Digital Story Telling – Epic Citadel


On Monday, we hosted 55 children from nearby schools at a ‘Digital Story Telling’ Day. We used the App, Epic Citadel, as the inspiration and were stunned by the quality of the writing. Using Epic Citadel was inspired by the work of Tim Rylands and ICT Mr P, although we did add a few twists of our own. Here is what we got up to:

TASK ONE – Explore The Citadel

  • Use your iPad to explore the Epic Citadel​
  • As you explore, use notes to write down words that describe the settlement and the feelings you experience as you wander the streets​
  • We will meet every group and ask them for some of their words and use Padlet to create a visual display of them​

We then used our teacher iPads and Padlet to collate the words from the children, and project them onto the big screen.


TASK TWO – Create a Digital Word Cloud

  • Use a selection of the words on display and the app, Tag Cloud, to create your very own digital Word Cloud that you can include in your digital book​
  • When you have finished your tag cloud – make sure you save it to camera roll​

Tag Cloud

TASK THREE  – Describe Epic Citadel in a descriptive paragraph
  • Use Keynote to write your descriptive passage on Epic Citadel, use the words in your Word Clouds to fuel some amazing writing.

Citadel Town

Citadel Town2

Task Four – Epic Comic

—Choose from one of these scenarios:

    • —You have just escaped from the dungeon
    • —You are the only survivor and are being chased by a killer dragon
    • —You need to find the princess who is imprisoned in the tallest tower
  • —Take some screenshots from Epic Citadel that fit in with your scenario, adding them to your camera roll
  • —Choose a template
  • —Import the pictures into Strip Design
  • —Add the text that tells your story using text balloons
  • —Edit your text boxes appropriately
  • —Save to camera roll



Task Five – Epic Puppet Pals

  • —Imagine that you, your partner are either a dragon, witch, knight, princess or fairy godmother are in the Epic Citadel! What would you talk about?
  • —Use Pages to constuct a 30 second dialogue between the characters you choose.
  • —Start the Puppet Pal App
  • —Select your two characters
  • —You can choose between three parts of The Citadel, a castle, the dragon’s cave or the enchanted forest. Just pick TWO of them.
  • —Act out the dialogue
  • —Save your final scene to camera roll

Task Six – Create Your Own Digital Book

  • —Use Book Creator to put your work together
  • Add narration where appropriate

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It proved to be a great day and some of the writing was extraordinary! There are all sorts of extensions you could add to your book, such as a Morfo to bring alive a Medieval character or even use a green screen to put the children into the Epic Citadel itself!

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The Dimensions of Change

It’s happening. WiFi is arriving at King’s Rochester. Not just any WiFi either – we are lucky enough to be having a cutting edge, fully managed and scalable Meru Network installed over the Christmas break. The good news does not end there. We will also be the lucky recipients of 20 shared iPads and the necessary MDM required to manage and sync the devices. Considering where the school was a year and a half ago with regard to technology, it truly is a huge step forward for King’s. However, the real work has not even started yet…

The WiFi and iPads will be rendered useless if after all, they make no impact on learning. After all, the devices themselves are inanimate objects. On their own they do nothing. However, if the project is managed successfully – there is every chance that there will be a dramatic shift in the boundaries of learning and the conventions of the traditional classroom will finally be displaced. Nevertheless, it is that very change, that shift in parameters, which brings with it the project makers or breakers. During a recent NPQSL seminar, we were presented with the Dimensions of Change table you see below and this provided the perfect platform for me to reflect on our project thus far, and analyse what we were doing right -and where we will need to take action.

VISION – since starting at King’s, I have had a clear vision of where I wanted the school to be. I used my experience of establishing a 1:2:1 program in Monaco, conversations with other professionals and visits to schools with mobile learning infrastructure to hone this vision to one that matched the needs of my school. However, a solitary vision is rarely successful. Knowing this, I organised an ‘EdTech Committee’ in which the Heads of School , Heads of Computing, ICT Manager and Bursar started to meet to discuss, analyse and formulate a shared vision of WiFi and how Mobile Learning would best be deployed in each respective school. However, to avoid confusion it is essential that the vision is shared, understood and supported by all members of the school community.

