up big chunks of theory and exam questions by getting pupils on to computers and collaborating.



Bring Your own device

BYOD Prezi

I attended an ICT for Education Conference in Nottingham this week that had an interesting presentation by Paul Hynes, the Vice Principal of George Spencer Academy, Nottingham @buffetking.

There were a large amount of Primary and Secondary school representatives that were interested in tablets/iPads for their schools. Mr Hynes showcased a model his school had implemented that encouraged students to bring their own devices and use them as the teachers saw fit. His school had rolled out free, filtered wireless internet with no password and allowed students to bring in any devices they wanted. It was an interesting presentation that had me wanting to see how teachers implemented this in classes.

A major point was raised about the choice of tablets available (in excess of 200 models) and how schools regularly opted for the lower specced and higher costing iPad with no concrete reasoning for their choice. He also drew on the ‘fad’ of apps and rightly pointed out that for each app there was a website that did the same and would more than likely be free. HTML 5 has changed the landscape of the web and allows sites to incorporate many fantastic features without locking them to an individual app.

Lastly Mr Hynes talked about the expenditure schools were laying out for tablets and the result of damaging the devices. He used an example of a school in Kent that bought 1200 iPads, of which 489 needed replacing in the first year. Resulting in a staggering £200k to replace. Yes, their insurance covered the cost but the schools premium was £15k which begged the questions “How long will insurance companies carry on paying out?” – Obviously it would also be paid for by raising everyone else premiums.

He made his Prezi available for all to see –

Web 2.0 tools


There tends to be another new Web 2.0 tool out every other week. I usually have a play with some and cast them aside but here is an interesting list of  7 new Web 2.0 tools which I have found useful.

Making an Infographic –

The first generation of infographic generators – expect to see many more of them with additional sophistication


On screen video recording with option of using camera, making subtitles and adding sound. You can download the file as mp4 or leave it on the site or upload to Youtube


Mobile phone app. Lots of quizzes related to GCSE and you or even students! Can make their own. You could make money selling yours possibly?


Student response system, quizzes, games etc to support learning and revision. Massive interest in this on Twitter at the moment – nothing to do with Bill & Ted though


Online photo editing – THE replacement for picnic – some awesome graphic tools including the “thinner” and “teeth whitener”

You Tube Create

NINE online video/animation editing tools including Xtranormal, Stupefix, GoAnimate and WeVideo – AMAZING!

 Jargon Generator

Extend interdisciplinary initiatives combine transition innovative functionalities and recontextualize over-arching engagement structures – need I say more

Class Dojo

Student behavior has always been an issue for teachers. Age, culture, type of school… nothing changes the fact that when you put kids together in a room they begin to react different than usual. You can give many names to this fact but I will focus on how you can improve student behavior using a Web2.0 tool.

ClassDojo is one of the examples. While I was surfing app in the Apple Apps store I just bumped into that and I don’t know why but I liked those cute monstrous creatures. Of course I’m not using ClassDojo just for those creatures :)

ClassDojo is logged on to by the teacher from either an App or just through your web browser at It is a web tool that can help you to track the progress of your student’s behaviour  There are many softwares doing that. Also you can create an Excel sheet for this but it has always been a boring and tiresome process for me (actually not just for me but also for students). ClassDojo is way different than other tools that I used in the past. It is creative, fun and very very easy to use.

As you see the interface is very basic. You have a list of students in your class. You click on a name and choose the behavior (positive or negative) and click on that. That’s it. You can add more Positive or Negative behaviors to your list using the settings menu. For example I’ve added Homework, Extra Work, No homework, Not bringing material, Being late to class etc. You cannot think about all the items but they will come to you in time.

When you mark your students they begin to gain or lose points. In the main menu you can see their points in multiple ways. When you end your session you will be able to see each students progress individually and when you click on an avatar ClassDojo creates a report for that student for a given range. You can add comments on each point and send the report to parents. Actually I’m not going that deep with comments and haven’t thought about sending a report to parents yet.

You can learn how to use ClassDojo through the website in 30 minutes (at most) so I’ll pass this topic and come to the real question. How do the students react when I use ClassDojo in class? Obviously if you are a primary school teacher they will love it but I am a secondary school teacher. My students are between 11-19 years old but when I use ClassDojo they turn into 10 year old kids and start to race with each other to gain more points – Yes even sixth formers! I can say that student behavior has changed so much that I could never have expected. Nowadays giving points is going in a disordered way but I will begin to use a more systematic way like setting daily or weekly targets for specific purposes.

