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Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Grammar Queen

I picked up a feed a few days ago about xtranormal, a site that allows you to create animations using text to speech software (despite my good intentions I forgot to note whose blog pointed me in this direction: so thanks and apologies!) This site is really easy and fun to use and can cope with several languages and accents. My first experiment is aimed at getting my Year 10s to remember the basic rules and a few key forms of the perfect tense. I asked the group to write some questions and answers about forming the tense, and then typed their dialogue into the site. It is great fun choosing the camera angles, gestures and facial expressions. In episode two the French tutor demonstrates some of the verbs, and I'm going to invite my students to script episode 3, where our learner takes her first uncertain steps in the perfect. I think then I might invite students to invent another character our French learner can meet. The resulting videos can be posted on youtube, embedded in your blog or simply searched on xtranormal's site, which offers the usual possibilities of ratings, comments and remixes. Try it now while they are offering free credits.

Thursday, 27 November 2008


Simon Howells at Cheadle Hulme School has just alerted me to the fact that I seem to have dispensed with the comments option on my posts. Don't know what came over me - I would love to hear from you (and especially having invited nominations for most tedious topic)! Anyway, we're now open for comments again, so please click on the link below if you want to get in touch.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Nominations for most tedious topic

Until this morning mine would definitely have gone to "buying a metro ticket in Paris". I mean, who has ever actually had a conversation about this? You look at the map, buy tickets from a machine, and don't even have to bother interupting the flow of your iPod. However, this morning I found ratp's wonderful interactive site which helps you to plan metro journeys. Click on your departure station and then mark it with a green flag as your departure station. Then select your destination station and mark it with a red flag. You can also click on the local map symbol to plan your walking route to an attraction once you have finished you metro journey. It is a really user-friendly, practical tool which my Year 9 enjoyed experimenting with. It then isn't too difficult to slip in a quick "carnet-buying" conversation before the glow of the website wears off.

If you have any nominations for more tedious topic for MFL (or any other subject you teach) please drop a comment on to this post and we'll see what ideas and resources we can come up with.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Training in Leeds

We're finding out about blog basics today.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Isle of Wight Conference

Had a great time at the Isle of Wight Conference last weekend. It was good to put some faces to names, and a great opportunity to pick up some tips on podcasting and eTwinning (in my case that is, the choice of workshops was far wider). Persuaded by Kathleen Holton's session on digital voice recorders I've invested in a Sony UB70X and am already enjoying recording and uploading audio much more simply and quickly than with audacity (press record, talk, press stop, plug into the USB port and off you go). Yesterday I added a comment voki to the voki posted by our partner class in France on our shared blog using the Sony recorder and am hoping the French class will use comment vokis maybe rather than typed comments to give us a bit of feedback (this will make sense if you follow the links above).

So a big thank you to Joe and Heather Dale, and all the speakers at the conference for a fantastic weekend. Lots of inspiration, and several instances of making digital life easier: we couldn't ask for more. Didn't have an opportunity to go to Alvin's Waffle House, however. Next year maybe.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Pixton again

I had a great time last week with my Upper Sixth playing with Pixton. We're studying two films of Truffaut for A2 and as we are homing in on character work at the moment, I thought it would be fun for them to write their own extra scene for the film and set up a heart-to-heart between a couple of characters, using the Pixton cartoon site as a medium. Despite taking a while to get to grips with it (not for the colour-blind: in advanced cartoon creation everything depends on whether the editing box over your character is blue, red or green...) they really enjoyed the creativity of the activity. Within half an hour they had found imaginitive ways of expressing the character's views and feelings in words and by using the highly-customisable posture and expression options Pixton provides. The bonus was that the students are beginning to understand, hands-on, what sorts of decisions a director has to make, frame by frame ("shall I zoom on the character or will I miss out on the other character's reaction?"etc.). The corrected, printed versions are going to make an eye-catching start to our Truffaut character wall.

PS Links are playing up for me again tonight, so with apologies, the one vital address here:

As I previously suspected, Pixton is maybe a little too complex and less visually appealing than other sites, such as toondoo, for younger students, but is a fantastic tool for the more ambitious or experienced. I'm now wondering about setting a cartooning task for November's "blogechange" project...

