OneNote video at our school

Below is a video showing how we have embraced Thinking in Ink with pen-enabled devices at my school in Singapore. The journey started in 2015 when the original Surface 3 device launched. We then went through a trial of devices and of Class Notebooks which led to whole-school adoption of OneNote for teaching and learning and moving to pen-enabled devices for all staff and students.

Currently we are exploring Teams as the possible final piece of the puzzle. Just waiting on the implementation of the parent view element.

Sherborne Girls School

In June 2019 I was delighted to spend two days with a group of teachers representing a range of subject areas at Sherborne Girls School in Dorset, training them to be OneNote Ninjas. You can see from the photo that they were happy to receive their OneNote capes!

Ahead of this, we had Skyped to agree what would be the best use of our time so we had a clear shared understanding of what we would be trying to achieve. Over 12 hours we covered all aspects of OneNote as a teaching and learning tool, with a firm focus on demonstrably effective and efficient uses of the platform to enhance real-life lesson planning, delivery and feedback. I was able to show dozens of examples from my current school and the generous time allocation meant there was ample (and appreciated) time for the teachers to start getting their hands dirty as well as for them to individually discuss with me the particulars need and demands of their own subject area.

Over the two days we covered:

  • The different versions of OneNote
  • Departmental planning using OneNote
  • Pros and cons of different ways of setting up notebooks
  • Using the Teacher-only section
  • Using the Manage notebooks feature
  • Settings
  • Sections and Pages
  • All the File attachment/printing and insert options
  • Creating, setting, distributing pages and assignments
  • Creating a feedback loop with student work using text, inking, stickers and voice
  • Giving combined voice and inked feedback
  • Many tips and tricks on using Tables, Pictures, Shapes
  • Exploiting Immersive Reader for English and other languages
  • Creating Escape Room activities
  • Looking at resources that embed in OneNote ie Flipgrid, Wakelet, Wizer etc
  • Keyboard shortcuts for OneNote
  • Sketchnoting-the power of dual coding

Below is some feedback I received after the CPD was completed:

The training was relevant and provided lots of hints and tips to improve my everyday use of OneNote. Lots of suggestions for how OneNote could be used which we had plenty of time to explore and play around with.

Interactive and experimental nature of the training with time allowed for ‘play.’

I liked the way that Steve adapted the content and his teaching style – pace was good. 

Time to explore OneNote and work towards securing skills 

Lots of shortcuts and great to see examples of real life notebooks.

Time to try things out. Small group. 

I don’t think it could have been improved as it was perfectly paced for me.

Dear Steve, 

Thanks again for your brilliantly informative course last week. As someone who uses OneNote everyday with my classes it was great to pick up little tricks to make life faster!! The example notebooks will serve to be very useful with the department too. 

Jessie, Science teacher

Dear Steve

I can’t thank you enough for your fantastic commitment to enthusing our staff in the pursuit of continued development of teaching and learning opportunities. R………. came to see me first thing on Saturday to share his utter enthusiasm, appreciation and support of this digital strategy and your engagement with the group to develop their skills. He just feels sad that he has to wait 9 weeks to get started with his new classes!  Thank you for sharing your feedback from the staff and for your thoughts on helping us to plan our next steps.

Louise Orton, Deputy Head


The school has now appointed a Head and Deputy Head of Digital Learning, OneNote is being used by all departments, the school has issued Surface devices to all staff and has gone pen-enabled with the students. Great to hear!

Thank you again for everything you have done to get us where we are today.

Speaking assessment feedback with Showbie

When we conduct KS3 speaking assessments, teachers generally bring each student to a corner of the class (or just outside) and have an unrecorded conversation. Some teachers tick boxes or otherwise take notes on a paper rubric while this is happening. I have never really liked doing this, preferring to concentrate on what the student is saying, and recording the dialogue to listen to later for considered grading and feedback. This time I used Showbie to make this process easier. I created an assignment in Showbie called Speaking Assessment, and in the class shared folder space put a screenshot of the rubric. As each student sat down, I opened their folder within that assignment and recorded our conversation using the Voice comment feature. Later, at home, I played each recording, simultaneously noting good structures with my stylus on the copy of the rubric in their folder.
Next time, I will get student to listen to themselves and fill the rubric in , I will only add things they missed, both positive aspects and areas for improvement.
Watch the clip to see how I do it

Thinking aloud with Showbie

The latest update to Showbie, now a staple app in our school, is the ability for students and teachers to add multiple audio clips over the top of a PDF or image. This immediately offers more options for precise audio placement than the existing standalone audio comment which is separate from the work itself.

