Easy Mind Maps

April 27, 2013

The education year tends to be quite circular, so as my Year 11s finish their controlled assessment (and I am in the throes of marking and moderating) my Year 10s are just starting their controlled assessment.

One of the first things they have to do is analyse the task they have chosen in the form of a mind map. In previous years we have used PowerPoint to do this (as they produce all of their written work in PowerPoint), but this is quite a labour intensive process involving adding shapes to the slides and joining them with conecting lines.

My pupils were finding this quite frustrating, so I encouraged them to look for alternatives and they came across ExamTime. After trying it out with my two classes, and having good reviews from my pupils, I thought I would share it with you.

Examtime is currently free, and it looks like the current features will remain free. You can make a variety of revision resources, but most importantly you can make mind maps.

It’s also easy to set up your resources by subject. You just tap the + button to add a new subject.

I used ExamTime during the lesson to demonstrate how a mind map works. It was very easy to use, even on an iPad.

Here you can see the beginnings of a mind maps all about the design task to ‘Design and make a gadget tidy’

The mind map I created automatically saved to my area, so I could easily log in again to work on it some more. During the lesson one of pupils accidentally closed his Internet browser and was quite worried that he had lost all of his work, but because it saved as he worked he could log back in and continue working.

You can see here my saved mind map, ready to be opened again and worked on. When my pupils had finished they could either print screen the finished image and paste it into their PowerPoint, or they could export it as a PDF and do a similar thing.

We were really impressed with ExamTime, and how easy and intuitive it was to use. I will be recommending to pupils again in the future.


Stylish Posters

December 8, 2012

I recently spotted that Phoster had gone free in the App Store (if you don’t have ‘Apps Gone Free‘, then I highly recommend getting it, it saves me so much money!)

Phoster is an easy way to make stylish simple posters, quite useful when you want to advertise events in school.

You have a wide range of poster templates to choose from, all you need to do it add in an image (you only get to do 1 image, so choose wisely!) and tweak the text. Then you can save it to the integrated gallery, or export it to your camera roll.

Here is one of the posters I made, to advertise the YouTube channel.

I like it because it is simple, effective (and only took me about 5 mins to make).

Saving in ‘The Cloud’

August 4, 2012

As I'm sure you know, teachers generate a lot of 'paper work' (as do most other professions). We need to have access to this work in a variety of different situations, especially if like me you have to teach in 4 different classrooms (sometimes all in one day) and also at home. I used to use USB sticks, I had a fantastic one that I could wear as a bracelet, but then cloud computing arrived.

I can now access all my computer files from home by logging into the school network. But sometimes you want to have your own virtual USB stick (and I'm sure you can already see where this post is going) and that's where cloud storage comes in.

There are a variety of different options available, from the well known like Dropbox, to the relatively new Google Drive, even Microsoft's Skydrive. But all of them enable you to save your files in the cloud, and access them just about anywhere (as long as you have internet connection).

I am not going to analyse which cloud storage if the best, there are many review sites that can help you (I found this one, which was very interesting). I use Dropbox and Google Drive (as I have quite a few Google Docs). Both of these have apps, in fact most cloud storage sites have associated apps.

Just by doing a search on the app store for 'cloud storage' gives you 108 potential apps. But if you wanted a short cut, here are the links for Dropbox, Google Drive and Skydrive.

One reason why I like Dropbox is that it links in to so many of my other apps. My main PDF reader (Goodreader), my current planner (Teachers Attaché), even one of my document creators (Quick Office) all save files through Dropbox. You can also share folders with other people, something I found very useful when I was developing a new project for school.

But the main thing I like about cloud storage – you can't lose it or damage it (unlike my poor bracelet USB that had an unfortunate altercation with a pan of boiling water in a food lesson). Just make sure you don't forget your password!


Alternative Ways of Presenting (Part 1: Prezi)

July 21, 2012

I love using Prezi, although it has taken me a while to get used to it, I am starting to use it more and more instead of PPT. What I like about it is the ability to 'zoom' into a presentation. It makes it very clear that we are going into more detail when you zoom further into an area. It can be tricky to get that balance between zoom around to wow your crowd and causing nausea. But Prezi have some good tutorials to help you when you make your first Prezi.

