My Bett BAEs


The burden to blog. A first world problem I’m sure I share with many. Time is a passive aggressive enemy that stops me from doing it as often as I’d like, however after visiting the Excel last week the urge to write my annual Bett blog must be satisfied, no matter how tired I am following the awesome event. So here is a very quick run through of some take home tech ideas I have been impressed by whilst at Bett this year: (in no particular order)

My first Bett BAE (that’s Before All Else, not Bacon And Eggs) was recommended to me by fellow ADE and Runner John Jones (@mrjones_EDU  ) who was waxing lyrical about a tool that could save marking time for teachers, and give students feedback in a relevant way. The way he explained it was: Downlaod a free app. Scan a printable QR code. Record your feedback. Stick in it a student’s book. They then scan it and get your feedback. A simple idea that I can certainly see having a big impact at schools all over the country. See this blog for more details: 

With global gaming audience of 2.6 billion people, I’m not surprised to see companies and individuals trying to gamify learning in an attempt to engage young hyperconnected minds. I’ve been a lover of Seppo for a couple of years and it’s great to see them get some recognition with a silver award at Bett. Seppo is Pokemon Go meets Cranium, where learners are required to navigate their way (physically) around a map and discover multi-media tasks, games, puzzles and challenges. As students are using their mobile devices to take video, record sounds or answer multiple choice questions, teachers can score their work live and even send messages to students whilst they are engaged with the content. This truly is a revolutionary way to transform the learning environment using mobile technology, in a way that exercises the brain and the body. #LoveSeppo


Based on Flipped Learning philosophy, Flipgrid provides an online collaborative space for learners to post responses to discussion topics. Set up your room as a teacher, give them the Flipgrid access code and they can upload their comments for all to see. The best thing about it is the simplicity of upload and sharing and in an age of Instagram/snapchat stories, this is a relevant and smart way to study.

A great bonus too – by chatting toFlipgrid Kathi (@kerszi ) I won a free licence.IMG_7005.jpg


I have seen many online platforms offering summative assessment tools, and what a great way to gauge the understanding of every student in your classroom. However, I have never seen one more robust, thorough or target as SATS Companion.

Made by teachers for teachers it has a ridiculous amount of content covering the specifics of SATS papers and allows students to practise, test and assess where they are at, providing comprehensive reports that can pinpoint not only  gaps in the learning of a specific area for the individual, but also identifying particular areas for development in a group of students. This means the teacher can inform their planning and assign specific online tasks to certain students very easily.

There is also a parent version which provides detailed analytical printouts of where your child is achieving and can help you to help them with teaching videos and online resources. I’m not a primary teacher, but I am a parent of a year six student who will certainly be buying in.IMG_6964.JPG


I gave these guys a big shout out last year as a stand out start-up and they have grown so much a year on. More specific GCSE focussed revision material in street-smart, slick, contemporary audio. A huge library of podcasts are available to access via a smartphone app, where ‘sick’ beats and hip hop backing tracks help students learn almost subliminally. Even if it’s not your taste in music, ask your students if they like it; it’s them who are sitting their exams.


I had a great time talking to people on the ClassVR stand this year as a pioneer school. VR/360 has a great place in education where students can empathise in first person. The trench demonstration set up at Bett exemplifies where we have had our most success as a school with these sets of VR devices. Students have improved their written work about WW1 poems because they can all of a sudden relate to the poet. With oodles worth of content on the new ClassVR portal, it is certainly worth checking out.IMG_6956.JPG


Got to give these guys a shout out (and not just because I won a £25 voucher from their Bett campaign) because we have been using Firefly in our school for the past year and it had enhanced the way we use 1:1 devices. Students no longer have a paper planner and all homework is driven through this online platform. Tasks are set; work is uploaded, marked and commented on; communication with parents has been made easier and curriculum resources have a purposeful home. One of the best improvements since last year is the ‘showbie’ style marking features that include PDF annotation, voice notes, video and comment banks. New reporting features are also very welcome, especially when reviewing the impact of such a system. IMG_6958.JPG


Many schools are looking to use digital text books as a cost effective way enhance mobile device schemes, meaning schools can save spending on physical books and benefit from interactive features of online multi-media publications. Although there are many companies out there, the great thing about Classoos is that they work with many publishers and help schools to create their own book shelves for classes and students. Classoos is particularly useful for schools such as St Wilfrid’s who use Firefly, as class details and data are integrated, meaning that there can be a single sign on and that students and teachers can manage their text books easily.


