The Ofsted that wasn’t…..
Wednesday July 03rd 2013, 6:00 pm  Tagged , , , , , , ,
Filed under: Ofsted,teaching,web 2.0  |  Leave a Comment

Like all teachers I feel that Ofsted is not a true indication of the school, the staff or the students.  Indeed the worst school I’ve ever worked in was “Outstanding” when I went there.  It’s a constant threat for a stressful few days that teachers live under, yet still I want to play my part.

Ever since I started at my current school we have been waiting and the call finally came on Monday.  Ofsted were due in the building Tuesday for 2 days.

After the joy of realising that I had no lessons on Tuesday or Wednesday (year 11 gone, year 10 out on work experience) the reality set in.  I was pretty much redundant for this visit.  I still made sure all of my paperwork was up to date by putting in a few hours on Monday evening but after that there was nothing.

No planning.  No preparation.  Nothing.

On Tuesday morning I was all geared up to do my best with my lovely tutor group (on my last Ofsted I had the tutor group from hell and was dreading their appearance) and genuinely hoping the inspector would pop in.  I wasn’t doing anything different to normal just delivering my tutor time activities and displaying the schools WOW words, Tip of the week and Thought for the week on my Wiki page.  No visit.

To help out I spent the entire day delivering a “lesson” on Bollywood film, year 8 were off timetable doing Bollywood activities which were being led by outside experts but the film needed to be run by one of us.  By the end of the day I was actually starting to feel comfortable “teaching” it, I’d found a Prezi which gave information and facts about Bollywood and I felt like I knew loads having spent the last 5 hours in a room playing bits of the film.  Only time I saw an inspector was one wandered in looking for the Sitar workshop.

At the end of the day, being out of the door as the bell went felt wrong, but I had NOTHING to do and a Doctors appointment followed by my Son’s final primary school play.  After that I went home and chilled out.

No planning.  No preparation.  Nothing.

Day 2 of the Ofsted visit and I was at least convinced that they would pop in to tutor time.  With only three year groups in school and one of those in assembly the odds were good.  We were off to our usual interesting start, had a go at a couple of my boys who were lollygagging (what a great word!).  Got the class in, displayed the Wiki whilst I took the register and gave out their form time maths booklets.  Talked them through the thought for the week again, the notices for the week (including a lovely sentence I’d made using the WOW words and the tip of the week).  Then I whipped through the instructions for the maths and set them to task.  As they worked I was checking the current attendance percentages for the few who I have set a personal target for.  Then the inspector came in.

Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 17.58.05

Well there wasn’t much to do, they were in the middle of their maths and able to complete the task.  I told one of them he was about to hit his target (set by me) for attendance.  The inspector wrote down some stuff and looked at one of the boys booklets, I explained that we had been unable to complete some work due to absence and then I started giving the answers as I asked the kids to shout them out, and during this she left.

That was it, my entire Ofsted in 5 minutes.

No chance to show what I can do.

No chance to show HOW I do it

No chance for any feedback.

I spent the rest of the day teaching the Bollywood film again, I even wrote up that lesson on my Wiki but its all just really trying to fill my time.

Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 17.56.02

I didn’t feel a part of the whole process, I don’t see that I helped the school, I don’t feel I had my chance to shine.

How many more if the Twitterati would feel as deflated as me?


I wonder if I’ll feel any different when we get the judgement?


I’ve recently taken over responsibility for some GCSE classes who have been left with a lot of work to do in a little time.  With 75% of their marks still up for grabs these classes still have the opportunity to improve on their previous performance but they also have half of the material still to learn.  I have taken the approach of a constant round of testing and reinforcing key words and concepts so that when it comes to exam time they are prepared and not daunted by a ton of revision.

I continue to deliver all of my lessons through a wiki ( and all the students know that whenever they come to a class and logon their work will be there in the same format.  Lesson Objectives, Starter Activity, Key Terms, Marksheet, Tasks & Activities, Plenary.  To facilitate this constant revision and reinforcement my starters or plenaries often take the form of a quiz or similar exercise. I recently discovered Study Stack – a handy tool to create a variety of different types of quiz.

Study Stack – easy free tool for quizzes

The signup process was one of my favorites, Facebook connect.  I love this as again it means that I don’t have to fill out forms etc and forget remember yet another password.  There is some additional information that you can add to your profile but that is not required when doing a Facebook signup.  Once I was signed up I started by entering a list of keywords that were in todays lesson – there is an option to import too which requires having them delimited and on separate lines.

