Using your iPad in the classroom

This week, I’d like to focus my entry on some great apps that you can use on your iPad to enhance the teaching and learning within your classroom. These apps are more so for the teachers out there whose schools don’t have class sets of iPads for their students’ use, but who do have their own iPad that they’re happy to use in the classroom. This list could go on for a long time, so I will keep it to 3 built in apps and features this week and add to the list as I go.

Built-in Features and Apps

multi-language keyboard input on ipad

International Keyboards

  • With over 50 languages and dialects to choose from, you’re likely there is a native language keyboard input for that new ESL learner who doesn’t have word of English in their vocabulary yet.
  • Go to Settings -> General -> Keyboard -> International Keyboards
  • When the keyboard slides up in any app, press the globe icon, usually in the bottom row, until you find the keyboard input that you need.
  • Great when used with Google Translate or to promote writing in mother tongue. Also great for English speakers who are learning an additional language.


  • What a powerful tool for the basics of map reading skills – particularly the map reading of the 21st century. Gone are the days of grid co-ordinates, page numbers and index searches. Build critical thinking skills in your students by exploring alternative routes to those given in ‘directions’, use street view to follow verbal directions from students or to explore a venue for an upcoming field trip.


  • My favourite elements of Books are when using epub books (as opposed to pdf books). With epub books (which you can create using Pages on your Mac computer/laptop) you can embed video, audio and photography into what was once a fixed page.
  • Highlight a word or phrase to ‘look it up’ in the dictionary or by searching Google or Wikipedia for more information. Or, highlight that important line. Even take a note that can be viewed later.



EdTech tips and tools from the week – 9th Sept 2011


Unfortunately didn’t get around to any readings this week – it’s been a busy one. A few handy tools below however. Enjoy!



KinderChat (via @hechternacht)

  • A lovely wiki hosting all of the tools and resources that emerge from the #kiinderchat on twitter. You don’t need to use twitter to benefit from the chats – simply go to this site to see all of their resources.

Lexilogos – multi-language dictionaries and multi-language keyboard inputs

  • This is a great site with loads of multi-language supports.
  • My favourite feature is the Multi-Lingual Keyboard. It displays an onscreen keyboard in loads of languages and also takes phonetic keyboard input. For example, when I type ka on my keyboard using the Japanese keyboard, the input on the screen is か. Used in conjunction with, this tool may well save the sanity of many ESOL learners and their teachers.

Edheads (via @deir75)

  • Some great interactive, child (sometimes older child) friendly resources on the human body, simple machines and the like.

7 Ideas in 7 Minutes (via @ianaddison)

  • Some fantastic resources for teachers, displayed in a 7 minute video.
  • There are some excellent tools for early childhood/kindergarten educators.

5 gmail tips for teachers via @jutecht

  • A last minute inclusion, this blog post from Jeff Utecht gives 5 great tips to help you manage your email – if you use gmail or Google Apps for Education at your campus. I make use of every one of these tips every day!

EdTech tips and tools from the week – 2nd Sept 2011


Reading – 6 Reasons Why Kids Should Know How To Blog

  • A great summary of why students should learn to blog at an early age. If I were to add to this, I would definitely add that blogging:
  • is a motivator to write – particularly for boys,
  • blurs the boundaries between school and home. Kids learn to use blogs as a personal expression space, which in turn allows them to feel more confident to express their learning to the world. As a teacher, you gain a wonderful insight in to who the students are as learners and as individuals.
  • allows students to see technology as a production tool (beyond word processing) rather than just a place to play games and connect with friends.

Reading – The role of ICT in the PYP

  • My apologies for those who are reading this and aren’t in PYP schools, but I don’t think I can link the PDF here due to copyright. For those of you in PYP schools, talk to your PYP co-ordinator to get your username and password for the OCC. Do a search for the document called The role of ICT in the PYP. It’s only recently (June 2011) been revised and published and I have to say that the PYP have hit the nail on the head.