SKILLS – For technology to be usefully deployed in the classroom and for redefined learning opportunities to take place, teachers need to know how to use the technology available. There have been plenty of examples of thousands of pounds being wasted on tech, as money was not spent on CPD for the teachers who were supposed to use it.  With that in mind, we have been running in-house CPD sessions for over a year now. Ranging from superb in house Teach-Meet sessions to Apple Tech breakfast workshops. However, attendance has not always been as good as it might have so it is vital that this continues. I have established Digital Leaders who I am to train on the iPads and who therefore will be available, in every class, for teachers to utilise should they feel the need. I also aim to up to the quality and quantity of iPad CPD over the coming years to ensure teachers skill levels and confidence is continually building. We have also utilised external CPD through Trilby, Solutions INC and ADE’s such as Marc Faulder, EYFS and KS1 specialist. This will be ongoing and hopefully utilised as much as possible by our staff and prevent any unnecessary anxiety.

INCENTIVES – The incentives for staff to immerse themselves in WiFi and mobile learning are hard to quantify. Pay rises or million dollar bonuses are unlikely. However, the personal incentives for teachers to develop their own practice, learn new skills and improve their lessons are immediate. Additionally, the acquisition of new technology know-how also has the added incentive of reducing workload and stress! I find it so much easier to mark and plan on a computer and deliver my lessons digitally. I can honestly say I have not used the photocopier once in 1 and 1/2 years at King’s, what more of an incentive could a teacher want? Finally, offering new redefined learning opportunities to pupil’s is perhaps the greatest incentive of all and will hopefully help to ease any resistance.

RESOURCES – The Meru WiFi network is going to be awesome. It is future proofed, holistic, fully managed and scalable. The iPads are also transformational resources and will be able to safely rely on the network to work, so in that sense the resources are going to be there. However, knowing that teachers themselves will need tech, we have also acquired some extra iPads for departments and have also started a Salary Sacrifice scheme that allows teachers to purchase tech for use at school with at least a 32% discount. However, in an ideal world, staff would each be given a device as it’s impossible to expect teachers to use the devices if they do not have access to them and without the necessary tools, will understandably get frustrated.

ACTION PLANS – Since the vision wasUntitled-1.fw originally shared back in October 2013, a clear, evolving, flexible but specific action plan has underpinned strategic development. From visiting other schools, to creating student Digital Leaders, the plan was comprehensive enough to work, but adaptable enough to change when barriers where met. For example, the original plan involved a staggered adoption, each of our three schools adopting WiFi one by one. This proved impractical and the decision was made to go whole-school all at once.

The picture above shows our WiFi adoption timeline, which forms part of the overall EdTech Action Plan. It is based on the principles of Hooper and Reiber, and each stage had a more focused Action Plan layered underneath. I am currently finalising the Action Plan for the ‘Integrate’ and ‘Transform’ stage to ensure success and avoid false starts.

COLLEGIALITY – Defined as the ‘cooperative relationship of colleagues’, collegiality is essential for success with our mobile learning project. Staff are under no obligation to use the devices, but with the correct support available, I’m certain that teachers will see the advantages of using mobile technology in the classroom and do their best to make the project work.

The future at King’s is not what it used to be and I for one am incredibly excited about it.

Bridging The Digital Divide

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Over the past decade, the growth of social media has been quite remarkable. Global citizens have embraced new ways to communicate which have, quite literally, changed The World. Text messages and emails are fast becoming a thing of the past as new and innovative social media concepts continually spring up and pave new ways for communication and sharing. Just the other day, I was conversing with a friend of mine, @hallboy10, via Garmin Connect; a social media for runners and cyclists to share their exercise statistics and comment on achievements. It dawned on me that I was using at least 5 different mediums with which to communicate with the same person depending on the context!

The graphic on the left was made using Piktochart and demonstrates how the methods by which I communicate have changed since the 1980s. I have never been the first to utilise a social media, and until 2011 was pretty sceptical about most of them. However, I pride myself on being open to new ideas and after hearing the praises of Twitter being sung by HGJohn during his visit to The International School of Monaco, I gave it a go and have not looked back.

However, not everyone who grew up in the 60s, 70s and 80s has taken the plunge into the murky depths of social media, many preferring to skim the surface or indeed avoid getting their toes wet altogether. A consequence of this however, is the emergence of a digital-divide. Our children are growing up in a world where communication via social media is the norm and in many cases parents, guardians and teachers have no real idea about what these services provide, what there terms and conditions of use are, how they differ from each other and what their children are doing on them.

