Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Why mark?

Wow, it's been a while. It's really easy to forget to post on a blog, what with all the other social media options for sharing information. This is my attempt to 'start again'. So, here goes...

Over the past year I have tried to minimise my marking efforts and make the collection of grades less invasive to students.

Unfortunately we still have to have  grade for a student to either 'pass' or 'fail' a course, but that is another argument for another time.

So, as with many of my posts, here is a top list of collaborative assessment tools, according to me.

1) Kahoot

Image result for kahootKahoot's tagline is 'Make learning awesome!' and, in a nutshell, that is what it does. Cross platform, device agnostic and easy to use Kahoot offers a lot to the classroom, especially for formative assessment and entry/exit tickets.

Free to use, all a teacher has to do is go to getkahoot.com and sign up for an account. There are no API logins, yet.

Once in the process is simple, create your own quiz, survey or discussion question and click play. If you don't feel like creating from scratch there are shared/public Kahoot's available to use by doing a simple search. Use them as is or duplicate and adapt them for your personal needs (Please remember to share back).

Once your Kahoot is ready just click play to set up your options. Your students will be directed to kahoot.it and asked to enter a pin code for your game. There is no login required for students.

The questions are displayed on a screen (Data projector, TV, anything your computer can connect to) and the students device becomes a 'clicker' for choosing their response.

Simple and effective. Once a game is complete the results can be downloaded as a csv or save to Google Drive.

2) Quizizz

Like Kahoot, Quizizz is and online, cross platform quiz making and delivery system. Unlike Kahoot, Quizizz displays the questions on the students device. This allows for a few different options.

The first is to change, randomly, the order of the questions. This means that it is unlikely that students sitting next to each other will be answering the same question at the same time.

The second is to set the quiz as homework and have the students respond over the course of a night, a few days or a week (Kahoot has also recently allowed homework to be set). This is really good for gauging understanding and for finding weaknesses that need to be focussed on. It is a time saver to know what to teach and only briefly touch on area's of strength.

The site also allows the teacher to use meme's between questions and my students love this.

3) Flubaroo

You will need to have a Google Account for this tool, even better if you have a GAFE account.

Once added to your Google form Flubaroo works magic. Create a Google Form (forms.google.com) and collect your responses. Run Flubaroo in the response sheet and up pop your marks!

The most recent upgrade allows open text and teacher marked questions too. This means that flubaroo can be used as a formative and summative assessment tool.

I have seen our Art and History Departments run final assessments and reduce the marking load considerably.

The are plenty of how-to's on Flubaroo including the video below.

4) Playposit (formally known as EduCanon)

Image result for playpositEver sent a video home for your students to watch? Ever wondered if they did, or if they understood the content?

Wonder no more!

This brilliant website allows you to add questions to videos from a range of sites including YouTube, Vimeo, National Geographic and Kahn Academy amongst others. In fact, there is hardly a video site that can't be used.

Make your own or use a video that already has questions. With over a million users this site is popular.

Copy the video link to playposit, add your questions, create a class and get your students to watch videos with purpose. The video pauses at each question and students may rewind but not skip forward through the video.

After they have watched you, as a teacher, are able to review the class as a whole or see how each individual student has performed, check for weaker understanding and export the results if needed.

This platform also has heavy integration for LMS's including Google Classroom (Strictly speaking not an LMS), Moodle, Blackboard, Edmodo and Schoology.

5) Mathgames

Practice Mathematics using games or post interactive questions to your Google Classroom.

Mathgames will assign, check and mark your math questions. Students can do working out, answer questions in all the math area's from Grade 0 -12 and you, as the teacher, can track their progress acroos the curriculum.

Mathgames uses the slogan 'Practice with purpose' and the site definitely allows for that.

6) NoRedInk

Much like mathgames.com, NoRedInk is aimed at getting students to practice English Language and Writing skills more effectively.

This site has free and premium features but the free version will work for most teachers.

Probably the best thing about NoRedInk is the fact that when the student first log on they are asked where their interests lie. After that all the assignments use writing that reflects the students interests rather than using one piece of text across the board.

This makes the practice and assessment relevant to each individual and therefore, more meaningful too.

There will always be a need for teachers to physically assess a students progress, however these tools allow us to focus on more in depth assessment and guidance rather than the daily slog of marking basic work.

If you have any more great sites, especially for science and natural science, feel free to comment and post.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Third South African GAFE Summit 2016...things I will take with me

I recently attended the summit, hosted by Parklands College in Cape Town (Thank you +Parklands College Secondary Faculty for the excellent conference) and have, as I often do, decided to write about the top things I took away from the event.

