Berlin Takeaway – ADE Institute 2016


Berlin is a city abound with character, history, contrast and wonder. This year Apple chose it to host the 2016 the Global Apple Distinguished Educator Institute. The week was quite brilliant and I’d like to share five things that I took away from a remarkable experience

1. Technology can break down walls

Berlin Wall

Perhaps there is no other city in the world in which a wall has played such a prominent part in defining culture. The Berlin Wall was torn down over 25 years ago and it’s citizens now enjoy freedom of movement, ideology and expression. In a classroom, when used with well-planned instruction, technology has the power to unite classrooms, empower and amaze students and help turn teachers into global authors. Indeed, at the Apple Institute, educators from every corner of the planet joined together with a common goal – to use technology to change the lives of their students. From having breakfast with Brazilian ADE’s to working with ADE’s from the Middle East on global projects; the ADE institute highlighted that we are all truly global citizens and education is a force for good.

2. Swift Playgrounds has a LOT of potential


Apple, like many other technology companies, believe that coding is an essential skill and will only become more and more important in our evermore technology focused society. They have come up with a new iPad App called Swift Playgrounds that makes getting started with coding fun, interactive and achievable. The APP is released in fall  Autumn but to get a good idea of what to expect, Apple have released an iBook guide for teachers. 

3. Running/walking is the best way to feel a city

IMG_3683A couple of runs in Berlin provided an opportunity to see parts of the city that were off the beaten track. The first was an early morning, 9mile adventure with Nathan Ashman. The second, a 6 mile random odyssey towards the Lichtenberg area of town. On the Wednesday, all ADE’s were given the opportunity to explore Berlin. Mark Anderson, Coby Reynolds and myself set off by foot to find the East Side Gallery. We roughly followed the path of the Wall from the Brandenburg Gate until we reached our destination. We filmed, took pictures, grabbed a couple of beers and sampled some local food – good times and great memories.

4. Photography is for everybody

eyeem-homeWe were fortunate enough to listen to a fascinating seminar from the team behind the App – EyeEm. The App is used by 18million people from 150 countries across the globe. Any image that you are particularly proud of can be uploaded and shared with The World. The quality of imagery is exceptional and you even get a chance to make a little cash out of it as brands like UBER, The Huffington Post and ASOS may want to buy them! Fellow ADE Rachel Smith had already been tapped up by Getty Images! The seminar also included some top photography tips and with the remarkable technology that is readily accessible to people, most people can get a shot that was once only available to the elite.

5. Virtual reality works in the classroom

IMG_3663Perhaps the greatest thing about the ADE institute is the humbling experience of seeing the amazing work that goes on in schools around the world. I take my hat off to every single one of the ADE’s who present a three minute showcase and I never fail to take home a list of things that I have to try in my classroom. After ADE2016, very near the top of the list is Virtual Reality (VR). Like some elements of photography and film-making, only a few years ago using VR in the classroom would have been obscenely expensive, time consuming and impractical. However, after seeing some of the work done by educators such as Sarah Jones and Nathan Ashman using affordable tools like Google Cardboard, Streetview and Thinglink 36o, I am excited about getting some projects started in the next school year.



The Success of a School iPad Project – Pupil, Teacher & Parent Voice


Has our iPad deployment worked? A simple question, but one that is often very hard to answer. There is no doubt that technology offers many means of improving teaching and learning in the classroom; the results of our recent pupil survey certainly reiterated this. However, as any technology deployment is unlikely to suddenly provide all pupils with 11 A* at GCSE, how do you truly measure success?

Ready_for_final_exam_at_Norwegian_University_of_Science_and_TechnologyPersonally, I don’t believe that success should be judged by a set of test results, but those that do will tell you technology is an expensive waste of time as there is no evidence it impacts upon ‘standards’. Simply, they are wrong. I am fortunate enough to work at a school where independent thinking and a love of learning are just as important as great grades and standards of all-types are valued.

Over the previous two years we had made considerable investment in the procurement of whole-school holistic WiFi. The Y6 iPad roll out in September 2015 was the culmination of many months of planning, training and decision making that had ultimate the goal of improving the classroom experience of our pupils; allowing them to do things differently and express themselves in a multitude of ways.

