Google and iPad: Friends for education?

Last week I had the privilege of attending the South African Google Summit for Education.  It was a magical and inspiring, yet frustrating two days.

My biggest frustration stems from a stark realisation that most South African children are being left behind, without access to the many wonders that Edtech continues to develop and highlight.  However, that is a whole other post, one which I will hopefully do justice to in the future.

My other main frustration stemmed from the often incompatible nature of different ecosystems, namely Google and Apple, within an education context.

As many of you will know, I work as an iPad facilitator, and truly believe that Apple’s hardware line is exceptional for teaching and learning.  On the other hand, I also love numerous Google Apps, including Gmail, calendar, forms…

As I was planning my presentation titled ‘Google Apps on the iPad’, I struggled to come up with opportunities that were both creative and educational.  However, when I decided to integrate my favourite Google and iPad apps, the magic started happening.

Below is my presentation, excluding sound and film clips.  If you would like access to the full keynote, please email me at

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6 steps towards a successful iPad school rollout

I have spent much time discussing and reviewing iPad rollout programs in schools over the past half year, and while I am by no means an expert, I have noticed different approaches; some have been more successful than others.

I have put together a list of some steps which I believe increase the chances of a smooth, successful, educational and sustainable iPad rollout.

Research, research, research

The importance of researching prior to committing to any program, let alone a technology rollout cannot be overstated.  One of the key indicators of success in the schools I have encountered has been their dedication to researching prior to implementing.  By research, I am referring to:

– Reading research papers and other literature about iPads in the classroom

– Consulting with/visiting schools that have existing iPad programs

– Testing the iPad prior to committing

– Investigate tech setup/upgrade (Wifi etc) that might be required by speaking with different providers/tech consultants


Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to listen to keynote speaker Abdul Chohan from ESSA Academy present.  He kept stressing the importance of both reliability and simplicity of resources for teachers to successfully use these. In particular he noted the importance of having the ‘plumbing’ in place prior to embarking on device purchasing.

This is an extremely important step – unless time, effort and finances are invested in upgrading your tech setup, an iPad program is unlikely to succeed.  Teachers, students and parents alike will become frustrated with the lack of connectivity and will not be inspired to use the iPads in a meaningful classroom setting.

When budgeting for an iPad program, it is extremely important to factor in any costs to upgrade connectivity and any other technology infrastructure that has been identified.

Parent involvement

While many parents are excited at the prospect of their children learning new skills, many are similarly apprehensive of an iPad rollout – they are often unfamiliar with the benefits of edtech, and are used to ‘old styles’ of teaching.  To overcome their apprehension, it is a great idea to be open and honest from the beginning as to the school’s plan.

One option is to host an open forum for parents prior to purchasing any iPads, where they are encouraged to raise any concerns, ask any question and so on.  Such an approach is likely to alleviate fears and gain parent support for an eventual rollout.

Teacher training

Like parents, teachers are often nervous about and unsure of their role in the iPad classroom.  It is important for teachers to understand and be made to feel that they will not become redundant once the iPads are introduced; rather, they will be able to better support individual student needs, as they step back and observe which students require additional support.

Once the iPad rollout has begun, it is beneficial for teachers to receive extensive training on the device.  Suggestions include: how to use certain apps; which apps are suitable for developing different skills; workflow, lesson planning and assessment suggestions and so on.   This training can be carried out in a number of ways – Bronwyn Desjardins, ICT Integration and Resource Centre Coordinator at St Sthithians Girls Prep finds it beneficial to sit with teachers 1 on 1 each week: ‘I don’t dictate what we will discuss in the sessions; it is the teacher’s time and space to receive support in whichever area they need.  I find that in such a personal setting, teachers feel non threatened and are openminded.’

Another option which some schools have implemented is to have an ‘iPad Champions’ group.  This group is made up of teachers that have expressed a keen interest in being involved in an iPad pilot at their school; they meet regularly, sharing successes and challenges.