Another important thing is I give or take out points during the class and I project it on the board so all the kids see who is getting what. Maybe you won’t prefer to do this but it is working so fine in my classes.

Wallwisher – Now Padlet


I’m sure many have already been introduced to wallwisher.  (* Now Padlet ( It’s an excellent Web 2.0 application, (hosted online) which is the equivalent of a giant sticky board. It is useful in a number of different ways:

The teacher creates a page topic in wallwisher, as in the history example below, and asks students for contributions on the topic. This can be a timed exercise during class, or can be used as preparation during homework. The full version of this one is at

Alternatively, a group of students create a page in wallwisher and discuss their contributions with the rest of the class, as well as asking for further opinions. The one below is at

The beauty of the application is that one simply double clicks on the page to insert information and this can be in the form of a comment, a URL, an image or a video clip.

For further excellent ideas on how to use Wallwisher in the classroom, see Tom Barrett’s Interesting Ways to Use Wallwisher. To create your own wall, follow these instructions.

Prezi and

ImageImage and are two websites which offer some useful tools for teachers.  Prezi is an interesting alternative to PowerPoint, but which can be used in other ways; is a very simple mind-mapping tool that allows for collaborative working, and is very effective as a revision tool.


At heart, Prezi is an alternative to PowerPoint, and you can create some very flash presentations that zoom and wheel around between your various ‘slides’, and many boys, especially those more inclined to visual learning, enjoy using it to produce some very professional-looking work.

How it works

Think of Prezi as a very large, electronic flipchart, on which you can prepare words, images and text to present to your audience.  The amazing thing about this flipchart is that you can zoom in on any part and draw your audience’s attention to it, and then skip to entirely different parts of the sheet and look at something else.  It’s very hard to describe in words, but try clicking on this link to see what it looks like in practice.

What it’s good for

Because Prezi works like a diagram that you can zoom in to and around, it is brilliant at showing relationships between ideas and information, so you could use it as a really flashy alternative to a flow chart.

Another powerful function of Prezi is the ability to zoom almost infinitely on a part of the screen, so you can:

  • Hide an answer within  a question and zoom in to reveal it
  • Zoom in on parts of an image or diagram
  • Zoom out to remind students of how everything fits together.

What else can it do?

You can embed YouTube videos in it (just copy the Youtube address and paste it in).

 What it’s less good for

Compared to PowerPoint, Prezi is slower, and does need more careful preparation (I recommend you sketch your ideas out beforehand, or your presentation can turn into a bit of a mess), and you can’t easily print it out.  You also need to be online to use it.  It’s also less good at simply presenting information, especially verbal information, than PowerPoint.  Lastly, the zoom and wheel functions can leave your audience rather seasick!

How do I start using it?

When you first visit the website you’ll need to sign up for an account.  There are a range of options, but the best for teachers is the ‘EduEnjoy’ licence, which offers nearly the full range of functions for free.   If you want your class to use Prezi, make sure they register themselves using their school accounts, preferably before you go into the ICT suite for your lesson, so as to save time.  Get the boys to plan their work on paper before starting online – this not only saves faffing around, but also makes the boys spend more time thinking through their ideas and how best to express them. is a very simple mind-mapping tool which I have found great for getting boys to work together, especially for revision and consolidation.

How it works is similar to Prezi in that it is effectively a large sheet of electronic ‘paper’ on which you can create mind-maps, with the freedom to drag things around and rearrange them as you wish.  It’s wonderfully simple: simply type in a box and press Ctrl+Enter (at the same time) to produce a ‘child’ from that box.  If you want to produce a ‘sibling’, simply press tab.  You can delete boxes at any time; if you drag one box over another, then that box becomes a child of the one it’s hovering over.

More powerful is the ability to share work between different users, so you can produce a mind map which you get the boys to work on.  To do this, you can make use of the contacts system, whereby boys can request to add you as a contact by searching for your e-mail address, and you can approve their request.  Having approved them, you can group them into appropriate groups – by class, for example.  If you’d like help using the groups function, come and give me a shout or drop me  a line – it’s easiest understood when you’re doing it, rather than reading about it.

What it’s good for

As with any mind-map, is good for organising ideas and exploring concepts.  What makes the online version interesting is how you can challenge boys to think in different ways.  For example:

  • You could give the boys headings and ask them to add ‘children’ bubbles, adding relevant information.
  • In English, we might give the name of the character, and boys add quotations associated with that character.

Click here for an example.

