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Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Finally... some alternatives to Epic Citadel - Deep Sea Diving with Year 3

Epic Citadel is and has been a must for most primary schools with access to iPads. The app allows children to navigate around a medieval kingdom, which can inspire children to write all sorts of different text types. The multi-sensory environment allows children to fully immerse themselves in this virtual world and inspires them to some fantastic writing. I have previously blogged about Epic Citadel - here.

The problem I have faced is finding alternative apps that allow children to immerse themselves in virtual worlds. I have used Myst and Castlerama, however, both are a similar style setting to Epic Citadel. The team behind Epic Citadel have recently released Zen Garden which is a step in the right direction -

However, there is a massive gap in the app market for more virtual world apps to be created. There doesn't need to be any sort of game element, just a world that children can navigate around and use as a stimulus for writing. Even if game developers simply stripped the characters and plot from a game leaving a virtual world to children to explore. That was until Google Cardboard was released!

I blogged about Google Cardboard about a month ago where I used a roller coaster app to inspire some writing with a Year 2 class, you can read the blog post here. At that point, there were very few apps on the iPhone as Google Cardboard was created with Android in mind. Since then, VR apps have been released on mass! Some apps allow you to just view the content with a VR headset; others have two modes, with or without the VR headset. It is these apps that lend themselves brilliantly to the iPad. 

I worked with a Year 3 class today and every child became deep sea divers! The app 'Sharks VR' has two modes: Play (which involves defending yourself against sharks,) or Dive (which lets you explore a reef and photograph the animals swimming around.) As I later realised, the app has a 12+ rating, due to the 'play' option of hunting sharks. PLEASE BE AWARE OF THIS IF YOU USE THE APP. I made it VERY clear to the class that they were only to go onto the 'dive' option. But I am sure you will agree, the virtual environment children can explore is incredible and well worth using. As soon as the children were exploring the reef they were hooked, taking pictures, talking about the different animals and writing down as much vocabulary as possible. I also passed around the Google Cardboard headset so the class could experience the full 3D virtual reality effect. 

The children then turned the vocabulary into descriptive sentences and narrated these over screenshots they had taken in the app using it as an editing tool but also a way to transform their writing into a digital story to be shared on our blog. Here are some of their efforts -

The potential to use this app in Literacy is massive! Creating Diving Diaries, non-chronological reports about the animals, writing in role as an animal or diver, looking at pollution and protecting sea life are just a few opportunities. 

I hope there are more and more apps like this being released! Some I have yet to use with classes are - Dino Park VR and VR Labyrinth with Dive City Rollercoaster being used in this blog post

Please do let me know if you use any of these ideas in class and please, if you do use any ideas from this blog, be courteous and credit where the initial inspiration came from. 

Monday, 23 March 2015

Making the most of Flipagram in the classroom!

A while back, Flipagram took Facebook by storm! With everyone quickly and easily turning photos into funky slideshows with their favourite music. The FREE app is incredibly simple to use. Start a new project, select your pictures, add text, music and a narration and that's it... Slideshow done!

It is this simplicity that makes it a great tool in the classroom. I am constantly trying to demonstrate how using the iPad should save you time and Flipagram is a great example - taking moments to create an engaging slideshow.

I have previously blogged about a couple of ideas of using Flipagram in the classroom, but I want to share a few more -

1 - Use it to make a #ReadingSelfie video!

Pass the iPad around the classroom and ask the children to take a selfie of themselves with their latest reading book, use Flipagram to add music and create a video that you can share for all to see what books are popular in your class.

2 - Create a Perfect Pupil slideshow!

Inspired by an idea from @DeputyMitchell, you could explain to your class that you will be looking for children who are working hard and sneakily take a picture of them. The pictures will then be used to create a "Good Work," video that will then be shared. After doing this with a class, the response was incredible! They were all focused hoping to make the video - 

3 - Create a recount video of a school trip/event.

Rather than spend time uploaded individual pictures of a trip to the school blog, put them all into a Flipagram video and upload that. The narration option also allows children to explain and recount ever part of the trip.

4 - Let children to create a topic presentation.

Children can add a number of pictures and then narrate facts and information they have learned about that topic, concept or issue.

5 - Use it to record and make an assessment of children's oral reading.

Take pictures of pages from children's reading books and record them reading it. Save the video and use it to evidence children's oral reading development. 