1) +Jennie Magiera's keynote on allowing student to progress through failure really resonated. I have, over the past few years tried to incorporate an aspect of deliberate 'failure' into my lessons. The point being that failure leads to the gaining of knowledge on a far broader spectrum than simply the ability to answer a test question.

What worries and astounds me is that often parents are not willing to allow their children to experience failure of any sort. We need to step back and allow the child to develop the resilience needed to cope with life.

Teachers also need to allow failure in their lessons, however we cannot and should not accept mediocrity. The story of 'Austin's Butterfly' reinforces what is possible when we expect more from children.

2) Screencastify: Just...WOW! Thank you +Holly Clark for this one.

3) The teachers: and their sheer enthusiasm and excitement for learning. The 'jazz hands', the applause for new things, the fact they stayed until the last keynote, all of it!

4) WikiTube: this was one of the extensions I presented. The ability to see YouTube above a Wikipedia search is like tech magic!

5) The rebirth of Google Drawings: As a few of the presenters mentioned Drawings is the lost cousin of the GAFE toolset. What we forget is that many students find drawing easier than writing. +Jennie Magiera used the revision history to illuminate a students thought process and provide insight into their choices and changes. Check out her site for more.

6) Sharing: Everyone who presented at the conference was more than willing to put resources, ideas and links on the conference site for everyone to access and use. Thank you all for this valuable resource.

7) The Omnibox: So much more than just search box. A calculator, currency converter, specialist research tool, event creator and more. Use the omnibox tips and hints.

8) Google Classroom: This is by far my favourite tool in the GAFE toolbox. One thing that I try to emphasize is that Classroom is NOT a LMS, it is a workflow management tool or a document management tool and as such it is peerless. The continued updates and upgrades, based on teacher input are making it indispensable in my classroom.

Here is and excellent post on the strengths of classroom by +Tom Mullaney : Google Classroom is not an LMS. It's better!

All in all the conference, once again, passed expectations. Thank you to everyone who taught, shared, talked and attended.

Thank you for reading this.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Book Creator: the Panacea App?

Over the past few years I have had the privilege of being a beta-tester for the Book Creator App.

It all started with a reach-out via twitter to Dan Amos who created the app. Soon after I was invited to join the book creator basecamp. A place where teachers and users could contribute idea's and solutions in order to improve the overall experience of book creator.

The app has come a long way!

Initially an iOS only ePub app the team at Book Creator have continued to push the boundaries of the app. Nowadays it is a cross platform publisher that is easily used by students across the ages.

In fact at my school I have seen it used by 5 -16 year olds, each in their own unique way. The ease of use and familiar controls make using the app a breeze.

Some examples I have seen done at my school or used by myself are:

  1. 13 year old students creating 2nd language readers for 7 year old students. Using a little trick that allows the younger student to have the book read to them by touching the writing. (PS thanks @Joe_Moretti for that one)
  2. Project progress reports at age 12/13 level. The reports include research interviews, photos and video's of progress, reflection, feedback and self-assessment.
  3. Instruction booklets for Lego Robotics. The students were required to design a complex machine and then create an instruction booklet for younger students. The feedback loop for this project was extraordinary as students got to see whether the instruction they created made sense and, often, they had to go back and add steps or explanations.
  4. Age 7 research projects. A book created on a specific topic presented by Grade 2 students.
  5. Age 5 my holiday projects (This one is by my own daughter #proudfather).
However, more important than the uses the app has is the ease of sharing. Book creator allows a student of teacher to share book in 3 ways:
  1. As an editable ePub (and therefor into the ibooks store)
  2. as a PDF
  3. and, amazingly, as a video
Once an option is chosen the student is able to share into any app that allows 'open in...', including Showbie, Google Drive, Dropbox, mail, messages, Evernote, Box and dozens of others. This makes book creator extremely versatile.

Once the book is shared, teachers and other students can download them to read or to add to their own book by combining existing books. 

One thing is for sure, if it's not the actual panacea the book creator app is as close as it comes currently.

Version 4.0 gets even better with comics!! Red Jumper Studios haven't yet sat on their laurels. Don't expect them to do that soon either.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

GEG South Africa...and all it's branches

Whoop, Whoop! GEG Dainfern launched today.

GEG Dainfern founder members
'Google Educator Groups. Learn. Share. Inspire. Empower.' is the calling cry of GEG's all over the world.

Recently the GEG program was launched in South Africa. With local partners SchoolNetSA and a group of enthusiastic and dedicated leaders and trainers Google hopes to establish and maintain a training and development program that could change the way teachers and schools approach technology.