Lastly, congratulations to Pobble, worthy Bett Awards winners. The platform founded by Henry Smith (@HenryPobble) is a secure way for students to get their work in front of a real audience; giving students a solid purpose to write and then inherently improving their work to meet higher expectations. His website is also full of wonderful ways to teach writing, as well as assess their work. Well worth a look for primary teachers and those teaching Key Stage 3.IMG_6965.JPG

Bett certainly gets better every year with technology that is providing more curriculum and teacher specific resources for teachers. Hope to get back and network there again next year.


My Bett Takeaways

My Bett Takeaways – 2017


For years teachers have tried to find engaging and appealing ways to get students to revise material. From a faithful mnemonic and dodgy acronym to wallpapering their room with flash cards and post it notes.img_2741

Not all techniques suit every student and often attempts to get ‘down with the kids’ often lead to embarrassing laughs from the teenage audience. However, the team at Studytracks have bought something new to the table with curriculum specific lyrics carefully crafted over smooth tunes  in the genres that students can ‘get down’ with. No nursery rhyme rhythms here, but slick beats and killer hooks.

I certainly think that this will be appealing to Year 10 and 11 students at my school who want to reenergise their learning in a culturally relevant and satisfying way.


schoolgirl-with-vr-headsetSo will 2017 be the year for VR? Speculation about the integration of virtual reality into the spheres of everyday entertainment and education has been stirring for the past five years, with 2015, then 2016 penned as the revolutionary year of a breakthrough for affordable, accessible and purposeful solutions.  I think that 2017 could be that year, with an unignorable rise of VR gaming leading up to Christmas; 360° functionality on Facebook and YouTube; apps such as BBC sport 360°; and the sale of Pudsey Cardboard headsets for Children in Need all pointing towards a shift in production models and consumer desire.

After taking part in Google Expeditions Pioneer programme, creating my own VR and 360° content using CoSpaces and ThingLink 360°, I went to Bett really looking for a practical classroom solution. The current drawbacks to using VR in a school or classroom setting are that you either need to get students to bring in their own devices from home or you have a model where you ask staff and parents to recycle their old mobiles so that you can create your own class set of VR headsets in some sort of Cardboard net.

Most schools have a blanket ban of mobile phones, and with good reason, so the first option is often a non-starter. Students can use their iPads to experience VR and 360° content, although they do not get the full immersive experience.

ClassVR have a solution that solves these issues and helps teachers manage the VR devices easily. They can use a website to manage the content on the headsets and the all in one device allows the students to use them easily, without pressing the wrong button or having mobile phones slip out of a cardboard casing. Any apps and content can be controlled by the teacher and contextualised.

We have a bookable immersive space at our school to take our students on a alternative learning experience. I think that ClassVr could work in the same way, where students will have a more memorable learning experience for those lessons where the teacher really wants to engage them, in order to improve the retention of information. As we hope to be a pioneer school for ClassVR, I hope to blog more about this in the future.

Innovate My School

It’s always a pleasure to work with Innovate My School, as screenshot-2017-01-31-11-42-12the team are always so keen and
passionate about changing education. The online magazine has turned into more of a community of likeminded, collaborative and forward thinking educators over the past two years and has provided me with great ideas for my school and classroom. Their #innovationbursts are a great way of getting hints of snapshots of great ideas in education. I did mine on Kahoot! as I believe they are doing a great job of transforming classroom all around the world with a great interactive idea that students love. Check out my video here:

New Toys for The New Term


vrblogA fun term was had by all! It would be great if this was always the case for everyone, but as we know the life of a teacher can’t always be fun. However, I’ve had some great moments  trying out some new tech ideas this term at St Wilfrid’s and thought I’d share a few with you that transform the classroom and really capture students imagination.

