Thursday, 29 May 2014


The following takes place between 1pm and 2pm...

I'm going to be 30 this year (in Sep)! However, I'm pretty impatient and so when my mother offered to get me an iPad, that she knew I've been wanting for a while, for my birthday, early, I jumped at the chance! Thanks mum!

So, now armed with a brand new iPad Air I've started to download apps and discover the best ways to use it in class, where/when appropriate. Now, I'm sure I'll blog later about the different apps that I have/plan to use, but for now I wanted to write about 2 things...linking my iPad to my class projector and creating a public 'hotspot'.

Last year, when, as part of my school's NQT programme, I had the opportunity to visit a local school where I was given a session on using iPads in a MFL classroom. The teacher that gave the presentation showed us how to link the iPad to the projector and, briefly, how she'd used it with her classes; how she'd invited students to show their work on the iPad, take photos of students work and project them on the board etc etc. So, the first thing I wanted to do when getting my iPad was to see if I could sort out the same.
I sought out the correct leads to do the job, notably a lighting to VGA cable and a VGA extension cable...

I'm now able to show, on my IWB, exactly what is shown on my iPad. Now, as of now all I've really done is mess around with it in my free periods, play angry birds etc. I'm still figuring out how best to use it instead of my IWB and whether I really need to. The main purposes I can see of me wanting to link up to the projector are...

1) to show students work having taken photos in class - maybe then even use the 'Skitch' app to annotate what they've done well/highlight errors etc (or get another student to do this for the rest of the class to see)

2) use and show various apps on screen, there are loads of maths apps that I'm currently browsing through/seeing how best they would work for me and my students in class

Now, I came across a stumbling block with the second point...a lot of the apps I want to use require an internet connection. I don't have a cellular iPad and so rely on WiFi. This, then limits what I'm able to do with my iPad...bugger!
Naturally, I went to see my school's ICT department about getting the school's WiFi password...not allowed it (don't ask)! Apparently, in the undetermined future, they'll be at a stage to allow this, but not now (again, don't ask). So, I thought I was at a wall here and unable to go any further - I even tried picking up a local BT WiFi zone using my BT WiFi app, no success.

Cue one of our enthusiastic ITTs (who already has an iPad himself)...

He, like a comic book superhero, told me about creating a public 'hotspot' from my iPhone! This, to anybody who, like me 2 weeks ago, has never heard of it, is a way of sharing your iPhone's 3G connection! It's extremely simple to set up and having done so, each time I want to access the Internet I just access the public hotspot I have set up and I'm good to go! This as a (hopefully) short term fix whilst my school's ICT catches up, is fine by me and now allows me to start experimenting in class with my new iPad. I can't express how happy I was that day when I found out about the 'hotspot', I had gone from 'well this sucks' to 'look at what I can do with my new iPad'!

Future posts will follow as I find useful apps and figure out how best to use it in is, however, great for watching '24' using my 'Amazon Prime' app (I'm slightly addicted)!

Playing Cards Display

Earlier this month I came across the following website that was tweeted out (I can't remember from whom though)...

On the site there are 52 playing cards each in the style of a different artist. Naturally, I thought these would be great on display in my classroom so I saved each image, printed them off on card And hey presto...

My personal favourite is the King of Diamonds (it looks vaguely similar to Slimer from the Ghostbusters)!

I shared these with our school's Art department too as currently the Year 9s do a Alphabet project whereby they produce a concertina book, with a page for each letter, each in a different style of art work. I thought it'd be a good variation for those that wanted to do double the work! I'm yet to hear if any student has taken this offer!? :-s

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Revision & 'Jenga'!

Today I went into school, with the majority of our Maths department, for our Y11's revision session. We had about a quarter of our Y11s there and they worked well throughout the morning session (we were there from 9am-12pm).

Last night when thinking about what I could do to engage the students in their revision I remembered the 'Jenga' style games I bought from the local charity shops last Summer. So, with a text book and a black pen in hand I started about writing questions on each of the wooden blocks. Blimey...did this take some doing!! I had good intentions on setting up 2 of these for various groups of students (foundation and higher) to be playing/using for their revision at the same time. However, it took me about 2 and a half hours to do 1 tower of bricks!

Still, I had one of these now set up that I could use forever more with my higher tier students! Here's how the individual bricks looked...

I had to play around with the pens to find one that was thin enough to write clearly on them, but wouldn't rub off the bricks. In the end a 'gel pen' was the best...just so you know!

I wrote 4 questions on each brick, of which there are 60 in a single game's tower, I'm sure I don't need to tell you the number of questions I therefore had to write out...hence, why it took me so long!

The tower looks superb once stacked up and all the questions are visible on the edges/top...

What I like about this is that students can see some of the questions as they decide on which brick to remove (carefully). They then, on successfully removing the brick, are presented with the other questions to attempt too. The group of students that gave the game a whirl (after initial hesitation from students and an over enthusiastic effort from staff) decided to answer their questions on mini whiteboards as they played the game. I sat with them whilst they were playing to see if any help was needed or any questions had to be clarified etc. I was really impressed by the way they approached the game as I was expecting them to be more concerned with playing the game than answering the questions. I even had thoughts of a few just knocking the tower down for the sake of it. None of these things happened!

As the game progresses, and bricks get replaced on the top of the tower, more gaps become apparent and more questions therefore visible - improving the choice of the individual when selecting which brick to remove.

One of the suggestions a colleague had was that they had seen a version of the 'Jenga' game whereby the bricks were coloured and coloured dice were rolled to determine what colour brick had to be removed that go. This could easily be done by colouring in the 2 end faces of each cuboidal brick (there wasn't enough space to write questions here). The game would then become even more challenging and questions on various coloured bricks could be differentiated accordingly (green = A/A*, orange = B, red = D/C etc)

The group that tried the game out seemed to get a lot from it in terms of enjoyment and revision, they were asking me questions at appropriate times to check they knew what they had to do and were checking each other's answers before the next person's go.

I'll be getting this out in the upcoming revision sessions when we go back next week as it seems to have gone down well and did everything I hoped it would and more.

Let me know if you've used anything like this before...@mrprcollins