Adding terms to a test

A simple form used to input a term and definition


Once you have put in your keywords you get a great variety of choices for presenting them as games & revision tools.

Options available in Study Stack

I have been using the games as starter activities to reinforce keywords.  For any option you select there is an embed code although I have found that I sometimes need to customise the sizes to get them to work properly on the rather low resolution machines in school.  My KS4 students enjoy starting the lesson with a study game and they are so competitive I find I usually need to set them a time limit to play in.

The apps section gives information on a variety of apps for mobile devices that work with information directly from Study Stack – I will be looking further into some of these in future posts.

StudyStack is overall a very handy tool, its free, simple to use, gives great variety and you can embed the tools you create.  A great addition to your teaching porfolio


I used a Google form to gather a piece of work from a year 10 media class this week.  The work was about a website they had been asked to explore and the form prompted their response through questions with a variety of checkboxes, text fields, paragraph fields and one rating grid.

Using the google form meant that all the students were able to simultaneously complete the work without having to download a writing frame or copy out the questions.  I explained to them that I would mail merge their responses to become a piece of written classwork which I could mark, and that as such I expected proper answers rather than just lists of stuf.

I embedded the form within my wiki which I use to deliver all of my lessons so the students were able to access it easily without the need for me sending them the address.

Google Form

Google Form for prompting written work

As they complete the form and Submit the data is put straight into a spreadsheet in my Google Docs account.  I customised the submit response to remind them to make a note of their homework (which was on the wiki).  The students were then able to work on the plenary task whilst I checked that all the responses had been submitted.

After the lesson I spent a mere 5 minutes downloading the form as a .csv file and creating a mail merge into a word document where I put the titles for each response.  I was able to then print the work as one document ready for marking.  This has so many advantages over getting the students to print work and hand it in including that I had put the name field in the header – something which students invariably forget!

In our school printing is also difficult, the room I was teaching in has no printer but the students can print their work to the LRC.  This is simply not an option in a regular lesson as EACH student then has to go to the LRC and LOG ON to the printer to print their work!  This is 2 floors down from our classroom and getting 30 students to complete a piece of work and print it in a one hour lesson is impossible.  Our usual option is for the students to email the work to me and I can print it.  Of course then I have to download 30 documents, put their names into at least half the headers and print each document.

By using the google form and my mail merge I had literally printed the entire classes’ work within 5 minutes of the end of the lesson.  Definitely one to think about in any lesson where you need to get a piece of work completed and handed in quickly.

Completed work ready to print

Mobiles in the Classroom – Try it!
Monday April 16th 2012, 2:10 pm  Tagged , , , , ,
Filed under: mobile,teaching,tools  |  1 Comment

I’ve long been an advocate of using mobile’s and other devices in the classroom.  They are so much more than just phones and our students commonly use them for all of their other functionality.

I’m currently working in a school where mobiles are not banned – except in clasrooms.  This means that I can expect my students to have mobiles on them and I have had a number of opportunities to use them in lessons.  Firstly I’m teaching video editing to three different year groups.  Our department doesn’t have a camera!  There are a couple of cameras that can be borrowed from elsewhere but seriously what is the point when the students all have one in their pocket.  Not only do they have one, its one they are familiar with using and that they understand.  Our only difficulty is downloading the filmed material – I’ve been telling the students to do it at home and put it on Dropbox – unless they have an iPhone as I have a cable for mine.  Actually the students can’t download their own footage anyway – the school system doesn’t let them on a student account. 

I’ve also had some fun with year 9 and QR codes, I’ve had them download readers and they’ve been creating codes for eath other to try out – they’ve loved these lessons.

My most positive experience was at Easter School though – I ran a 4 day enterprise project in the Easter holidays.  It was for year 9 students and for most of the time they were working independently in groups.  I allowed them to have their phones out and on throughout.  Not one student took a call, I saw some texting/messaging going on but it didn’t detract from the lesson with the exception of one girl who was sending messages across the room and giggling.  Actually she greatly reminded me of a sixth former I taught a few years ago that did the same thing!  The rest of the time I saw mobiles being used productively – students using the calculator or looking things up (rather than using the school laptops!).  Students sending each other emails about their work (Hotmail doesn’t work on our system!).  One used her mobile to set up a Facebook page to promote their enterprise (Facebook is of course banned).

I even had a chat to a couple of the boys about how they are using their phones for education.  One showed me his timetable, another showed me the notes he makes about his homework and how he marks off when it is completed.  Both commendable uses of the device.  I’d like to run a survey of the entire school asking how everyone uses them – something I intend to ask about soon.