6 - Use it to retell a story

Take some pictures from a book covered in class and use the narration tool for children to try and retell the story.

7 - Make a flipagram to plan a story.

Take pictures of different elements to a story - setting, character, dilemma etc and ask children to create a story and orally record their plan. 

8 - Create a short instructional video.

This can be done as a teacher, or as a task for the children. Use pictures, text and the narration tool to create a instructional video. As a teacher this could be a 'writing toolkit' video with ideas and examples of what to include in children's writing.

9 - Make a reflective learning Flipagram.

Ask children to make a Flipagram demonstrating what they have learned during that week with pictures of their work in books, pictures from class etc.

10 - Use it to keep parents involved in what happens in your classroom.

Creating a Flipagram to let parents know what you have done each day. Share this through a blog, twitter or facebook page to give parents a conversation starter at home.

11- Use it to create a Stop motion animation!

Thank you so much to @HMillSchool for sharing this idea!

Once a Flipagram has been made it will be saved to the camera roll. You can also create a Flipagram account which stores the videos online, making it easier to share. From the camera roll, it can be uploaded to a blog or even used to create an Augmented Reality 'Aura.' For more information on this, please click here for more info.

Please if you use any of these ideas, share it with me or if you use the app in any other way, I would love to hear what you do with it!

Sunday, 22 March 2015

The Land of Venn - Teaching Geometry through Camouflage Learning

I am a big fan of camouflage learning and gamification in class! The idea of children learning skills and facts through playing games. A great example of this is the brilliant app - The Land of Venn

The game covers early aspects of shape and understanding different vocabulary through a very engaging and enjoyable game.

It is a very clever approach to this topic and the app has won awards! You can download the press kit here for other classroom resources for this app.

Here is some more info about the game from the team behind it:

Plot - 

The Land of Venn is under attack! YOU are our only hope!!!!
You are the only one who can save the Land of Venn from utter destruction by the hands of the evil wizard Apeirogon who lives atop the Dark Square Root. Use ancient knowledge gained from Lumbricus the Wizard Worm to protect the Magic Juice from being drunk!  Save us all!!! “With knowledge comes power” and the ability to learn and earn more gold and gain access to more powerful wisdom and magical spells.
You must defeat Apeirogon by eliminating the Bookkenriders. Are you up to the task?

Pedagogy - 

Over five years of searching for the most effective pedagogy for teaching geometry to young students has led to the Land of Venn - an educational math world that simulates the way children initially learn from parents; by imitation, play and conversation, as opposed to “frontal” teaching, with “one-dimensional” challenges and practice without context.

It stimulates a child’s natural learning mechanism: imitation, repeated experimentation, play and visual feedback processing, coupled with concrete and complex sounds that accompany each of the 11 levels, all the while guided by a Wizard Worm.

Throughout the 30 different levels, children will learn the language and mathematical concepts relevant for ages 4 to 10 including points, square and feature sets, and hierarchical relationships.

Beyond the formal understanding, the game is aims at developing skills in pattern recognition, real-time situation analysis and the creation and use of geometric shapes to solve problems.

Vision -
Our vision is to eliminate the sense of failure that comes with math studies and create an entirely new learning environment and experience that sets the tone for their entire learning path. We aim to expose young children from the age of 4 to the world of math in a playful, enjoyable manner, giving the right foundation for the classroom.

You can read more about the game by visiting their blog - click here. 

If you visit my Facebook page there is a chance to win a free copy of the app - 

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Curious Words - Combining PE with Literacy

Today I worked with a mixed Reception/Year 1 class and used the app Curious Words to combine some Literacy, Dance and ICT.

The app - Curious Words - encourages children to record one second videos based on the word that appears on the screen. The children then build up a number of videos into a short film that is then shared to the camera roll. It is a simple and straightforward app that really challenged children to think creatively through 'interpretive' dance.

After demonstrating the app, the children were put in groups of three to record their own film within the app. I demonstrated how they could use their bodies through dance, shapes and drama to record the video for each word. It was great to see children eagerly trying to decode and read the words leading into carefully planning and choreographing a short video to go with the word. They could change the word if they were really struggling and they are able to add a filter onto the video if they wanted.

It was a challenge for some of the class to hold the iPad still while filming but it was good practise for what they will do further on in school.