Pilot Program

Rather than purchasing iPads (or asking parents to do so) for each student, it is a good idea to run a pilot program.  Much thought should be given to which grade level/class should be involved in the pilot, taking into consideration questions such as:

What is the long term plan?

Which students/grade/s is best suited for the rollout?

Who will be responsible for the pilot?

How are you going to track the success of the pilot?

How will Apple IDs, app purchases etc be managed?

Student preparation

Once the pilot has been established, it is a good idea to prepare students for the rollout.  If you have a technology teacher/specialist, it is worthwhile them teaching the students how to use certain apps, safety/security issues etc.  This will take the pressure off apprehensive teachers, as well as empower students for when they begin using the iPads.

Final words

Hopefully these suggestions are helpful.  Although there is obviously no guarantee that any educational program will succeed, thinking about these issues and setting in place certain procedures should help in achieving a meaningful and sustainable iPad program.

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8 Interactive and engaging mathematics games and activities

I am always on the lookout for engaging Mathematics activities to use in the classroom.  Myself and the teacher I team teach with use these in a variety of ways – to introduce/tune students into the lesson, as a reflection to monitor their understanding, as an individual or as a pair based task throughout the lesson.

All of the resources are free to use and do not require a username/password.


The Junction Public School Interactive Maths Wiki is a compact, easy to use resource that has 6 engaging and easy to use interactive activities for teaching the basics of capacity (using the metric system).

Chance and probability

You can find a number of online games for teaching chance and probability at Maths Zone, a UK based website.  These activities use cards, dice, coins and spinners to help students understand and experiment with chance.

Mapping and location 

Rainforest: making a walking track is a resource from ABC splash located by my team teaching partner Katie, in which students must use compass points to make walking tracks between different landmarks.


This term we have been investigation transformation.  Icy slides, flips and turns is a simple interactive for showing students shape transformations.


MathsFrame is a UK based website with over 170 free interactive maths games, that are (usually) updated on a weekly basis.  The activities are divided into the different areas of maths teaching and learning.

Free Training Tutorial has many games that provide opportunities for practising basic number skills, and countless activities for developing measurement and visual mathematics skills.

Kids Math Games Online is a mega website, filled with learning activities, games, quizzes, fun facts and much more.  It is easy to navigate and divided into clear categories.

Maths Builder contains 500+ interactive maths games (some are better than others). Worth checking out as topics include measurement, number, space, chance/data and many more numeracy topics.

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5 reasons to use Lanschool to improve student learning outcomes

Since last year my school has been involved in a pilot 1:1 netbook program in Grades 4-6.  At the beginning of this year, all classroom had Lanschool  installed on their own computers.

It is important to note that while many administrators and teachers use it primarily to monitor what students are doing on their devices (similar to a ‘Nanny cam’), there are countless ways in which Lanschool can be used to improve teaching and learning outcomes:

1. Show Teacher’s Screen

This feature enables the teacher to broadcast their screen to another device, such as an TV or, most importantly, the students’ own device.  I use this feature on a daily basis, especially when modelling a learning task.  Once the teacher’s screen is broadcast onto students’ devices, they cannot control their screen until ‘show teacher’s screen’ is disabled.  I find that this helps gain and sustain students’ attention.

2. Show Student’s Screen To Students

I strongly believe in peer assessment, which makes this feature perfect.  As I am roving around the classroom, I am constantly on the lookout for a student’s work to display to the grade at the end of the lesson.  I will display the student’s screen to the class, and we will give them warm and cool feedback.  The student can then edit their work in real time as they are listening to their peers’ suggestions.

3. Remote Controlling

Sometimes, as I have a Mac, I will model how to engage with a learning task by remote controlling a student’s netbook, and sharing their screen with the other netbooks or on the Apple TV.  This provides an excellent visual for my grade, and inevitably means that most students are able to independently access the learning task.

4. Create test

Although I have never used this option before, it is possible to create a test on Lanschool in multiple choice, true/false and short answer formats, as well as including graphics.