Its time to ban the word “phone” and start calling it something else.  Mobile Learning Device…..Pocket computer….Personal Pocket computer….

I’ve just recorded the video part of my application for Google Teacher Academy.  Very excited and fingers crossed I can make it.  After the fun I had at BETT last week I’m determined to keep building myself professionally – even if I don’t have any classes to teach!  Would be a great experience to attend and hopefully it will be a useful addition to my CV.

I filmed this using only my iPhone (4) and edited it using iMovie – which I had only used once before.  I was assisted in the filming and editing by my son, James who is 9 and in year 5.  We both learned a lot during the filming and editing.  The music is by Kraftwerk – Home Computer.  Yes I do have purple hair!

Any feedback welcome, I’ve just got to fill out the application form and convince them I’m worthy!

Google Teacher Academy UK 2012








BETT Preparation
Wednesday January 11th 2012, 3:04 pm  Tagged , , , , , ,
Filed under: social networking,teaching  |  Leave a Comment

For the first time this year I am able to attend the BETT show!  I’ve been after going ever since my first year of teaching but have never been able to get released and find going on the Saturday difficult.  This year I’m not working and I’m planning to make the most of it.

I’ve been reading all the blogs and I think I’ve gathered everything I need….

  1. Spare phone battery …. seems like I’ll be tweeting, scanning, photographing and bumping all day.
  2. iPad charged…. I need something to do on the train!
  3. Badge confirmation printed…..Just needs scanning when I get there to be printed.  Greener than having it posted.
  4. Twitter QR & Name on sticker……to add to badge so the twitterati know who I am.
  5. Business cards printed…..I’ve done exhibitions before – need these for all those prize draws.  Have added QR codes for blog & twitter
  6. Small Rucksack ready….will need to take lunch and a water bottle.  I know how expensive Olympia is so its a packed lunch and take my own drink.
  7. Key locations noted….those that give out free water (will need to refill that bottle!) and one that have said they will buy us a coffee!
  8. Teachmeet sessions planned …. I have noted the times and locations of the teachmeet takeover sessions I want to attend.
  9. Interesting stands noted ……a list of stands I’m interested in visiting
  10. Product prices noted……..I’ve noted the prices of a few products I’m interested in, that way I can tell if the “show special” is really a bargain.
  11. Wardrobe planned……I’ve picked out comfortable clothing, trainers and a kagoule to shove in the bag when I get there.  It’ll be hot & cloakrooms are pricey.
I think I’m ready.  I’m very excited.   Its like getting ready for a festival, in fact I’m taking the same little rucksack – only difference is the lack of wellies.
Watch this space for information I glean from my big day out.   I’m even hoping to meet some of my PLN.
Let me know if there’s anything I’ve missed….


screen front screen


A quick, easy, online way of creating a screencast to show your students a skill.  Screenr is FREE and online, works with Mac or PC and can be used to record anything you do on your computer.  Best of all there is no editing and you also record sound.  Oh and it works “out of the box”.  Pretty much everything I look for in a tool.

You need to signup but that can be done using any of your existing accounts (facebook, twitter, google etc) so the signup doesn’t even involve filling in a form.   

Its unbelievably easy to use - on the home page there is a 1 minute getting started screencast that tells you all you need to know.  I was hooked within minutes!  Once I dug out a pair of headphones with a microphone I was away and within 10 minutes I had my first screencast embedded in my Wiki.

Click Here to view my first screencast.

Once the screencast is made it carries on being that simple. 

Its saved “in the cloud” to your Screenr account

You can download (as MP4), embed, link to, like, tweet, or  upload to YouTube!  Oh and there is also an RSS feed of YOUR videos…  I think that’s a total lack of restriction for a freebie!   All the screencasts also get included in the public feed – so you can save yourself time by finding a screencast someone already made.

The restriction is the time – your screencasts need to be less than 5 minutes long.  Mind you I think that’s less of a restriction and more of a motivation.

The downside for me is that I HATE my voice!  The Estuary English is NOT a fashion statement – its me, unfortunately, pure Essex Girl.

There are endless applications for Education – this tool is simple enough to be used by the KS1 students – maybe they could record a commentary of some work they have done?  Its also simple enough to be used by most teachers – to demonstrate a task or some previous examples of work.

Let me now how you use it!

