Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Tech tool review. Looking back and going forward.

So, it is that time of year when people like to sum up their year or reflect on the good and the bad of the year and think about what has worked well and is worth repeating next year and what should be left behind.  In this post I intend to think about those tech tools that I have enjoyed using and that have helped me enhance what I do in my classroom and then I am going to look forward at ones that I intend making more of next year.

First up, looking back. Here's three of my favourite tools from 2014:

First on the list is explaineverything which is worth a post all of its own really. This app is so versatile and allows you to annotate imported work and images (perhaps of a town map in geography, a maths' problem or a student's essay) and you can even voice annotate your image or writing.  With my own classes I have used it to import pictures and label them and voice annotate these pictures.  I have then shared the videos with my students who have watched them in advance of lessons in an effort to flip learning.  This has been a really positive experience and has allowed me to cater to the individual needs of my students.

Next up is Edmodo an online tool accessible on tablet and phone.  I have enjoyed using this over the year firstly to set a variety of tasks including listening and gap-fill exercises which can be set up to mark students' work automatically and these marks are stored in your easily accessible Edmodo mark book. More recently I have used Edmodo to enable peer feedback and collaboration within the safe forum provided by the site.  I have created big groups in which I have posted assignments and groups of two which has revised the perfect environment for students to help each other.  This is definitely a tool I am going to explore more next year.

My final tool is Google Drive. I am only now getting into this but I can already see lots of advantages.  I use it to share documents with my peers and to submit my assignments for my course.  The benefit is the ability to collaborate on these documents.  Documents are not the only benefit of Google Drive.  There are slides, and spreadsheets as well.  Indeed, Google apps for the classroom is a whole new universe for me and I am looking forward to exploring these further and understanding them better.

Now for 2015.  I have already mentioned Google Drive as one of the tools I have enjoyed this year 
but need to make more of. Here are three other tools.

Plickers is a tool I have mentioned before in a previous post.  If you only have one iPad in your class but you really want to assess your students learning then this tool is for you. Using your iPad to record the response cards from your students you can easily assess what your students have achieved and what steps you need to take next and you can do this at any time not just in the lesson itself.  I really got into this tool and I do want to make more of it this year because it is an excellent assessment tool.

My next tool that I really need to take advantage of and which I barely know (at the moment) is iTunesU.  Thanks to educate1to1 and their excellent blogposts I now see how easy it is to set up.  The value of creating courses for my students which they can access easily is the big pull of this resource.  In terms of providing students with work at their level and differentiating this really fits the bill.  As with @explainevrything this is a tool that allows for flipped learning and in my opinion warrants further exploration.

My final tool in the spotlight for 2015 is Phoster which is an app that makes excellent posters.  So far I have used it for my own creations but I can see a way forward with this tool (and a myriad of other poster makers such as canva which is available as an app and online) for my students.  Quotes, grammatical points, examples of linking words - there are plenty of ideas in how to proceed with this tool.  If you have any thoughts on these tools or any others that you think I have missed the. Do let 
me know in the comment box below.  In the meantime, I shall leave the last word to Phoster.

Saturday, 20 December 2014


No digital ramblings here.  No talk of technological tools or how to make the most of them in class.  This post comes a few days into my holiday and I am beginning to wind down. Spurred on by @MartynReah and his stirling work on the topic of teacher wellbeing.  I have decided to take a moment to think about my own wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around me.  I am a mother, wife, teacher, Head of Department and MA student about to embark on my dissertation.  I am a busy person, I admit it.   Stopping now to reflect will do me good and hopefully have a positive impact on those around me.

#connect - I have gained so much from the few TeachMeets that I have attended this year.  It has been so good finally to meet the people I tweet with regularly.  It has been good also to be involved, to hear great ideas that I can take back to my classroom.  Part of the TeachMeet process has been to present and I have enjoyed this too.  I aim to attend more TeachMeets next year and connect with more like-minded folk.  However, more than that I want to help my colleagues to connect in the same way and experience the buzz that I have experienced.  I am going to bring TeachMeets to my colleagues and help them to connect.

#exercise - a couple of years ago I ruptured my cruciate ligament and as part of the recovery process after the operation I had to complete various exercises to get the strength back in my leg.  Although it was hard work I kept at it and by the time the recovery exercises were over and I was able to start playing tennis again I was, curtesy of all the running and cycling, incredibly fit (for me).  It felt good and for a while I kept it going.  However, as ever, I let it go, too busy doing other things. So, the exercise regime is going to be a feature of 2015 and I will be fit and healthy and this is the crucial bit, I will feel good.

#learn - I cannot deny that this has already been a big learning year for me. I have learnt so much doing my MA but more than that I have discvoered so much from Twitter and reminded myself of the things I need to do to improve my teaching.  In the everyday madness that can be the life of a teacher it is easy to forget what we are there for.  Some days I admit I have found that I just want to get through the day and I want to make amends for this.  I am going to continue using what I am learning through my wonderful PLN on Twitter.  I have already delved into a number of ideas and I plan to read a whole lot more books.  Here's a few for the next few months.

#notice - this may sound simple but I want to take greater note of time passing and to enjoy my days more fully.  When I am stressed at work in the thick of marking assessments and reports I am guilty sometimes of wishing time away, and wishing it was already the holidays.  It is surely something that many teachers are guilty of; wishing it was already the holiday. So I am going to take greater notice of time passing and stop wishing term time away when I am feeling under pressure.  

#give - to my family.  They have been so supportive firstly as I took on my Head of Department role and then as I started my MA.  With the long road to the final dissertation still ahead of me I know that it would be easy to shut myself away with my notes, papers and research.  However, I am going to ensure that I give as much time to my wonderful family.  I will go running with my husband, even though he is much faster and more eager than me!  I will play minecraft with my son, regularly.  And, I will take the time to learn how to ice cakes properly with my daughter.

There's a lot to look forward to in 2015.