Author Archive: Tim

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Capita and C2k Inspire Conference, Titanic Centre, Belfast

| November 17, 2015 | 11 Comments 

Inspire 2015

TitanicSuperb to be doing a keynote, on Inspiring Collaboration, Creativity and Innovation in the Classroom ~ the inventive, essential sides of using technology with our students…

…for the first annual Capita and C2k Inspire Conference for School Leaders, held in the Titanic Centre, Belfast.

InspireLogo3Steve MossThe Inspire Conference brings together leaders in education who work with governments and schools around the world. Guest speakers shared their views on leadership proprieties and the world of opportunities in employment locally and beyond. Sarah and I are delighted to attend as keynote speakers alongside John O’Dowd MLA, the Northern Irish Minister for Education, and Professor Stephen Heppell the renowned new media and educational technology expert, and chaired brilliantly by Steve Moss, Chair, ENni Innovation Forum, NI.

Stephen Heppell

Animal magic“We are delighted to join Capita and C2k at the Inspire event and look forward to delivering our session on ‘inspiring collaboration, creativity and innovation in the classroom’. The conference will also give us an insight into how schools in Northern Ireland are engaging with ICT and provide us with an opportunity to network directly with the school leaders.”

Throughout the day local schools showcased how they are using ICT to create an innovative, engaging and interactive learning environment, collaborating within and across schools.

capita-logoAs part of the conference Capita and C2k will be revealing the finalists of the EN(ni) ICT Excellence Competition and announcing the winners. Videos from the finalist schools were shared through the morning and the winners will be announced at the close of the morning sessions.

ZookazamInspire is supported by Google for Education and HP and key technology suppliers who form part of each NI school ICT service. A full agenda is accessible via the Inspire website. Follow the @Capita_MITS and @C2k_info twitter pages and hashtag #Inspire2015NI for further information and updates on the Inspire conference.

A huge thank you to again to Lynsey Parkes, Senior Marketing Executive at Capita Managed IT Solutions for all the pre-organising of us before the event and for during today alongside her colleague Susan O’Neill and their team.

Tim Rylands

Daily Writing~Tips: well lush

| November 16, 2015 | 0 Comments 

If, like me, you find it difficult to decide when you should, and shouldn’t, have a comma in a sentence, then you might find Daily Writing Tips useful. It is, also, a collection of handy teaching tools. (sic)

I used to be really confident about punctuation. The need for speed, and constant variety, means that I have become more confused, and inaccurate. My spolling is attroshus two.

Daily Writing Tips contains searchable guides, quizzes (and so much more) on grammar, punctuation, spelling, vocabulary …and other aspects of written language.

Please forgive us our mistakes. Even better, quietly send us a nudge. We love to be told (nicely) when we have made a mistake. Any learner does, like, don’t they do, eh?

Schools in Northern Ireland ~ Belfast

| November 16, 2015 | 0 Comments 

Ashfield Girls Secondary School Belfast

We were honoured today to be invited to visit schools in Belfast, to see what they are up to with their use of technology to enhance lessons.

We started at  Ashfield Girls Secondary School, Belfast.

Ashfield Girls Principal is Mrs Alison Mungavin. The school is an all-Girls Secondary school.

Technology in Ashfield Girls’ provides opportunities for pupils to expand their knowledge beyond the boundaries of a classroom; allows flexibility and freedom to teachers who can adapt the pace and challenge of a lesson to suit the individual pupils; creates an excitement and purpose for learning and most importantly prepares pupils for the inevitable technological infused lifestyle of the 21st Century.

However, it’s not simply within the classroom environment in Ashfield Girls’ – it permeates and infuses every aspect of school life. Relationships with parents and involvement from parents in the life of the school in enhanced by software we have invested in, such as teachers2parents text service and Show My Homework.

The leadership team has a clear vision for the way in which technology can enhance teaching and learning and this is understood and shared by the staff and students. The strategies adopted are fully consistent with the vision and are being effectively implemented. There is a particular focus on applications of technology that reduce the administrative burden on teachers and frees them to focus on effective teaching. Particularly effective use is made of the Fronter VLE to allow staff within departments to share resources. The school also makes very effective use of technology to extend the learning window and ensure that parents are well-informed about expectations with regard to homework. Students really value the fact that they are able to catch up online if they have missed a lesson and feel that the use of technology in many subjects increases their motivation and engagement as well as enabling them to demonstrate their achievement in a variety of ways.

The school has made particularly effective use of Accelerated Reader to improve reading in KS3. By linking this use closely to special needs support and carefully targeting the pupils who can benefit most, the school has achieved significant gains. The strategy of ensuring that staff are well trained in the use of mobile technologies before rolling these out across the school has meant that the class sets of iPads that have now been purchased are being used very effectively in many subjects. The school has taken a mature approach to the use of mobile phones in school and students are allowed to use their phone cameras with teacher permission to record work – for example in science practical activities. In addition to the widespread use of Fronter, 6th form science students are linked to the Blackboard VLE at the University of Ulster so that they can benefit from the materials it contains.