What is a Word Cloud?
Saturday July 16th 2011, 1:04 pm  Tagged , , , , ,
Filed under: cloud,teaching,tools,web 2.0  |  Leave a Comment

I mentioned word clouds recently when I was working with another teacher, although she is not a techie I was surprised that she didn’t know what they were and I assured her she has seen many.  To have never seen one you would need to live in a void – not a classroom.

A word cloud is simply a graphical representation of text.  It can be weighted to show the importance of words by making frequently used words like word cloud bigger than those used a few times.  A word cloud can be made from any collection of text – a web page, a word document, this blog post. You could have your students generate one simply by writing a list – one where you could repeat yourself.  Imagine asking each student to write a list of their 5 favorite games one after the other on a single document.  Then put the whole document into a word cloud and the result generated would weight them according to the frequency of use.

Word cloud generators

There are lots of word cloud generators out there to use and each gives you different options for presentation.  I’m just going to cover three here but I’d love to hear about your favorites in the comments!



Probably one of the best known generators is Wordle.  Its free to use and you don’t need to sign up – brilliant for students who have no email addresses. It has some great features – I like the option of linking words which are related by adding a tilde (great word for scrabble!) ~ between them, for example word~cloud.  When Wordle generates your word cloud it will change the tilde to a space but keep the words together.  Think about it – the one you see here has the two biggest words as word and cloud but really they should be together.  Its fiddly though – but if you flick your document through find and replace in your word processor its easy to change!

My big problem with Wordle is that because it’s a Java applet you can’t save the cloud as an image.  You have to take a screen shot to do that.  Oh and to get one to print on a Mac you need to install another plugin.



Tagul has a very nice user friendly interface and is simple for the novice to use.  You can easily choose the fonts, colours and shape of your word cloud and you get good options to save in different sizes as well as to print or embed your cloud in a page.

The downside for me is that you do need to sign up and you are limited to how many clouds you can generate for free.



My personal favourite.  Even as an enlightened online cloud computing fanatic I find myself printing as many word clouds as I use online.  Tagxedo has given me all the options I want for generating printed clouds – lots of choices of size, file type and background colours, perfect for my needs.  They also have a great range of shapes to choose from and a lot of colour scheme choices.  You can even add your own image to create your own shape, although I have never tried that.  Another huge plus is that you don’t need to sign up so no email address is required.

My biggest problem is the name – even though I see it daily on their facebook post (they do a topical word cloud every day  – could be great to share with students to start a discussion) and regularly on the twitter feed I still constantly misspell it.  Maybe it’s the daft phonetic way I was originally taught to read and write but I pronounce it tag –ex-edo so that’s how I spell it!  My other niggle is that many features are “Pro” (free in beta) and its been in beta well over a year now, as if they can’t make their minds up.  Mind you if the price is right I would pay.

So word clouds, many uses, many ways of generating them and so many lessons they can enhance.  Get your students generating them and bring a new level to a book review or simple list.  Add them to your blogs, wikis and even just a plain old printed handout.  Start with the basics, just letting the inbuilt filters ignore the often repeated words and then try the advanced settings and see what you can do.

The word clouds on this post are each generated by the site it is embedded in.

Audience Needed…..
Friday May 20th 2011, 9:10 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized  |  Leave a Comment

Kids start off proud of everything they do – those nursery finger paintings pinned up on the fridge by proud parents are just the beginning.  But somewhere their use of audience disappears – until we start forcing it to return.  Educators have the opportunity to change that by keeping kids work in front of an audience.

I don’t mean those classroom displays – that mostly only get seen by the kids and the occasional visiting parent.  See the sense of pride a child has when a piece of their work is put up in the school reception.  Imagine if you could show off their work EVERY day to a wide audience of parents, peers, the community, even the world.  Now stop imagining and start thinking “how”.

Mosaic Fish By James Evans-VinceHow about a class Facebook page?  Pages get “likes” by people and organisations.  When someone likes a page they don’t reveal themselves – they don’t open up their personal life to the page or its other “likers”  their name simply shows up on the “likes” list – and depending on their settings maybe their profile picture.  What does happen when you like a page is that you see that page’s feed, its status updates, links, uploaded pictures.  Imagine if that page belongs to your child’s class.  You have liked the class page so when the class (under the teachers supervision) uploads a picture of some work, a status update, a link to something they are learning about, you get to see it.  And comment on it.  So the class knows you have seen it – or you might actually go up to a child in the playground and say “hey I loved your picture today”.  Watch them puff out their chest with pride.

If Facebook is a step too far – what about a class Wiki?  Or a class Blog?

