Workflow (IFTTT)

January 11, 2014

I haven’t posted for a while for two reasons, first I haven’t been trying anything new (mainly because my use of my iPad seems to have reached an equilibrium in that everything I am using is working and I don’t feel the need to look for an improvement yet), secondly it has been unbelievably busy!

But this week I did try something new, and I think it is quite useful (and not just for teachers). I often find that I am repeating tasks on different social media sites, or saving information in a variety of different places (for example bookmarking websites, favouriting tweets).

One of my pupils told me about IFTTT (IF This Then That). This website enables you to create recipes so that is something happens on one website you belong to (for example I favourite a tweet) then it is automatically added to Evernote (thereby consolidating some of the information I collect).

There is also an app for IFTTT, which is remarkably easy to use. You can only create ‘recipes’ with ‘channels’ they have already got – but there is quite a lot.

You activate ‘channels’ through the app (so far I have activated Twitter, Evernote and Instagram). You can then either create your own ‘recipes’,

or you can use one that someone else has created.

You can view all the ‘recipes’ you have created and see how often they have been used.

You can see that I have already created two and they worked very well.

I am hoping that by automating some of the things I either do, or wished I was doing, then it will reduce the amount of time I spending on these things. Now if only I could find something to mark homework for me!


Facebook Groups and Other Updates!

May 18, 2013

I have been trying out a lot of new things this year, and as you try things out you learn what works and what doesn’t. I thought it would be useful to revisit one of things I trialled last term, especially as it didn’t work very well!

You may remember me posting about setting up a Facebook page for my Yr11s to give information regarding revision etc. I quickly discovered that a ‘page’ didn’t really work, because the pupils hadn’t ‘liked’ the page they didn’t get the notifications. So I decided to look at Facebook’s options again.

I decided to consult an expert (namely a year 10 pupil) who has set up several pages and groups on Facebook. After a chat about various options, it seemed that creating a group would work better.

So at the start of the controlled assessment with my Year 10s, I decided to set up a group on Facebook as a triall to compare it to the ‘page’ I had tried before.

I looked carefully at the setting and privacy options in the group settings:

I set it so that any group member could invite people to the group, but I had to approve all of them. Also only I could post messages to the group, but pupils could comments on postings (I can delete what they post if necessary).

On my teacher Facebook account I have no friends. This proved problematic, as you can only invite friends to groups. So I turned again to my ‘expert’ and he agreed to friend me so that I could add him to the group.

Once he was in the group I could ‘unfriend’ him, but he could now invite other members of the class who were his friends to the group. Within 12 hours all of the class had been invited to the group (I was impressed by how quickly it spread through the pupils).

It has been very interesting seeing how the pupils interact with the group, in the picture above one of the boys is reminding another of the required work for the upcoming deadline. It later transpired that he was replying to a message this boy had sent him earlier, specifically asking what work needed to be done!

Another interesting feature is that I could set up deadlines as events and see which of them had read the post.

We’ve been trialling this for a few weeks. So far it is much better than a ‘page’, but I am still waiting to see how this fares long term.

Another update, I posted a while ago about the end of controlled assessment and I promised to show you some of the finished products. Well the products are now on display, and my amazing technician has been making custom built plinths to show the work off.

So here are some of the products, rotating spice rack, Mondrian themed bedside unit, Rackets press, MP3 Speaker, Saxaphone stand, CD rack and another storage unit (this time Art Deco themed).

Socrative – New Features

May 11, 2013

I discovered (through my twitter feed) that Socrative had released some new features. You may remember this blog post from last year when I first started using Socrative.

Socrative now let’s you include images and automatically marked short answer questions, which is very useful in a quick quiz situation when pupils want to know who won!

I’ve been experimenting with the image feature first, as it is the most useful for my subject. So far I am impressed with its possibilities, but it does seem to have some limitations. Let me show you how it works first and then discuss the minor problem I am having.

Now when you start to write a quiz you are presented with the option to ‘add image’ to each question.

As with most apps you have the choice of using an existing image, or taking a new one.

You can see here my finished questions about mechanical fixings, with included picture!

Then when you run the quiz, this picture will appear under the question but before the answer on the pupils device. This is where I ran into a small problem. When I tried it out on my iPhone, this is what I was presented with:

The picture was huge! I thought it was just my choice of picture, so I tried it out with an icon sized image of the same thing, but the picture was still huge – just more pixelated.

This would work well on a computer screen, as there would be more space. But I am mainly using Socrative on pupil devices, and some of them have even smaller screens than my iPhone.

I think that this has great potential, I am just really hoping that the picture size can be sorted out soon!