According to Google:

'Google believes that the best inspiration to educators are other educators. It is for this reason that Google helped start a community of passionate educators, who bring the benefits of technology to schools, classrooms, and communities across the world.

GEGs provide a platform for educators to collaborate with one another, allowing them to pick up new creative ideas from one another, and to help each other best meet the needs of their students with Google solutions. GEG activities take place both online and offline. Online GEGs provide a space for educators to discuss together and learn about one another through Google+; offline, locally run events and workshops are a way to learn and share face to face.

Anyone is very welcome to join GEG. You may be a principal, a school administrator, a professor, a student, or just someone interested in using Google products to help people learn. Each group is organised by a local volunteer (GEG leader) and is entirely independent from Google, the corporation.'

This means that although Google provides resources, in terms of tools and training, it has no influence on the direction and thoughts of the GEG participants.

But what does this all mean? Does a GEG just talk Google, are they limited to what Google provides. In short, no, I do not believe this.

GEG's are device and platform agnostic (although GAFE helps), they admit anyone who is interested and do not look at background, means or even connectivity. The idea is to embrace #edtech and run with it.

What Google have foreseen is a rapidly changing world in which teachers and schools need to adapt to changes on an ongoing basis. The GEG is designed to be a place where teachers receive training and advice that provides the tools they need to cope in a modern classroom. One where knowledge is empowered by the use of research, analysis and critical thinking around any given topic. A place to share ideas on teaching philosophy, on networking (both physical and social) and on being in the classroom.

The best thing so far about the process of establishing a GEG is the training I have had the opportunity to receive. A mad weekend of getting to know 25-30 passionate teachers and administrators from around South Africa (Abrie Pepler,  Nomusa Keninda, Anthony Peters and so many others), a Google+ community that is growing fast and provides solid advice and discussion on a variety of topics and a local group of teachers from Crawford's Fourways, Lonehill and Italia, St Peters School,  Dainfern College, Cedarwood School and Rivonia Primary.

What I look forward to is getting more schools involved. The more the merrier. No-one 'owns' a GEG and they can evolve, split and reconvene, as long as the needs of the teachers are met.

Over the next few months a network of GEG's should be established around South Africa, take the opportunity and join one. It might change the way you teach!

Thanks to all the teachers who were present. If you are interested please contact me to join. We are especially keen for government schools to join us. So far there is only one.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A screaming need...

Over the past 2 months I have had the privilege to attend two separate and distinct events.

The first was organised by SchoolNetSA and was the initial training for Google Educator group Leaders and Trainers. About 30 people spent a weekend learning everything there was to know about Google in the classroom and how to enable teachers and allow them to use GAFE (Google Apps for Education) effectively in their classrooms.

The teachers and officials who attended the course were all highly knowledgable and had a need to spread the use of tech in the classroom beyond their own schools and into the wider community.

This event was held at a upmarket private school in Johannesburg, South Africa and the facilities available were top notch. We were able to explore all the tools that Google has made available to educators, all free of charge.

At one stage a few of us estimated that the combined technology in the room we were using was in excess of R500000 ($45000), macs, PC's, iPAds, Tablets, phones, Smartboards and all...

The second event was organised by the Corona Schools Trust in Lagos, Nigeria. I was invited to help introduce Google to the invited teachers. The trust had organisied a conference to introduce their teachers to the use of ICT's in the classroom, to show them the possibilities that tech offers them as teachers and to open their eyes to the possibilities of international cooperation. My role was to show the teachers the tools that Google offers a teacher.

This event hosted 1000 teachers over 5 days, 75 in a group and little or no access to computers and the internet.

The room I presented in was barely 6m by 6m and had no air-conditioner.

Two very different experiences, but similar in topic...

What was emphasised was the gulf in technology across the continent of Africa and the desperate need that teachers feel when they cannot access the amazing resources that the internet offers to them and to their students.

For those who are interested I am posting my report on the training:


Over the course of the 1,5 hour workshops I introduced the teachers to 6 tools that Google offers them. All the tools are made more effective using a Google account (accounts.google.com).
The first tool looked at was Gmail. Gmail offers a free mail service to any person on the planet, and although there are many such services, Gmail is the most common starting point on Google products. In most classes we looked at how to set up labels and filters and then talked about using them to manage email.
The workshop then moved on to looking at Gcal, the calendar functionality of gmail. Gcal is very effective for department meeting planning, parent teacher interview appointments and everyday planning. The workshop looked at how to use Gcal to send and accept meeting invitations.
Tool three was Google Drive, a free, online service offered by Google that allows a user to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations and more. The power of Drive is in the collaborative aspect of each document. They can be shared with as many users and necessary and only one copy of the document will exist. In the workshop teachers were shown how this might increase learning opportunities, even from a mobile device.
Each of the first three tools require the teachers to have a Google Account, the second group are available without an account, but can be used more effectively with and account. These tools are Google maps, Youtube.com/edu and Google search.
In Maps we looked at virtual field trips using street view, in Youtube we looked at how to find subject specific videos that are relevant and how to download them for offline viewing using savefrom.net and finally in search the teachers were introduced to Google search operators and shown how to use them to make search results more relevant to their topic.
The idea of each workshop was to give an idea of the possibilities that Google offers teachers and students, to open their eyes to the range of free services that are available online and to start them thinking of ways to use these tools in an offline environment.
During each workshop I tried to gauge the ability and interest of the teachers, in terms of both teaching and learning with ICT. In this respect the teachers, in general, and the 150 or so who emailed me afterwards in particular seemed to recognise the importance of getting their students online. In fact, getting students online could boost the economy of the whole country and continent according to “Lions go digital: The Internet’s transformative potential in Africa” by McKinsey & Company (2013) in which they note that “Internet could contribute up to US$300 billion to African gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025 if internet penetration becomes as widespread as that of mobile phones”.

I truly believe that by empowering our students we empower the country and continent and therefore my reflections and recommendations are based on the belief that the more students we have interacting with the different ICT’s and, more importantly, doing so online the better it is for all.
The first set of recommendations I make are ‘big vision’ goals that might not be immediately possible. The start of which is to continue the sort of training that was done over the course of the week. It is vital that the teachers in the city continue to experience the power and purpose that the various departments have provided them. Even more helpful would be to have smaller groups that are intensively trained and encouraged to implement the training, or even better, to train other teachers. The ‘ICT champion’ is a well used method of introducing ICT to a school or district.
Secondly, I would ask you to consider ways of getting the schools connected reliably. This can be done through IT labs, or in a more radical way, by looking at the impact of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs at schools around the world. The impact of accessible knowledge on the teaching and learning environment is huge and it allows the teacher to focus on skills development rather than content delivery.

On a more day to day level I would recommend getting Google Nigeria, who have a good education division, involved in your schools. By ‘Going Google’ schools get access to all of Google’s tools for all their staff and students. This allows the school to administer the email accounts and decide which tools the students can access through their email account (http://www.google.co.za/edu/apps/ and http://www.google.co.za/edu/solutions.html). Once the school is registered and online the tools are free and the process is quite simple. Even if the connectivity is not available immediately I would recommend you register the schools domains and Google Apps for Education licence for future rollout.

Secondly I would pilot a BYOD solution in one or more schools and, from there, consider the impact BYOD has on teaching. Starting small would allow schools and districts to have the correct disciplinary and school processes in place before a larger rollout. BYOD also allows the schools to avoid the costs of assigning devices to students and the maintenance of said devices.

Finally I would suggest that a group of teachers who are really interested and able are trained to be trainers in Lagos. Local knowledge is always more powerful. There will always be a need for ‘outside’ trainers and the knowledge they have but they could train this smaller group and therefore have more impact on a larger number of teachers.


There is a high demand for access to ICT’s and the impact they could have on the teaching and learning environment of a school. By allowing teachers to see the possibilities doors are opened to future opportunities and growth.

Thank you for the opportunity to visit Nigeria, Lagos and CTC and I look forward to meeting more teacher sas this project moves forward


Thank you for taking the time to read this! Please feel free to add suggestions and if you have the inclination and time to connect with the teachers in Nigeria please join our Google Group at https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/google-in-nigeria

Monday, 7 July 2014

GAFESummit 2014


What a busy 2 days of learning and networking (Both physically and in a 'internet' sense). It was brilliant to see what was happening all over the school.

Thank you to all the delegates who attended and a special thanks to all the presenters, both featured and local!

So, in keeping with my '10 things' vibe, here is what I will take from the Summit 2014:

1) YouTube is huge and getting bigger!

Starting with youtube.com/edu which collates education videos on the regular youtube.com, to the personal youtube channels and then the video editor Youtube continues to redefine itself as an educational smorgasbord!


One presentation and a demo slam confirmed that the time of IFTTT has arrived. If you haven't explored it now is the time!

This brilliant tool allows a user to create 'receipes' (or just use the ones other people have shared) to manage and maintain the internet of things.

3) Chrome Extensions

Little tools that make life simpler, look around to find the ones you like and make chrome work for you!

My favourites are CheckerPlus for Google Calendar, Docs Quickly, TabCloud (My personal best extension!) and OneTab which come a close second.