Eight months into the project, and with September 2016 fast approaching, it has been a time to reflect on both the successes (and failures) as we make preparations for the second phase of the deployment. We recently held an iPad information evening for prospective Year Six parents whose children are in the second year of our roll out. Therefore we compiled these two short films and completed a qualitative survey of parents to demonstrate the success of our 1:2:1 project so far from those who have experienced it first hand. The results speak for themselves.

Pupil Voice:


Teacher Voice:

Parent Voice:




Blog On – Challenge Based Blogging

I’m a huge fan of school blogging and also of Challenge Based Learning. I therefore decided to combine the two for a school project for Year 8. This post shares what we did and also contains links to all the resources you need to replicate the project in your school. Using the CBL wheel as our guide, we started with…


The Big Idea should be broad concept that can be explored in multiple ways. Furthermore, it should be important to students, and society at large. For this project, the over-riding concept was communication and with a little prodding in the right direction, the students decided to create their very own blog sites to share their writing with a potentially global audience.


Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 20.39.35The formation of an essential question is a fundamental part of any CBL challenge; it is something pupils can always use to refer back to and forms an umbrella under which they can all work. The students used Padlet to establish “Sometimes our writing never gets read. Can we use blogging to write for a real audience?”


The next task was for the students to embark on their specific challenge. It is imperative that the students generate an area of interest in which to work. By this point they knew they would be making a blog and creating content for it, however they needed to decide what they would be blogging about and organically work out whom they would be working with. Again, Padlet was the tool of choice. In the example below you can see that 4M loosely bundled their choices into video games, pets, cars, photography and sport.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 20.09.30


Once the groups were formulated (via subject choice not friendship) their initial task was to plan their blog. To do this I provided a blog planning sheet for each group. Each group started with a discussion and then took to their computers. They then used OneDrive to begin work on the planning sheet collaboratively in real time and left it in a shared folder for me to check and provide feedback.

Blog Planning Sheet

Another key aspect of the project is the blog design. We are fortunate to have a whole school WordPress site, hosted by the fantastic Creative Blogs. I am a huge fan of WordPress and knowing how to use it properly is becoming an ever more valued skill. Therefore, a significant part of the project is an introduction to some basic skills that can enhance their blog and help them to meet their objectives.

Blog – Design Checklist

Once the subject of the blog has been decided, students then begin to design their blog. This design checklist details things that all students should do and a few things they could do, therefore taking care of differentiation.

I also created some tutorials below that will help the students (and teachers) with the could do section. Flipped learning really does change the dimensions of the classroom and empowers pupils to work independently. Please note that each template within WordPress may have slightly different functionality but the tutorials should certainly point you in the right direction.

Customised Widgets:

Personalised Header:

Customised Menu:

Customised Background Image:

There are a couple of ‘Could Do’ options on the deign checklist that don’t have tutorials; that is because if the students get this far they should be able to start to work things out for themselves! The beauty of working with technology is that it doesn’t really matter if you get things wrong, but it is hugely important to experiment and take risks. Of course, if it does go horribly wrong; hit the undo button or don’t save and start again!


Once the site is designed and up and running, it’s time to get blogging! Each group should have a theme for their blog that they opted to write about. This should promote enthusiasm for the task. When you set up your blog, students can be assigned different privileges. Good practice is to ensure that they are contributors as opposed to editors. The reason being contributors can not publish articles without approval from the page administrator which should be the teacher. This should also encourage a good standard of English as only well-written and thoroughly edited posts should be published.

Students can add images and even embed videos within their posts relatively easily. The following tutorials are available should assistance be required with this.

Embedding Video In Your Post:

Inserting Images In Your Post:


Evaluation does not have take place at the end of the project. As soon as the first blog posts are published, pupils can start leaving comments on each others work. Using the comment function of blogging is arguably the most important part of it. Comments provide each author with feedback from a variety of sources. It is also authentic evidence of an audience and has the effect of improving standards as students realise their work has a true purpose. The comments are all moderated by the administrator (teacher) and should be useful and constructive. It’s worth spending time looking at comments and what makes a good quality comment, and indeed a poor comment. Teacher feedback can also be provided via comments and by using social media, comments can even be collected from an authentic global audience and should provide a successful, contextualised answer to the original Essential Question.