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Isle of Wight Conference

This is the moment I have been waiting for: booking has started for the Isle of Wight Conference, the MFL/ICT conference organised by Joe Dale and taking place this half-term. For any reading this who are linguists, do have a look and consider treating yourself to a few days on the island this October. Not only will you be able to visit Dinosaur Isle, enjoy invigorating strolls along the beach and maybe even paint your own piece of commemorative pottery (and I'm not scoffing, I love all those things), you can also immerse yourself in cutting-edge technology, explained and tutored by some of the best language teachers in the country. I've already signed up for sessions on podcasting, e-Twinning and using avatars in MFL teaching, to name but a few. At £100 for a two day dose of inspiration I challenge anyone to find better value and you will still have money left to feast on Alvin's Waffles (Old Shanklin - you have to go) before you leave.

So if you only ever follow one link from this site, follow this:
(apologies for not linking more neatly blogger is playing up on me tonight)

Friday, 19 September 2008

How to talk to students so they will listen to you

I came across a book recently of virtually the same name about talking to young children in a way they understand and remember. We also need to find ways of getting our students to tune in to us and one another. Vokis are amongst my favourite applications for doing this, and the next batch I have planned are to be prepared by my year 9s to post on our shared blog with a class in France as a way of introducing themselves to their new friends.

Last week Nik Peachey posted on using Virsonas with EAL students in a similar way (as far as I can see they are a super-deluxe version of a voki, using Artifical Intelligence technology and with far greater potential). I immediately mailed the company to enquire if they would be bringing out versions that can cope with languages other than English, and to my delight received the reply they were already working on it and hope to make a French version available in January 09. Definitely a date in my diary.

To read more about vokis you can check out today's Times Ed. magazine, in the dubiously-named "Geek Speak" section, where I've shared a few ideas on using speaking avatars, and text to speech technology generally.

Did I slip that in smoothly enough? Just nipping out now to buy copies for all my friends and relatives....

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Woldingham School ICT Day

On Thursday 4th September staff had a great day at Woldingham, discovering more about the potential of ICT in students' lives. To kick off our Head of ICT, Joanna Winstanley, gave a presentation on basic skills covered by all our students in years 7-9. It is a great help to see what students' skills already are when we use ICT in our subject teaching, and also to see how we can reinforce the ICT Department's messages about how to use core programs.

We then welcomed Ellen Coen from Childnet International, an internet safety charity, who led a session on internet safety. She covered the main new technologies students may be using out of school hours, as well as showing us a a really effective video to use with students on cyberbullying. Childnet's approach involves informing of the potential dangers of the net environment, whilst encouraging us to model good usage of it by using these technologies with our students.

In the afternoon we spilt into workshop groups to spend some time "hands on". Music, Maths and Science worked on their own software, whilst other staff looked at blogging, podcasting, intranet and IWB. For Woldingham staff, you can take a look at what John and Kelly produced using Promethean interactive whiteboard software on our T drive in the IWB Training folder. Look for the files entitled Sutton Hoo and Skeleton, and click on the N at the top of the page for an explanation of how to use them. I'm just waiting for more links to the baby blogs created on the day to add them to the blogroll - but you can already check out the French and Japanese Departments' offerings. Let's hope there will be plenty more activity on these fronts over the next few months. Hopefully taking a group of staff to the TES and BETT shows will give us added impetus.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008


Unable to sleep because of a very sore throat (it seems strange to be up at this time without a toddler having woken me...), I've just been browsing for some extra features for my subject blog. There are several "learn a word a day" widgets, and this (sidebar left) is my favourite. As well as presenting a key word it provides pronunciation, and an example sentence. In the case of verbs you can scroll forwards or back to conjugate in different tenses. Looks like a straightforward and useful widget which I hope to get my Year 10s looking at in the Autumn. Now for another strepsil and back to bed...

Saturday, 19 July 2008

At last!

For some reason I've found it really tricky to set up e-mail on my
phone. Thanks to very simple google mail i am now using 'mail to
Blogger'. Cool. More moblogging options! :-D

Friday, 11 July 2008

Loony Toons

I've been looking at a few different cartoon-making websites with a view to encouraging students to write creatively in French. Pixton is a sophisticated site which can enable you to produce convincing-looking satirical-style cartoons. Looks good for more advanced students, as it is flexible but maybe less visually-attractive than some others. Makebeliefscomix is good as a beginners' site, as it gives simple on-screen instructions and isn't cluttered with complicated features. No registration is needed, so quick to set up a task with students, but they will need to print their strip as the site does not store cartoons. Comiqs is fun and flexible, as you can use your own photos, so could be really motivating, but you need to be careful about permission to use photos. I like the idea of getting students to work on some exchange photos on their return from a trip (or indeed while you are there if they are in a school and have access to computers). My personal favourite, however, is toondoo, as it provides a really wide variety of characters (including aliens and monsters) and props which can really spark off the imagination and elicit some really interesting language. You can see an example of a toondoo cartoon here and a pixton strip in the post above.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Moblogging from Montpellier

This week two colleagues are accompanying a trip to Montpellier with 14 Year 10 girls. We set up a live blog at to record their progress and so far things are going really well. They have blogged a number of photos and have made their first gabcast recording - a clip in French about how they are settling in. The most exciting part is watching the site meter and seeing parents and friends repeatedly log in to check for news. Given that Woldingham girls come from far and wide our blog community is already global, with visits from Thailand, the USA, France, Belgium and of course the UK. Have a look this week and maybe post them a comment!