 5. Voting

Another useful feature, which enables the teacher to assess students’ understanding in real time.  Voting can include either multiple choice or true/false responses.


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‘Miss, what’s my password?’ 14 Web 2.0 tools without student logins

I spend lots of time trialling new web 2.0 tools with my students, for all different learning purposes.

My grade and I often have a conversation that goes something like this:

Me: I have placed the link to —— on our blog for you to open and use.

Students: Miss, it needs a login and password.


Me: If you’ve finished your writing/numeracy activity, you can log onto ——-

Students: But I can’t remember my password to ———-

As a result of my occasional frustration with web 2.0 tools that require the creation/ability to remember usernames and passwords, I’ve decided to start building a list of websites which can be used in the classroom without these.

It is not that I am against usernames/passwords – they can often be extremely useful for tracking student progress, online safety etc, but here are some links that do not require these for teacher and student use.

Collaboration, assessment, drawing tools


Padlet (used to be Wall Wisher), for those that have not come across it yet is a great tool for students to record information on a ‘virtual board’.  The teacher creates the Padlet wall, provides students with the URL, and they can begin editing.


Aww, (A Web Whiteboard), is touch-friendly online whiteboard app that lets you use a computer, tablet or smartphone to easily draw sketches and collaborate with others.  You can save a copy as a .png to your computer.


Beautiful drawing tool with the option of adding text.  Drawing may be saved or printed by students.


Another easy to use drawing tool, that lets you save drawings.


Word It Out

Free, easy to use, no frills word cloud website.

Literacy tools

Make beliefs comix

This is an extremely simple to use comic/storyboard creator, which students can then either email to themselves/teacher or simply print (comics are never saved in the cloud).


Flipbook! is a drawing game that allows students to create simple animations and share these.  It has the option of creating as a guest or by creating a logon account.  Proceeding as a guest means a 100 frame limit.

My Storymaker 

This storymaking website is wonderful for the early years, as it provides students with prompts to help them develop characters, plots etc.  Finished ebooks can be printed, downloaded or shared via email.

The peanut gallery 

From the peanut gallery website:

“PEANUT GALLERY is a Chrome Experiment that lets you add intertitles to old film clips using your voice, then share those clips with your friends. It uses your computer’s microphone and the Web Speech API in Google Chrome to turn speech into text.”

This site would be great as a fun and interactive language development activity.

Dvolver movie maker 

Relatively user friendly movie making website.


Boolify aims to increase the ability to perform effective web searches, something which many students struggle with, using visual puzzles. Here is an example from Boolify’s website, showing how it can be used to help students narrow their results when using search engines.

Read write think 

Read write think is a resource that has interactive templates/graphic organisers for different writing styles.  It is extremely user friendly, with the students having the option of typing directly into the graphic organisers and saving or printing these.

Numeracy (Maths) tools

A Maths dictionary for kids 

Jenny Eather’s Maths dictionary for kids is extremely colourful, and filled with interactive examples for different Maths terms.  The definitions can be printed for placing on a Numeracy vocabulary wall, for instance.

scribble maps 

A useful tool for teaching and learning about mapping and location.  The maps can be saved or emailed.


What web 2.0 tools do you use in your teaching?



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Padlet: Why we love it and how we use it

Padlet has become one of the most used web 2.0 tools in my classroom in the last few months, and the students love it.

Padlet acts as a ‘real time’ wall, where students can simultaneously post comments.  Images can also be added to a padlet wall.  As a teacher, all you need to do is create the wall in Padlet, and have students access it using a unique url.  They do not require a username/login to post (though you will – it’s free!)  Only you have editing rights, which enables you to delete any comments, shift them around the board etc.

Here are some of the ways I use it in my classroom to enhance learning:

Creative/independent writing stimuli

Often when my students are engaging in ‘free writing’ (when we are not studying a genre), I find that many of them tend to get stuck with a starting point or topic.

