Oh, what smashing apps!


Which app to we use?

Whenever I’m asked (in fact, I don’t need to be asked, I’ll just butt in and tell you), I’m happy to say what a fantastic educational tool an iPad can be. At my school, we were lucky enough to receive a big chunk of ICT-ring fenced funding around the time the iPad 2 came out, so we got ourselves a class set of thirty, plus one for all the science teachers, plus an AppleTV in all our labs. I still can’t believe how lucky we were/still are, and believe me, they’ve been worth the money we spent on them. I’m also still in the middle of a prolonged campaign to get my 1:1 “iPads for everyone”, scheme going (it’s gaining ground, but that’s a different story). 

Of course, an iPad is only as good as the app you run on it. You can do some fantastic stuff with the (amazingly) free apps about, but sometimes I feel iPads are just being used as little, reliable laptops for internet research and PowerPoint (well, keynote, but you know what I mean) presentations. Of course I’m think about the SAMR model here (see @ICTevangelist among others on twitter for details about this). Yeah, you can do Old Skool stuff brilliantly on iPads, but it’s the Nu Cool stuff I like.  Using an app together with the iPad camera can really open up new ways for pupils to express themselves, present their work and make brilliant progress in ways that weren’t possible even a couple of years ago. 

Up on the wall

Whenever we break out the iPads in class, one of the first questions is usually “Sir, which app are we doing it on?”. There’re two reasons I don’t like that question. Firstly, I prefer the kids to decide for themselves how they’ll present their work, be it a keynote, comic strip, movie trailer – whatever. Secondly, iPads really start to rock when you combine the product of one app with the functions of another. I’ve recently learned it’s even got a name – AppSmashing.

So, to counter the questions above, I knocked up a series of little A5 posters which now form a display on my wall. The idea is that kids can refer to them for inspiration as to which app they want to start with, and then maybe ‘smash’ their initial product into a second app to really power it up. 

The right app for the job

Of course, this is just a small selection of the apps on the App Store which can be bent to an educational purpose, so the idea is to keep the display refreshed with whatever I think is working well. I’m also using the display in tandem with stuff from the fantastic @gregkuloweic who is producing great how-to guides for appsmashing – definitely worth a follow!

Fancy trying them out – get a copy here


Six Mark Book Marks


Awaiting tassels.

The continuing quest for full marks gets book marks…

Once the kids were up to speed with the the techniques and tips I wanted them to use when answering the QWC, I hit a bit of a stumbling block – a bit of a vacuum when it came to questions to answer! Scouring round the past papers I physically had, plus hitting the AQA website yielded the expected results. I also mange to score a really useful selection of questions from Bob Ayres (@MrBAyres – worth a follow), but it was never long before the cries of “we’ve done this one before” started. It was time to bring all my disparate sources together. I also didn’t want to keep having to photocopy stuff which was handed back too tatty/graffitied to use again. 

I wanted a resource that would also include the mark scheme, but not be too cumbersome, so I settled on a bookmark format. Most of the questions used, along with mark schemes, were adapted from the Nelson Thorne AQA Physics textbook, so the main job was just fiddling with fonts and layout – and copying out the questions (I use Keynote on iPad for the job). 

Collect ’em all! Example of six mark bookmark.

It was a labour of love to get them all finished over the Easter holidays, but they seem to go down very well on twitter, with the task being taken up by others (@hthompson1982 and @DaK_74 in particular) to complete similar sets for biology and chemistry. 

The next big job – cutting them out! I’m lucky enough to have a 1:1 000 000 technician at school however, who loves a bit of cutting and sticking, and they were soon laminated up, ready for action. They are still awaiting the little tassels to complete the picture, but that’s a job for next week!

Although the mark schemes aren’t totally comprehensive, the kids are now familiar with what is meant by “mostly faultless SPaG” etc. I’ll be breaking them out next week, and I do intend to make a final bookmark where the kids can record their mark for each question along with details on BUSKing for six marks. I’ll let you know how they get on!

If you fancy checking them out, download them here AQA_QWC_6_mark_bookmarks.pdf


Your wish is my command (word)


Science literacy placemats

Whilst focussing on literacy in science this year, one of the big problems the kids seemed to have was knowing what the question was actually asking for. They may have had a really good understanding of the science, but just didn’t understand the command words. One of my constants in class is the development of independent learners, so I needed a resource that they could turn to that would guide them whilst still requiring them to do the work. Enter the literacy placemat. 

It’s not an original idea I know, there are plenty of similar resources about, but I wanted to bring all the elements I find useful together in one place. 

Laminated and ready to rock

The central focus was the command words, with the obvious addition of connectives and punctuation prompts. I also took the chance to include the Point, Evidence, Explain structure we use for writing conclusions, along with the SOLO taxonomy to get pupils thinking about how they improve their answers. The mats were printed up on A3, laminated and added to my resource table at the front of the class. 

Breaking out the mats in class

The first time the mats were used was during some QWC work. After discussing a couple of questions, I suggested the kids used a mat to help construct their answers. The command word section saw the most interest, but the group were high ability types so didn’t need as much help connective wise. 
The next time I used the mats was with a lower ability group during coursework. After talking about the marks that came from the quality of their writing for a bit, they got stuck in. I was made up to hear the conversations about their work. They were actively trying to use different connectives to each other and avoid repetition in their writing. Good job kids!
The mats are still getting a lot of use and best of all it’s usually a case of “sir, can I get one of those writing things?” rather than me suggesting it in the first place. 
Get a copy of the mat here Science literacy placemat.pdf

Time for some Pepptalk…


So this is something I’ve been meaning to get round to for an age now but it’s always been three or four items down the list. Over the last year or so I’ve come to realise what an amazing, unrivalled source of CPD- I can’t even begin to list the ideas, techniques and resources I’ve ‘adapted’ from the ideas of fellow ed-tweeters (I even had help with the name for the blog from twitter – cheers @DrAdeno!).

And through twitter I’ve also had my eyes opened to the world of edu-blogging. I was amazed by the time and effort that many teachers seem to put in to this extra-curricular activity and it’s all a bit daunting really when you’re just starting out. But after following the blogs of people like @hrogerson, @hthompson1982, @kohlmand and many, many others, I know it’s time to dip my toe in and see how it feels.

Hopefully, this blog will be a great way for me to share my ideas and resources (I can’t keep up with requests to share on twitter!), therefore helping me and hopefully helping you in the process… Welcome to the PepperMill!