Just remember that with the pace of internet development these do change often.

For more extensions for education check out this doc: 50+ Chrome Extensions for Educators
with permission from Jake Duncan

4) Google+

Dee Lanier did a workshop on Google+, and this platform is growing fast. Time to get involved:

Check out Dee's resources on his doc or get involved in the new Google Educators Group South Africa

5) It not about the app!

Many sessions talked to the idea that we need to concentrate on ensuring that our teaching is solid and not based on teaching the app but rather the Child (Adult?). There seems to be a move towards ensuring that the pedagogy is correct before we concentrate on the technology. This will ensure that lessons are designed to stimulate and grow the knowledge and enthusiasm of both teachers and students!

6) Paperless

Not only is the conference paperless (although some felt uncomfortable with this) but Glenn Jones of Western Province Prep School presented a session on using scripts to enhance the paperless classroom. This is definitely a growing trend and it will be interesting to see how teachers adapt to a paperless classroom.

7) Personalisation

The growing trend for people to choose different devices for different uses makes it vital that the 'internet' works for the individual and for each student and teacher. The trend is to customise the experience for each individual and allow them to decide how to make things work for them.

8) Gamification

With badges, both electronic and stickers, handed out throughout the conference, the trend towards gaming the classroom has grown over the past year. Helen Robertson the Content Coordinator at Mindset Network did a great presentation on planning and preparation for the gamified classroom.

9) Custom Searching

One tip I picked up was on how to create a custom search engine for use on a blog or in class. Sean Hampton-Cole, who is Edtech Integrator / Senior Teacher at Crawford College Lonehill, shared a whole bunch of resources for his talk and among them are the instructions to set up a custom search engine

10) The people

Once again, the greatest buzz from #gafesummit was the time I spent talking to and networking with teachers from all over South Africa and the world. Thank you all for coming to Dainfern College and see you next year!

For the lowdown check out https://storify.com/ajegbers/gfesummit-za

Monday, 19 May 2014

2nd Language on a Tablet

Over the last few weeks I have been asked, by a few teachers at school, to help them plan second language lessons using a tablet.

Ideally a tablet or computer should not be the focus of a lesson plan but rather an aid to the completion of a task. I, therefore, asked the teachers what topics they were planning on covering and the time-frame (in terms of lesson time) we had to cover the topic.

In collaboration with the teachers, and taking the content and time-frame into account here are some of the idea's we came up with:

1) Comic to written work

From           to      

App Smashing is the new thing! So using this as an idea step one will be to get the students to create a photo comic book. In this comic (which they are allowed to create in their first language) the students will have to act out a story and photograph the action. Then they add the dialogue in the form of speech bubbles and captions.

Once the dialogue is complete it will be translated into the second language using Google Translate (As pointed out by another teacher, it is not always advisable to translate whole sentences, rather use translation apps to translate words. Thanks, Nicole!) and everyday dictionaries. This should allow the students to relate new second language words to their first language context.

In step 2 the completed comic will then be published and used as the basis for a written dialogue:

Ben: "Hello!"
Fred: "Hello, how are you?"

During this part of the project the teachers will focus on using and correcting punctuation and grammar in the second language. They will discuss similarities and differences between punctuation and grammar in the first and second languages and the students will, hopefully, start to understand proper punctuation and grammar usage in the second language.

Once the dialogue is complete the student will have 2 pieces of work that are the same content in different formats.

Step 3 will use both of these in aiding a 'formal' piece of written work in the form of a descriptive essay. The comic will be used to aid the student in describing the scenes (using the pictures the students themselves created) and the dialogue will be fitted in at the appropriate places in the story. This can be done in first language and translated but ideally the previous 2 steps should have the students ready to write in their second language.

This process is expected to take 4-5 hours and comprises 3 formative assessments, later on the students will write a story independently for a summative assessment.

2) A story in 3 tweets

This can be done on or offline, on twitter or not but the idea remains the same. Students have 3 tweets to tell a story (140 characters if offline) and must compose a beginning, a middle and an ending to their story.

This should be helpful to students who are just starting the second language writing journey as it allows them to be very specific and concise.

3) Class story in tweets


This exercise needs an online environment via a back-channel app such as todaysmeet or twitter. If you are using twitter please remember a hashtag, and check to see that it isn't being used elsewhere!

Working together each class member contributes 1 'tweet' to a class story. The teacher then uses storify for twitter or copy and paste for todaysmeet and other similar sites and then publish the results as a story.

I will add to this post as we try new things, feel free to share some of your idea's with me or let me know if you try any of these in class. I would love to know how it went!!