I’ve started placing an intriguing image on a Padlet wall, and the students use their netbooks to record their initial thoughts.  We then brainstorm some possible titles for pieces of writing.  Sometimes we also link the titles to type of writing, such as a narrative or a persuasive piece:

Students can then keep the wall open on their netbooks as they begin planning and drafting their writing pieces.


I team teach reading with a colleague, and we often have our students reflect on their reading using ICT.  A few weeks ago we were learning about making connections when reading (text to self, text to text, text to world), and we created a Padlet wall for pairs of students to reflect on:

SW-PBS (School Wide Positive Behaviour Support)

At my school, we implement SW-PBS, and as a result spend at least 50 minutes per week targeting behaviours that we identify as needing improvement to support our students’ wellbeing.  This term, we have been focussing on being on time to line, as we were noticing students were either arriving late in the morning, or not lining up in time for the bells throughout the day.

In my classroom we used padlet to brainstorm and reflect on our own behaviour and think of ways we could be on time to line. I posed the three questions below: When do we need to be on time to line? Why do we need to be on time to line? What do we need to do to make sure we are in time to line?

How do you use Padlet in your classroom?

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Why I write and send out reports *every week*

Like most teachers (Graduates in particular), reports were not something I was particularly fond of last year, in my first year of teaching.

All teachers know that report writing times, although generally only taking place twice a year, are extremely stressful periods.  How do we, as educators, record students’ learning over a semester, as well as set students up for success by coming up with achievable goals?


In my team, we don’t.


Instead of a traditional reporting schedule, we have embarked on a journey (some might call it an ambitious experiment), whereby we write and send home ‘mini reports’ on student progress , once per 4-5 weeks (roughly twice per term).

I would be lying if I said that I have not found some aspects of this experience challenging, both from a personal perspective and as a member of a teaching team.  However, on the whole, I have found the experience to be rewarding and beneficial.

Some thoughts:

How our reporting system works

I have set up a reporting schedule, labelled weeks 1 to 5.  I have 23 students, so each week I write and send home either five or six reports.

Reporting template

Here is a copy of our reporting template, with an example of a report (with changed student name).  Click on the report to enlarge.

As you can see, the report isn’t too detailed; we tend to identify between 3-5 things that the student has achieved for each key learning area.  Similarly, they have one succinct, achievable learning goal for each of these areas, which will often be determined based on the unit/topics we are teaching and learning at the time.

But how do I find the time?!

It may sound complicated and time consuming, but, actually, if you’re organised, it can generally be incorporated into your teaching time.

Each day, at different points and lessons throughout the day, I will find time to sit down and confer with one or two of my focus students for the week. I will listen to them read, review their current writing pieces, and use materials to explore their understandings of mathematical tasks.  All is takes is 5-10 minutes during reading (while the rest of the class is reading independently); 5-10 minutes during the writing block (while the grade is working independently or in mixed ability pairs/groups), and 5-10 minutes during maths, when the students are involved in a Just Right task.

I discuss their writing/reading/maths with them.  I ask them which aspects they feel they are doing well.  I ask what they would like to/need to improve.  We then come up with a goal together, based on growth points within the curriculum.  I discuss the report with them, making sure they understand every word, for their own success, but also so that they can discuss their learning goals with their families.  Throughout each conference, I insert my observations directly into the reporting template, which means I’m not double handling at a later stage.

But what about the other 22 students? 

Whenever I am working with a student/small focus group, I wear a pair of bright yellow striped  tiger ear headband.  Yes, they look ridiculous.  Yes, the students always laugh at me on the first day of school.  But as soon as I explain the ‘ears’ early in the year, they consistently act as a visual reminder for students; Miss S is busy helping someone with their learning.  Whenever they interrupt, I always ask the following question:


Is this an emergency or can it wait?


It can usually wait, and the student returns to their independent work while I continue conferring with their classmate.


Some of the benefits

1. Having a better understanding of our students and their learning needs.  As I am reviewing students’ progress on a regular cycle, I find myself much more aware of their learning needs, achievements and goals.

2. Setting students up for success.  When students know their goals, they are more likely to achieve them.  Simple as that.

