A New Resource for GCSE (and iOS7)

September 21, 2013

I wanted to show you 2 things this week, one is linked to the release of iOS 7, the other is a new resource I have made for my GCSE pupils.

As you may be aware in iOS 7 you can view your calendar from the lock screen. I thought this could be quite a useful new feature, especially since I have been trialling using my calendar as a lesson planning resource. Here is a screen shot of my calendar from my lock screen showing my lessons and activities for part of the day.

It is quite useful being able to see a quick overview of the lessons for that day, although only being able to see the next few hours was a bit frustrating. I have put the lesson synopsis in the location field.

The resource I wanted to show you is specifically for my GCSE pupils. During the controlled assessment my pupils have to assess their designs against Social, Moral, Environmental and Sustainability issues. This is something my pupils find very difficult, primarily because they find it hard to think of issues that relate to their projects.

So I made them some cue cards. The questions came from the textbook and the pupils themselves. Then I came up with some example answers. The cue cards now live on my stationery trolley, so they can be used whenever they are needed.

I thought that other D&T teachers would find this useful, so I upload my file to the shared Edmodo group and also to the shared D&T Dropbox folder.


Planning Ahead

June 22, 2013

As the end of term is rapidly approaching (we break up on Friday), I am thinking ahead to next academic year. I know my timetable already and one of my classes I will be sharing with a new teacher. This means that I have to make sure that this teacher knows what the class will be doing each lesson. Now normally I have my schemes of work (SOW) and I follow these, adapting to the needs of the individual class. But to make it easier for this teacher I am going to have to produce lesson plans for each of our lessons, especially as he is new to teaching my subject.

So I have been investigating lesson planning apps and thinking about how to make it easy to share these. None of my current mark book apps have easy lesson planning, so I needed a separate app.

After trawling through the App Store, I came along Teacher Plan Lite (there is also a paid for option with more functionality). It was one of the few apps that wasn’t USA centric (i.e. involving ‘common core’ which we don’t use in the UK).
The app is very simple to use, it provides a series of boxes that are partly filled in (although I tended to delete the current info). You fill out the boxes you need (they turn from grey to white after you fill them out, showing that they have been activated).

When you have finished writing your lesson plan you have a variety of export options.

But I was most interested in the calendar option, especially as in the calendar fields I had the option to invite someone to the event (perfect for sharing with my new teacher).

You can’t save the lesson plan you create, only export it, but the current lesson plan remains active until you overwrite the top field.

I also wanted to look at calendar apps, especially since my main calendar app has lots of events synced to it making it very cluttered. I tried out 2 different apps.

The first was Planner Plus, this was a free trial app with the option to pay £5.99 to get the full version (as it likes to remind you).

I quite liked the layout, similar to a paper planner. You have the option of day, month or year views. You can also choose which calendars you would like to view (and as I have 7 this was quite useful!).

The other app I tried was Week Agenda Ultimate, I really liked this app. The layout is very simple and clean. You can flip between the weeks (jumping ahead or back months or years by 2 or 3 finger swipes, it explains in the App Store notes). Once again I could choose which calandars I wanted to show.

With both apps, when I tapped on the event you could easily see the lesson plan contained within the notes.

I would still like to be able to colour code my classes, but I think that would involve yet another app which seems excessive!

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!


Yet Another Planner

March 23, 2013

As one of my pupils said on Friday ‘my RM project feels like my baby,and now I’ve got to give it up’. It was deadline day on Friday and all of my pupils had to submit their GCSE project (which is worth 60% of their final grade). This project is the biggest body of work they have had to assemble for any of their subjects and they get a bit panicky towards the end. When I have finished sorting out their made products and put them on display, I’ll post a picture so you can see the sort of things we make.

Anyway, back to this week. For the last 10 weeks I have been trialling a new teacher planner with one of my classes. My year 9 class have a 10 week rotation between the different Engineering subjects, so it seemed the ideal opportunity to try something out without having to commit.

This new planner is called iTeacherBook and it is from the same company that made iStudiezpro which is useful student planner (quite a few of my pupils use it).

The main page looks just like a calendar. As you can see I took the picture from next week, but only because every other day had a pupils name on it (and I thought it wise not the tempt the data protection act!). On the day when I teach the class, I automatically get a register on the right side of the screen when the lesson is due to start. The left side of the screen has all my appointments for the day (it populates from my iPad calendar). So I can see that it would be easy to set up all my classes and have the timetable view I wanted (just).

The class was very easy to set up, and you can see your individual classes under the ‘planner’ tab at the bottom of the screen.

What I found frustrating was the setting and marking of homework. When you set a homework in the app, it automatically goes through five stages.

  1. Assignment created
  2. Available to students
  3. Submitted by students
  4. Already graded
  5. Given back to students
But you have to manually tab each homework between the stages. It’s only a little thing, but it really annoyed me.
Unlike Teacherkitwhich I have been trialling for a while, I find it very difficult to assign average grades to my pupils in iTeacherbook.
So will I be switching my other classes over?
Not while iTeacherbooks only advantage is a calander view, and Teacherkit is generally better and easier to use.

Teacher Planners (again)

October 27, 2012

I know I posted quite recently about Teacher Planners, but they are such an essential part of being an organised teacher. So far I have tried Teachers Attaché (iPad App) and Learnboost (Web 2.0), but I still wasn't quite happy. I tend to collect apps as I find them, especially when they are on sale, and try them out gradually. To give you an idea of what I mean, here is a snapshot of my Teacher Planner folder with apps I am waiting to try out:

I recently saw Teacher Kit in action on a fellow teachers iPad, and thought it looked promising. I thought it would be a good idea to compare the 3 different type of Teacher Planners I had used so far.

