My Mission Statement!

Photo credit: Planet Minecraft


Firstly, I would like to apologize to one and all for this rant; and it is most definitely ‘a rant’. The crux of my rant will centre on this driving question:

‘Why do so many educators choose the easy path?’

I for one am certainly not innocent of having been short sighted or focused on the easier road.

In a previous life…

While I was a cog in the machine of the dull, mechanistic process of churning out uninspired children, I learned to do what was expected of me. My lessons were formulaic and unimaginative. I followed what was given to me. Why? Because people told me what to do. They told me that it was right to have a planning cycle which involved simple lessons lacking in engagement and dynamism. They encouraged me to concentrate on the end product rather than the process! The whole show was about me and my teaching. I had created a performance that was theatrical without the humour, entertainment or value. It was never about the children even if I thought it was at the time.

I was one dimensional. I only cared about getting it done in the allotted time given to me. My lessons didn’t test the students. The activities didn’t give the students the opportunity to demonstrate their creativity and depth. The lessons and activities were designed to be easy to prepare, resource and teach. They allowed me to teach at the surface of the ocean of understanding but never beyond!

Four years ago…

I finally emerged from the primordial pedagogical ooze and started to experiment with my teaching style; this was at the behest of my head teacher. She gave me the opportunity to move beyond the confines of the three point lesson (introduction – main activity – plenary). She offered me the chance to take part in the COETAIL course, and through this incredible experience I began to think and work in ways I never had before. I looked at things differently. I experimented with lessons, ideas, planning, technology and resources. I collaborated with others and actively worked to combine their ideas and my own so that my lessons were more interesting and challenging for the students – I wanted to empower the students to be true learners; and more importantly – rounded people!

I looked at different ways to improve my student’s understanding, enjoyment and engagement inside the classroom. I became more positive in what I did. I experimented and took chances. I actively sought out innovative teaching methods, content and approaches which would allow me to become a better educator.

I had become a different teacher.

I became interested in what I did and I wanted to change it so that the students in my class got to have a better education than I got; not that I got a bad one! But as I look back, it could have been so much better…


This is my mission statement! Just like Jerry Maguire.

I have seen what can be done when people are willing to change or adapt (even a little). It can bring about beautiful things. I have seen what can happen when people are willing to go that little bit extra to make an educational experience more real for the students. I have seen all this and yet…

So many teachers don’t want to change! So many teachers want to take the easy path! So many teachers want to skim the surface of the educational ocean. They simply want to exist as a teacher. After all, it’s only a job! Make sure you do everything that needs to be done in a day, then go home and relax. You deserve it after putting in a good 9 hours. Mark those books. Fill in those reports. Get those resources ready. Do just enough and everything will continue as before. The students will come in. The students will learn. And life will go on as it has since I was in school. Don’t change it if ain’t broken hey!

If you are a teacher, year leader, faculty leader, subject leader, assistant deputy headteacher, deputy headteacher, headteacher or principal and you are reading this then I want you to read the following questions and decide whether you really care enough:

  1. Do I enjoy what I do?
  2. Do I do everything that I can possibly do to help those around me to reach their full potential?
  3. Do I really believe that I am doing the right thing to get those students in my care to where they need to be (as students and people)?
  4. Am I willing (at times) to go above and beyond what is required of me?

In all honesty, I don’t know if I am correct to write and publish this post but sometimes you just need to put your thoughts down on digital pen and paper.

I see so many great things in teaching being performed by so many wonderful teachers; and it breaks my heart to know that if we were all a little more willing to get on board we might just make the world a better place for everyone!

Create your own YouTube Quiz!

Photo Credit: Blog.Tamar.Com


To YouTube a lot or to YouTube a little? This is surely the question in today’s media mad world?

In the entirety of entertainment and social media history, YouTube has to be the single greatest social informer, influencer, persuader and educator there has ever been. It could be said that at different points in history television, radio, newspaper and books have all held this highly vaunted position. However, I think it is perfectly reasonable to suggest that YouTube may well have reached a market audience that no other brand of media has ever managed before!

Nowadays, I don’t think there is a teacher or educator who hasn’t used YouTube in one form or another; it might be a science teacher using BBC nature videos to explain the life cycle of a flower or a history teacher using some original footage of the battle of the Somme to better educate their students about trench warfare in the First World War; equally, it could be a Primary School teacher putting on a just dance video on for a class assembly. The point is that YouTube is an incredible tool which can be used to engage and enthuse students in a way few other mediums can.

So bearing all this in mind, I am going to explain one of the ways I have used YouTube to add a powerful research tool to my growing bag of pedagogical gizmos and gadgets.