A few possibilities spring to mind:

  • Teacher records separate clips of a question bank, students reply with their answer right next to the teacher’s clip
  • Teacher records a dialogue in small chunks, students have to put them in correct order, then transcribe
  • Same as above, but with number sequence, verb conjugations
  • Students submit photo or drawing ie floor plan of their house and place a recording in each area of the house. We used Thinglink for this before but it was fiddly. This way will be easier for students to create and also easier for teachers to give feedback
  • Teacher distributes photo prompt and students describe various elements of the photo..great for the IGCSE photo description task
  • As above, but beginner students label and speak vocabulary elements on an image, ie the always popular pencil case items…
  • Teacher distributes image or PDF of an exam qn, student writes or types their answer with an accompanying audio explaining their thinking. I could see this working for any subject area.
  • In Music classes, teachers can have examples of music genres that students must match up
  • Students can make their own Music genre mashup

Any ideas you can think of? Please share!

Feedback on, and from, students

Maybe it’s the medication (I’ve been home sick for two days) but I have all sorts of teaching and learning ideas spinning around in my head. Here are some thoughts as we end report-writing season. Prior to writing 60-odd end of year reports for my Y7 and 8 students, I asked them to fill in a Google Form which asked them to reflect on a number of qns about the year. These questions were, roughly

  • what did you enjoy learning this year?
  • what did you find hard this year?
  • what did you find easy this year?
  • what could you improve?
  • to what extent do you like working independently?
  • to what extent do you like working collaboratively?
  • what could I do as a teacher to help you improve more effectively?

I encouraged students to be really honest but kind, both about themselves and about my approaches to teaching and learning. The responses were varied and detailed and told me a huge amount about the way these children perceived their personal strengths and challenges, as well as the way I had set up their learning. All questions provided me with answers that confirmed or challenged my perceptions,  provided rich details that I could mention in my written reports, and enabled me to reflect on which of my teaching and learning approaches were most/least welcomed, and why.

I found out that the students had overwhelmingly enjoyed the collaborative classroom I set up and stuck with all year (small mixed -ability teams sitting in groups with Spanish animal name identities such as Pumas, Lobos, Tiburones etc) All games, quizzes and probably 80% of all classroom activities were collaborative in nature, even helping each other write the date accurately, reminding teammates to remember headphones etc, so there was great evidence for me to comment in their reports whether they had been leaders, passengers, mentors etc in this environment. It was encouraging that some students referred to participation/collaboration as a help or as an improvement goal, without any prompting from me.

I also found out that some students do like still like good old harm reminding myself to keep learning blended! I definitely did fewer songs this year, that’s something for me to work back in, too.

Lastly, it was good to get a reminder that we need to take more risks as teachers planning curriculum content, clearly, not all 12 year olds find learning pencil case items thrilling.

I have done this kind of feedback form before..have you done something similar? How do you think it could be improved? I had a thought of starting next year with a similar survey, to find out how students perceive themselves in these areas, learning styles etc to use as a benchmark, then compare how they change over the year. 

Time for a nap now.



Technology and Approaches to Learning


Taking stock
This has been a busy year. We have nearly completed the third year of our 4-year tablet rollout so that, currently, students in Years 7 to 10 all bring their own iPads. This gradual rollout has had two main benefits: Firstly, and this was the main intention, teachers have not been overwhelmed by a feeling of having to suddenly integrate technology with every class, instead they have had time to think about, try out and share opportunities for curriculum and learning experiences for certain groups. Secondly, teachers who were somewhat or very resistant to any devices in student hands are now in the position where they are eager for the remaining year groups to have the same opportunities for creativity, independence etc.