  • Instead of giving the headings and asking the boys to add information, you could give them the structure of the mind-map, but with blank headings, so that the boys have to work out the categories.
  • To continue the example from above, I might give the boys the quotations and ask them to work out which character they are associated with.  Click here for an example.
  • Create the mind-map, but remove all the links, so that the boys have to decide the best order to organise the points on the page.

What else can it do?

If you want to print your work, use the Export function, and choose ‘jpeg’.  This will allow you to download a picture of your mind-map to your computer, which can be printed and marked / stuck into an exercise book, for example.

What it’s less good for’ strength is its simplicity, but that ease of use does mean that it is not an advanced mind-mapping tool.  You cannot upload images, link to YouTube or anything like that.  Do be aware that load/save times can be long, so make sure you have paper to hand so they can start planning their mind-maps while waiting for the website to load.

If you share a sheet with a group, they can only open it one-at-a-time, so I recommend you share it with them before the lesson, and ask them to open it and use the Save A Copy function so they have their own version of it.  Doing this before the lesson will reduce the time wasted by people complaining they can only open a ‘read-only’ version of the file!

How do I start using it?

Registration and getting started are really easy, so just get stuck in!  Feel free to ask for my help if you’d like to use it in a lesson and want some assistance.

Blogging Ideas for the Classroom

Blogging is a hot topic that seems have been around for quite a while – Recipes, Travel Diaries, Projects and even pets are some of the popular topics amongst the general public for blogs.

Recently however it has been related to the classroom and although not all teachers may be familiar the blogging process, I believe it can be an excellent tool for all subjects – not just computer based ones either.

Setting up a blog for your subject could be a good way for you to share finds and links that you find and think students or parents may be interested in. An alternative use of blogging is having students summarise lessons, topics or events. Please have a read through the below ideas of how you may integrate it in to your classrooms.


1. Share a photo of your classroom. Explain the different parts and say how these are used. Invite other teachers and classes to write a similar blog post explaining their classroom layout. Encourage children from your class to leave comments about what they like about it, or even suggestions for changes they would like to see.

Photographs for something like this can be in single format, like the ones in this post, or in various multiple formats: PhotoPeach is an amazing slide tool which enables images to rotate. See Yvette Gunther’s example from her Library blog page .  Some further zany picture option tools includePictureTrail and kizoaPhotosynth enables you to take several images and then “stitch” them together in one large image. Here is an example which one teacher made of his classroom.

2. Publish children’s work. Don’t only post work that is flawless, but also invite comments and suggestions on work which can be improved.

Spreadsheet work Year 7

3. Publish your shared writing. As you produce writing with the class in your lessons, post it to your blog and invite the class or blog visitors to improve on something and/or to comment. David Mitchell from Heathfield CPS in Bolton has developed very confident writers in this way, with significant, measurable successes in achievement from his students. Take a look at his Class 6 students’ blog.  David is a tireless teacher, constantly persuading people to comment on his students’ writing. He has even produced a class video about the importance of commenting on students’ wrtitng efforts. See it here.

5. Share a photograph of a classroom display. Describe what the students have been doing to produce this and any themes which the class are working on around the display.

6. Post a video of SMARTBoard or IWB session during a maths lesson. For example the written methods for multiplication could be included, the children can use it as a revision aid – the parents get to see how the school wants it set out AND the children get to comment on their favoured method.

Alternately, one could use the free online application VoiceThread to share similar information. There are so many ways in which VoiceThread can be shared on a class blog. Here are more examples from Heathfield CPS.

7. Posting images from a digital microscope for the students to comment on. “What is under our microscope?” – or asking students to guess what the image is and to comment on any of the suggestions.

Plant Cells

8. Posting homework tasks every week – eg. maths problems, or an excerpt from a book/poem; children to comment on this as their task. This can become collaborative as students comment on each other’s comments.

9. Create an Art Gallery. Post pictures of all of the artwork created in a session and make a gallery or slideshow. You could create a Picasa slideshow (a Google tool) for the sidebar which can be continually updated. More slideshow alternatives for images include Animoto, Stupeflix and Clipgenerator.

10. Post Concept Cartoons for science prior to a lesson or week of work. Students are asked to comment on what they think will happen and then these can be used as a start to the first lesson or an initial assessment.

11. WAGOLL (What A Good One Looks Like) – this is a slight variation on the theme of posting students’ work for comment. Our Year 5 and 6 and 7 have already started showing us some of their excellent work online. Why not take a look and leave a comment? The tool which we’ve been using a lot of recently to display student work ismyebook.

12. Video your class assembly – you can use this for discussion on what was good and how it could have been improved.

13. Post a preview of upcoming topics – hence the tardis for the time travel element. See for instructions on how to make it!