The Great YouTube Quiz

This year, a number of my colleagues attended a Google educators conference in Nagoya, Japan where they took part in a series of incredibly stimulating and rewarding activities. After they returned from the conference I listened with great eagerness and interest as they explained their experiences using Google Cardboard , creating ‘YouTube choose your own adventure stories’ and playing educational breakout games. It was while I listened to them relate the different activities they had experienced that I started to envisage what a research-based YouTube Quiz might look like.

I have always wanted a medium which would allow students to engage with a topic without being given the resources which pointed them in particular directions. I have also wanted something which gave students the opportunity to locate facts/knowledge about a topic without the intervention of the class teacher; I guess what I really wanted was a way for them to gather the information osmotically (I have always wanted to use that word – yes!). And so I decided to have a go at creating the YouTube Quiz.

Recipe for making a YouTube Quiz (I know this should have been on YouTube as an explanation video but heyho)

  • Explain Everything App
  • YouTube account
  1. Decide what you want your YouTube Quiz to be about. 
  2. Use the internet (I would use Google for the search engine) to find the facts for your clues and write them down in a central location i.e. Google Doc/Word Doc/Notes/Post it notes…etc.
  3. Open up the Explain Everything App and start with Slide One – I normally have an explanation slide telling the students how the quiz works.
  4. Go to slide Two and create your first clue. I usually include a Roman Numeral inspired birthday cake for a person associated with the topic. However this doesn’t always have to be the case!
  5. Next keep adding slides for each of your Fact-based clues. Make them interesting by adding images/lines/arrows/sound…etc to the Explain Everything Slideshow.
  6. After you have created your slideshow make sure all slides are in the correct order and that there is enough time for each slide to play through (I would give each slide at least 10 seconds to play through).
  7. Finally upload your Explain Everything slideshow to YouTube.

And that is how you create an awesome YouTube Quiz.

Final thoughts

I have created three of these YouTube quizzes and they can be time consuming. Each quiz took me over an hour and a half to complete. However, the time it takes to make a YouTube quiz really is worth it as they are an incredible teaching tool for teachers with a passion for student-led learning. My class this year, loved them and would spend huge amounts of time at school (and home) trying to figure out the different facts associated with the different quiz themes. Also, the sheer number of incidental facts and details they picked up by taking part in the quiz was amazing. As a final point, I have included the three YouTube quizzes I created this year. Please feel free to use them if you feel they would be useful. Have a go yourself; it may well be the single greatest thing you ever do…


Photo credit: Beastsofwar

It is a well-known established fact throughout the many-dimensional worlds of the multiverse that most really great discoveries are owed to one brief moment of inspiration. There’s a lot of spadework first, of course, but what clinches the whole thing is the sight of, say, a falling apple or a boiling kettle or the water slipping over the edge of the bath. Something goes click inside the observer’s head and then everything falls into place. The shape of DNA, it is popularly said, owes its discovery to the chance sight of a spiral staircase when the scientist’s mind was just at the right receptive temperature. Had he used the elevator, the whole science of genetics might have been a good deal different.

This is thought of as somehow wonderful. It isn’t. It is tragic. Little particles of inspiration sleet through the universe all the time traveling through the densest matter in the same way that a neutrino passes through a candyfloss haystack, and most of them miss – Terry Pratchett

However some of these inspiration particles actually hit home! Very occasionally, some of them actually hit the cerebral jackpot – the Texas tea of the neuron world – the black gold of the brain.

In my opinion, this is exactly what happened to me, when I thought up the idea for NUMROS.

Now, it is very likely that a game like this has been created many times before, in many different ways, in many different schools. But that doesn’t matter!

I have created something I am genuinely proud of. Before Numros, I had another idea; and I think it was a pretty good idea. The game was called Grammar Slam and it has proved to be quite successful in the classroom. There is no doubt that I will be using the game again and I am sure it will continue to be a hit with the children. But it isn’t Numros!

So, what is Numros?

Hmm…where to begin?

I guess I have to start with the game’s origins, which are rooted in my nerdy game playing past. Once upon a time, I was a fully-fledged follower of Games Workshop’s Warhammer franchise. If you aren’t sure what Warhammer is, then I will enlighten you. Warhammer is a table top war game played with dice and miniature figures. It is played between two or more players and is set in one of two imaginary realms; one realm is a fantasy realm similar to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth and the other is set in the far future where the galaxy is ruled by a God Emperor.

When I was younger, I adored collecting Warhammer books and figures, as well as playing the game. Even now, I still read many of the novels set in these imaginary worlds. I have also introduced many of my students to the different army books.