ReadingNumeracy for Preschoolers (thanks to @davidwees)

  • A nice blog post from David sharing his thoughts on the importance of developing numeracy with preschoolers.

SlideshowEmbedding Digital Citizenship into Curriculum

  • While there are some slides that don’t mean much (as this is part of a workshop presentation I think) there are some real gems in there. For example, slides 11, 12 and 14, just to name a few.



File Convertors (free and online)

  • – converts pretty much any document, image, video, ebook or audio format to any other alike format. I’ve personally found it great to be able to access the information on a Microsoft Publisher file when using my mac laptop (as there is no equivalent to publisher for mac that I’m aware of). There are loads of other uses however.
  • – I discovered this one earlier in the week when I needed to help a teacher convert a midi file to an mp3 format. This file convertor converts pretty much any audio format to any other audio format. Clean look and free from ads too.

Voicethread for reading records

  • I’ve come across this wonderful set of voicethreads this week, via @sherrattsam.
  • I’ve used voicethread before, and seen it used, in many wonderful ways. But the idea of using it as a collection of oral reading samples from throughout the year is terrific! Imagine at the end of the year, you’d have a great selection of books and texts that the child had read that year, each with its own picture, and then the reading sample attached to each one. When it’s completed for that year, you’d be able to sit and literally listen to the progress in reading skills and see the increasingly complex texts throughout a whole school year, in 10-20 minutes. Wonderful!

EdTech tips and tools from the week – 26th Aug 2011


Reading – What do kids say is the biggest obstacle to technology at school? 

  • iPads. Interactive Whiteboards. Netbooks. Video games. Although educational technologies are being implemented more and more in classrooms across the country, we don’t often stop and ask students – or their parents – what they think their technology needs are. But the newly-released Speak Up 2010 survey has done just that.”

100+ Google Tricks for Teachers

  • As the title suggests – it’s a list of more than 100 tricks using Google products, from search to email to docs to calendar… the list goes on.

18 Ways to educate yourself every day (because nerds are sexy)

  • I think the title says it all!



Speech to text in Windows 7:

  • I had a teacher come and ask me about converting speech to text for her Early Childhood Education (ECE) kids after having mentioned the iPhone App, Dragon Dictation. This particular teacher would like to keep accurate records of conversations with her very young students, but can find it difficult to keep up with written or type notes. Normally I would have sent her straight to this app, as we are soon to move in to our new campus, we are lacking wi-fi at our current campus. So I did some research and found that Windows 7 has quite a robust speech-to-text facility, called Speech Recognition. This was, it seems, developed as an accessibility option as an alternative to mouse and keyboard controls, however when using it with Word it becomes a speech-to-text program. Now, it turns out that the ECE kids’ pronunciation isn’t quite clear enough for Speech Recognition to be accurate, but this utility does have great potential for slightly older kids. Do a search for Speech Recognition, or find it under All Programs, Accessories, Ease of Access. Follow the tutorial (we skipped the voice setup tutorial), open Word and start talking.
  • Potential Uses: 
  • Accurate record of conversations.
  • Transcription of reading.
  • Story telling for younger years.
  • Punctuation and other editing development. Have the kids read something, then edit the text (as it doesn’t punctuate and sometimes detects words incorrectly).

Online/Social Bookmarking for Younger Students

  • Of course, there’s the big guys in social bookmarking – diigo, delicious, etc – but for younger students these tools are simply too complex. I’d been looking for a clean, simple bookmarking tool that provided a thumbnail of the linked site. After a quick tweet out, @hechternacht was able to help me out with a great tool called Tizmos. It’s very simple and great for the younger kids – check it out.