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Revision wikis

I've only recently started getting interested in wikis, and thinking about how they can be used in schools, compared to the potential of using a blog. A podcast by Joe Dale recently alerted me to work being done by a previous Head of Department of mine, Peter Morris, at Gordano School near Bristol. Now I know this isn't a good time to be flagging up revision sites (we have a stream of Year 11s handing in their textbooks today now it's all over) but Gordano's German and French revision sites are interesting ones to have as links on your blogs or intranet pages. I've started a wiki link roll, so please let me know if you are aware of any others for the list.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

A blog is born

Blogs really are incredibly flexible things, and I was interested to hear from Jeff Chadd today of Barrow Sixth Form College, who attended my course on Monday. His college use Moodle and he was keen to think through where VLEs and blogs overlapped and to what extent blogging would be relevant to his situation. After four hours plus of hands-on Jeff has come up with a great looking blog to host a variety of multi-media resources that might not be so easily hosted in Moodle. I look forward to seeing how it develops!

Monday, 9 June 2008


Had a great time working with five teachers in Leeds today during a course on blogging and social learning networks. In all 10 new blogs in edublogs and blogger saw the light of day and we enjoyed creating voki characters, embedding video and games and exploring widgets. It was a nice surprise when we noticed Joe Dale had referred to the presentation we were following through the day in his post. For anyone beginning blogging, just a reminder - you can search this site for "blog club" entries to get instructions on the basics of blogging, from setting up to writing posts and pages and installing a couple of widgets. Don't forget there are great help videos in edublogs and plenty of tips and guidance in the dashboard area of blogger. Happy blogging...we certainly were today!

Friday, 6 June 2008

Tasks for blog club

Read this doc on Scribd: On your marks!

Quick start guides

For a reminder for blog-clubbers I've uploaded two basic guides to using blogger and edublogs to the scribd website. Remember you can then embed documents from scribd into your blog, but I'm just inserting the links here to save space.

blogger basics:

edublogs basics:

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

You don't fatten a pig by weighing it

So the old country saying goes... but on the other hand I am interested to see how many visits this blog gets. Therefore I installed a counter widget last week and was astounded at braincandy's popularity -as it scaled the dizzy heights of 12000 hits within a day or so. Suspicious my blog is not yet quite so well-known I have removed that widget and installed an alternative one (also from widgetbox). I look forward to more sober stats.!
Seriously, the point of all this is that I want a reliable counter for our first moblog. You can see the embryo of this blog forming at We will be meeting in the French department within the next few days to discuss ways into this trip and its accompanying blog for year 10, and maybe setting them some research work to get them using the blog before they go. Meanwhile I have created an account and set up a Montpellier channel with gabcast. This week I will be practising creating mp3s by 'phone and hopefully having them sent directly to the trip blog so that we know what we are doing in June.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Make a your own video from digital photos

Log on to Animoto to check this out and do listen to the soundtrack - the music they provide is pretty cool. Like baking bread - it doesn't take much actual work time but does take a while to upload and "render" into a video. Free for a 30 second clip. Great for a celebration of a visit or reinforcement of a topic, you can opt for the music or upload your own audio commentary. Check this one out to see what the Sixth Form got up to in Paris.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008


Gerry and I attended a very informative and thought-provoking course on steps forward with IT systems today in Kent College, Pembury. Thanks Gerry for allowing me to post this snap remotely today (the idea was to catch him napping in a session but that never happened, despite some quite jargony stuff!) Blogging from a mobile is two clicks away once you have taken a photo, and posts go up instantly -as you'll see from the timing of the one below. Our school Sony Ericsson is going off on Geography field trips, the French trip and the Namibia trip this summer, so watch this space for more info - and please let me know if you are interested in using this tool for your department on trips out.

Ict course

Learning about internet security.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008


Get a Voki now!