And so, that is where the inspiration for Numros came from.

How does the game work?

Well, Numros is also a tabletop war game. Like Warhammer it also includes miniature figures (only six for each side though), a dice (only one), rulers, turn taking and strategic planning.

I have included the game’s rules below.

What is the purpose of this game?

As you may be able to tell, the game is primarily designed to help children understand different mathematical concepts like algebra, BIDMAS and measurement. The game’s turn-based fantasy theme draws students in like a beehive draws bears towards a honeycombed prize. The children are immediately hooked by the fact that NUMROS is a game not a lesson. Another important factor is that the maths needed to play the game is incidental and unimportant to the player! The game’s other hooks include: the competition of battling opponents to be the ruler of Numros, the tactics and strategies needed to outwit an opponent, the diversity and potential narrative of the different fictional characters, the ability to work and collaborate with others in a team and the joy that victory brings in the various individual battles that take place in the game.

When I first introduced Numros to my students, I originally shared the rules via a Google Document. However, to really get them engaged, I used the Gold Fish bowl technique to demonstrate the game’s mechanics.

What was their response?

The reaction was beyond anything I could have imagined! It simply took my breath away. They loved it! The Teaching Assistant, who works alongside me, had the great idea of creating a Google survey to catalogue the children’s responses. You only have to read it to see just how much they enjoyed it. I can honestly say that I don’t think I have had many better feelings in my teaching career than I had the first day Numros was introduced to my class.

What’s next?

The next step is to introduce the game to my maths set and then to more children in Year 6. I have already shared the game with another class in my year group and the feedback was excellent.

I have also added a some one-off spells to the game based on feedback to the first game we played as a class. Again, I have included the new spells below.

But it gets better!

Without doubt though, the best part of the Numros experience is the way the children have taken the game and adapted it to fit their purpose. They have already started to add their own rules. One group decided that figures would switch sides rather than be removed if an opponent lost a battle. Another group decided to switch the playing area so it would be smaller. Many of the groups changed the number of turns from five to a different number; another group thought it would be better to play to the last figure standing. The introduction of spells was talked about and introduced in a highly innovative way by one creative soul. Then there was the issue of dice – why have a six sided dice when you could have a ten sided dice?

Children have videoed their games for posterity. One ambitious group decided to create a video tutorial to help others better understand the game.

During game play sessions, I have heard the terms ‘messing around’, ‘play testing’ and ‘trialling’ used to describe the concept of figuring the game out. I simply cannot explain or describe the shear amount of learning that has taken place over two hours of Numros game play.

The possibilities for this game are endless and I am already thinking of adapting the game to have an historical purpose. I haven’t decided just how to do this yet but I will find a way…

Session 1

Session 2

A good idea goes a long way!

Photo Credit: Let’s South

I am borrowing heavily from an inspired game based learning idea created by a colleague of mine named Phillip Arneill. This gaming template has become so successful in my school that it has been adapted and replicated for a wide variety of lesson types and learning opportunities.

I would say there are at least four different teachers who have used this system in at least seven different ways. It has been used for Maths lessons, English Lessons, getting children to vote for a star pupil of the week and teaching children about the Earth, Moon and Sun.

I have included this link to the original post as credit really needs to be given to Phillip for his truly brilliant idea. I do urge you to read the original post as it will give you a better understanding of how the game-template works (even though I will explain the system in more detail later in this post).

So how have I adapted it?

Well, I have used it in two ways. The first as a trial run for my final project; and the second being my actual final project for the Eduro Learning course on gamification. I will concentrate mainly on the trial version in this post but I will occasionally mention the final version of the game – which will be a continued presence in the classroom as we move through the school year.

How does the game work?

So, the game works a little bit like a treasure hunt with an eventual prize being awarded for those students who manage to make their way through a series of different slides; each of these slides contains a different riddle or question from the topic you are revising/teaching.

The true beauty of this gaming template lies in it’s simplicity. All the game asks the children to do is solve the riddle or question on the current slide to reach either the next slide or the final prize. The game can be as long or short as you want. You can have four or twenty slides – it really doesn’t matter! Some games require more, some require less. It very much depends what you are teaching. What is even nicer about the slides idea, is that it fits into the gaming ideology of players needing to move from one level to another to progress.


You will need the following online applications to construct a game of your own:

  1. Google Slides – you put the game together using different Google slides (a different slide for each question or riddle).
  2. The URL shortening site – this allows you to customise your URLs so that the end of the URL is the answer the students need to find. This also allows each slide to be linked to the following and preceding slides.
  3. A subject which can be easily adapted to fit the fundamental idea of the game; which is to challenge the students without making it too difficult. Not everything fits and be careful not to overuse the game as children will soon get bored of the concept if they are doing it all the time.