I could easily repeat this activity with KS2 children with the hope they would be able to stretch themselves further with the videos they create for the words. Here are some examples of the videos RY1 created -

If your school has iPads and want creative and innovative ideas for how to use technology to enhance learning, Mr P can help and provides INSET and CPD for schools. As a REAL teacher still working in school, he shares tried and tested ideas that WORK straight from the classroom. 

Guest Blog Post - Using Maps and Vidra To Learn About Contrasting Localities in Geography by Bryn Goodman

The new Computing Curriculum for KS2 talks about ‘selecting and combining a variety of software (including internet services) to design and create a range of content’. I decided to combine the Maps app with a presentation app called Vidra. A mini-project I completed with Year 6 helped to cover this.

Our school has many international links with partner schools all over the world. One of those links is with a school in Australia. This led to our Year 6 staff deciding to plan work in Geography using Australia as a contrasting locality.

As part of this work, I decided to use a feature of the Maps app that comes with every iPad (not to be confused with Google Maps which has lots of other great uses).  Many of the major cities of the world have flyover tours built into the Maps app. Wherever there is a 3D symbol next to a city, you are able to take a flyover tour of that city.

The tour shows you all the major landmarks in that city in a way that makes you feel like you are flying over the city. While this is happening you can take screenshots.

I asked our Year 6 children to go to the flyover tour of Sydney and take screenshots of the major landmarks.

These could then be cropped to get rid of the borders around them. Next the children opened the Vidra app and started a new ‘story’. Vidra enables the children to add text, images, voice recording, icons, slide transitions, background music. All of which creates a very professional-looking presentation in a relatively short period of time. The free version has enough features for use in the classroom.

The Year 6 children created a slide for each landmark. They imported their cropped screenshots. When this was completed, they researched information about each of the landmarks and added this to the presentation. Finally, they added effect like background music, transitions etc

Here is a link to one example of the finished products -

If you would like to follow me on Twitter, my handle is @bryngoodman and my blog is

- Thank you so much Bryn for sharing this fantastic idea! This was one of many ideas shared at a brilliant TeachMeet in Astley last week. The Teachmeet, organised by @Mediashaw, had an iPad theme where REAL teachers shared real, successful IDEAS. These included Bryn's lesson above and also @MissKingsley85's amazing Goldielocks topic. Other ideas included -  @TypingAdvice sharing how to use an iPad to encourage speaking and listening in SEN settings, @NathanAshman demonstrating how to flip the classroom with an iPad and the successful use of Aurasma demonstrated by some other teachers (I apologise as I don't have your twitter handles) to evidence the fantastic work children were producing on their school iPads. Overall, it was a great opportunity for teachers to see how others are using mobile technology successfully in the classroom and I'm sure most were overawed with inspiration!

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The #OurClassroom Challenge

I came across this powerful video last week on Facebook -

I felt incredibly inspired to do something similar with my class. I didn't show my class this video, instead our school has adopted a new 'Values' curriculum this year. This involves having a focused value each month and leading whole school assemblies, PSHCE lessons and other activities based on each value. This month's value is 'Tolerance' which fits nicely with the message in the above video. 

So we did a little activity looking at how we are different some ways but the same in others. To share how much we respect and appreciate each other in the class, we created this video titled - #OurClassroom

So I have a challenge for you and every teacher around the world to create your own #OurClassroom short video. What does your class stand for? How are they unique? How is it a special and accepting place to learn?

The above video was all made on an iPad, using iMovie, Doink Greenscreen and Cloud Art. I would love to see other efforts which I can share with this class, hopefully inspiring to write more about it. If you are worried about posting images of the children, we didn't use the whole class in this video, ones who don't have permission for images to be used online weren't featured.
You could have voice recordings using Adobe Voice, use writing children have produced or even record a song using Garageband. Lots of possibilities and a great activity to build relationships as a whole class.

If you do create one, please share it by adding a link on the Padlet wall below -

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Guest Blog Post - Bringing Wildlife Conservation into the Classroom by Matthew Payne

Despite my advancing years, I can still remember spending pretty much every waking hour of my childhood with my head firmly stuck in a Wildlife Encyclopaedia, or glued to the television set watching the film ‘Born Free’ on repeat – much to the annoyance of my brother and sister! Instead of spending time with friends, I spent my time copying out line after line of animal facts and adding them to my own fact-files! As you can imagine – I was a very cool kid with lots of friends – if only! This never deterred me though, and since then, my love for animals has continued to blossom! I have also been fortunate enough to travel the world and see some of the animals I spent my childhood reading about.