However, burying our heads in the sand is simply NOT an option. Social Media is not going away. Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 20.12.02In addition to the very clear data presented in my line-graph, there are some stark statistics that give further insight into the revolution that is happening on screens large and small across the globe:

  • 6 out of 7 people on the planet have internet access
  • 72% of all internet users use social media
  • 89% of 18-29 year olds use Social Media
  • 93% of marketers use social media for business

So, social media is here to stay, but what can be do to ensure we are comfortable that our children are using it responsibly and are aware of its dangers? I think a sensible, open minded and informed approach is best. Children are far more likely to take advice from someone who knows the difference between Snapchat and WhatsApp than someone who still thinks Instagram is a quick form of measurement. Furthermore, simply removing a device will not solve the potential problems. In fact, I believe this could be counter productive as children will still have access to social media via friend’s phones and as we know, those who are less educated in matters tend to be the ones who do or say the daftest things. Embracing the changing digital world, whilst being fully aware of (and sharing) its potential pitfalls, will most likely have positive outcomes.

Teachers, therefore, must make it an absolute priority to intertwine digital literacy within the curriculum wherever appropriate, whilst projecting a positive yet cautious approach to social media. The benefits of the internet far outweigh the negatives, but children need to be aware of the harm a damaging digital footprint can leave. Furthermore, the tragic consequences of cyberbullying should never be overlooked and positive strategies for avoiding/dealing/preventing it should be made as coherent and as accessible as possible.

Using digital leaders to promote e-awareness and responsible digital citizenship could be another idea, and one that may have an effect on those less likely to listen to a “boring old teacher”.  Developing a school blogging platform also provides an opportunity for children to learn about digital literacy and use social media in a secure and authentic environment. Involving parents in both these initiatives is another way of bridging the digital divide whilst also providing a more significant audience and purpose for any published content.

Finally, as we prepare ourselves for whatever the future of digital communication may hold, holding a workshop with parents will also lead to a more knowledgeable, informed and progressive approach towards social media by all those in the school community.  If you do decide to do this then please feel free to utilise this SOCIAL MEDIA PREZI that was successfully used to walk concerned parents through some of the basics of popular social media. It contains links to sites and user terms and conditions which will hopefully prove useful.


Vsauce: An Amazing Condiment For Learning

The YouTube channel VSauce is not exactly a secret. It’s main channel has over 7,000,000 subscribers, whilst it’s sister channels Vsauce2 and Vsauce3 regularly attract 2.5m and 1.7m viewers respectively. So, what is all the fuss about? What is it about the channel, originally a video game review show, that makes it one of the most engaging, thought provoking and informative channels out there? I originally discovered Vsauce during a class discussion at The International School of Monaco. It was one of those amazing whole-class conversations where we crossed random tangents, until I was asked “What would happen if you got pulled into a Black Hole?” Of course, I had no idea how to answer this so turned to the internet for some ideas. My research led me to a Vsauce video titled “Travel INSIDE a Black Hole” and without previewing it, I took the gamble to show it to my class. It was a gamble that paid off unequivocally as both I, and many of my students, have been both informed and entertained in equal numbers ever since.


Michael_stevensVsauce itself is hosted by Michael Stevens; a captivating Kansan who seems infinitely wiser than his 28 years. He exhibits intelligence and humour in equal abundance and has a unique broadcasting style that is hard not to warm to. The production costs of each Vsauce episode are relatively small, but Stevens uses subtle, trademark presentation techniques to continually draw viewers in and ensure they stay tuned in until the end.

You can expect a new, 8-12 minute episode every 2-3 weeks and although the content of each show varies greatly, the one thing that they all have in common is that are thoroughly riveting and normally have a scientific slant. Often, episodes are titled with a question and frequently they have been questions that have nagged at me for years. Watching titles such as “What if Everyone Jumped at Once?“, “What Colour is a Mirror?” and “What if The Sun Disappeared?” has been like scratching a lingering itch. As these questions suggest, scientific concepts and ideas are discussed frequently but the channel is by no means unique to it. “Why Did The Chicken Cross the Road” for example discusses, among other things, the history of jokes.



Vsauce2 is hosted by the engaging and humerous Kevin Lieber. It differs from Vsauce as there are a number of different series within the channel that contain more specific content. The longest running is Mind Blow which already has over 80 episodes; each is a 5 minute insight into the latest remarkable science and technology developments. Lieber races through between 8-15 topics in the allotted time frame, and the pace and variety of information makes the show irresistible for the inquisitive mind. I have seen how you can “Drink Your Face”, “Swing off the Edge of The World” and even learnt a “New Way To Eat”.  There really is some amazing content in every episode that leaves you in awe of the humanity and The World that we live in. The consequential discussion points are endless and cannot fail to capture students imagination. Mind Blow also reveals just how much we have come to rely on technology and gives a real insight into where the future of technology may take us.