How am I using the game?

In maths.

Left unchecked, maths lessons can become a monotonous series of worksheet-based sessions filled with endless lists of calculations and word problems. And this, my friend, is where the ‘Arneill Game’ comes into it’s own! I decided to use it in a manner similar to the way Philip had first used it in his original post. I used the game template to encourage children to become more familiar with number problems where there was a mixture of different steps involving multiples, factors, prime, square and cubed numbers.

Did it work?

Yes indeed! It worked like a treat. The children were much more engaged and were able to access the game and the learning with little difficulty. I would say it was a roaring success but if you don’t believe me have a go yourself…

I have included the first slide in this post to give you a better feel for the game and how it works.

Final project

I have now moved beyond the initial maths game, although I will continue to use this format in maths, and have moved into an area that I know children mostly detest – GRAMMAR. Let’s be honest, most children hate it! In fact most adults hate it. I hate it!

However, this game based learning system is an excellent method for encouraging and motivating students to become more interested in grammar without them even being aware that they are becoming more engaged with the different elements of grammar.

To make things even more interesting I am going to spice things up by gamifying my classroom so that we have a class leader board. We will also have a power up/end of game bonus system. This will allow the players with top three times (the three quickest to complete the game) to be given classroom rewards. I am also thinking of creating a power-up glove, hat and chain/necklace (names and powers/abilities to be decided yet) which will grant the wielder access to class/game rewards.

For the moment this remains a work in progress but stay tuned to find out more…

Weekly ‘End of level Boss’!

I have continued to persevere with my classroom experimentation with Civilization Revolution for the iPad.

How is it going?

Well, I carried out a survey using Google forms and here are the results so far.

There is no doubt that the responses are mainly positive. I really enjoyed reading the comments i.e. those comments which mention walking in the shoes of great historical leaders or the comment which discusses the issue of the differences between the great leaders in the game. I also liked the idea of using Popplet to find out more about great leaders from history. It is clear that the game has a lot to offer. I now need to find a way of bringing the game into our Primary School’s curriculum…I could certainly use some of those great leader’s attributes and skills right now!



Games are bloody great!

Photo Credit: Viral Pirate
Photo Credit: Viral Pirate

What makes a game great?

Challenge without being overly difficult.

I think back to a game which I found incredibly frustrating when I first started playing it. However it became more accessible as I became more familiar with the game mechanics and controls – Disney’s Castle of illusion.

This game also has a beautiful narrative which really draws the game player into the game – the narration in this game is absolutely first class (as exampled by my son and daughter’s wide eyes and open mouths as the narrator continues to retell a disneyesque tale of woe and wonder).

I could see this game being a wonderful tool to use with younger children in years 2-4 (grade 1 -3). The problem solving element and fine motor controls also give this game extra cache.

Narrative and Story line.

If a game has a strong story line then you will immediately become more attached to the game. This includes the interaction between different characters, the conversations they have, sudden revelations, the build up, tension created…etc. There are so many games which have these elements – Tomb Raider, Devil May Cry, Resident Evil/Biohazard, Bio Shock, Mario, Starcraft 2…this list goes on.

However, I think the one game narrative which really stood out for me was the original Tomb Raider. I played this as part of a collaborative gaming experience alongside my university flatmates – come on, we’ve all done it.

The whole experience was highly addictive and massively enjoyable! The story-line and problem solving made us work together to solve the various different levels. It didn’t actually matter that we weren’t always the game player; it mattered that we were all contributing something to the experience (whether we were shouting encouragement, offering advice or playing the game).

Whilst playing some platform games on the iPad, I have actually had my children come over to watch me play the game (my wife isn’t too happy about this by the way). As they watch me, they give me advice and encouragement. They have actually clapped me on the back, hugged me, encouraged me, berated me, smiled, cried and screamed at me. Imagine what this would look like in the classroom?

Problem solving and Reward.

It goes without saying that problem solving is an incredibly important part of the game – maybe the most important? If there are no problems to overcome then there is no point to the game. You have to have two things to make this part of the game work – you need to have the process of trial and error (which needs to be just right to make it accessible but not impossible) and you need to have a reward to match the effort you have gone through to solve the problem.

One of the most important parts of this process is the link between the narrative and the reward. I honestly can’t remember the number of times I have completed a level only to be blown a way by the follow-up story; an example being the sudden revelation that the ‘end of level boss’ is merely a smaller part of a much bigger problem.