Professionally, I attended a demanding 5 day Apple Learning Academy and qualified as an Apple Foundations Trainer. I have been enjoying delivering certified training this year to over 130 colleagues on Apple iWork and iLife apps. Next I plan to become a Google Educator in October.

Current model of technology for learning
Our model for supporting teachers in the effective adoption of technology has been been evolving over the last few years and is about to change again quite radically. From the inception of The Technology for Learning Faculty four years ago, the model has essentially been to have a team of subject-specific ‘champions’ (each with a couple of hours release time and meeting fortnightly with me) across the English, Maths/ICT, Humanities, Science, Arts, Languages, PE and Learning Support Faculties. The aim was to explore tools and approaches with our own classes, then cascade effective uses back to our teams during planning meetings. This worked really well to the extent that there was low pressure, lots of goodwill, wide coverage of exploration and many examples to share. It also meant that I had a close view on what was being tried across the whole school and could connect subjects together who were trying similar approaches. One drawback was that the champions did not necessarily have much ‘clout’ in their own teams to embed processes that appeared to be effective. More importantly, many curriculum teams’ meetings were so infrequent or admin-heavy that discussions of pedagogy and technology were simply not a priority. Where teams met as often as every week this was far less of an issue and therefore opportunities for iPad use were frequently discussed and put into Schemes of Work on the fly. The result in some other departments was that pockets of teachers were beginning to use certain tools but others were quite happy to not attempt to do so, opening up quite a contrast between the learning experiences of students in different classes and also leading to tensions and insecurities around internal monitoring ie ‘well there’s not much in their exercise books’ when actually great feedback was being given using Showbie, for example.

Happy coincidences
Let me make a slight diversion now to talk about chronologically parallel developments in our school, as they have profoundly impacted the way technology will be viewed and supported in the future.

Firstly, 5 years ago we introduced the IB as an option alongside A levels in the Sixth Form. There is no question that the IB learner profile attributes of ‘resilient inquirer’ and ‘risk-taker’ conflicted with a feeling that much of our historical success in content delivery and exam success was perhaps more down to skilled ‘spoon-feeding’. How would/could these two approaches co-exist?
Secondly, three years ago our then Head of Teaching and Learning introduced an important change to our internal lesson observation process. The overall grade was removed so that these became a two-way conversation about learning rather than a one-way ‘judgement’. Then more recently, teachers have been put into random trios across Faculties and responsibility bands to peer-observe, meaning that this is also no longer a top-down ‘senior or middle-manager observes subordinate teacher’ process. The net result is that teachers have had the licence to be risk-takers in their own pedagogy.

Thirdly, an ongoing programme of Teaching Tips delivered at staff briefings has reinforced the message that it is not ‘showing off’ to talk about what you are doing in the classroom. (Remember, this is a school of mostly British teachers!). This has led to an increasing number of teachers and departments embarking on Twitter, Google+ and YouTube to replicate their idea-sharing to a wider world.

Lastly, we as a Senior School adopted the IB’s 5 Approaches to Learning for use across all grades and coming right up to date, we have just been discussing what opportunities and challenges the abandonment of National Curriculum Levels in the UK might afford us for further innovation in teaching, learning, assessing and reporting.

We did speak to teachers a couple of years ago about using the SAMR model as a way to move from ‘trying out’ new technologies to planning and anticipating their effectiveness ahead of time, but I don’t think we were particularly successful in this as was just before the whole explosion of pedagogy-centred conversations started taking place, and technology was still being seen as ‘bolt-on’ and/or optional in some quarters.

Moving from Exploration to Integration
So, lots of elements in the school have been percolating to inspire and effect pedagogical change. All of this came to a head in November, when we had a half-day release as the Technology for Learning Faculty to consider how to move use of technology ‘From Exploration to Integration’. Two simple ideas emerged crystal-clear from the day’s activities and discussions. Firstly, if the goal was for technology to enhance and transform the learning experiences of EVERY student, then EVERY teacher had to be a champion, not just the technology reps. Secondly, that if technology was to be seen as a pedagogical tool like any other, it had to be managed and approached as a subset of teaching and learning. Ultimately, the person ‘accountable’ for teaching and learning in each subject is the head of that subject. After further discussions with Senior Leadership, these two fundamentals were agreed. Starting in the new academic year, myself and my assistant Head of Faculty will will meet with Heads of Subjects to discuss learning goals for that subject and plan appropriate support/professional development. A good model for this, and one that contributed hugely to the definition of this new structure, was that the Assistant Heads of History and English both volunteered to be the tech reps in their depts this year. This meant that one or two clear goals were chosen from their departments’ own action plan for the year, we then planned professional development and curriculum integration with the HOD, and all members of the department moved on with this together. Logically, given the focus of my role on professional development, I will be line-managed by the Assistant Head responsible for Teaching and Learning.