Another favorite series within Vsauce2 is FAK (Facts and Knowledge) and in contrast to Mind Blow, each FAK focuses on one subject area such as “Deadly Plants”, “Wierdest Houses” or “Prisons”. Lieber’s style is infectious and once more the pace of each episode means that they whiz by whilst you digest some amazing and useful facts on some truly fascinating topics.

There are three other series that run within Vsauce2 and all worth checking out:

  • LUT > Awesome stuff to buy for geeks and cool kids
  • Grub > Incredible food from around The World.
  • BiDiPi > Build It. Draw It. Play It. Your home for the coolest creations from everyday people.


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The host of Vsauce3 is Jake Roper, and his presentation skills are equally as entertaining as Lieber’s. Similarly, Vsauce3 also has a variety of series within the channel that have different focal points. Most popular is Fact Surgery where each episode has focused on different games consoles and correlating amazing facts. So far the Playstation, Xbox, Dreamcast, NES and Playstation 4 have all been fascinatingly analysed.

Headshot is another series featured on Vsauce3 and each episode focuses on a question that combines the fictional world with the real world. Questions such as “What if Superman Punched you?” and “Could We See Star Wars?” are answered in a light hearted, but scientifically grounded manner, and the enthusiasm and knowledge Roper has for his subject matter is contagious.

Perhaps though, the most interesting Vsauce3 series is DONG – ‘things you can Do Online Now Guys’. Each episode is meticulously researched to bring all the latest from the amazing world of the internet. It features new sites, games, activities and concepts. Many of which are incredibly useful for the classroom. For example, I have learnt about the Google Art Project; an amazing resource that lets you virtually tour some of the World’s greatest galleries and museums. Not all the DONG’s are useful but most are interesting and every now and again, a real gem pops up.

In conclusion, all three Vsauce channels are chock full of  relevant, factually accurate, intellectually stimulating and educationally valuable subject matter; presented in a format that appeals to learners from upper Key Stage Two onwards. The three presenters are all highly amiable and their humour, intelligence and passion for what they do emulates toward the viewer and contribute to Vsauce’s lofty position among the best YouTube channels in existence.

Believe in Pod. Podcasting in the classroom.

These days, content can be created in a whole host of different ways. The wonderful technology we have at our disposal allows our students (and indeed us) to construct outcomes inconceivable only ten years ago. High quality animations, computer games, interactive books and movies can all be planned, edited and produced in a matter of days and then published to a global audience. The sceptics out there may start questioning the impact on standards etc, but I feel they are missing the point. ‘Standards’ can be raised by teaching to the test if you wish to judge standards by SATs results. I prefer to judge standards by pupil engagement and the production of high quality , contextualised, meaningful content. The creation of podcasts is a great tool for doing just that.

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Recording a podcast could not be simpler. In fact, it’s a great starting point for teachers who wish to incorporate more technology within their lessons. Our Podcasts were created using the Audioboo App; it is available in both the App Store and on Android. Once an account has been established, you are able to start recording directly from the home page. The free version allows for a three minute podcast to be recorded and as soon as you have finished you simply hit the publish button and your podcast is available on line.

Ideally, classroom podcasts are used in conjunction with a school blog and embedded upon them. This is beneficial because you then have a central hub on which to compile your podcasts; subsequently they are easy to find and share. Moreover, comments and feedback can be easily provided and appreciated. To embed a podcast, you simply access your Audioboo account on a computer, retrieve the embed code and then paste the code to your blog post.

The hard work behind a good podcast comes in the planning stage.  Firstly, I would recommend that the subject matter is of interest to your learners. Making a podcast for the sake of making a podcast will have not authentic value. However, making a podcast on  a subject which offers subjectivity, interest or opinion will ignite passion and hopefully encourage lively discussions. A historical argument, political perspective or perhaps even a controversial sporting decision could provide exactly the spark required. At King’s Prep School it was the reliability of the internet that lit the fuses of debate.