Check out for an idea on how to use a fictional blog to encourage research, creative writing and problem solving. This blog is designed for an able year 11 or a Sixth Form group. Inspecteur Duval (of course Duval, as those familiar with the valley our school is in will know) has to solve the mystery of a diamond theft from a luxury Paris Hotel. Using links to sites connected with the suspects and scene of the crime students begin to develop the characters, and prepare vokis giving a brief statement of innocence, as well as mp3s of initial interviews with Duval. Students then decide which of the suspects is going to be guilty, and plan a subtle gap or discrepancy in their story, as well as plenty of motivation for all three suspects, just to make things tricky! They can then record or post statements from supporting characters. When the project is finished (I estimate three weeks of 1hr 20 a week) we have a murder-mystery blog activity for other groups to solve. At that stage I might invite new participants onto the jury and use the polling feature in Blogger for them to cast their vote, with a 1G memory stick as a prize for the best judge's sentencing speech posted as a comment.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Share your PowerPoints

Authorstream is a great way of sharing PowerPoints with others. Upload your PowerPoint with recorded timings or narration and authorstream enables you to embed it in a blog, as you see here, download it through iTunes to an iPod, or share it as a video on YouTube (or TeacherTube). Whichever way you do it, it is a quick and effective way of sharing resources with colleagues or students. This one is something I put together for my Year 9 for the topic we are about to start on health. I intend to embed this in the class's blog and at some stage use it as revision for them for a listening test, and I am also going to try getting them to make their own as an end of year consolidation task. This would be great to round off a field trip or visit as well.

Uploaded on authorSTREAM by magpie

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Search me!

Jane Hart in her e-learning pick of the day recommends Boolify as a way of encouraging students to search the net more wisely. As the name suggests it is a tool to carry out boolean searches to narrow down those impossibly long search results to something more approachable and relevant. It is obvious how to use it,visually very clear, and should be really helpful for subject setting research homeworks.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Cutting youself some slack: RSS

What is an RSS feed? If you're not sure and don't yet use a feedreader watch this video and follow the simple steps.

Monday, 31 March 2008

Subscribe by e-mail

Whilst I would really like to encourage you all to use a feedreader, such as, I've added a subscribe by e-mail button for those of you who would prefer to work that way. Please click on the button to receive an e-mail each time I add a post to this blog. Getting quick updates by either of these methods is a very easy and painless way of keeping up to date.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Cutting yourself some slack: why IT shouldn't be (too much) more work

Read this doc on Scribd: Cutting

Friday, 29 February 2008

Moblogging and PowerPoints

Keep an eye on over the weekend as Niamh is going to be getting the students on the Paris trip to moblog (remote blog) using their internet/camera phones from France.

It is easy for you to post a comment for them to read while they are away, if you wish. You will just need to type your e-mail address, an anti-spam word and a comment in the relevant boxes on the website above.

Would welcome any feedback or ideas after the weekend.

Meanwhile, Toby has found out for me how to embed PowerPoints in Blogger. Whilst it is a bit more complicated than the obvious route in edublogs it looks really neat. Sign up to and upload your file to the scribd website. Then paste the code they give you into the html tab side of a new post in Blogger. Done. If you have problems, it may be that the width of your Blogger template is not sufficient to accommodate the PowerPoint. If that is the case you can go to "Templates" and "Edit" from your dashboard to check out what width you have available and edit te scribd code down accordingly. Anyway, I have to say it worked really easily when I tried (i.e. without extra editing) and you can see the results below.

Uploading PowerPoint to Blogger

Friday, 15 February 2008

Priorities, priorities!

In this activity from you can ask students to prioritise a list of factors. In this example I am using it to get students to look at tenses, and there is only one correct sequence (it isn't self-correcting, so I'm not redundant yet) but it may be in your subject the order can be negotiable (more fun really). This particular recipe took 5 minutes to cook, and will feed 20 odd students for up to 20 minutes. Good value in my book.

Click here for full screen version

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Dustbin Game

At you will find 15 flash games or templates you can use to create great activities in class, from essay planning and timelines to prioritising activities and arcade games. You can then embed the activity on an IWB flipchart page or in your blog by copying the code they provide. This is my first attempt (took a grand total of 10 minutes to make) - so if you can still remember your O Level (GCSE?) French, have a go...