Or what about spending 3 hours putting up a display that the kids look at every single day.  Static, unchanging, time consuming and  about as useful as that dusty set of encyclopedias in the far corner of the library.

The term social networking has become a bit of a demon to many. In an educational context it is seen as a tool to be feared and therefore banned by many. Yet social networking is becoming so widely embraced that it is rapidly becoming part of the daily life of many parents and educators. It is certainly part of the daily life of most teens and being fast picked up by many kids in primary education.

My son is 8 years old and he has had a Facebook account for the best part of a year now. It has helped with his reading and writing as he has a number of educational needs and has to be greatly encouraged to actively read or write. When he wants to go on facebook he has to do both. He likes to logon sometimes and say hello to one of his six friends! Other times he likes to try out one of the Facebook games he has seen us playing.

His account is set up with the security settings tightly controlled. Everything is set up to friends only with the option to be added by “friends of friends” this one is because he does NOT appear in the searches so if someone wants to add him I tell them to find him in my friends list and add him from there. All the emails he receives go straight to my inbox so he can’t accept a friend request without me knowing. So far he has 6 friends, myself and my partner, a friend of mine who has children in his class, his aunt, his gran and a 10 year old girl we met on holiday last Christmas. He sometimes sends a message through facebook to parents of his schoolfriends, many of them are friends of mine too.

james facebook settings

It’s a difficult decision to give your child Facebook access as there are so many factors to consider.  Who they become friends with is NOT the greatest fear.  It’s WHAT their friends say that scares me.  I have good friends who I would NEVER allow to be James’ friend, their statuses are far to inappropriate and often contain swearing.  One of these friends has a 10 year old son who is an active Facebook user, he is mates with all his classmates (about 60% of them anyway) and his mother and father are both on his friends list.  YES they need to keep an eye on what he is doing but he really shouldn’t be seeing what they are up to (they are not together).  The six friends my son has are all people who neither swear or reveal anything dodgy on Facebook.

I know parents who have decided that they would not like their children reading their own statuses so they have not allowed their children Facebook access yet.  This becomes a particular issue at this time of year when children are leaving primary school and want to stay in touch with friends they will no longer see.   This problem is compounded for us as we live in a small community and there are less than 100 children in the 6 year groups at James’ school.  These children are in mixed year group classes as there are only 4 classes and therefore some children have left class 4 to go to secondary school whilst some children remain in class 4 for another year of primary school.  It’s only natural that they want to stay in touch and Facebook is an easy choice to make.

As a mother I don’t fear social networking.  Children have to learn from their mistakes just as we did, sometimes posts will inadvertently hurt someone.  Just as words in the playground do.  Cyberbullying is no greater threat than any other kind of bullying – but it can offer more concrete proof of the activities than playground bullying.  My child is a digital citizen.  Technology enhances his learning.  He can operate the Sky+, DVD, TV and Wii far better than his gran and his great gran can only manage a TV!

Within a couple of years he will have his own mobile phone.  He already has a TV/DVD in his room linked to the Wii so he can watch iPlayer in bed (he does NOT have an aerial connection, with iPlayer he picks shows he knows – channel hopping in the evening is laden with pitfalls)  This is a child with a healthy imagination, a love of role playing and an enjoyment of the great outdoors.  Yes he has swimming lessons, Cubs, orchestra, choir and piano lessons (when did kids get so busy!)  But he also needs down time, chilling in front of his favorite kind of programme (often a DIY programme – no idea why!).  Looking for pictures on the internet.  Saying Hi to a friend on Facebook.  Plowing fields in Farmville.

We are all getting into social networking as people.  We can enhance our contacts as educators through social networking.  We can follow businesses and get special offers.  We can promote ourselves and our businesses.  Dialogues on Twitter may be a bit above an 8 year old who is a bit behind with reading but they help me greatly to keep abreast of developments within my field.  I want to see education embrace these tools rather than fear them.

Set up facebook groups for schools and classes –  let students communicate, collaborate and publish.  Give them an audience of trusted friends, their peers, mentors, parents, educators and others within the community.  Create a real sense of community cohesion.  These tools will shape their lives, lets guide them and teach them responsibly.  Create nings for your older classes. Encourage twitter discussions on a topic.  Set challenges that fit the digital world.  Look to the cloud as the future and social networking as one of the key educational tools.  I’ve learned far more this year in my online PLN than my offline one.  Encourage those enquiring young minds to do the same, seek knowledge rather than be given it.  Embrace technology as the future.

Look at the uptake figures on the BBC yesterday, this isn’t going away in a hurry.