The reward must also provide the player with a suitable prize if it is to be of value. Personally, I enjoy games where the prize somehow allows the player to better their character, business, empire or nation. One game which I think does this really well is X-COM! This is a brilliant game for those who are interested in strategic thinking, tension, narrative and turn-based tactics. What makes X-Com work so well is the way you have to capture aliens or alien technology to gain access to better resources for your own team of hard-ass alien fighters. Coupled to this – I have to say, that generally, I am a massive fan of the:

find tool – research tool – reward = new mega tool for game character(s).

I am aware that many or most of the games I have mentioned are, on the whole, unsuitable for the classroom. However, there is undoubted potential for games of all types, to be used in the classroom. The key is to access and adapt these game elements in the activities and lessons you plan. Then you can begin to engage the children in a way which hasn’t been used in times past. It doesn’t have to be online games. It can card, board, paper or physical/sports games.

Way of the Game cycle

Narrative – Problem to Solve – Challenge – Reward with narrative – Problem to solve – Challenge…    

Weekly ‘End of level Boss’!

This week I intend to continue introducing the game – Civilization Revolution for the iPad into pre-lesson, break and lunch time sessions. The only difference being that I will ask two different pairs of students to trial the game this week. I am also going to ask the previous pairs of students to complete the following Google Survey. Hopefully, this will give me a better idea of game’s ability to engage and activate the student’s interest in History.

Early indications suggest that the students enjoy the game and are eager to continue playing it; in fact, one of the students has enjoyed it so much that he has decided to buy the game.

However, it is also fair to say that they while they have enjoyed playing the game they haven’t found it as easy as they first thought and are struggling with the king or mid-level difficulty rating.

If any of you are interested in having a go at introducing the App, I have included two very poorly-made videos I used to introduce the game to those students who were trialing the game.

Video One

Video Two


I’d rather be a farmer!

Photo credit: Larry Cuban on school reform

From the ages of 17 to 22 years old, I spent numerous Christmas, Easter and Summer holidays working in a variety of factories. I have worked in furniture factories, crisp factories, video-packaging factories; I have even worked in slaughterhouses. During my time in these factories, I worked in various locations found inside most modern factories. These included the assembly line, the packaging zone, the storage bay, the canteen and the warehouse.

So..what did I learn from my time in factories?

I didn’t like them! In fact, I really didn’t like them!


I didn’t like them because I didn’t feel challenged. In fairness, it must be added that I was also extremely lazy when I was 17 to 22 years old.

Did I learn anything?

Yes. Absolutely!

Was it worthwhile learning?

Hmm…I definitely learned a variety of factory skills (life-skills?) i.e. how to correctly wrap plastic roll around a large cardboard box or how important it was to keep your knife sharp when you were slicing through a dead turkey.

Personally, I found the work unrewarding, repetitive and dull. I just didn’t gain any sense of satisfaction from the different jobs I was doing.

And now we are calling the current, and previous, 150 years of educational modus operandi ‘The Factory Model’. Wow! I mean from a personal and research point of view the term certainly seems to fit; and that my friends is worrying!

Ironically, the skills required by the game curriculum—problem identification, hypothesis testing, analysis, interpretation, and strategic thinking more closely align with the new economy than does the “factory” model of curriculum, which privileges following directions, mastering predefined objectives, performance on highly structured tasks, and intellectual obedience (Gee, Hull, and Lankshear 1996). In short, schools are designed around factory models of education, where the goal is to efficiently produce standardized learners and, most importantly, sort students into those groups and games are products of the new economy, where the goal is to think creatively with digital tools (Bowles and Gintis 1976; Lagemann 1989).  Changing the game – what happens when video games enter the classroom – Kurt Squire

There is no denying that factories are an essential part of the industrial world, but do I really want my children, and the children I teach, to be a part of this system?

I don’t know how many times I have seen educators use this animated video of Ken Robinson’s ‘Changing Educational Paradigms’ to espouse the virtues of the creative over the factory model of teaching and learning.

Yet no matter how many times the different groups of educational lecturers, teachers and administrators infuse the audience with Mr Robinson’s superb ideas and summaries, we always come back to the baseline – does it fit into the current school and curriculum-based system that we operate?

And the answer is most definitely ‘No’!

Is this where we leave it then? Again the answer is most definitely ‘No’!

I suggest that in today’s digitally flipped world we are being given more tools than ever to create farming zones within these rigid educational factories. Some of these tools include the flipped (or rotated classroom), Student led learning as well as Gamification and Game-based learning.