14. You can use Wordle for vocabulary revision or as an illustration of a poem or extract of text for comment.

15. Create your own tutorials – you can use screencasts with Jing (free) or Camtasia ( 30 day free trail or purchase) for tutorials involving ICT e.g. Web 2.0 apps to be used at home, or make a video of how to make an object in DT, or how to complete an experiment in Science. These are also easily embedded into a blog.

16. Create a Glogster poster! Glogster is an alternative to a Publisher or Word poster which students create in class. They are fun and dynamic and keep students engaged when they are working on them. It is fairly quick to make these multimedia posters. You can either use existing media or make your own podcasts or videos for Glogs, depending upon your time/equipment constraints. They are also excellent for displays if you print them out. You can use them for WAGOLL (What A Good One Looks Like) or to leave instructions for a homework task. Again, they are simple to embed in a class blog.

17. Voki allows teachers and students to create speaking avatars in a fun, stimulating and engaging way. Another easy to embed blog tool, these could be used to consolidate a topic, describe an event, or practice a foreign language. See by Jose Picardo (follow the link in the picture below).

18. Comments 4 Kids – this is not an idea for the blog itself, but is a way for students and teachers to find blogs to comment on and to get their own posts commented upon. You register your blog and others who are participants are then aware of your blog. If you participate, you can add the logo at the bottom of the picture above to your blog. There is also EduBlogger You can also use Twitter to tweet the link for your class blog using a hashtag #comments4kids and other tweeters can comment. There is also a tutorial on how to post a good comment which would be useful when commenting on others posts in class or for homework.

19. You could use a combination of a random number generator. The one above is from You just type in what you want to be randomly selected – be it numbers, or operators for example. You could create a maths homework where the children make their own sums using two random numbers and an operator for example. There are also many more random choices at (r.g. random coin tossing including foreign coins).

20. Pupil of the Week – you could either post a photo of your pupil of the week on your blog, or get students to create an avatar at face your manga. These could be used for many applications. Its always a good idea to use the rule of thumb; if you use name – no image, if you use image, no name.

21. Make a Tagxedo of class names for your blog. Tagxedo allows you to make words into shapes.

22. Post an introduction to a text or topic and ask students to compile questions to be asked in class as comments. This is from “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee.

23. Embed a Wallwisher to post comments on a topic. You could create a role play press conference to get students to see other parties’ points of view and get them to post in the opinion of another party. e.g. Government v students re university fees …

24. Have a look at the sidebar. You can create and embed a Cluster Map for your blog. Nothing motivates a blogger more than knowing that they have an audience – and with the Cluster Map you can bring in all sorts of Geography topics quite easily.

25. Use Google Earth to find the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro and look at the favelas. Embed a Google map. You could use Google Earth for a myriad of topics.

26. iPadio  (Blog post on its use.) This is excellent if you are on an excursion as you can just “phone in” your posts and you don’t need to have access to a computer. You can also use audioboo.

AudioBoo enables interviews which can be put onto your blog. It seems a useful tool for getting students to report back to their blog site.

27. Shelfari. A blog widget which is excellent for “What’s new in our class library?” as in our Library blog You could do one for a year reading list. “Our favourite books”, “Teacher’s favourite books when we were your age.”

28. Free Rice Widget – follow the link on the picture for instructions. Free Rice is a fantastic website for 3 reasons:

  1. It’s fun;
  2. It’s educational;
  3. Every time you play you donate rice to hungry people around the world through the UN World Food Programme.

Originally it was just a great vocabulary game, but now they have added loads of categories to choose from, such as capital cities, countries on the globe etc. Moreover, you can create a login to track the amount of rice you have donated. Why not put a Free Rice widget on your blog and create a login for each student, then add a little competition by updating a school graph every week to see which class has donated the most rice? Alternatively, just do it for fun?

29. Use comic strips which can easily embed into your blog. Use Toondoo for example, to illustrate a poem. Or you could use it to illustrate what students know about a specific topic e.g. Spain.

30. Make a Prezi about a topic of work the class are studying. At a simple level, you can create a link to students’ work from an image on the blog. (Trying to embed Prezi directly is only for those who are pretty IT savvy as you need to tweak it in Vodpod to make it work.)

31. History Pin. We’ve yet to explore this one fully – but we’re thinking….

We’ll leave it here, but will be back to add part 2 as soon as we have new ideas. If you have some of your own please either add these to Tom Barrett’s Interesting Ideas for Class Blog Posts or comment here. Thanks!