As a teacher I can join Prezi with my school email and I get to have an 'Edu Enjoy' account, which gives you the same perks as an 'Enjoy' account (500MB storage, own logo, private Prezis) but for free. Students can also do the same.

If you haven't come across Prezi before, then here is one of my Prezis (I used this to introduce the project my Yr 9's did for homework). As a testament to my lack of coding knowledge, I think this might be flash based (goodness knows I had fun trying to find out how to embed it). So amusingly it won't work on iPads!

There's also a Prezi app for iPad, it only allows you to view Prezis and do very simple editing. This came in handy when several of my pupils chose to use Prezi to present their projects, I could download their Prezis to my iPad, and then view them away from my computer as I marked them (admittedly in front of the TV).


I am hoping that in time the Prezi app will allow me to create Prezis on my iPad, as that will make my planning a lot easier. But for now at least I can view the Prezis I have and make simple adjustments.




Interactive Class Quizzes (part 1)

May 27, 2012

I’ve been looking for an app that would enable me to engage my class during the tedious period of GCSE revision. I am quite lucky, in that my pupils are allowed to use phones and other devices during lessons (if they have the teachers permission) and that almost all of them have a smart device of one sort or another. So I wanted a way of utilising this technology during lesson time.

I was told of an app called Socrative which lets you set up a virtual room which your pupils can then log into. You can either operate it through their website, or if you have an iPad they also have a dedicated app.

I trialled this with my Yr 11’s during a revision session on the mechanical properties of materials. I was impressed by how engaged (and competitive) 11 16yr old boys became, as they raced to see who could get the highest score the fastest. They were also impressed with the app, it was stable on their phones / laptops / iPod etc. The only downside was the boys using Blackberry phones found it very difficult to use.

So how does it work?

When you log into the app you have this home screen:

From here you can easily write and edit quizzes. You can see how many pupils have logged into your virtual room and you can very easily kick them out (when they forget to log out at the end of the lesson).

When you are running a quiz you can choose to have live results, which is useful if all your questions are multiple choice. And at the end of the quiz you can have a detailed report emailed to you, which shows exactly what answer each pupil gave. If you have any written answers it shows you what they have written in the report.

Pupils access your Socrative room through either a webpage (m.socrative.com) or if they have an iPhone or iPad, they can download the Socrative Pupil app. They both look exactly the same.

The pupils first have to input your room number, you are assigned a random number but you can change it. I changed mine to the school exam centre number, as all my boys could remember it easily.

They are given a holding screen, while you wait for everyone to have logged in.

You can choose to run the quiz at the students pace, or you can send the question individually. After pupil have logged in with their name (which loads on your home screen as they do it), they are then presented with the questions one at a time.

Pupils are given instant feedback for each multiple choice question.


The app was stable, it didn’t crash at all.

Pupils could access it on smart devices, or class computers. They only needed access to the Internet.

The email report allowed me to see where pupils were struggling, and also save it for future reference.

You can share your quizzes with other teachers by giving them the ‘Soc code’ that is assigned to your quiz when you write it, very useful for departmental use.


You couldn’t have any pictures in the questions, quite frustrating for a subject that is very image heavy.


(On another note, see how much better this post is, now I’m using Blogsy!)


The Basics (or how to function without paper)

January 28, 2012

I have been trying out a variety of office based apps, to try and work out which is best for my needs. I need to be able to read and produce word documents, make PPTs (or similar) and have basic spreadsheet facilities.

I decided to try out the following:

20120128-114525.jpgKeynote (Apples version of PPT- £6.99)

20120128-114416.jpgPages (Apples version of Word – £6.99)

and following a recommendation from a colleague

20120128-114639.jpgQuick Office HD (which has Word, PPT and Excel – £14ish)

They each have their pros and cons. Pages and Keynote are easy to use, very easy to insert pictures and crop/rotate/resize them. However, you can only save them to your iPad, save through iCloud or email them. Not very useful when I want to access them through my Dropbox to use with my Teachers Attaché (see last post).

Quick Office HD is also relatively easy to use, and has the advantage of being able to save the directly to Dropbox. But I find the interface is not as intuitive as Pages or Keynote, but that may just be me being fussy. However, the most annoying thing for me is I can’t crop the picture I insert into the PPT. Also if you create a document in Office 2010, remember to save it as a compatible version, otherwise you won’t be able to open it.

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