Tools, Sites, Apps and Stuff you have to read w/c 13th May 2013

We missed a week due to Bank Holiday – and so we’re back

Each week my Flipboard app, Twitter responses, my kids, my Kindle Fire and my Google reader deliver a collection of new web tools, apps, books, crazy experiences, random rants  and must read articles or books.

Here is this weeks collection:



I love this app, it is from Stripey Design who have brought us tools like Anithings and the Just too Easy Infant Tools. Squigglefish allows you to capture your felt pen fish and animate them in an aquarium.  I wish I had this app when I was working with my class on Endless ocean as we could have filled our iPad fish tanks with species that we had spotted in the water. Aside from the obvious ocean/ undersea curriculum links, I also like this app as it encourages creativity and art away from the device. You return to it to add and animate your fish – a good balance I think with my technology obsessed children.

Forest Phonics


ICT games, or rather James Barrett has been giving us great web based apps for ages, so it is great to see an app come from his reliable stable. James’s apps always seem to be both useful and a bit quirky too. This phonics app would be ideal for both Key Stage 1 and those needing extra input in Year 3. It takes you through reading, saying and spelling blends using word cards that you arrange on a slimy snail trail. The video below misses out the sound of the app telling you the words, but in test with Leo and Charlie and indeed school it has been proving very useful.

This is what James says about his app, which also has a limited web-based version too:

Forest Phonics is a spelling game made for the iPad and iPhone.

Choose a spelling pattern and you will be prompted to spell ten words using that spelling pattern, e.g. ‘ay’ words. Your child will become more confident in their ability to spell by learning to spell through patterns. The sounds are easy to move around using the drag and drop sound cards. Each correct answer is rewarded with a funny animation. If you need help you can hear the word again or take a quick peek at how to correctly spell the word.

A simple scoring system lets you know how well you’ve done. The game covers 30 spelling patterns suitable for children between the ages of 4 and 7 years of age.

Bridge Constructor App


I am sure we all have had the experience of teaching and/or learning about bridge construction with straws and spaghetti pieces. All good fun and all great for ticking boxes of D and T, team work and creativity. With the addictive Bridge Constructor app, you can tick some ICT and Maths boxes too as you begin to work with a budget and limited resources. You also get to see cars and trucks falling into the murky depths if your bridge is all a bit rubbish.

What I’d do differently with iPads in school


I have been given some thought to integrating iPads across a school as I now enter another school and begin the process again. I am also nudged and provoked to think this through again in light of the 8iPads work by Julian Coultas. I would offer the following lessons/ reflections:

  • Be open – you may think iPads are amazing and that they will engage every learner imaginable, but have you even looked at other devices?
  • Give the iPads to Teachers and let them play and become researchers – invest in this group with time, challenge, support and celebration – do not just expect the ICT Subject leader or Network manager to be the fount of knowledge
  • Admit hat there isn’t always an app for that – some concepts and skills like handling money are often much more appropriately presented with real objects.
  • Plan and build a strategy and review this – have a vision – seems obvious but so often these devices run out of appeal and they slip into merely research devices or tokenistic use
  • Involve your SENCO , your Numeracy Coordinator, Literacy Coordinator and Head
  • Give due thought to how  you are going to publish and share teh content that your classes create – film could be pushed out via a school Vimeo account and sound through a sound cloud account, but what about images, documents made in pages and presentations – what work arounds and systems will you use?
  • Share and seek advice from other schools – do not try to go it alone or kid your self into thinking you are ahead of the curve – look critically and with an open mind at what other schools and bloggers are doing and think about impact.
  • Look at how these devices can be a tool for both the teacher and the pupil
  • Get your wireless in order – a set of ipads is almost useless without a good infrastructure to support sharing and sending of work.

How to Escape  Education’s Death Valley

A new video from Sir Ken – I am sure many of you have seen the original TED Talk video from Ken Robinson. Well he has done it again. A mix of stand up gentle humour peppered with stats and uncomfortable truths. but what does he tell us as UK educators, is this anything new? What can we weave into our conversations as quotes to make us sound clever over the next few months.

Well I took the following points:

  • Human beings/ Children are naturally different and diverse – this caused a ripple of applause – education can be about conformity rather than diversity
  • It shouldn’t all be about STEM – the arts and other subjects are important too
  • Kids prosper best with a varied/broad curriculum
  • Curiosity – is the engine of learning – children are natural learners – our task is to light the spark of children’s curiosity
  • Teachers are increasingly being de professionalised – teaching properly conceived is not a delivery system – great teachers also mentor, simulate, provoke and engage
  • The whole point of education is to get people to learn and we can spend a whole lot of time talking about education without talking about learning!
  • TEACHING can be full of tasks but learning may not actually be taking place
  • Focus has moved to testing – this should be diagnostic this should help but not the over arching culture – at the doctors we want a standardised test but these tests should support learning
  • In place of curiosity we have compliance
  • Human life is inherently creative – this is the common currency of being a human being
  • You may have a dog – who may get depressed but he doesn’t listen to Radiohead
  • Finland do not obsess about Maths and English – there is no standardised testing and they have a broad curriculum oh and there is no drop out rate in Finland
  • The countries/ places that do most well in eduction stakes : attribute a very high status to the teaching profession and the individualise their curriculum – how do they do this?
  • Investing in CPD is not a cost it is an investment – just like in Singapore
  • Countries like Hong Kong and Singapore devolve the job of education to the school
  • Education is not a mechanistic process – education is a human system – it is about people who either do or do not want to learn

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