Top 3 #Edtech Inspired Learning Tips – Plus 5 App Suggestions


Social media users may have heard of a ‘chat’ but students don’t necessarily understand the learning implications a ‘chat’ can have. The effectiveness of a twitter-chat is down to the setup and the expectations placed upon students.

A tried and tested technique is to ask students to post an article for a relevant module and discuss each others submission. This leads to interesting debate and actually students want to prove they were right. These chats can be moderated, but once the students understand the concept they seem to run very smoothly. (Modelling good practice is a useful way to start.)

I would strongly advise that students have professional, protected accounts so they can be followed back by the educator. This has the added benefit that students aren’t afraid to be wrong, knowing that only their classmates and the educator can see their tweets. Students are much more likely to participate honestly in this environment.


Even though the ability to make movies has been around for decades, the availability of mobile devices have made creating movies very simple. The major advantage of students making movies is the pride they take in their work. The desire to include credible content and to look good in front of their peers facilitates an effort level sometimes lacking in other work.

iMovie on the iPad is a very useful app as its intuitive nature means students can complete a project very quickly. The technology doesn’t get in the way of learning and allows students to express their understanding. Again the setup is important but as long as students understand what is required, in terms of length and depth of knowledge, it is a very useful learning technique.


This technique has been heavily influenced by iPad use in the last 12 months. Alongside extended writing tasks, students are allowed to demonstrate their knowledge using any technology we have available. The majority of what to use an application on the iPad that will allow them to be creative and also show depth of understanding.

Again an interesting consequence is that the students know their work will be shown to others. There is a pride in their work that perhaps would not otherwise be there for all students. This is also a useful technique for group work where students aren’t restricted by the same technique as they collaborate. The most commonly chosen applications are:

PAPER 53 – ‘Paper by FiftyThree is the easiest and most beautiful way to create on the iPad. Sketch, capture and share your ideas across the web’

iTHOUGHTS HD –  ‘A multi-functional mind mapping tool for the iPad’

EXPLAIN EVERYTHING – ‘An easy-to-use design tool that lets you annotate, animate, and narrate explanations and presentations.’

BRUSHES – ‘The essential drawing and painting app for the iPad. The app features 19 different brushes and up to six layers.’



Not strictly an app but I should mention that Apple TV has made all of these techniques much simpler to use in the classroom. The ability to switch between devices to display work has been invaluable in keeping lessons flowing and students on task.


Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts When Flipping Your Classroom #edchat


  1. Produce material for YOUR students to engage them outside the classroom. Generic content works as a starting point but students have greater faith in their own teacher’s input.
  2. Decide on a workflow solution and stick to it. I use Edmodo to set assignments and annotate responses. Students are happy with this solution as it is cross platform and supports learning with library and backpack resources.
  3. Set specific deadlines for your students. If they are given a date then unfortunately that can be construed as midnight!! The old hand-in mantra of next lesson doesn’t fit the ‘flipped‘ class idea and as such can present a problem.
  4. Provide access for students who aren’t connected to the internet at home. Whether it be provision after school or via downloaded material, there will still be issues for home learning.
  5. Write to parents to explain the new style of learning and be prepared for questions. The concept doesn’t sit well with many parents who believe the teacher’s job is to deliver content in the lesson. In a time where our profession is questioned daily a reliance on home support is crucial to your success.


  1. Expect students to watch/read your material just because you tell them to. A task set in conjunction with the content can be submitted to Edmodo and assessed before the lesson. Simple AFL starters can also help at the beginning of each lesson.
  2. Assume that because content has been delivered at home that classroom tasks will run smoothly. Even though the 1:1 time has increased the need for differentiation tasks actually widens. Extended activities are often required very early in the lesson by some students and never reached by others.
  3. Expect other staff members to agree with the concept and support the workflow. Real consideration has to be given to the way assessment is made and how it fits with school requirements. Grading points are often out of sync with ‘flipped’ class progression.
  4. Expect your teacher observation templates to fit with the ‘flipped’ lesson format. Ensure any observer is sent the content delivery method before they enter the classroom. There is no doubt that teacher input decreases for some classroom time and this can be unnerving when being evaluated.
  5. Believe your content, once created, will last for many years. The ‘flipped’ classroom is successful when resources are updated with the needs of students in mind. Fortunately, with the iPad and other technologies, resources can be enhanced very easily year to year.