Right now, even if you had the ideal game—a more polished Civilization III or perhaps a Full Spectrum Scientist, it is not certain that such a game could even survive in today’s educational environment as our contemporary educational systems do not know how to sustain a curricular innovation built on the properties that make games compelling. Changing the game – what happens when video games enter the classroom – Kurt Squire

Game-based learning allows the factory to become a farm

Here is an example of how you can start to bring the rural creativity of farm-based learning into your factory. This Historical game is based on a previous game-based learning activity which I posted last year.

Can I also add that I trialled this lesson with my Year Three (Grade 2) students last year and that it worked like a dream. Reactions included intense dialogue which lasted into the break time and beyond, personal refection on their failure as an individual/group or class, the unfairness of the whole game and the difficultly of living in the Stone Age.


Unit plan – Lesson 2

Weekly ‘End of level Boss’!

This week my end of level boss will be to introduce the game – Civilization Revolution for the iPad into pre-lesson time /break time and lunch time sessions.

Although all the students already have their own iPads, they don’t have this game on their devices so I will provide two pairs of pre-selected students with my own iPads and ask them to try and complete one game (over the course of a week) on intermediate level difficulty.

The reason for this – After reading the article Changing the game by Kurt Squire I am interested to see the reaction a more compact/child friendly version of the game might have on my own students. I aim to use a high achieving none-game playing pair of students and a lower achieving game-playing pair of students to test the game as future platform for Historical learning within the classroom/school.

Results of last week’s ‘End of level Boss’!

Overall, the students seemed to love the game.

However, the most interesting aspect of the students playing the game Nitrotype , was my introduction to another game – Dance Mat typing. If you are thinking of teaching ‘Touch Typing’ I would definitely recommend this as a possible game-based solution.

Player Two’s Turn

Card game collaboration
Card game collaboration

An extract from a conversation which took place between two teachers playing the teaching game!


Player 1: Games in the classroom? I don't understand!
Player 2: What don't you understand?
Player 1: know games are games. They aren't learning.
Player 2: Yes they are. 
Player 1: How? 
Player 2: Well, children learn to play the game, they learn to work out new strategies to complete the game and they reach a goal - so they achieve and earn rewards.
Player 1: But they are just playing! They aren't learning!
Player 2: So playing isn't learning?
Player 1: Well...yes it is. Well, it sort of is. But it isn't proper learning.
Player 2: What does proper learning look like then? 
Player 1: You know the stuff we do every day! Book work, reading, the teacher explaining stuff to children.

I used to be just like Player 1!

What caused me to make such a U-turn on the Game Highway?

I guess it started one day about six year ago when I suddenly realised that I didn’t enjoy some of the things I was asking my students to do in the classroom. One great example of this would be ‘morning activities’ – this takes place at that nether-worldly time of day just before the school day starts when children are often given onerous tasks like spellings, maths review questions and dictations to complete.

At some point, I just thought these tasks were exactly that – TASKS – you know like Hercules and his twelve tasks (did he really enjoy slaying giant snakes, lions and wild boars?). I hate the word ‘task‘! It has such negative connotations. ‘Game’ sounds so much better.

So I decided to change these tasks to games: Top Trumps, Playing Cards, Dice games were all introduced. Gone was the dull silence of children pretending to enjoy the morning tasks. Instead, we had conversation and collaboration taking place in the classroom – ‘Oh Happy Day!’

So I guess the question that needs to be asked is ‘Why, when it comes to gamification and game-based learning, are some educators still stuck on level one playing the part of player 1?’ Even today, in a world where gaming has grown to such an extent that it now has it’s own e-sports channels on YouTube, there are still many educators who refuse to see the woods for the trees.

I believe that much of this Player 1 attitude comes from fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of letting go of what works. Fear of losing control. So much Fear! I know this attitude is particularly prevalent in education, where a stereotypical view of the classroom still exists across much of modern society.

I suppose that I get a little worked up and stressed by this whole idea because I love games; whether they are online, tablet/computer-based, board, card or sports related. I have certainly seen and felt the undeniable benefits that games offer!

There is no doubt that online games opened my eyes to culture, history, nature and science. This is one of the reasons why I love the combination of game-based learning and gamification that is the middle school History game Historia. I wish I had been a History student at this middle school; learning History at middle school was very different for me – it usually involved me copying from the blackboard and answering lots of dull questions on even duller subjects.

So what do I feel when I play games?

I feel immersed, energized and part of something. I also tend to feel very competitive, frustrated and addicted (depending on the game I am playing). The reactions displayed by Libby, in this video, during her player to player battle on Mortal Combat is how I imagine I react when I play similar video games.

