Archive for April, 2012

inClass app

| April 30, 2012 | 1 Comment 

inClass is a free app to help students organise their lesson schedule, take notes, record audio and even video. In other words, plan ahead and look back. Anybody else tried it out?

You’ve got to laugh, haven’t you?

| April 29, 2012 | 0 Comments 

We are lucky people, Sarah and I: we get to travel a lot, doing what we enjoy, promoting a creative approach to the curriculum, …and learning a lot. AND laughing.

Laughter! Lots of it! That is what we are lucky to experience in our day to day work. To do that, meeting imaginative professionals, who are up for a challenge, is always a real joy.

We laugh a lot on our training days, (and on the days spent with students of all ages and abilities). Recently, though, despite some challenging times in the world of education, the laughter has been deafening, at times.

Laughter is such an important ingredient of a school life, but…

How many of us, when starting out on new careers as teachers, were told “Whatever you do, don’t smile until after Christmas”!

Often, when the pressures become intense, we can forget to laugh. We can even begin to fear allowing laughter in our lessons, because we might “lose control” & not be able to fulfil the requirements that pressures put upon us.

Curriculum pressures, parental pressures, authority pressures, professional pressures, pupil behaviour pressures, …real, or imagined, pressures can begin to invade our daily teacher lives.

We have even heard of one school who said “Oh no! We couldn’t do that. We don’t have time”! Even worse, “No. We do our excellence and enjoyment on a Friday. Friday afternoon”!

A panic can set in, in all of us. A panic, that we are “not doing well enough”, on so many levels, and that we, ourselves, “Could do Better”.

Laughter is the last thing on our minds, the last thing we are inclined to encourage, and the last thing likely to happen in our statistics-led, and pressure hosed, day to day school lives.

It is, however, what feeds healthy, enquiring minds; what creates a spiral upwards in standards, confidences, creativity and so much more.

If we don’t keep up with, and use, the technologies our children use in the outside-school-world (after-school club, youth club, library or home) then our classrooms will appear static, unappealing, dusty yet sterile, redundant environments in comparison.

It is the same with laughter. Sit outside a school, perhaps on a hill, on a day off (when everybody else is working and you feel gloriously liberated), and what do you hear?

Shouting, screaming, cheering, yelling, boisterous noise. Followed by an almost eerie silence.

In that noisy time, our children have fought tigers, scaled mountains, solved crimes, given birth, cured the world of all known diseases, saved (or taken) the lives of others, saved (or destroyed) an entire planet, scored the winning goal for their country. They have been spies, pirates, sportsmen or women, artists, explorers, fearless warriors, cats, dogs, lions, pilots, and even…teachers!

Do we silence that when they re-enter our rooms?

Any outside influence will stint that natural enthusiasm. No adult can, or should, enter those magical imaginary worlds, as they will become staged, and thought about, rather than natural.

Or can we harness that sparkling playtime imagination, that excitement, that enjoyment, that exploration?

Role play is “a natural” for children, but, when we use hot-seating in our class, do we make it a stodgy, formal process or does it happen, apparently spontaneously, and bring laughter and learning in to our rooms, at one and the same time?

As we travel, we often use the technique of getting children to spring out of a class group, and “become” a character in one of our virtual reality settings. They often surprise themselves, their peers and, even more often, their teachers. Normally timid, quiet, shy, individuals can startle others by becoming a completely different identity.

We don’t tell them too much information about what they might say, for fear that they might worry about remembering it. Instead, it is a brief time, giving them the confidence to get in to a role, much as they might do in the playground. Imagining they are “really” that soul.

This can be the source of a lot laughter. It can also be a place where creativity takes unexpected turns. We have children surprise us with humour, AND with pathos.

One lad, in a school, when questioned about how he made his (imaginary, yet utterly real to us, by now) robot, answered. “Well, basically, a lot of metal, … and an unbelievable amount of duct tape!” Cue belly laughs.

That same lad, bought us nearly to tears, when he recounted the tragic tale, of how, he thought, he had become the sole survivor in this mystical landscape, and the joy he felt, when he discovered the first hint of a, possible, companion.

Pressures, especially at certain times of the year, mean laughter can fade. We become impatient of ourselves as much as those around us.

Learning is an emotional experience. Memory formation occurs in the emotional areas of the brain. Happy brains retain more.

As one Mr Einstein said:
“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”

Go and have a giggle. Its good for your health and … for our learning.

Read Print

| April 28, 2012 | 0 Comments 

When looking up texts to use in lessons, try ReadPrint for “*FREE” books online. For example, when setting up a lesson on The Wind in The Willows by Kenneth Grahame, it is great to be able to go to the section of text you need.

ReadPrint also contains superb biographies of each author.

