November 9, 2013

I've been seeing 'ThingLink' talked about a lot on my Twitter feed, but hadn't really seen how I could use it in my teaching. For those who don't know, ThingLink allows you to create pictures with interactive tags on them.

This week I needed to set up two new classes on Edmodo, as my year 9 classes had rotated round to new teachers. Last time the pupils had difficulty remembering how to submit their prep after they had gone home, so I made a ThingLink using a screen shot of the turn in page to help them. I was surprised, not only by how quick and easy it was to make a ThingLink, but by how much my pupils enjoyed using it.

So here is a quick tour or ThingLink, there is a very good website and also an app (which doesn't quite have the same functionality but still works fine)

They have an educator account, and you can choose if you want your ThingLinks to be publicly available, or private (you can still embed or share with a link if it's private).

All of your created ThingLinks are easily available on both the website and the app. You can easily edit them whenever you want.
To create a ThingLink, all you need to do is:

Choose an image (from camera roll in the app, or by uploading an image in the website).

Tap wherever you want a tag to appear. On the website you have more choice of tag icons, but in the app you can easily add pictures as tags. There are a huge range of tags you can use, but I tended to use video and websites (as well as old fashioned text).

When you've finished save your ThingLink (it uploads to the website) or choose your sharing options, you can also access these again through the website but I couldn't seem to find them again in the app.

You can then open your new ThingLink and see if the tags worked as you want them too, you can always go back and edit if you need too.

I was really impressed to find that one of the automatic embed options in a ThingLink was Edmodo, but you are also given an embed code so it can be out wherever you want. I embedded a ThingLink about the Bauhaus on my school intranet.

This is the finished Bauhaus ThingLink. Although it is very difficult to embed things on a WordPress blog, so currently it seems to not be working. I will keep investigating how to do it (it took me ages to work embedding Prezis!)



Wow, Thank You Apple!

October 5, 2013

Instead of a post about what I am doing in my classroom, I wanted to share with you something that happened last weekend that made me appreciate my Apple products that little bit more (I promise I am not one of those Apple evangelists).

My daughter is soon to turn 13, like most teenagers she is very attached to her technology. Last year she spent months saving up her allowance, birthday money, Christmas money as well as working odd jobs to earn extra so that she could buy herself an iPod touch. So finally in January 2013 she was to purchase it, and since then it seems like it has become surgically attached to her.

Just to give you an idea of how much it is used, here is a short list of some of the apps she uses on a regular basis (and not just to surf the internet or listen to music):

  • iAWriter – she is writing her second ‘novel’ on this (and is determined to be a published author)
  • Crunchyroll – where her current obsession with Japanese Culture and anime can be fulfilled.
  • iStudiez Pro – so that she can keep track of her homework.

She is unbelievably careful with her iPod, keeping in a zipped pocket of her school blazer and in a case to protect it. However through a series of horrible coincidences her iPod managed to fall out of this protection and bounced off the flagstones outside her school. Fortunately it only dented one corner of the iPod, but this happened to be the corner where the power button was.

From that moment on her iPod kept trying to randomly shut down, or take screen shots whenever she pressed the home button. So we decided to make out first ever trip to the ‘Genius Bar’ at an Apple store to see if it could be fixed.

The Apple store ‘Genius’ took one look at her iPod and said ‘that can’t be fixed, you need a new iPod’. My heart sank because I knew we couldn’t afford one and while he went to speak to his manager I explained to my daughter that she might just have to cope with a broken iPod for a while longer.

Imagine my surprise when he returned holding a new iPod, handed it to her and said ‘here you are try not to break this one’. Now I realise that they are probably going to refurbish her old iPod and sell it, but by giving her a new iPod for free to replace one that she had broken was amazing.

So we used the money I had set aside for repairs to buy her a better case for her new iPod.

It’s a Speck Geoskin which she chose for the simple reason that it protects the buttons.

And in case you wondered, we had backed her iPod to iCloud before we went, so when we set up her new iPod we used this back up to it up. So all her apps were back, with all ther data. Even her background picture was in place. It’s so nice when things work!
So thank you Apple, you have made my daughter (and by extension, me) very happy!

Thank you Twitter

July 13, 2013

Today I am off on a free CPD (continued professional development) course that I found out about through Twitter.

It is being run by Teach Design and it is all about the future of my subject (with lots of fun workshops throughout the day). I will blog about this later!

I have talked about Twitter before but this is the first time I have something tangible from it. Of course what you get out of Twitter entirely depends on who you follow. I knew that I wanted to find out education resources and so I set about to look for Teachers on Twitter.

It has taken a while to build up my PLN (personal learning network), and I have only just started to find other Design & Technology teachers, but it is worth it.

So hopefully, if your not already on Twitter, you might take a look and see what it is like.

But for now I am off to the Design Museum to meet other teachers who are giving up their Saturday for something they found out about on Twitter as well (exciting!).