Here our some example comments taken from our ‘Blog On’ project:

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 21.12.49 Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 21.07.56 Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 21.06.53Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 21.18.41



BETT Bingo – Prepare Yourself For The World’s Biggest Edtech Event

It’s that time of a year again… The BETT show arrives in London at the ExCel Arena for 4 days of Edtech madness. I have attended BETT every year since 2010 and have always had a brilliant time; alongside the endless sales pitches, there really is a wealth of great resources and ideas to stimulate and inspire the educator’s mind (and destroy their budgets…)

There are also a few other experiences that are almost guaranteed to occur as you battle your way through BETT. Therefore, I have created BETT Bingo; a few things that will inevitably happen to you should you be lucky enough to attend the show this week. Hopefully see you there!

BETT Bingo

What have I missed? Let me know in the comments section below!

1:2:1 is Working – The Results Are In

In September 2015, we rolled out 1:2:1 iPads across our Second Form (Year Six). This was a huge step for King’s, a school which only adopted WiFi in 9 months earlier in January.

Learning in action

After the WiFi install, all pupils in the Prep School had access to a bank of 20 shared iPads and although they proved incredibly popular for staff and pupils alike, the limitations of shared devices was somewhat frustrating. Device set ups were changed, work was lost and functional attributes like contacts, calendars and email were unavailable.  Nevertheless, 99% of pupils agreed that lessons had become more enjoyable when iPads were used to enhance their learning experience, yet 90% also agreed that their experience would be improved further still with individual, personalised iPads.

Happily, we were able to respond positively and with a mixture of parent-owned school managed devices and BYOiPads our 1:2:1 vision became a reality in September. Second form (y6) Pupils are now routinely using iTunesU, regularly using Apps like Padlet, Explain Everything, BookCreator and iMovie and even working from digital iBooks and submitting their work via ShowBie. It has been an exciting journey for pupils and teachers alike – lots of mistakes have been made along the way, but we have learnt so much. We have come along way in a short amount of time but before we start making plans for expansion of the project, has it actually made a difference to learning? Does the theory that real change can only take place in a 1:2:1 environment ring true? We put it those in the best place to answer these questions: the students of Year Six…

ipad results.001

The results of the survey are pretty conclusive. The pupils all agree that their learning experience has improved since adopting 1:2:1 iPads. Having access to information at your finger tips has fundamentally changed the dynamics of the classroom and the role of the teacher. However, it must be remembered that although the role of the teacher changes in a 1:2:1 environment, their importance does not.

Teachers get to grips with their iPads

Teachers get to grips with their iPads

Teachers need to know how to create courses, share resources and suggest Apps through which students can both demonstrate their knowledge, understanding AND creativity. Teachers need to know how to set work, collect work, annotate work and return work to students therefore it is imperative that in any 1:2:1 model, teachers are provided with the necessary equipment and training to make the project a success.

Continue reading

Using iPad & Showbie to set, mark and collect Essays

This isn’t one for the iPad = creativity purists. However, it is a post for those who simply want to be able to set their students essays, collect them in, grade them and return their work completely paperlessly. The iPad does creativity amazingly – it also does the functional stuff too.

It’s also a great way of getting started with the iPad and the fantastic Showbie App whilst saving ink, paper and hassle.

As with any digital workflow solution, it may not fit with your schools set up so before you read on, this classroom hack requires the following (Google schools could adjust accordingly):

  • iPads
  • Office 365 account
  • Showbie
  • Microsoft Word App (or Excel/PowerPoint)

I have made four short videos that show how to get started with this workflow, two from the teachers perspective and two from the students that should helpfully provide a full view of how the workflow works.

1 – The first video shows teachers how they can get started with Showbie and set up their classes


2 – The second video shows how pupils get started with Showbie, join a specific class and can see what assignments they have been set


3 – The third video shows how pupils can then write their essays and easily hand-in to their teacher via Showbie


4- Finally, this is how teachers can collect work, provide feedback and return to the pupils through Showbie

Apple TV vs Airserver

A fluid digital workflow between teacher and pupil is essential in a modern classroom. Teachers need to be able to distribute, collect, mark and return work to students easily. Depending on the tech your school chooses to deploy, there are a variety of different models available.  I have constructed a workflow for my school and have attached it at the bottom of the post. An interactive version is available here.

One of the fundamental aspects of Workflow is the ability to cast the screen of your, and indeed the students, iPad/Device onto the class screen/whiteboard. I have used both Apple TV and Airserver in this regard and thought it may be useful to share my findings.

Untitled Infographic-2

As you can see, the Airserver option is by far the most cost effective and practical option in a school setting. Don’t get me wrong, Apple TV is brilliant at home but if you are involved in, or considering a mobile tech deployment at your school – Airserver is the right choice to make.