Click here for full screen version

Thursday, 7 February 2008


Some ideas I've used so far for getting students to comment:
rate your mates: this is an idea from Ewan McIntosh (he has a fantastic blog on all aspects of blogging, podcasting and new technologies). once some student work has been uploaded (PowerPoint for example) ask students to post two stars and a wish/two rocks and one sucks for a bit of peer assessment
planning: ask students to post ideas on how to revise, or how they are going to tackle work over the holidays.
ask a discussion or even exam question and get them to share ideas
never-ending story: ask students to write a paragraph of a story and then supply three words for next students to use in their continuation paragraph

So talking of comments, please add your with ideas of how we could use this feature of blogs to get interactive with the students.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Blog club task two

It was great that we now have several blogs going, including Ian's Economics blog with lesson content and specification details, the English department's Shakespeare quiz, Biology's bird-identifying competition and Jacqueline's library blog with plans to share book reviews.
If you haven't yet started a blog, follow the instructions under "Step One". Once done, go to your "dashboard" (you'll need to log in by clicking on the "Meta" "log in" or "admin" link) and post a few entries - anything will do, you're just practising! Remember posts are displayed most recent at the top. Remember to fill in the "tag" and/or "categories" boxes with as many key words as you wish - it will make your blog much easier to manage and use. If you are using edublogs, go to "Manage pages" and create a few new pages - remembering these exist outside of the usual hierarchy of blog posts. You might assign different pages to different key stages classes, topics, Units or skills. Tabs for your new pages will appear at the top of your main page.
Last task: either do this yourself or ask someone to do it for you. Access the blog without logging in and fill in a comments box (follow in-screen instructions). This is the only way other users will be able to post on the blog, unless you give them authoring rights. In edublogs you will then receive an e-mail, inviting you to moderate that comment. Once you have moderated, it will be posted automatically. Have a think about how you might encourage girls to participate actively in your blog by commenting (some ideas from me next post).
Next bloggers' club will be after half-term. Have a good week off.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

New blog

Julian has set up in Blogger, so another one added to our blogroll below.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Blog club: Step One

This is the first in a series of posts helping you to master blogging. 20 minutes a week for four or five weeks should be enough to set up a fantastic site which you can then use easily in your department.
First decide which blog host you will use. Choose from (this one is an example) or (look at my French blog at
Edublogs allows you to use a number of pages, as well as reverse-chronological posting on any particular page, and functions such as getting students to subscribe by e-mail, tag-clouds (an eye-catching way of enabling people to search the site) and uploading of audio files, PowerPoints and pictures are easy. Blogger has more options for blogging on the go (maybe for you, PE?) including posting from any e-mail address and posting from mobile phones, plus it has impressive features such as slideshows of photos and using newsreels. Don't agonise too much however: they seem to expand their features all the time. Have a word with me if you need more advice.
Go to the relevant website, create an account, and follow the instructions to set up a blog (a couple of clicks will do it).
When choosing a theme (template or appearance) in edublogs, make sure you choose a three column one, as it offers you more functions ("widgets"). Please now send me a link and I'll post them here so we can share what we do as we go along.

Next week we will add pages (in edublogs) and start posting (edublogs and blogger) - if you can wait until then. Remember help is available next Friday, 1st February, at lunchtime (venue tba). Happy blogging!

One for the techies

During NCIS on Saturday the camera panned over a plaque on the office wall:
There are 10 types of people in this world:
those who understand binary, and those who don't.

Ha ha.

Friday, 11 January 2008

New blog

Check out a new blog for students of Economics at

Feedback from INSET

So far I've heard from 12 departments who would like to follow up on blogs and podcasting. Daniel has a date with the RE department to go through Audacity and Matt has already set up an Economics blog. Watch this space for details of bloggers' club.

Thursday, 10 January 2008


When you come across useful websites, you can save them in a "Favourites" area for easy-clicking. "Social Bookmarking" is just as easy and much more flexible. Advantages include being able to label, or tab, and then search your lists, share them with colleagues, and access them from anywhere you have a web connection. Have a look at the video below for a clear explanation and instructions on how to get started. Once you have built up a good number of links, you can add "delicious" links to your blog, so that students can easily link to your most useful subject sites.

Scrummy social bookmarking for beginners

Thursday, 3 January 2008


When you post an entry, don't forget to fill in the label line at the bottom of the entry box. This will facilitate searching your blog for particular themes. Some blog-hosts provide a "tag-cloud" function, which makes your labels, or tags appear in a "cloud" of themes in your sidebar.

Take the Tube

YouTube is not the only video-sharing site out there. Go to to search for videos illustrating issues in your subject, from erupting volcanoes and grammar presentations to synchronised swimmers demonstrating cell-division. Once you've found something helpful you can embed the video into your blog. To do this, scroll down to the bottom right of the teachertube page where you will find lists of codes to copy into various different blog types. In this case I copied the Blogger code and pasted it into the HTML tab side of a post entry. Dadah! One click on the site now and you're away.