We then headed on to Harberton Special School, Belfast

Their Principal is Mr M McGlade. This school is a truly special school.

In Harberton Special School and Outreach Services the use of technology to transform and enhance teaching and learning is a major part of the school ethos. It is a high preference on the school strategic plan and the school development plan. Both these long term and medium term plans inform the yearly action plan for the school(see attachment – ICT section of the schools yearly action plan). These plans ensure that the use of technologies and ICT are embedded across the curriculum in all curriculum areas. This emphasis of the use of technology is encouraged from all aspect of the school’s management structure. These plans are shared with all stakeholders involved in the school. They are ratified by the board of governors, published on the school website, shared with parents as part of a yearly report, displayed on the school notice board and submitted to the Education Authority. An ICT handbook is provided to all members of staff which clearly states the schools high expectations on the effective and innovative use of technologies across the curriculum and in all departments. The school has made substantial investments in new innovative technologies.

The creative use of technology is transforming the life chances of pupils in this Special school. It is a key component of providing access to learning for many children with complex needs and the school has utilised an array of both simple and sophisticated technologies to improve their young peoples’ engagement, motivation, behaviour and attainment. It was also clear technology played a key role in tracking pupils’ progress – of particular importance in a context where learning gains can be of massive significance even when they are relatively small, incrementally. The use of Green Screen technology to immerse children in situations that would otherwise be precluded and the use of QR codes to make a discovery journey around a shared outdoor learning area an interactive rather than passive experience were just two examples of the very many ways the embedding of technology was helping Harberton’s youngsters, and its staff, to make learning and teaching an exciting and rewarding experience. The school has managed to prioritise impact by the judicious use of targeted investment and evaluated how effective it is – ensuring technology is delivering improved outcomes.

There were many things that impressed about Harberton – not least a quite superb, dedicated, hard-working group of staff who gave tirelessly of themselves to help their children; but, in terms of technology focus, most impressive amongst these were (i) the use of robots to engage learners with communication challenges and (ii) how technology used as part of a rewards strategy was helping to improve the achievement of Autistic youngsters with challenging behaviour. The latter was presented to us by one student on behalf of another who was ill on the day of our visit – and his efforts to explain what he saw as how his friend’s experience of school had been transformed was both humbling and inspirational.

In the afternoon, we had a meeting with C2k elearning team.

The C2K project and Capita provide the infrastructure and services to support the enhanced use of ICT in schools in Northern Ireland.

It was also good to visit The Titanic Centre for a seminar run through for tomorrow, especially as our presentation will be seen by so many schools across Northern Ireland.

A big thank you to Lynsey Parkes, Senior Marketing Executive at Capita Managed IT Solutions for organising our day and to Glenn Parkinson who was responsible for hosting the day, and did so in style.

Thanks too to: Steve Moss, Steve Smith, Glenn Parkinson, Averil Morrow, and a few others for “time out’ later.

Taking a break & Breaking break times…

| November 14, 2015 | 0 Comments 

Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari, once said a profound, and challenging, thing:

“Everyone who has ever taken a shower has had an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off, and does something about it that makes a difference.”

It’s not just the getting on and doing it. The thinking time is important too.

I have had an enforced break being checked over in hospital, and am very glad to be out. Thinking time maybe.

How many times have you been stuck with something, gone out for a walk, and, on your return, almost without conscious thought, you have solved at least one aspect of that conundrum?

The same can be true for our students.

A child, stuck on a science riddle, or a new concept of fractions, might be stuck now, but, when they head out to play, something can still be working away, within them, to the extent that, when they return to the classroom, something has clicked in their thinking.

But, …it’s too late. We have moved on to another subject.

The idea of needing a bit of time to think, to consider, to form thoughts, and ideas, is real, and could have a simple, yet effective, impact on some lesson, and curriculum, structures.

We have discovered, through practical experimentation, that reshuffling lesson starts, and finishes, independently of break times, has had a positive, and encouraging effect on children’s thinking through problems, and problem solving.

By having a few minutes, continuing with the subject, and challenges, from before “play”, “break”, “recess”, … has lead to some interesting comments, and results.

“Oh, Mr Rylands, I get it now!” … “I’ve been thinking about it. If I put this bit here…”

Building in a short “break” from the main task could have a similar effect.

Whilst this is not always practical because of time, staffing, equipment, and other restraints, when it has been possible, it has proven to be positive, and beneficial.

In an interview with the Ode Magazine, called “Reading, writing and playing The Sims: What video games can teach educators about improving our schools“, Nolan Bushnell kindly said he wished “his children had a teacher like Tim Rylands”.