Workflow PDF

Airserver plays an integral part of the digital workflow at my school.




10 Things I learned from ADE Institute, 2015

Amsterdam, or more specifically Noordwijk, played host to this years ADE (Apple Distinguished Educator) Instiute which welcomed the amazing Class of 2015 to the programme. As in Cork 2013, the best thing about institute is the opportunity to meet like-minded, dedicated educators from across the planet. Of course, Apple provide the opportunity for all attendees to learn a lot about their awesome products and how best we can use them in the classroom but I also learned (or had confirmed) a few other things that I would like to share:

1 – I`m not mad

I work in a school that only had WiFi installed in January this year. Although a roller coaster ride, the thrills and spills were worth it as we are initiating our inaugural 1:2:1 programme THIS September! The details of our journey can be seen in this short film: However, what the movie does not show is the feeling of isolation suffered at various points on our journey. People who don’t get educational technology often look on it (and the people that purvey its benefits)  with cynicism and scepticism.   However, at the ADE institute, every single attendee, ‘get’s’ technology in the classroom. They have seen first hand the difference it can make and help me to realise that I am not a lone-madman hell-bent on a irrational desire to force technology upon schools who ‘don’t do things that way’.

2 – Tech changes lives

One of the greatest aspects of the ADE institute 2015 was the daily round of ADE showcases. ADE’s from all over the World had three-minutes to tell their stories. The school locations, age-ranges, demographics etc. varied wildly but what every story shared was clear and compelling evidence of the difference schools and teachers who embrace technology were making to the lives of their students.

3 – Tech is a tool – it’s teachers that really matter

IMG_1359Great teachers have existed since the dawn of humanity whilst arguably, decent technology in schools is still in it’s infancy. Part of being a great teacher is the ability to adapt your practice and embrace change when it enhances learning. There is NO doubt that technology has changed the potential in and outside the classroom (ask any ADE). However, without proactive and creative teachers forging new ways of using the technology, progress and change would be impossible.

4 – iTunesU Course is getting better

I’ve used iTunes U Course manager a few times, but with shared devices I was unable to utilise it’s full potential. Clearly, with a 1:2:1 project I am already looking forward to harnessing the huge power of the fantastic classroom tool. However, I attended a session where the fantastic new features were shared and we can now enjoy:

  • Homework hand-in
  • Annotation tools
  • Private discussions
  • Integrated grade-book
  • Multiple attachments for assignments

Essentially, this means that iTunesU can now replace Edmodo, Showbie and the like as your complete digital learning environment. However, this is only possible in an iPad 1:2:1 setting and not forgetting a considerable amount of staff training. I’ll be pushing out my first course in September – if you are facing in the right direction, all you have to do is start walking…

5 – Deers and rabbits live on sand dunes 


Nathan Ashman and I enjoy an early morning run

I love running. There is NO better way of getting to know a new place than pulling on your running gear and setting off into the unknown for an explore. I had looked on a map and noticed that we were near a beach but it wasn’t until @coby_mr ran it, that I realised how close it was. Then, during a conversation with @vickiebacondpc, she mentioned another avid runner in attendance – @nathanashman. He told me about the extraordinary 96 mile run he has planned in the next few weeks and we promptly arranged a 5:50am, 9 mile run to the Dutch dunes. It was one of the highlights of the week. The run was brilliant; we even saw a deer and sand-rabbits and although our bromance was short-lived, our conversation will live long in the memory.

6 – Twitter connects people, globally.

The conversations above involved real people. However, I have deliberately referenced their Twitter handles as connected teachers NEED to be on Twitter. I didn’t meet one ADE who was not on the influential social media and when we began work with our communities (like-minded professionals), we all instantly exchanged Twitter handles and have used it as a forum of discussion and collaboration ever since. The collaboration within our groups was truly first class: problems were aired to the table and solutions found within seconds. Imagine every staffroom being that productive. My brilliant group consisted of these fabulous educators, all of whom are well-worth a follow –   nielswijnhoud  However, global connectivity is not simply limited to twitter, it is with great excitement that I am now looking forward to sharing content on the brilliant iPad Educators site founded and run by the inspirational ADE, Steve Bambury (@steve_bambury).