Some Organisation

May 4, 2013

My Year 11s are about to go on study leave, which means 3 things. First, I've prepared them as much as I can, provided them with resources (both in paper form and on the intranet), its now up to them to revise in which ever way they prefer. Second, invigilation season is soon going to be here (I find invigilating incredibly tedious, but it needs to be done). Third, I don't have scheduled lessons with my year 11s any more (which gives me some 'free' time), so I can start planning for next year.

Because my subject is very project based (after all, the best to learn how a mortise and tenon joint works is to make one), I spend most of my summer term (and start of the holidays) perfecting the projects I want to run the following year.

This involves lots of planning, making one (to see if it is pupil friendly), costing the materials used, writing schemes of work and making all the resources to go with the project. Each year I try and update at least one year group project. Last year it was my Year 9 project, in which we make an MP3 speaker. That is now working well, so it can stay the same for next year.

This was my example project from last year

So this year it is the turn of my Year 10s. We spend most of Year 10 doing mini making projects, as most of them have not really used the machines in the workshop. So I want to introduce a mainly metal working project.

I am currently in the planning stage, scribbling down various ideas on whatever is to hand. On my iPad I have quite a few notebook apps (I download them when they are free, I really should have a purge at some point).


My favourite one is Penultimate. This notebook is really good, partly becuase it works really well with my stylus (the Adonit Jot Pro) and also because it syncs with Evernote.

These are my current scribblings in Penultimate.

I am not a dedicated Evernote user, I don't sync every single note I make to it. But in this case it is useful, I can note down my ideas, and because it syncs to Evernote I can then show other people on my iPhone or their desktop computer via the Evernote website. Very useful when you want to get people's comments on the current thinking.


I've started making the first prototype of next years project, I'll let you know how it goes!


Revision – Games

April 20, 2013

We are now well underway into revision time with my GCSE class one of the things my pupils need to be able to do it identify tools and machines. They need to know what it is called, and what it is used for. There are a lot of tools and machines in my subject! Although they will have used most of them over the course of the 2 years, they still find it difficult to associate the right name with an image.

So I get them to play matching games at the start of the lesson. It only takes about 5 mins, and they get quite competitive with each other.

It is a very simple game to make, there are 3 cards for each tools. One has the picture, one the name and one a description. I’ve laminated them so they last longer.

I’m sure you’re wondering by now why I am posting about this, surely this blog is all about the use of technology in the classroom! After the pupils have finished matching (and got them all correct) I remind them to use their phone to take a photo of the tools they struggled to match (making sure all 3 cards are in view). That way they have a photo flash card to revise from later. My pupils last year informed me that this was quite useful once they were on study leave.

Another thing they can do is download the matching game from our intranet, so they can make it at home (it’s arranged so that the squares are already matched on the sheet). As you don’t have access to our intranet, I have uploaded the games to Dropmark. So if you would like a copy for your class (or just for fun) you can find it here.

Sharing Files (the easy way)

April 13, 2013

As well as using Dropbox, which I posted about before, I also use another cloud service purely for sharing files with others. It is called Dropmark.

The main reason for this is I don’t want these files clogging up my dropbox (where I store my everyday files), plus it is extremely easy to share files through Dropmark.

Let me give you a quick guide tour:

The main dashboard has a series of folders called ‘collections’, which you can set individual permissions for.

So if you wanted to access my ‘Socrative Inset’ collection (which I shared the link for when I posted about the training I ran) you would need the link to the folder (which is right here).

Alternatively, the SOW789 collection is shared with just one other person, so they have been emailed the link through Dropmark. They don’t need to have a Dropmark account to view and download the files.

It is very easy to add new collections, the only limit you have (with the basic free account) is you have a maximum of 250MB space. As with all other cloud accounts, you can pay to have more space.

To add files to collections you simply drag and drop them (if you are on a normal computer) or click add file if on an iPad. There is also a Mac app which makes uploading to Dropmark even easier.

Becuase there are so many different cloud services available, it is really down to personal preferences as to which one you like to use. But for easy collaborating, I definitely prefer Dropmark over Dropbox.

Some News (Both +ve and -ve)

March 30, 2013

Finally all the controlled assessment is in (and I have burnt them all to disc – as they are too large to be uploaded to the cloud or stored on USB). Some of the pupils videos have been uploaded to YouTube and the Easter holidays have begun.

I thought you might like to see some of the finished videos:

First up we have the rotating spice rack (which featured in an earlier blog post)

There is also have a fantastic video made using stop animation (something I am going to try out), the pupil made a set of time trial handlebars mainly using the school 3D Printer, and devised a clever way of it locking together using his own quick release mechanism.

I will be spending my Easter break reading and marking 19 different controlled assessments, justifying where each pupil has earned each individual mark. As most of my pupils have written about 14,000 in their project this does take a while!

Back to the iPad use, I started revision sessions with my GCSE pupils this week. We tried out Socrative (and they loved it), but I was very disappointed to discover that all my quizzes in eClicker had vanished. This means I now need to decide wether to put in the time and effort to recreate these quizzes, or just abandon the app. I still haven’t decided (it all depends on how much time I have this holiday).

You may remember that I had applied to be an ADE, well I finally got some news on Thursday and unfortunately I didn’t make time this time. I suppose I can apply next time, and by then hopefully my application will be even better.