The first is CoSpaces – an interactive web-based platform that lets the user create a virtual environment that they or others can explore.

I have had a real journey into 360˚ and Virtual Reality (VR) for education over the last five months that started at an ADE Global institute in Berlin in June (something I’ll be taking about in more detail at the Bett Show in January).  University educator, Sarah Jones (@virtualsarah) introduced me to various educational notions including CoSpaces . What excites me about this is that students are not only immersing themselves in an exciting environment, but they are able to go into a world that they have created themselves. As a child I played the PC game, Themepark and really wanted to be a customer experiences the park, rather than just the architect or business manger behind it. Well with CoSpaces , you almost can.

I first used the platform with students to make virtual museums. St Wilfrid’s, in Blackburn, has teamed up with EDN school in Catalonia, Godby High School in Åland and Simono Dacho School in Lithuania for a two year Erasmus project, where we are bringing new life to elements of local history in the form of a virtual museum.

Students had the chance to enter their own virtual museum.

We will had the initial thought of using ThingLink 360 as a presentation platform, but need to wait and see what develops over the next 18 months before solidifying our plans. CoSpaces was put to great use on our first international meeting in Åland this September, where students could display their historical research in a virtual 360˚ environment, allowing them to fully understand the concept of an immersive environment and visualise their creative ideas.

Using Cardboard, students could immerse themselves in a 360 VR envirnment.

I then used CoSpaces in my English lessons back at school, where students were learning about transactional writing through creating their own theme park and writing leaflets to attract people to visit. Students were able to design their themed worlds using CoSpaces and then invite other class members to virtually visit it. In using this immersive technique to experience their world, they could then be prompted to use extended vocabulary and exciting adjectives to sell their park and the experience of being in it.

I’m sure this immersive experience technique could also be used to inspire creative writing in English, as well as recreating historic landmarks in History and Geography lessons.

Seppo is another exciting web-based platform for education, which combines interactive multi-media activities and real world environments.

Students have to navigate a pre-loaded map, where they are assigned different tasks at different places. They use an electronic mobile device to answer multiple choice questions, take pictures/videos or enter text to solve a problem. In moving around the environment, whilst using metacognitive processes to decide how to respond to tasks, their brains become more active than if they were sat in a classroom looking at a screen.

Here is our interactive map of the school that students had to navigate.

As a teacher, you can monitor activity, mark students assignments and send messages to students as they are out and about. We used Seppo as part of our two day iPad induction programme at St Wilfrid’s to try and funk up our delivery of the iPad code of conduct. Each assignment had a task related to rules about iPad safe usage and behaviour. The students had to use the map of the school on their iPads to find where each activity was and complete it to the best of their ability.

Here teachers can view activities and give feedback whilst students are out and about.

With elements of Pokémon Go and using the full toolkit of multi-media elements that students are used to using, they really enjoyed the treasure hunt methodology, mixed with the SnapChat style tasks and were all well versed in our iPad code of conduct.

When showcasing this at one of our #TMLancashire Teachmeets at St Wilfrid’s, teachers were impressed with the fun that could be had whilst learning.

The third Christmas treat I’d like to share is the newest feature of my favourite web-based learning platform, Kahoot! Kahoot Jumble exercises the brain even more than the quick fire questions we are used to with this game-show style service, by asking students to sort and rank possible answers.

Kahoot have added some great Christmas activities to test this out with classes, and as ever, there are great educators around the world adding their own content to the platform for teachers to use. I have had limited use of this platform so far, but tested it out with putting words into alphabetical order for younger students and sorting films by their release date in my Media Studies class.

Kahoot Jumble in action

Ideas that could work really well are sorting elements in science, putting fractions in order of size in Maths lessons and putting events in order in an English narrative or in a History lesson.

I think the next step would be to be able to mix and match regular Kahoot questions with Kahoot Jumble questions.

These are some great ideas to try out in the new year if you haven’t tried them already. I suggest you have a play with them after the festivities to get yourself pepped up about returning to school. Merry Christmas everyone.

For more about my experiences in VR and 360° come and see my talk on the Bett Futures stage on 28th January.