As you can see, Teachers Attaché fulfills most of the criteria, however the lack of customisable grades makes keeping an easy to read record of pupil attainment quite hard. To show you what I mean, here is a view of one of my pupil's homework grades so far this year (as viewed through Learnboost).

I liked that I could set my grade boundaries, so I can easily track the average grade for pupils. We have quite an interesting marking system in my school, which I like so much I use for every piece of work pupils do. Pupils are given an effort grade letter and an attainment grade number. So an E2 means excellent effort and excellent attainment.

However, it is really hard to link lesson plans to classes in Learnboost, and you can't assign student pictures. But the main downside is that Learnboost doesn't get along with Safari (not a serious problem, I just installed a Chrome browser), even worse the wifi in my teaching area is not very good and often disappears. Quite tricky when your planner is entirely web based!

So after half term, I am going to be trying out Teacher Kit. I have already uploaded my main classes, and entered all the homework grades from Learnboost (it was very quick). So I am ready to go.

The layout of Teacher Kit is quite interesting, you have a row of doors for each of your classes.

Behind the door is a range of options. I can take registration, easily arrange my seating plan, mark pupils work and the one thing I particularly like was the ability to record both positive and negative behaviour. Something I'm sure will come in useful in the upcoming parents evening.


Planning – Online!

August 11, 2012

I'm not going to be here for the next few weeks as I am off on holiday (I haven't left the country in 6 years, to say I am excited is an understatement!) but regular posting will resume on the 30th August (dependant on jet lag, we land on the 28th). Anyway back to this week….

I told you about an app called Teacher's Attaché that I have been using as my main planning tool since Christmas in a previous post. Although it has been very good, I wanted to be able to use something that I could also access on my computer, as typing on the iPad is not as easy as using a keyboard.

I am also expanding my blog so that I look into Web 2.0 tools as well as apps that are helpful for teachers.

There are several online planning tools you can use, some you have to pay for, some are free. Frustratingly, most of them are centred around the American education system, and have very prescribed lesson plan formats. I will explain a few of the free ones, and show you which one I have decided to trial for the Autumn term.

First we have PlanbookEdu. Their basic plan is free but if you want spellcheck, exporting to PDFs etc. and the ability to attach files to your plans; then you have to pay $25 a year (about £16). You set up a 'Planbook' for the year and set up your classes and lesson times. You can then write lesson plans and assign to classes. To be honest, I found the layout very frustrating to use. It may be that I didn't give it enough time to learn how it works, I wanted something I could pick up much faster.

Then I looked at LessonPlanIT, but I dismissed this quite fast because I couldn't see how it worked, I wanted a guided tour before I committed to registering.

I finally settled on Learnboost, which you can also install as a Chrome extension (if you use Chrome). It's free, works on any platform through a web browser. And most importantly, I liked the layout.

I could import my pupils using CSV files, and I liked the way the 'dashboard' showed my list of classes and schedule for the day. Most importantly it had a detailed demo account that I could play around with before committing to signing up.

Setting up my classes was easy, and I could easily change the start and end times for my lessons.

The class layout enables me to track marking, reporting and attendance. If I wanted to I could even share this information with pupils and parents by setting up parent and pupil accounts. I can decide which information I want included in my lesson plans, so if I don't want to include the American standards then I don't have to!

I am going to trial this planner in the Autumn term, and will report back after I have tested it properly.


Planning (or how to be an organised teacher)

June 9, 2012

In my first post I mentioned an app called Teacher’s Attaché that I was using to replace my planning book. I thought it would be a good idea to go through the app in more detail, especially as most of the teacher planning apps cost money, so it helps to see whether or not an app will suit you before you pay for it.

Although the app does take a while to set up, I suspect that it is no longer than any other similar app. You have to input your classes and add your pupils, but this can be done by exporting a CSV file from your school admin software (like SIMS or iSams) and inputting it to the app through iTunes. You can also assign pictures to your pupils, but this is currently a very long process as you have to manually assign each one. I have included some screen shots to give you an idea.

Once you have inputted your classes and the lesson timings for those classes, you can set up your lesson for them in the ‘plans’ section.

As you can see in this screenshot, I have set up the lessons and homeworks for this Yr10 class. The lesson appear in the ‘events’ section and homework and exams appear in the ‘assignments’. I teach 2 Yr10 classes and it is very easy to copy a lesson or homework and link it to another class, all I then have to do is change the date on the copied lesson.

When you have assigned the date to an event or assignment, it then appears on the relevant day of your timetable. All the data you input, homework results, exam results, attendance etc. is linked to the pupil. So at any time you can click on the pupil in ‘student view’ and see all the data related to them.

The other side of Teachers Attaché is your timetable view. It uses the timings you put in for your lesson to create it, and you can assign different colours to your classes.

I particular liked how all the assignments and events appeared at the bottom of the day, as well any dates in my calendar.

When you tap on the ‘events and assignments’ it quickly shows you the things for the day.

You can then select one of them to see more information if you need to. You can also access any materials you’ve uploaded through Dropbox for the lesson.

So in summary:


  • Easy to set up
  • Copy function between lesson is very good.
  • Links to Dropbox.


  • Very time consuming to put pupil pictures in.
  • Limited fields for pupil information (first name, surname and email address)


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