3. Increases involvement of families in students’ learning. With parents receiving up to date information about their child’s goals and achievements, they are able to support their children at home, as well as to contact the teacher for any clarification.

4. It makes ‘real’ report writing an absolute *pleasure*.  As well as sending out two reports per term, we are obviously still bound by Department regulations on reporting in each semester.  However, as I am constantly evaluating my students’ achievements, this is no longer a daunting prospect; I simply review their latest ‘mini report’ for the necessary data.

5. Makes planning for learning easier and more targeted.  I will often notice over the course of writing my weekly ‘mini reports’ that many of the students seem to be struggling with similar things, such as using the correct tense in their writing, for example. Having this information helps me form small focus groups to address the learning needs of my students across the curriculum.

Do you engage in a similar reporting practice at your school?



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How OneNote/SkyDrive revolutionised our planning

I am fortunate enough to teach in a team of dedicated and innovative teachers, with whom I plan my weekly work programs/planners.

For the first half of the year, this is basically how we functioned:

1) Allocate planners (I might have been planning the writing lessons, while reading and maths would be planned by the others, for instance).

2) Each of us would plan and email said planners.  Each email would have multiple attachments – a word document for the written planner, and countless additional attachments for each online resource required for the upcoming week’s lessons.  These would be opened separately and saved in folders which we would then need to access for each lesson throughout the week.

Realising we were making things harder for ourselves, we started using Microsoft Skydrive for our collaborative planning and sharing, and haven’t looked back.

What is Skydrive?

According to trusty Wikipedia,

‘SkyDrive (officially Microsoft SkyDrive, previously Windows Live SkyDrive and Windows Live Folders) is a file hosting service that allows users to upload and sync files to a cloud storage and then access them from a Web browser or their local device.’

The benefits and features of SkyDrive/OneNote

1. It can be accessed from any device, as it is hosted in ‘the cloud’.  All you need is your username and password, and you can be accessing your documents from anywhere!

2. It gives you the option of either keeping your files private or sharing them with others.  This is great for teachers, because it means that we can collaboratively share our planning/teaching resources, while keeping certain documents private/confidential.

3. You can upload/link/attach any additional materials or word documents for your lessons, so that they are all located in one place, rather than needing to trawl through (or try to remember which) folders you saved that resource you really need for Wednesday’s decimals lesson.

4. It’s free 🙂

5. You can access it via the web, or using OneNote. To be fair though, it is much more versatile on a PC than a Mac.  As a Mac user, I prefer to create and edit my planning documents using SkyDrive.

6. It is *really* well laid out and easy to navigate, with many features that will be familiar from countless years of Microsoft Word.  I was originally more inclined to use Evernote as a sharing tool, but my team members preferred the linear layout of OneNote when compared with Evernote’s notebooks.


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Enhancing curiosity and learning through classroom ebooks

A dear friend of mine, Sigal Magen is truly inspirational. After a long career in IT, she began writing children’s books, as well as engaging in co-creating books with schools and local councils.

She approached me a couple of months ago, looking to collaborate with my class on a series called ‘Kids around the world‘, which involves connecting with and creating ebooks with children in different countries across the globe.

From our first discussion about the ebook project, my grade were extremely enthusiastic; they loved the idea of creating their own ebook, and were both excited and proud that they would be getting published!

The process

The first thing we needed to do was research Australian landmarks.

I placed the following question on our Apple TV to guide the students in their research:

‘If you were hosting an overseas visitor, what sites would you recommend they visit?’

Curriculum engagement

Throughout the project, my students used and developed their skills in many areas, including:

* elearning and creativity – as they began to sketch their drawings, many of my students researched and found great websites and tools such as Drawing Now, which has hundreds, if not thousands of videos showing step by step instructions of how to draw different animals, people, landscapes and much more.

* Writing – each student was required to write a (preferably rhyming) sentence to enhance their drawing.

Here are some photos that document our ebook creation…

**Shameless plug**

If you would like to download/take a look at our ebook, it is available at


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