FullSizeRenderSAMR and Approaches to Learning
Now that we are on the verge of a new era where reference to technology will ideally becomes less and less explicit, I have made a start, in collaboration with colleagues, on creating a document that will enable teachers to START from a point of view of considering a particular Approach to Learning they want to focus on, let’s say Thinking Skills, and then be able to refer to real examples of the kinds of learning experience (and apps) that might support this. The columns will be populated over time with Enhancement and Transformation examples. The current blank areas do not indicate an absence of ideas or links, just time! My way of interpreting where the crossover lies between these two strands, even if not totally perfect, is to think of Enhancement as ‘almost certainly worth doing if there is some efficiency or productivity gain, likely to be teacher-led, most likely to be an experience that is at individual student level/maybe student plus teacher, helping one’s own learning’. Transformation level experiences I tend to see more as ‘ likely to be student-led, initiated or developed, most likely in collaboration with others, involving creation and publication of authentic, original work, helping one’s own and others’ learning’.
We chose not to have a separate column for each of the 4 levels of SAMR, partly for ease of reading and partly because we feel you can get too hung up on which column a particular learning experience might fit into rather than seeing the big picture.

Here is the document in it’s current state..we would love to get any feedback on it and/or on any of my musings above!

Thanks for reading!

Augmented reality in Spanish classes

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Am very happy with the interactive displays my two Year 7 classes made with Aurasma. Having learnt the joy of conjugating regular verbs in the Present tense, they had to work in pairs to choose their own verb, then make a poster with a blank frame where they then set up a video explaining how to conjugate that verb using a particular subject pronoun. Students used a variety of iPad apps for this. Some used Explain Everything, some used the video camera to film themselves talking or moving bits of paper around, others used stop motion apps. All then uploaded their videos to our Aurasma channel. ¡Fenomenal!

Aurasma in French

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Proud of my Year 8 students! Their brief was to work in pairs to create a poster of their chosen French town or city, incorporating one or two windows where videos would play when scanned with the Aurasma app, revealing narrated slideshows of them in the role of food, hotel or travel writers…and applying the recently learned Perfect Tense in a creative context. The students loved doing this and the results literally speak for themselves!

Chatter pix (free) for student voice

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I used this app in the last week of an observed lesson! Students had drafted a letter in Spanish to one of the three wise men (Spanish tradition) and they then recorded this using the chatter pix app and posted on edmodo. They then listened to another and had to identify what gifts were being asked for, seeing if they could get all three details ie item, brand, colour or other adjective.
The app works by drawing a line across a mouth on a picture, then recording student voice and saving to camera roll as video. Great fun, and of course when students know their work will be listened to by peers, greater effort is put in to make something accurate and impressive!

Talking pictures app (free)

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Have come across this app, plan to use it in the new year to have students record themselves labelling parts of photos they find or take. This could be at word level, ie what’s in my bedroom, but could of course be extended to sentence level ie students record a sentence saying what is happening over key actions shown.
Students can tap and add speech to up to 10 spots on the picture. In terms of sharing with the rest of the class, they can email themselves the file, open email on their iPad, hold down the file, choose ‘open in’ and select edmodo to add to a post.
Get App here

Language learning with the iPad..has everything changed for MFL teachers?