Using Technology to Facilitate Verbal Discussion – Giving Every Student a Voice.

This morning at Saint Wilfrid’s Academy in Blackburn I presented the first in a new series of New Tech breakfast meetings. This series is looking at interactive response systems and how they can transform the classroom. To be able to get ideas from every student in the classroom is extremely powerful if used in purposeful and meaningful ways.

In being able to get the views of every student in the classroom, rather than the select few who put up their hands or those that the teacher pick, as a teacher you can delve deeper into questioning, using answers that you may not have received without the use of technology. I use Socractive a lot to do this. The ad-hoc feature of asking students for a short response allows me to see all students’ views and then share those views with the entire class, using the vote button put into the app.

The questioning develops when the teacher picks  a students’ response and gets the writer of it, or other class members to elaborate on it in a basket balling type of technique. This has made discussion times in the classroom more sophisticated and meaningful. Check out the Socrative app and the ad-hoc features it offers. Plickers is another great app to facilitate verbal discussion. Although, this time you will have to print off some voting cards for your class and question the students after a multiple choice question.


Interactive ebooks for Field Trips – No more crumpled booklets!

In my role as Lead Teacher for New Technologies at St Wilfrid’s C of E Academy in Blackburn, I enjoy exploring ways that new technology can enhance the learner experience for more purposeful and memorable learning. When approached by our History department to investigate ways to innovate a year 8 trip to Liverpool’s Merseyside Maritime Museum, I was excited to see what we could accomplish with interactive, multi-media books that the students could access and complete on their mobile devices. 

Superb History teacher, Ann Toole (@a_toole) was at the helm for this journey, taking 245 12-13 year olds to learn about Liverpool’s maritime history of magnificent trade, tragic incident and brutal slavery. She wanted to find engaging ways for students to not only discover information, but also ways for them to apply their own understanding, create stories and share their museum experiences. 

We use Book Creator (@BookCreatorApp) in various subjects a cross our Academy to achieve these goals but had never used it to create activities for a field trip, that we could take away, keep and more importantly, share. Making books is intuitively easy with Book Creator and students can create stunning interactive books in minutes. A powerful feature within the app is to be able to lock text boxes, images and shapes as you create them. This allows you to create templates for students that they cannot easily mistreat or make a mess of. With the ability to add sound files and videos, students do not have to read all the instructions for activities as they can see and hear them, when pre-recorded by their teacher. 

After a recce to the museum, taking lots of photos and making an abundance of site specific notes, Anne was able to create a multi-media interactive book for students to complete whilst at the museum. Some of the activities within this book included recording the sound of a slave ship; taking a selfie as one of the passengers or crew on the titanic; finding a particular exhibit, sign posted by a photo in the book, then noting down some relevant information. Rather than just note taking or filling in boxes, the functionality of the ebook allowed the students to be much more creative and involved with the museum. The books were shared on Showbie (@Showbie), an easy way to distribute the resource efficiently and collect the ebooks back in once they had been completed. 

This experience was wholly different from the days of walking round with a paper booklet and clipboard, trying to flick through to relevant pages and writing with a blunt pencil, only for the booklet to end up crumpled up in the bottom of a bag. 

The students were responsive to this change on the day and with structured debrief and content sharing lessons after the the trip, they shared their experiences using Google Forms. Here are some of their results:

When asked about ease of use, just 8% of students said that it was difficult or very difficult. Some of the more fiddly tasks within the booklet may be changed for next year. 

When asked about the types of tasks the students enjoyed, over 40% said that their favourite type of activity was being able to take pictures and insert them into their ebooks, something that they would not have been able to do with a paper booklet.

When asked about their preference of a paper booklet or an ebook 75% said they they preferred the ebook. 

So a resounding success, with just a few changes to make for next year. No more crumpled booklets and wasted resources. But how else can we utilise the interactive creativity of an ebook on other field trips in other subject areas? More to follow…

5 Best Betts

I think I enjoyed Bett this year more than any other. I went down with purpose; speaking about CPD at my school on the Thursday and investigating learner management platforms on the Friday. Although these challenges were met, it was all I discovered when looking around that really got me excited. Networking, seeing old friends and watching the teachmeet were also highlights but these 5 things made my top 5 Best Betts.