It is quite remarkable how many useful texts can be found in Project Guttenburg. Project Gutenberg, is a volunteer effort to digitize, archive and distribute cultural works. Most of the items in its collection are the full texts of public domain books. The project tries to make these as *free as possible, in long-lasting, open formats that can be used on almost any computer.

(*It is really important to discuss “free”. Project Guttenburg have an interesting & useful way of defining “FREE” here)

World Digital Library

| April 27, 2012 | 0 Comments 

We first came across The World Digital Library (WDL) whilst in Qatar. The WDL makes significant primary materials from countries, and cultures around the world, available on the Internet, free of charge, in many languages.

These cultural treasures include manuscripts, maps, prints, rare books, musical scores, recordings, films, photographs, and architectural drawings, from across the globe.

It is possible to browse by place, time, topic, type of item, and contributing institution, or can be located by an open-ended search, in English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. A world of resources.


| April 26, 2012 | 0 Comments is a collaborative drawing tool and can be used free of charge. Plan, as part of an online group of students or teachers.

Drag and drop elements, or draw freehand, to generate attractive charts, layouts, mind maps and more.

Cacoo is pretty user friendly, enabling you to whisk up a variety of diagrams alongside other users quite easily and in “real time”. The free version allows up to 15 users per diagram, and for you to create up to 25 “sheets”.

| April 25, 2012 | 2 Comments 

A maths Dictionary for Kids is a comprehensive tool designed by Jenny Eather. A huge collection of great explanations of maths terms, for all ages, and abilities.

Could also be useful as a revision tool., or a reminder of key elements, as part of a lesson or investigation.


| April 24, 2012 | 0 Comments 

If you are using Skype to carry out calls between classes involved in cross school projects, such as eTwinning, or Quadblogging, then, as long as you are both using it, you could use VodBurner to record your calls, for free.

Arriving in Exile…

| April 23, 2012 | 0 Comments 

This is the third year I have been using MYST. This work is from Exile, the landscape at the beginning which we did on the training session with you, and the day of lessons. Some of the sentences we liked I’ve typed up. These are year 4 pupils. Hope you like their work!

Judith Thompson, Parklands Primary School Northampton.

Dust drifted silently across the sun-baked, sandstone rocks. The golden sun beat waves of heat down. I surveyed the lonely wasteland, a falcon zipped around beating its black wings heavily. A large dusty rock that looked like a sleeping ankylosaurus of some sort lay embedded into the golden ground and flaky cliff side, silent, unmoving. Small cacti grew upright from the rocky cliff side. Miniature bushes of some sort were planted firmly into the rocky terrain. Only then I realised, I was in the unforgiving, cruel-hearted Exile.

… Quickly running into a cavern I sheltered for a while.…As I gaze up at the aqua blue sky, with fluffy white clouds, gracefully a bird swoops beautifully down in front of me.…Winds whispered gently across Exile…I could see little footprints a bird made on the sand.

..As purple as an aubergine the sky watched the puffy clouds go by.

..I touched the several-aged mountains, they were rough, still and fixed.

Here I am alone, standing still near the gigantic mountains.I saw a graceful bird swooping eagerly in the lush pale sky, with creamy clouds.Here I am, in this unknown world with just a beautiful soaring bird to keep me company.Silently the bushes stand like an army ready for the battle to begin.

Spiky cacti, in all shapes and sizes, stood still on the shimmering sand.

Drifts would come past me like they were humans.

I felt like I didn’t belong.My eyes were searching frantically for some kind of comfort.White clouds of silk were beautiful.Rocky cliffs dominated the bright yellow sand.

It was amazing, so sandy, but I realised that once it was beautiful here.

The shiny bird was gliding gracefully.

The dry sand whispered under my feet.

Thank you Judith, and well done Year Four! It is a pleasure to peruse polished prose from the Parklands posse.

Did you miss? (Did you Sir?) 1

| April 22, 2012 | 0 Comments

| April 21, 2012 | 0 Comments 

The secretariat of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction launched an on-line game aimed at teaching children how to build safer villages and cities against disasters. This initiative came within the World Disaster Reduction Campaign “Disaster Risk Reduction Begins at School”.

The game can be found HERE

Natural hazards, such as floods, earthquakes and volcanoes, do not need to become disasters. For example, if volcanoes erupt in a location where nobody lives, the volcano eruption is just a natural hazard, but not a disaster. But if people living around the volcanoes are affected and even killed by the volcano eruption, in this case, the volcano eruption becomes a disaster. Continue Reading

19 Pencils

| April 19, 2012 | 0 Comments 

19Pencils enable you to create a web site for easy student access to your favorite educational resources… for free.

Easily create your own class page with thumbnail links to all of your favorite connected sites in just a few minutes. Thumbnails of your sites make it easy for students of all ages to click on the correct item. You can also build quizzes & interactive elements.

Already Have a Class Blog or learning platform presence? You can easily place a widget onto your existing website or class page to point your students, parents and colleagues to your 19Pencils link page.