A coalition of male lions in Kenya
(Source: M Payne)

In addition to travelling, I now spend the majority of my spare time educating young people about wild animals and their conservation! I am extremely proud to be a Trustee of the world renowned lion conservation charity – LionAid. In addition to this, I have also spearheaded the development of their ‘Kids for Lions’ educational programme, which aims to educate young people all around the world about lion conservation through free Skype lessons, free downloadable educational resources and our new ‘Young Ambassadors’ scheme. 

(Source: LionAid)
As you might be aware, over the last 30 years, populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish around the globe have dropped by 52%. As a result, the importance of delivering effective in and ex-situ conservation education programs has never been more prevalent. But what most people do not realise is that the lion, one of the most recognisable animals on the planet, is one of those mammals threatened with extinction! The global lion population has crashed dramatically by 85% over the last 50 years and now, barely 15,000 lions remain in Africa, along with a single population of 300+ lions in the Gir Forest of India. At present, lions are extinct in 25 African countries, virtually extinct in 10. Whilst they survive in 14 countries, only 5 populations within these countries are thought to be viable! The sad reality is that if things carry on the way they are, lions WILL become extinct in 10-15 years! So, more than ever, we need the youth of today to find their voice and to join us as we attempt to rally politicians, government departments and people around the world to offer animals like the lion the basic protection they deserve.

Lions are extinct in 25 countries, virtually extinct in 10 and only exist in 14.
(Source: M Payne)
Sadly, lions now face growing list of threats in the wild and in captivity. Whilst habitat loss is the number one threat, there are others such as predator/livestock conflict, prey depletion, isolated genetic populations, disease, and overzealous trophy hunting. However, the most emotive threat facing lions must be the sordid canned hunting industry, which is now supporting the international trade of lion bones for the Traditional Chinese Medicine Market. Right now, over 8,000 lions are currently caged in 200 South African breeding farms, all born and raised for a single reason - so hunters from all around the world can travel there to shoot these lions! In canned hunts, the lions are often drugged whilst they are trapped inside of enclosures so that there is no chance of escape from the hunter’s bullet! Things have got so bad that hunters can even shoot lions via Skype! The reality is that canned hunting provides a 100% guarantee of a trophy for the hunter and over the last few years, it has become more and more popular! Worst still, the bones of these lions are now being shipped over to the Far East to act as replacements for tiger bone.

A drugged lion from a lion breeding farm in South Africa
(Source: Google Images)
Each year, between 700-1000 lions are killed in canned hunts in South Africa! Even more worryingly, na├»ve tourists often pay a high price for the ‘privilege’ of petting, hand-raising or walking alongside these farmed lions, in the belief that they are contributing towards ‘the survival of the species’ and that the lions will one day be re-released back into the wild. Unfortunately, these lions will NEVER see the wild! Instead, they will ultimately be shot by a hunter! The sad reality is that if you have petted a lion cub in South Africa, like celebrities such as Kylie Minogue, Adam Sandler and Shakira, then you have unknowingly supported the canned hunting of lions!
But there is hope! Through education, we can use canned hunting as way of providing young people with an opportunity to write for a real-life purpose. As a result, we can make a difference by educating young people to be responsible tourists and at the same time, inspire them to become conservationists of the future!  
In a recent AMA Year 4 English lesson which I hosted at the school I work in Manchester, I was thrilled to see how passionate all of the pupils which attended were about raising awareness of the horrors of the canned lion hunting industry. To begin with, I introduced the topic by putting a can of baked beans, a picture of a bone and a picture of a lion on each group’s table, and I asked the children to think about what the theme of the lesson might be. After a short discussion, where the pupils’ eventually guessed the theme, I then used a Prezi presentation to provide them with the basic facts about lion conservation, canned hunting and how it is threatening wild populations through the lion bone trade. After this, I challenged the pupils to create News Reports on canned lion hunting using the app ‘iMovie’ on our school IPads. I cannot tell you how inspiring it was for me to see the enthusiasm and passion that the pupils brought to the lesson. In my opinion, the lesson was an overwhelming success, and all of the pupils left educated and enthused. For me, this lesson clearly illustrated the importance of allowing young people the opportunity to work towards a real life purpose! I have always found that young people are desperate to have their voices heard on emotive topics such as wildlife conservation, because it is these topics that really do matter to the current generation of primary school pupils!