On a separate note, this Saturday I am taking part in an annual tradition at my school called ‘Apposition’. Whilst it is a lovely event, it does take up almost all of my Saturday (which as most teachers know are quite precious). Anyway, we are (to my knowledge) the only school that does this. So if you want to find out more then there is a great description of it on the schools Wikipedia entry. The event is steeped in history, and it remonds me how long my school has been around for! We get to dress up in our academic gown and hood (which makes for a very colourful staff room, I will be resplendent in navy blue, gold and turquoise), listen to some amazing speeches from pupils (last year we had the mathematics behind juggling 11 balls explained to us – it was quite fascinating), see our senior pupils get awarded prizes and then have lunch with parents of prize winners.

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.

Social Media with Pupils?

April 6, 2013

In a few short weeks, my GCSE pupils will be going on study leave. The exam for my subject is one of the last ones they will do, so once we start approaching the end of June I offer to run an in school revision session for those pupils who wish to come in. However, contacting them all has proved difficult in the past (sending an email does not always guarantee they will read it!). So I thought I would try and use social media (specifically Facebook) as a form of class communication.

We do have a very good intranet at school, which my pupils are used to using all the time to access resources. But they have to log in from home through the school website. I have been told by some of them that once they go on study leave, they only log in if they have to find something for their revision. Whereas they have Facebook on in the background almost all the time!

I know that there is a ‘safer’ form of Facebook in the form of Edmodo, but I don’t have the time to get them used to using it. I am planning on trialling Edmodo with my new GCSE class next year (as I will have 2 years to train them on using it!)

Anyway, back to Facebook.

I decided to set up a ‘page’ after reading this helpful explanation of the difference between ‘page’ and ‘group’. On my page I can post notifications, invitations to events (like revision sessions) and notes (like their holiday prep). Pupils can comment on individual posts I make, but can’t create their own post. However, unlike a group, a page cannot (to my knowledge) be set to private or invitation only. So in theory anyone could comment on the page, but I can delete comments.

It is still early days, but if this works (i.e if I get positive feedback from pupils) then I may use this more often. And if you are thinking of doing the same thing, make sure you check your school’s policy on use of the Internet and social media. I was pleased to find out that my school had the ‘use it sensibly, if in doubt don’t post’ approach. I also checked with our head of ICT before starting this endeavour, and he was quite supportive.

Twitter – the best (free) CPD around!

December 15, 2012

Since starting this blog, I have become more and more aware of the vast amount of resources available and fellow teachers that are also investigating online resources and educational apps. One of the best ways of finding out about interesting educational things is to use Twitter. There are lots of educators around the world who tweet about interesting resources on a very regular basis.

If you are already a twitter user, then I would recommend following these ‘hashtags’:





If you are not already twitter user, and are wondering what all the fuss is about, I would suggest reading the following blog posts:

The Definitive Guide to Blogging and Tweeting for Teachers.

Welcome to the best CPD Ever.

100 Twitter Tips for Teachers

There are also lots of Twitter apps for your iPad, to help to read and manage your tweets effectively. There is the official Twitter app, which is ok. It looks like this:

To access your Twitter feed you need to tap on the ‘home’ button on the side.

The official Twitter app is a very clean simple app, but I do find the different areas a little annoying to navigate. So I use Tweetbot which cost £1.99. It is a much more powerful app, you have all your information on the main screen and you can easily tap on people to find out more about them.

As a teacher, I would recommend having a separate account for your ‘Teacher Twitter’, as I have already had a few pupils find me and start following me (although I am pretty sure they will get bored of the educational resource tweets pretty soon!).

Bookmarking with Diigo

September 8, 2012

You may have seen the Diigo button on this blog, I found out about this Web 2.0 tool on one of the blogs I read and registered for a teacher account during the summer. Now that term has begun, I have started to use Diigo with my classes. So what is Diigo and how can it be used?

If like me, you are often finding interesting things on the Internet and adding them to your 'bookmarks bar' on your chosen browser. However, despite my filing system, I frequently can't find the correct link again. Diigo is an online bookmarking tool, with the difference that you save your bookmarks with tags – so it makes it easier to search for them again.

Another nice feature with Diigo is the ability to join groups and share links with the group. I have an educator account which also enables me set up student accounts for my classes (which have no adverts and limited social functionality). I can also assign students to class groups for sharing links.

My pupils use the internet a lot for research into things like design eras, and finding images for inspiration. My current GCSE pupils are using Diigo to share their research into design eras and I have been impressed so far with the interesting sources they are finding (it's not just Wikipedia).



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