Well, we have learned something from him

We all need to take breaks. If YOU can, hope it’s a good one. Hopefully, when we come back after our “shower”, we will have had a chance to regroup, and will carry on building what we do,… … and even better.

Scribble Maps & Scribble Maps Pro

| November 2, 2015 | 0 Comments 

Scribble Maps is a free, and easy, way to add drawings, comments, markers, highlights, text, timelines and more, to maps. It takes very little time to master, and gives children the chance to annotate locations from across the globe.

ScribbleMaps pro, adds extra features but, unlike a lot of apps, where the “pro” badge means you pay for the upgrade, this version is also available for free. In pro, you can import files, such as KML files, that you have created in Google Maps and Google Earth, and draw, or add layers of images, on to your maps.

Useful for marking routes of school trips, ancient travel exploration journies, and more.

Doodle ~ collaborative doing or not

| November 1, 2015 | 0 Comments 

Thank you to Claus Berg for recommending Doodle, when we were arranging times to plan our events in Denmark. Doodle is a very quick, and efficient, way of gathering arranging a time for a meeting.

Doodle eliminates the chaos that comes from scheduling and saves you a lot of time and energy when you’re trying to find a time to bring a number of people together.

doodleInstead of using just one option, you can propose several dates and times and the participants can indicate their availability online.

Must go. We have a meeting to attend!

A whiteboard sensory experience ~ Beautiful Curves

| October 26, 2015 | 0 Comments 

Beautiful Curves is a living art experience, sending almost organic curving lines dancing around lines you draw.

This would make a great sensory experience, on a whiteboard, for those who would enjoy, and benefit from triggering, controlling and creating their own curling, twirling, flowing, growing, art works.

Experiment with the parameters and you might find other uses, such as exploring letter formation…

Vyew ~ collaborate in style

| October 23, 2015 | 0 Comments 

Vyew allows you to meet and share content in real-time or anytime. Upload images, files, documents and videos into a room. Users can access and contribute at anytime.

It’s easy – no installations and can be used on PC, Mac, Linux, working with powerpoints, documents, images, videos, mp3’s, flash files.

  • It’s FREE! – The free version is “free forever”. Upgrade to remove advertising and raise your user limits.
  • Conferencing features – whiteboarding, video conferencing, screen sharing, Voice-over-IP.
  • Collaboration features – continuous rooms are always saved and always-on. Contextual discussion forums, voice-notes, track and log activity. Give it a go and let me know.

Rhyme n Learn – 25 squeaky clean maths and science raps

| October 22, 2015 | 0 Comments 

Rhyme ‘n Learn, (“Music That Puts The Cool Back In School”), is maths and science taught by mnemonics. Mnemonics use word associations like rhymes so that a term or fact is easier to recall later. An example of a mnemonic is “In fourteen hundred ninety two Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” or “Thirty days hath September. All the rest I can’t remember!”

Rhyme ‘n Learn was created by teacher Joe Ocando, who has taught maths and science to students of all ages and discovered that many find it difficult to memorize hundreds of new terms and facts. Rap seemed to help, and does seem to make some concepts easier to remember.

The concepts covered are more suited to older students Examples include Pi Rap | Don’t Let Pi Make Ya Cry and Rational and Irrational Numbers Rap | E-rational Thoughts

Type a maths or science term in the search bar on the site to find a mnemonic for it. If you can’t find it, send content suggestions to

Don’t forget another teacher led site “MathTrain”. Mathtrain.TV is a free educational “kids teaching kids” project from middle school mathematics teacher Eric Marcos & his students.

Both sites could be a great inspiration to students to create explanatory videos, or raps.


| October 21, 2015 | 0 Comments 

Mathtrain.TV is a free educational “kids teaching kids” project from middle school mathematics teacher Eric Marcos & his students at Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica, CA, U.S.A.

A great inspiration to other students to create their own explanatory videos too.

It is part of the Project and was created to host their student-created maths video lessons. It is Web 2.0 friendly with its ability for users to generate “ratings” and “comments”. The middle school students use a tablet pc and screen-capturing software, Camtasia Studio, to create the tutorials (screencasts or mathcasts) which are used for classroom instruction and posted onto sites such as Mathtrain.TV,, iTunes, YouTube, and TeacherTube

Students work hard at creating the content and construct the best explanations they can in an unscripted format. Some include captions.

Eric and his students invite other students and teachers, parents and educators to help contribute to this global collaborative effort. They are especially interested in student-created “mathcasts”, hence the “kids teaching kids” motto.

I have already learned LOADS,and that’s amazing: I took two mathematics exams, and failed all THREE of them! 😀

Back To The Future Day

| October 20, 2015 | 0 Comments 


Back to their future crewOctober 21, 2015 – Back to the Future Day. The date that Marty McFly and Dr Emmett “Doc” Brown chose to travel forward in time from 1985 in the hit sequel Back To The Future II.

Try this timer HERE