7 – I love creativity

Another highlight was the live demonstration of Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro by two Apple employees, who basically designed them. It was mind blowing. They started with a few pictures and video clips and then, live on stage, cut between the two programmes to produce a stunning short clip, complete with self-composed sound track and 3D titles. Very cool and an idea of how (relatively) simple it has become for students to produce high quality productions if they have the necessary tools.

8 – Profile Manager is getting better

As mentioned before, we roll out a 1:2:1 iPad project across Year Six in September. This is a big deal for any school and we want it to work. We have installed a significant amount of trust in our resellers, Solutions INC from Brighton, and they have recommended we use the Lightspeed MDM version as the original Profile Manager would not be fit for our needs. We have used Profile Manager with our shared devices and it has been OK. However, the session on the Profile Manager updates suggested that Apple were increasingly aware of the drawbacks and were making forward thinking changes that will enable it to be more trustworthy in a 1:2:1 setting. However, I`m going to wait until I hear feedback from other schools before suggesting any form of change…

9 – Photography really is an art


Bill Frakes inspired photography by Gavin Smart

Another highlight of the week was the session by Bill Frakes, a Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer and general fascinating bloke. His photography is stunning and he showed a film that showcased his talents and his focus on the sky. It really was a breathtaking session and reiterated the talent required to spot everyday occurrences, moments in life, and turn them into extraordinary art. After the session, @gavinsmart emulated Frakes with this great shot which, unbeknown to me, featured myself calling home. I did attempt to emulate Frakes myself when I got to the beach after a run, however my work resembled a photograph taken by 5 year old learning how to use a camera for the first time. In fact, that’s probably a disservice to 5 year olds but did re-iterate the talent photographers have.

10 – Every Teacher has a story

People. The abiding memory of the ADE Institute 2015 in Amsterdam is people. From the initial shuttle bus to our hotel, right until my train journey back to London Victoria, conversation was flowing about the fascinating, absorbing and compelling world of education. Meeting so many great educators was a real privilege and listening to each respective story reiterated what a wonderful job we all do. Living during a time of international tension and conflict, it was so refreshing to meet people from every corner of the planet, each with a common goal and a unique story to share.

The Jigsaw of a Successful School

Sometimes things just make sense. Take for example, the ‘Jigsaw of a Successful School’ graphic that was shared at a recent NPQSL seminar; it instantly resonated with me and invited reflection.  The graphic below lays out the elements of a successful school into a 15 piece jigsaw. The pieces are not sequential or expected to be simultaneous. However, according to their author – Professor Tim Brighouse – they are all interrelated and ‘depend on one another to keep a school developing’.

The jigsaw analogy is fully explained in Professor Brighouse’s superb publication ‘Essential Pieces; The Jigsaw of a Successful School’ and certainly supplies a large portion of food for thought for teachers, leaders and indeed all members of a school community.


The Impact Of iPad – Results Are In…

Over the Christmas break, King’s was involved in a flurry of activity. Despite the lack of students, the ancient Meru APcorridors were witnessing a fundamental change in the learning environment. WiFi was being installed…

Across the school, peculiar little white boxes adjoined with four flappy panels appeared on many of our walls and ceilings. These devices, otherwise known as AP’s (Access Points), offered a seismic opportunity for change in our classrooms and opened up the endless potential of transformational digital technologies to our pupils.

In the Prep School we took the decision to invest in a number of iPads. Although we are well aware that the devices are better used in a 1:2:1 environment, the acquisition of shared devices is a huge stepping stone in the right direction and an exciting statement of intent. Eight weeks into the project, the iPads have been in almost continual use. From subjects as diverse as Latin and Maths, they have been used in a whole host of imaginative and creative ways and are fast becoming a much-valued resource.

What though, and most importantly, has been the impact on learning? Last week I took the opportunity to gauge the opinion of those who matter most, our pupils. The results of the survey are published below and are a real cause for celebration:






In conclusion, the graphics above tell their own story. We are very much in the early stages of iPad adoption but already they have had an incredibly successful impact on learning and pupil engagement. Interestingly, the statistic concerning sharing work on the devices caused the most disagreement, and that in itself is telling. Having shared devices does not help to create a dynamic workflow and neither does a lack of connectivity to the classroom display board. We do have a few Apple TV’s up and running but are looking to roll out ‘Airserver’ in the very near future. When combined with Showbie and our school blog site I expect to see an increase in connectivity between teachers, pupils and the outside world. We know there is a huge amount of work ahead of us, but we can be confident we have made  a very positive start and that plans are in place to ensure future success.