Week 2 of our new school year and I am ready to start posting again. The iPad pilot is over and we now have all students in Y7 and 8 bringing their own. The only support issues so far have been helping some new parents set up Apple IDs and accounts. It is such a privilege to have these powerful tools available to students whenever they need them and because of that I already feel seriously cheated when teaching my Y9 class as they don’t have them yet! One of the daily challenges now- both exciting and intimidating- is working out, with so may possibilities on hand, just how to maximize the potential of 1-1 access. An example that we discussed among language teachers today was how best to use teaching time and technology options when introducing new vocabulary to students. Traditionally, new vocab has been introduced in a teacher-dependent way, and at a speed chosen by the teacher, often with chanting or repetition, games, and almost always accompanied by visuals of the vocab either on real flash cards or more recently on Powerpoints or flipcharts. Students often then copied the vocab from the board. Teachers took in the exercise books, corrected any copying mistakes and then wrote ‘Nice, neat notes, Jemima!’ This method has ‘worked’ for years.

In my lessons this week I have abandoned this method. In both of my beginner Spanish lessons this week I have had half the class learn and play the built-in games with the new ‘what’s in my schoolbag’ vocab on quizlet, wearing headphones, listening to the new words, looking at the spelling, hearing the sounds and repeating them. Their scores are visible as they have signed up for Quizlet. After initial shyness at speaking aloud, lots of encouragement saw them lose their inhibitions and the room was soon filled with the sound of independent, intensive authentic imitation.

The other half of the class had built a dialogue in pairs last lesson with the previous simple greetings vocab, checking their pronunciation with me or with Google translate, then going outside to record themselves using Recording Lite and posting the recordings to Edmodo. After 20 minutes the two groups swapped activities. The last 20 minutes saw us having a great plenary where we were able to come together, slow down and draw out, discuss and note down some key concepts of the this case how to identify Spanish noun genders by the last letter, some of the trickier pronunciation points ie silent H, double L sound, forming negatives with No before the verb (no tengo) etc. Lots of opportunity here to reward student perceptiveness with our department languages superstar cards. We finished with a really fun, competitive and increasingly challenging Blockbusters game which resulted in a thrilling draw as the bell went..

Next lesson I will repeat the idea of split-class teaching, having half the class peer-assess the other half’s recordings while I do reinforcement speaking games with the rest, then swap again.

So, the question is, given access to the internet, is there still a place for students copying vocab from a board or a textbook or is class time better spent on speaking, listening and creating?

MFL Battleships on the iPad

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Enjoyed today with my French activity on today’s rotation was for them to play the classic battleships game to reinforce key vocabulary of Aller plus country names, using the template I had put together on Apple’s Numbers app, probably one of the least exploited apps from last year’s pilot. The benefits of having it on the iPad were several-fold: using the pop-up menu of the app students could tap the blank cells where they wanted to place their boats. Once the game was started, each player could guess where their partner had a boat hidden and, depending on the answer, could register a hit or a miss, again using the pop-up menu. After 10 minutes, whoever had located the most boats was the winner, and it was then a cinch to ‘clear the board’. One thing more..the partner had to agree that their opponent had used the correct preposition of en, au or aux before their chosen country….

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iPad voice recording options

Well, this has been quite a journey..I have been trawling the web and my twitter PLN to exhaust all the free possibilities for students to record their voice and share with others via a URL rather than a large audiofile.

It’s not that this hasn’t been possible; in fact, for some time I have been promoting ShowMe and Educreations as they are ridiculously quick and easy to use ways to produce a recording with a public or private URL. However, it has always bugged me -perhaps unreasonably- that the URL shared opens an app instead of just playing an audio track.

Similarly, it has always been possible to record audio in one app like Voice Record Pro (free) and upload to a free cloud storage platform like Google Drive, Dropbox or Copy. Copy for iOS is my favourite as it gives 15GB free and the iPad app is fab, every file and folder has a private or public link. But, again, I just want the audio URL to play, not open an app or require a download. Fussy or what?

A decent alternative has been the app, which is free and produces its own URL, but it only allows up to 30 seconds recording. Actually that is quite a long time for a Y7 or 8 student..and they could of course, make two or more recordings.

Numerous other options, such as iPadio, Audioboo and Soundcloud required signing up to social media sites or providing phone numbers, which is not ideal when students are not yet 13.

The free app Spreaker DJ, however, as tipped by @joedale and @suzibewell, might fit the bill. It does need a subscription but nothing in the Terms and Conditions mentions an age limit. I will give it a go and report back!