I have seen the joy that children get from competing and collaborating (inside and outside the classroom) on different games against/with each other. I know that game based learning and gamification are both fantastic opportunities to make the learning process more enjoyable and engaging.

And so I am going to make my classroom’s learning environment as game-friendly as possible!

Weekly ‘End of level Boss’!

This week my end of level boss (something challenging but incredibly rewarding if it is successful in the classroom) will be to introduce the two typing games – Baronvontypefast and Nitrotype. The reason for this – I am now teaching in Year 6 (Grade 5) where we have one to one iPads and ChromeBooks; this makes speedy typing a priority.


The Summit – Course 5 Final Project

Photo Credit: My most memorable activation

After weeks of hard work and steady progress we have finally reached the peak of StoryTeller Mountain. I think it is fair to say that the journey has provided the students and myself with an exciting classroom adventure; an adventure which shows no sign of stopping.

As I sit at the top of StoryTeller Mountain, looking out across the foothills, woodlands and peaks that make up the world of Educationia, I can just make out the COETAIL path I have cut through the Earth to get here. At some points it looks so worn that you would think there had been nothing there before. At other points, the path is almost completely overgrown so that you can barely see the original path.

Sitting here, watching the children in my class getting ready to set out on another adventure, I think back to the journey I have been undertaken to reach this point and I am reminded of the reasons why the COETAIL path looks the way it does.

The well-worn path

I have trodden some parts bare due to the continual visits I have made over the previous year and a bit. Two such areas include the Visual Literacy Lowlands and the awe-inspiring Gamification Canyon! Likewise, there are other areas where I have walked only the once and have never really thought about returning to; one such place is the Valley of Connectivism Learning Theory.

Regardless of where I have been and how long I have spent there though, one thing is absolutely certain, I have learned more about education, digital Literacy, pedagogy and technological integration in the previous year and a bit than I have in the previous eight years of my teaching career.

The Final Project

And so to my final project for the COETAIL course. I have included two separate videos based on the digital/video storytelling unit I wanted to trial with the children in my class. I hope that they make sense to you! Also please feel free to send me any feedback you have regarding the videos and/or the unit quality/content.

Telling a Story – Imovie Style

My thoughts on the project

Beginning the trek up StoryTeller Mountain

Photo credit: The Storyteller
Photo credit: Sparkle Box

Today we started our climb up the monumental Storyteller Mountain. The children had been equipped with ipads, copies of the ‘legends of the lake’ myth books and organized into groups of four to better help each other with the initial climb. The base of the mountain was relatively easy to traverse as the groups began to experiment and investigate with different storyTelling methods.

The groups generally took quite a long time to work their way through the first three pages of the ‘Enchanted Lake’ myth with some groups needing to be reminded about group collaboration, changing camera angles and suitable voice/character expression; however, I am glad to say that all of the groups successfully made it to the base camp at iMovie editing point.

After a suitably good night’s sleep we continued our journey up the iMovie editing point of the mountain. A few of the trekkers were very experienced with the ipad App ‘iMovie’ and were asked to help those trekkers who had little experience with the application. Initial problems were generally resolved within the groups themselves (however, these issues sometimes required us to discuss them as a whole class). I have included some of the issues encountered on the hike from the base camp at iMovie editing point:

  1. Speaker volume issues – the person speaking was often too quiet so the volume of the audio section of the movie needed to be increased.
  2. Arranging the videos in the correct order was difficult to begin with. The groups eventually realised that they could move the different videos within the iMovie timeline by keeping their finger pressed down on the chosen section of video and sliding it to another position on the timeline.

Overall, the first part of the mountain climb had gone well but I could already see that things were going to get much trickier as we moved closer to the peak.

Video One

First video completed by one of the groups. The filming and editing was completed by the group but the titles and music were added by me.

We began the third part of the climb today with the students split into pairs. This time they were asked to retell the whole story of ‘The Enchanted lake’ as opposed to just the first three pages. It was clear from a very early stage that this was going to be a long climb for many of the students.

The filming was much easier but it also became apparent that the climbers were definitely going to suffer from angle sickness – by this, I mean that the students were only really changing between one or two different camera shots. This undoubtedly made the storyTelling videos less engaging and appealing to the audience.

Another issue which seemed to hinder the students was background noise. This was to be expected with so many groups working in such a small, confined area. We tried to spread the groups out as much as we could but it was difficult to stop the background noise from affecting the final edits.