This post is in response to the success we have had with workflow and assessment for learning this academic year. For example, recently, students were given a specific time to ‘hand-in’ their assignments based on video content and research. Their work was then annotated at a time convenient to me and ‘handed back’ to the students online. The students could then read the comments and come prepared to ask questions, all before the next lesson. Content had been encountered for the first time at home and meant that the first contact time for the module could begin from a more advanced stage. It sure beats the old regime of – set work, hand in next lesson, mark, give back the following lesson. The ‘flipped class’ now ensures home learning is more effective and informs the teacher where and how to pitch the next lesson.

Please contact me if you would like to discuss the ‘flipped’ class as I am very keen to hear any new ideas.

Flipping Your Classroom? 5 Learning Ideas

Buoyed by the confidence of the ‘flipped’ class results I have started the new academic year with fresh ideas for my classroom activities. These five examples were relatively well received by students.


Having already assessed their holiday work 16-year-old students were asked to take part in a little experiment. They were allowed to ask any question they wanted of the teacher so long as they passed a Socrative quiz halfway through the lesson and completed an exit ticket.

To help the lesson flow all students were asked to write three questions down on separate pieces of paper and they were themed to ensure a modicum of value – Education, Specific to Holiday Work and Anything Goes. Questions were then pulled out of a hat and discussed in groups or with individuals as appropriate.

There were obvious ‘booby traps’ along the way but it allowed students to ask anonymous questions of the holiday work and indeed the school year ahead. It also prompted a discussion on values and expectations. With so much content already covered before they stepped into class, I felt confident that this twist on an old ‘icebreaker’ favourite was fit for purpose. They all passed the quiz!


Via Edmodo the students were assigned a small section of a topic for which they were to become a genius. They were told that they would be running a Genius Bar for that section but not how the lesson would take form. Put simply we then had a carousel of communication where half the class ran their Genius Bar to individuals and then swapped over. I acted as a customer to assess their learning and appropriately praised each Genius! There were even phone calls home.


One group of students were feeling particularly satisfied with their first piece of work and so were asked to guess the learning objective that was in a sealed envelope from the start of the lesson. In groups of three they were asked to complete small tasks that ranged from puzzle solving to linking famous athletes to theories. The prize on offer was one they all wanted (Haribo) and they had one guess at the learning intention of the lesson that was in the envelope. Word for word correct earned two bags of sweets or one bag for the closest answer.

What this lesson actually enabled me to do was to communicate with every student who I felt needed guidance after their first piece of work and we used their tasks as a prompt for those discussions.


The first extended writing lesson was focused by the fact that the class could only ask ten questions of the teacher in the entire hour. Students had slightly different titles depending on ability, so had to communicate with each other to decide what questions to ask. My side of the bargain was to make sure I answered honestly the questions that they chose. I was only allowed to use a maximum of three sentences for my answer.

An unexpected outcome of this lesson was that I observed those, who I thought communicated well with their peers, actually struggle to make decisions. This will help in the coming weeks and certainly changed my impression of a few of the students.


Put very simply this game is played like a knock out quiz tournament. The students had to pre-prepare questions that they would challenge their peers with. Each individual had to have twenty short answer questions and five more detailed queries. Any student who was knocked out of the competition then became a quizmaster. Students could only use a question once and any duplication meant automatic disqualification.

The real benefit for me was that I could hear and assess students understanding whilst they interacted with their classmates. It also allowed for any controversial decisions to be discussed which lead to the content being questioned further. One debate did lead to a split vote to which they deferred to their iPads. Needless to say the loser wasn’t happy.

These lesson ideas have been used by many of my colleagues in the past and have all proved very successful. It just feels different as I have the safety blanket of content delivered outside the classroom. I feel more relaxed with the assessment that is going on in school and I feel more comfortable with challenging myself and the students in lesson time.

It is safe to say I’ve never spoken to so many students on a one-to-one basis and it feels good to be able to help individuals on such a regular basis without booking extra slots in the school day.

If you have any ‘flipped’ class ideas I would love to hear them.

The iPad and Your Soldiers (Top 10 Tips for Personalised Learning)

It is very easy to find a list of recommended apps for general or subject specific use. However, one of the iPads greatest strengths is its ability to help personalise learning for all. The following ideas are only a snapshot of the potential of the iPad when addressing the needs of each student (soldier).

The Soldier

‘Quiet, obedient and consistent, the Soldier charges into every assignment and stops only once enough damage is done to get the desired grade. Soldiers don’t show off. Soldiers don’t ask questions. Soldiers don’t complain. Soldiers just get the job done.’