I showed the children a few videos that were easily accessible on line and then asked the children their opinions regarding how trustworthy they believed  each clip to be:

This led to some fantastic discussions about internet reliability and wider discussions of digital citizenship. Students then selected popular myths/legends and then, over a series of lessons, used the internet to ascertain evidence as to their validity. They found evidence for and against their respective myths and took relevant notes, always bookmarking their sources.  The students took into account factors such as domain names, authorship, bias, authenticity and article-age to draw their own conclusions. Please visit King’s Rochester Blogs to listen to the wonderful podcasts that were created. Your comments would, of course, be hugely appreciated too.

In conclusion, creating a podcast allows students to develop several important skills such as researching, writing, speaking effectively, solving problems, managing time, grabbing attention and improving their vocabulary. They also can be used effectively by children who struggle with writing as an alternative method of communication. Furthermore, podcasts are easy to consume and when used in conjunction with school blogs can facilitate fantastic discussions. Overall, they are a simple, fun and highly effective outcome that any teacher can easily utilise and adopt into their classroom.

100 Best Tools for Learning 2011 – Reflections…

I was incredibly enthused by the slideshow below, as it demonstrated that ISM are facing in the right direction when it comes to integrating tech into the classroom and preparing our learners for the future that they, not us, will need to survive in. The debate over tech-learning continues to rage, and I doubt whether it will ever be settled by those teachers who were learners in the late 20th Century. However, take the word ‘tech’ out the debate and you are still left with the same question: why are we still implementing the industrial model of education to children in the 21st Century?

With magnificent tools such as these at our disposal, we have the opportunity to give a voice to students that they have never had before. We will give them the possibility, as 21st Century learners, to end the debate about technology, test-based curriculum and industrial cloning. Instead we will produce a generation of tech savvy, independent learners who understand the world around them; a world where jobs, communication, networks and success are no longer measured by obsolete preconceptions of academia.

When you are facing in the right direction, all you have to do is keep on walking…

How To Make Your Own iPad Stylus!

After using the excellent ‘showme app‘ last week, the main problem we came across was the neatness of handwriting. Without an iPad stylus, our fingers were all we had and quite frankly were not good enough! An iPad stylus retails for €20+, so we decided to find a solution of our own… I quickly put this ‘showme’ presentation together at the weekend, then class six logged into the ‘showme’ site and followed the instructions! 15 minutes later we had  a class set of iPads stylus’ without spending a penny (thanks to the science dept for the wire!)

iPad Training Highlights The Future of Learning

A small group of teachers at ISM were fortunate enough to attend a highly informative iPad session with Apple expert Mark Pentleton yesterday. Mark flew in from Scotland and brought with him some remarkable ideas that will change the face of learning at ISM.

The session started with some iPad basics; simple techniques on the iPad that make the device even more user friendly. For example, the international and accessibility functions; both extremely helpful at our International School.

A shared ‘dropbox’ file was then created for all attendees. We brainstormed our initial hopes and fears for iPad integration using the brilliant iThoughts App.

Mark very quickly demonstrated the power of reading through the iPad. Using iBooks, Mark showed us how notes could be made on specific sections of text, the notes could be bookmarked, saved and emailed to the teacher in seconds. The definition of every word in every e-book could be found just through tapping on it and many books had additional interactive functions; podcasts, videos, hyperlinks and pictures. Stunning.

The scary thing was we were told by the end of the day, we would be producing e-books (ePubs) of our own!

Next we used keynote, photo rotate, screen grab and iMovies, to create  beautifully presented movies that could be stored, shared, uploaded to an e-pub or iTunesU in seconds. So simple but with endless possibilities both for teachers and learners.

After Mark was able to prize us away from our iPads for lunch, we re-grouped for some even more powerful ideas and concepts in the afternoon.

Next on the list was creating e-pubs through Pages. We all downloaded ePubs best-practice pro-forma and then used it to make some awesome ePublications. Again – everything was very simple and within minutes we were making professional looking books that had video, podcasts and pictures that we could actually pick from the shelf in iBooks on our iPads!

Finally, we all downloaded book creator to our iPads, and followed simple instructions from Mark and again we were very soon producing our own e-books! Using  drawing pad and iPhoto we inserted pictures and photos and all of us, from Early Years to Secondary Science, instantly realized the potential of this incredible App.

A huge thank you to Mark for such an informative, eye opening and practical training session. I can’t wait to see Mark back at ISM to share more fabulous ideas. We all left inspired, motivated with plenty of food for thought. I now look forward to seeing what we learnt coming to life with the learners at ISM.