As the evening wore on it was clear that most of the groups had made it to the second base camp at iMovie editing ridge. After we had gathered round the campfire, we talked about some of the features the pairs might want to include when they were editing their movies. Here were a few of the features we discussed:

  1. Including some sound effects and titles – a limited introduction to this topic so it won’t become the focus of their videos.
  2. Reviewing cropping, splitting and duplicating individual video sections.
  3. Choosing and managing the transitions in an appropriate way.
  4. Possible reshooting of sections which weren’t up to standard.

Video two

This video was filmed, edited and produced entirely by the two boys featured in the video. The video was then exported and uploaded to my YouTube channel.

What next?

Well the next parts of the climb should prove to be the easiest; however, they may also prove to be the most difficult for those children who struggle with role-play, drama and the application iMovie. This is the part where the children will be doing everything independently (with the exception of the videoing part – which will be done by another member of the class). My major concerns with this section of the climb are based on three factors which the children have already struggled with.

  • Using varied camera angles to bring the story to life and engage the reader. I am thinking it would probably be better to have the children change their camera angle for every sentence of their chosen paragraph.
  • Making sure they remember their lines and look directly at the ipad’s camera lense. I am hoping they will make the decision to re-shoot any scene they feel isn’t good enough for their final cut.
  • Ensuring their voices are loud enough and interesting enough to engage the reader. This factor should be less of an issue as they know they can edit the recording’s sound to ensure the volume level is not too quiet or too loud.

In order to help the students with the final trek to the summit, I have created my own storyTelling video based on one of the children’s introductory paragraphs. The students will be able to access this iMovie any time they need to as I will send a link to their email accounts. I will also include another link to our class blog where the students can find their previous storyTelling imovie (if they don’t have a video then they can always check other student’s videos for ideas and improvements).

I hope that these tweaks and adjustments will provide the students with enough impetus to take them all the way to the summit. I have included a few extras which I hope the students might want to include in their final videos i.e. an opening title scene with sound track, images in between each video to give the storyTelling more purpose and credits to thank those involved in the movie making process.

To end with I include two quotes from mountaineering legend Edmund Hillary which I feel accurately capture the feeling of our journey to the summit of StoryTelling Mountain.

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves

People do not decide to become extraordinary.They decide to accomplish extraordinary things

Change the story…

Photo Credit: Republic of Stories
Photo Credit: Republic of Stories

As is so often the case with many things in life, not everything you plan for becomes reality. As a teacher, you work towards a weekly set of plans that focus on key areas of the curriculum – something which I have always believed, and still believe for the most part, to be the right approach to maintaining high teaching and learning standards! Personally, I need organization! I am somebody who likes the idea of planning ahead and knowing exactly what is being taught and when it needs to be taught. Throughout my relatively young life in education, I think it is fair to say that I have come to rely heavily on this framework of structure and rigidity.

Then, the last two years came along and…

Oh how things changed! Nowadays, I find myself becoming more appreciative of having a balance between flexibility and structure. Take the final project for my COETAIL course as an example of this. The original idea for my final project was to revamp and upgrade a science unit on Magnetism that allowed me to incorporate many of the different ideas and concepts that we had used throughout our time on the COETAIL course.

However, for a variety of reasons including time constraints, lack of originality, other science units needing to be taught first and an upcoming school inspection I have decided against using this unit as my COETAIL coup de grace. Instead I have gone for a completely new digital literacy unit that isn’t being taught by anyone else in my year group but is something I strongly believe needs to be shared with the children.

So my brand new final project will be based on (start the drum roll)… STORY TELLING! Now you may well ask “Why?” and “That’s not original considering we have a COETAIL course four unit based on this very same subject!”

And you would be correct! However, my answer to you would also include the following reasons for my choice:

  1. I recently heard a fellow COETAILer (who is based at our school) talk about the students at our school lacking storytelling skills.
  2. It is also has a lot to do with the fact that the new National Curriculum for History in England and Wales has placed a heavier emphasis on StoryTelling as a method for delivering historical content.
  3. I am really keen to encourage the students at our school to become more adept at creating, making and editing iMovie videos.

However, none of these are the main reason for my change of heart; the actual reason I have decided to change direction is because I started something and I liked it so much I thought I would use it as a final project.

The Organic Tale of a slightly Anal Teacher

Once upon a time a thirty-something, slightly overweight teacher decided that the children in his class would really benefit from having more time to mess around with the ipad App ‘iMovie’. After taking some time to ponder this issue, the rigid and slightly anal educator hit upon an idea that might just work. He would combine the student’s current English unit on quest myths with the ipad App ‘iMovie’ to create a storytelling unit that would provide the students with the perfect platform for retelling their own stories. And so after many days of pondering a plan was formed and this was what it looked like…