1. Veo Edcation – Video Enhanced Observations

I discovered these guys in the Bett Futures section, possibly my favourite part of The Bett Show. After just going through a video observation coaching programme myself and having to sit back and cringe at myself on camera whilst I teach, this slick app to make the process more focussed was an instant hit. I found the process of watching myself teach incredibly eye opening, but to be able to tag parts of a lesson whilst filming it, in order to instantly jump to different foci opened my eyes wider. A great idea in developing teachers in a slick way that really uses technology to enhance a process. 


2.  David Kirtlan’s iPad Band  

Back for another year and on a tour from stand, to theatre, to arena. This year they took to the main stage in the Bett Arena and rocked out the entire convention floor with iPad renditions of Guns & Roses’ Sweet Child of Mine, amongst others. The students have truly honed their craft with timing tight and vocals harmonised perfectly. This really was a relaxing and inspirational treat in the heart of this technoverse full of techbabble and sales pitches. 


3. Two Dan’s Book Creator Q & A with Neil Emery 

The boys behind Book Creator gave a fantastic Q & A session on the Albion stand. Hosted by fellow ADE, Neil Emery, they started at the creation story of this groundbreaking app, and took us right through to the exciting new features recently released. Best things I learnt: How to make the most of the supercool comic book features (Marvel and DC fonts included) and how to combine books if students; perfect for school trips or foreign exchanges. Who needs Biff and Chip? 


4. Kahoot

These guys didn’t really show me anything new, but they didn’t have to! The energy coming from their combined stand oozed confidence in their product which they know is AWESOME!  I have been a massive advocate of Kahoot since I was introduced to it in Catalonia and it really transforms my classroom environment into a hive of activity and energy. The element of competition and instant feedback enthuses students, generating excitement. I use Kahoot in most of my staff training sessions as adults enjoy the interactivity as much as the students. Another great way to use technology to enhance the learning experience, rather than just compliment it. Also got a free T-shirt! 


5. Explain Everything Collaborative Whiteboard

I was surprised to see Explain Everything in the Bett Futures section at Bett, as it has been a stalwart core app for most schools running iPad schemes. They have already enhanced the self recording whiteboard with great sharing features, but here comes a new app: Explain Everything Collaborative Whiteboard. This allows one person to control a whiteboard on their iPad and invite others to collaborate on the same whiteboard on their iPads. The devices must be on the same wifi and their is a subscription cost to make, but this seems like a brilliant development in seeing students working together using tablet technology, rather than on their own projects. I can’t wait to try this out.

The Holladeck – Immersion is More Than Engaging

Lead Teacher for New Tech’ is my title although most of my time is spent with just mobile technology. At St Wilfrid’s Acadmey we have the luxury of a book able immersive space (iSpace), complete with easily moveable classroom furniture and a 3D projector. It feels like the Holladeck would on the Star Trek Voyager.It would be wrong of me to say that this room is used everyday but it is an excellent space to to inspire and give a different flavour to the students’ learning experience. Recently I have taken my classes back to Dickensian London when looking at A Christmas Carol and to a graffiti-clad brick wall when when analysing creative prose written about school.


These were incredibly engaging experiences for students as they enter a room where sights and sounds are created to take them into a learning location where they will have a totally different kind of lesson. We respond to sights and sounds all around us instinctively, all of the time, and these practical skills bring out an abundance of ideas and creativity in students. When asking students to write about their thoughts and feelings when glancing upon Scrooge’s counting house or spotting the clues that let us know about his character, there is an excitement to engage with the book but also a deeper understanding that generates an enthusiasm to perform.

I decided to use this technology with mobile technology and old tech too (whiteboard markers), to embed QR codes within the iSpace projection and get the students to respond to the information behind each of them. Students were engaged, enthused and working independently with a desire to perform.

 Just as the Holladeck on Star Trek, I don’t recommended staying in this environment for long periods of time and not too regularly that you lose a sense of reality. When the time or theme warrants such a trip to the iSpace, great things always happen.