Fortunately, there has been a recent rise in the publication of wildlife conservation themed resources for schools, and I hope that more and more teachers will consider using these as ways of getting their pupils to write for a real life purpose. My favourite resource at the moment is the YouTube channel ‘Lion Whisperer TV,’ run by conservationist and friend of LionAid - Kevin Richardson. Kevin is the star of several National Geographic documentaries, and his jaw-dropping short films, featuring himself alongside his rescued lions, never fails to leave my pupils speechless – much to my delight! In particular, I have used his first YouTube video, entitled ‘Lion-The New Endangered Species’ on several occasions. After watching it, I am sure that you will agree that not only is it a beautifully shot video, but there are also countless opportunities to use it to inspire young people to write. In the past, I have used it to generate word banks, as part of a poetry unit, to help children write in the first person as Kevin and one of the lions with the Ipad app ‘Face Time,’ for inspiring setting descriptions, to create newspaper articles and reports based on Kevin’s work and the conservation of lions. Kevin is forever adding more and more videos to his channel, so if you are looking for something a little bit shorter, i.e. for a lesson starter, I am sure you find a suitable video on there.

Kevin Richardson with his lion Meg
(Source: Google Images)
In addition to Kevin’s work, the legendary story of ‘Christian the Lion’ is also an excellent stimulus for young people to learn about lions. There is an excellent documentary entitled ‘A Lion Called Christian’ which tells the story and you can either buy it on DVD or watch for free on YouTube. This heartwarming story is about a lion cub which was bought by two Australian men from Harrods back in the 70s and was eventually released back into the wild in Kenya. The documentary never fails to delight my pupils and I think it is an excellent resource to use to inspire writing as well. The story could be used for as the stimulus for a debate on whether animals should be kept in captivity or not, for pupils to write persuasive letters to the Kenyan government asking them to allow Christian to live there, to write biographies about the life of Christian, for character comparisons using the lions Christian and Boy, and for diary entries to be written either in the role of the humans or the lions.

Christian the Lion
(Source: Google Images)
At LionAid, we also offer free Skype lessons, not only based on ‘canned lion hunting’ but other threats facing wild lions (including a lesson on how we aim to support the Maasai tribes in Kenya to encourage them not to kill lions in retaliation for attacks on their livestock). Furthermore, we have a free downloadable Key Stage 2 teaching pack which can be used to help young people learn about the threats facing lions. I have also self-published my book entitled, ‘A Father’s Pride’ which is fictional tale based upon canned lion hunting and I hope to use it to raise awareness about canned lion hunting in schools.
One of my Skype talks on Canned Hunting
(Source: M Payne)
In my opinion, there has never been a more important time to educate young people about the conservation of endangered species. Young people deserve the right to have their voices heard on these important issues and I hope that through this blog you will have been inspired to give them the opportunity to do so. Whether you teach your pupils about lions or sharks, rhinos or pangolins, it doesn’t matter! The only thing that matters is giving young people the chance to channel their passion into their writing and to feel like they are making a difference. I wanted to end this blog by including a few quotes I received from a set of students in Canada after I had given their class a Skype talk on canned hunting. I hope their words help illustrate the importance of providing young people with real life purposes for writing:
Emily “Thank you so much for bringing what's happening to lions to our attention! It was very surprising to hear, and I hope one day it will be illegal.”
Yzabel “Thank you so much for skyping us! I learned so many new things about lions I’ve never knew before and it's really surprising that people would actually pay that much to shoot a lion and real sad. Hopefully one day this ends and I’ll do my part to help out.”
Lucas “Thank you so much for skyping with us Matthew. It was very sad to learn about what a problem is facing lions. I am very glad however, to know that we have people trying to put a stop to it”
Daniella “This one was so sad but it was so educational - I loved it.”
I have seen first hand the impact linking real life issues with blogging can have on children's writing. You only have to look at what we did with Captive Orca Whales and Save Yupi. This would be another issue that would inspire the children to write with real purpose, raise awareness and hopefully put a stop to this awful tragedy. 
Recently, some children worked with Mr Payne on this issue and created these news reports -

Please make sure you share any work on this topic by contacting Matthew on twitter - @A_Fathers_Pride or emailing Please make sure you share it with me too so I can share it.