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!



The joy of marking (and some new tools!)

March 2, 2013

After a hectic half term, and some ongoing sagas with living in a new property (not least of which the fact that my postcode does not yet exist in lots of companies databases, which makes online ordering quite entertaining!), I’m back!

This week, after a recommendation from a colleague, I got a new stylus for my iPad. Apart from one tiny (though one might say quite big) problem, it is making marking work on the iPad so much easier.

This is my Adonit Jot Pro, it is the most accurate stylus I have found so far. This is why:

The writing tip of the Jot Pro is a clear disc with a 4mm metal circle in the centre. This makes it incredibly easy to see where on the page you are writing. Plus it feels like a normal pen as it has the right weight! There were lots of reviews on Amazon warning that it scratches the iPad screen when you use it. This was the main reason I hadn’t bought one already. But my colleague, who had been using his for a while said he hadn’t experienced any problems. (You can probably see where this is going!).

So my pen arrived, and I started using in conjunction with an app called iAnnotate PDF. This app is amazing (it was £6.99, but I think it is worth it). You can link it with a variety of cloud services, but is also does WebDAV so I could open documents directly from my school documents. I could easily open my pupils (very large) PPT projects as PDFs, so I could mark them.

This is one of James’ pages on his 15 page PPT, as you can see I have already been annotating it with comments for improvement. For any Resistant Materials teachers out there – don’t worry this isn’t the real controlled assessment (in which no feedback is allowed), it is a mock controlled assessment we do in Year 10 (in which I give lots and lots of feedback!).

When I finished marking it, it was very easy to email the finished PDF back to the pupil. From the feedback my pupils have given me this week, they found it really useful.

However, as I was marking the 7th project I heard an ominous sound. The stylus had scratched my screen (it was a tiny scratch, but it’s still a scratch!). I should point out that I do work in a very dusty, dirty environment and despite regularly cleaning my iPad screen, it is invariably covered in wood dust. I suspect some of the dust has caught under the plastic disc and been dragged along the screen causing the scratch.

So I was faced with a dilemma. Do I stop using the stylus (which it’s easily the best stylus I had found so far), or do I find some way of protecting the screen?

I opted for the second option, and after doing some research decided to buy a Mediadevil screen protector. Amazingly, it arrived the next day. So now my iPad looks like this:

And I can finish my marking!

Accessories and Hardware (aka more ways to spend money)

January 16, 2012

I teach in a workshop, grubby tables, machines, tools, dust and dirt. I was a little (ok, very) worried about damaging my new iPad. So I though it best to invest in some protection. I wanted something clear, as I have made a vinyl sticker with my name and department to go on the back of the iPad. However I didn’t want anything remotely sticky (as some silicone covers can be) as there is a lot of wood dust to contend with.

I thought I would gamble on a cover with reasonably good reviews on Amazon, and was pleasantly surprised when it arrived.



(Photo from

The iTalk Online ProGel Cover is clear, but slightly smoky. It has enough of a sticky feel, so it is easier to grip the iPad. But not so much stickiness that it collects dust and fluff at will. It was very easy to put on, and I can take it off if I want to. Plus as it was reasonably cheap (£7.45) I don’t feel to worried about having to replace it when it starts to get too scratched up.

I also wanted to buy a stylus pen, so I could write more accurately than I can with my finger, especially when I need to draw a diagram for pupils on my note taking app (more details on that soon). I also wanted to have a real pen included, as I sometimes have to be able to write on real paper. Most of the dual function pens I found seemed quite expensive. So I was quite pleased to discover the Kensington Virtuoso Touch Screen Stylus Pen as it was only £14, as opposed to the £30+ I had been seeing on some other sites.

The pen works well, it can be refilled with a standard Parker ball pen refill. The only problem with it is you can’t put the cap on the stylus end when you are writing with the normal pen. I can see the cap becoming lost quite easily.



(Photo from

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