Boosting self-management and learning skills

Over the last month or so, I have been making an increased focus on developing skills within the students that allow them to take more control of, and be more aware of, their brain and learning. This is in response to the professional development day with John Josephs that we had at our school a while back as well as from reading the book ‘Why Do I Need A Teacher When I’ve Got Google?’ by Ian Gilbert (a book that I think every teacher and parent should read). I’d like to share some of the simple strategies that we’ve been focusing on:

  • Information Processing – In an attempt to have kids understand how their brain collects and stores information, we’ve taken a look at the Information Processing Model introduced by John Josephs. Basically, from the world of information, our brain chooses (or is forced to, or not to, by external influences) to move information through the following stages: sensory memory, immediate memory, working memory, long term memory. You can learn more by contacting
  • Learning spaces in the classroom – I recently rearranged the classroom to allow for a number of different learning spaces. We have spaces that include independent, quiet areas, group tables, reading areas, whole class areas, etc. I share with the students the idea of making a choice of seating based on the requirements of the task at hand. If you need to focus by yourself, find a spot to do that. If you need to work with a partner, find a spot to do that. The kids are choosing well – for the most part. Unfortunately old habits die hard and some kids try to claim a stake on ‘their’ seating position 🙂 We’re working to remove this habit.
  • Behavioural Self Management – we recently set up a STAR corner. This stands for Stop, Think, Act, Reflect. Similar to a time-out corner in that it allows for removal from a situation that’s getting out of hand. BUT, completely different in that the students mostly take themselves to the corner (rather than me ‘telling them off’ and sending them there), it emphasises a focus on thinking about what wasn’t working and how to change it, and it promotes meta-cognitive thought which allows students to improve themselves meaning that hopefully the incidents become less frequent over time. In times when the whole class is a little ‘distracted’ I simply ask them to close their eyes and, without speaking or touching anyone else, count to 10 in their heads, or spell their name, or say the alphabet. Then I ask them to open their eyes when calm, focused and ready to move forward. I’m now seeing kids using this at their desks too – it’s great!

I hope some of these simple techniques can help you in your classroom or home too.

Tech tools for ESOL

This post is partly a chance to share and partly a hope that you can share with me. I have a French speaking student in my class, who 2 weeks ago couldn’t speak a word of English. Over the last two weeks, I have simply been trying to build some vocabulary and basic phrases.

I am incredibly thankful for modern technology that has provided me with translation tools and teaching tools. Here are some that I’ve made use of. Please share any that you’ve used or know of that may be helpful in learning English for the very first time.

Google Translate: brilliant for translating words and simple phrases. I’m not too sure of it’s ability to translate more difficult phrases and chunks of information. It’s also got the ability to speak the words in the translated language – great for letting kids see and hear new vocab.

Spelling City: Great resource, not just for spelling practice, but great to build up the vocabulary for important daily words. Lots of different activities and once again reads the words. Some activities build up word recognition, while others work on understanding.

Professor Garfield: This one’s been very useful for building phonetic understandings and also has some stories that are read to the students.

iPhone App – English/Francais, Accio Pack: SOOOO handy for translations from English – French and French – English.

Have you made use of, or know of, any other useful apps or websites to help ESOL learners build up their English skills? Please share below.

Wordle for writing assessment

I had my class use Wordle this week as a great way to visualise the important things that they took away from our recent school camp. The students have recently written a recount from their week away, and once these were typed up, we copy and pasted them into Wordle to create a very cool visual. My main purpose for having the kids do this is to allow them to see which words, memories, events, etc stood out to them.

Here are some samples…


One interesting use of Wordle came about by chance when doing this activity. I could use Wordle as a writing assessment for word choice. For example, it is clear in this next Wordle that the student really (definitely, urgently, absolutely, certainly) needs to come up with more descriptive words than ‘really’ and ‘went’.

It was a great realisation for this particular student – she could actually see that ‘really’ was way overused in the recount. Both the student and I were able to assess the word choice of this writing piece without even needing to read what was written – so efficient.

This is certainly a tool I will be reusing for this purpose in the future.