Trademark question: “What will we be graded on?”

iPad Tip: Create an audio-note using Soundcloud so they can review instructions. The educator can make suggestions for extension tasks. It also acts as an excellent prompt if the educator can see the soldier doesn’t want to collaborate.

The Heavy Weapons Guy

‘The Heavy Weapons Guy isn’t the swiftest. To compensate, he unleashes a near-aimless fusilade of effort in class, at home, in office hours, on the newsgroup, over email and with the TA. The trademark behavior of these students is doing everything the hard way. The Heavy Weapons Guy usually grinds his way to a solid C.’

iPad Tip: Ask the student to create a Popplet as a plan for the assignment. It is so easy to use they can have a plan to stick to within minutes. Ideas can also be added by group members or the educator.

The Demoman

‘Nothing can satiate the Demoman’s thirst for knowledge. The Demoman is the student that aces all the assignments, nukes all the tests and earns all the bonus points. The trademark manoeuvre of the Demoman is blasting the curve into orbit, leaving behind only the charred remains of his classmate’s grades.’

iPad Tip: Ask the student to create an iMovie of the topic with photos and video evidence. The video can act as a starter or plenary and prompts access to higher order thinking skills.

The Sniper

‘Snipers excel at acing tests, but are almost nonfunctional for any other task. Since they lie virtually motionless for most of the semester, they tend to surprise the crap out of the instructor when grading exams.’

iPad Tip: Have the Sniper contribute to a weekly blog that is published and promoted on twitter. The topic is always based on subject matter but can be produced using video as well as text.

The Medic

‘The Medic answers questions for classmates in the classroom, on the forum and in person. Medics usually get their grades bumped up by half or even a whole grade. When a Medic attaches himself to a Heavy Weapons Guy, the instructor is often so grateful that the Medic earns an A.’

iPad Tip: Ask the Medic to produce an Explain Everything presentation to share with the class. They should use pictures, text and audio. This will allow others to contribute more to discussions within the group.

The Engineer

‘Engineers create infrastructure that makes labs and assignments easier. Having a couple Engineers in a class improves everyone’s grades. In computer science, the Engineer corrects bugs in assignment specifications, provides test cases, builds testing frameworks, and gives away helper scripts. Like the Medic, the exceptional Engineer often bumps his grade by a half or whole letter grade.’

iPad Tip: Stimulate the Engineer by asking them to become a Digital Leader. They help fellow classmates with iPad use and it encourages them to discover different ways of creating/curating information.

The Scout

‘Not really prepared for (or interested in) a difficult course, the scout sits in on the first week of several classes, and drops anything that looks it might require more than showing up and staying awake. Scouts that fail to identify and drop a difficult course end up charging ahead to map out the territory at the bottom end of the curve for everyone else.’

Trademark question: “Do you expect students to work hard in this class?”

iPad Tip: Augmented reality presentation can be a focus for the Scout. Watch with pride as their creations are praised by fellow classmates. Bringing the ‘subject to life’ will be their mantra.

The Spy

‘The Spy, of course, attempts to cheat their way through. The redeeming weakness of the Spy is that students too stupid to pass the class are usually too stupid to cheat without getting caught.’

Trademark statement: “Oh, I didn’t know that was considered cheating.”

iPad Tip: Use regular Socrative quizzes to track progress of the class, but in particular, the Spy. An excellent Assessment for Learning tool, Socrative allows the educator to ‘quiz’ the class and receive instant feedback.

The Pyro

‘The Pyro loves to flame the instructor, the class, the assignments, the tests, the textbook, his partner and pretty much anything that isn’t himself. Pyros can and will complain about everything. Pyros will challenge every point lost on an exam or assignment. The only redeeming quality of the Pyro is that their unyielding sense of injustice drives them to turn in any Spies they uncover.’

Trademark statement: “It’s not fair to grade me on that.”

iPad Tip: Challenge the Pyro to produce a Voicethread that classmates can contribute to. Appoint as leader and allow the work to prompt a discussion with the Pyro on their progress.

The tenth tip would be to allow students to experiment with the iPad to enhance learning. It is amazing how they come up with different methods to present their work. The educator does not necessarily need to be able to use all the applications – students are fast learners!!

I would be very interested to hear of other personalised learning tips with the iPad.

With a huge thank you to Matt Might for his excellent descriptions of classroom soldiers.