Sunday, 25 November 2012

Strip Designer: 10 easy ways to get started with iPads/iPods in the primary classroom

Context: Many schools are starting their own iPad journey and often teachers ask for ideas about which apps to use and how to use them. As a good starting point, Strip Designer is easy to use, powerful and versatile. There are countless ways in which it could be used to promote learning and to add quality and variety to presentation of work. Once teachers have started using it, the practical ideas keep on coming. There is nothing here that couldn’t be achieved with pencil and paper but in terms of speed of productivity, ability to edit content and quality of presentation this app can really enhance pupil output in a lesson. Here are some examples of things we have tried.

1: Title Page

One of the most simple but effective uses of Strip Designer is to create title pages for work done in other apps. Children of all ages can easily add a picture to a simple one frame comic strip and then use the tools to add text boxes, speech bubbles, captions and effects. Amongst other things we have used this to produce titles for books made in Creative Book Builder, titles for Keynote presentations and title pages for classroom wall displays. The basic function of Strip Designer remains the same when applied to other uses in terms of combining pictures and comic style effects. Internet pictures can easily be added to the camera roll for inclusion in comic strips.
Title Page for a Controllable Vehicle Project
2: Sequence of instructions (How to...)

An annotated picture sequence of instructions has so many applications. In mathematics pupils complete a “How to...” comic strip when they have discovered a new technique or mastered a particular skill. This can be applied to any other area of learning where step-by-step text/picture combinations can be used for pupils to demonstrate their learning, or to help with new learning. Sequenced pictures are included in comic strips with as many frames as required along with explanatory speech bubbles and captions. This can work both ways as teachers can prepare instructions in comic strip format for pupils.

How to work out 9 times tables
3: Story board

The APP is perfect for planning movies, adverts and other film sequences. Pictures can be inserted indicating planned scenes and film sections and annotations through notes can provide further details and give depth to the plan. Scenes and ideas can be easily reordered and changed as plans take shape.

The Edward Jenner Story

4: Historical timeline

A visual account of a historical sequence of events can be presented in detail using Strip Designer. Dates and summaries of key events can be added allowing the reader to follow the historical developments in sequence. Children really relate to this format and the comic strip features allow the pictures to show what key historical characters may have been saying/thinking at particular points in history.
The Road to World War 2

5: Diary of a visit/event

The portability of the iPod allows pictures to be taken and editing to take place in any location. A school visit or sporting event can be photographed to give a pictorial presentation which can be used back at school for follow up writing activities, spoken presentations to an audience or display on a website/blog.

Guest Speakers at 'We Can Be Champions!'

6: Report of a scientific investigation

If a child takes pictures of the various stages of a science experiment, Strip Designer is a useful APP to use to present them. If pupils are developing skills in explanation and reporting the language opportunities for time connectives “First I,..” “Next the,...” etc works very well in with the strong visual elements of the APP. Speaking and Listening progress is made when children use their comic strip style investigation record as a prompt when explaining their procedures and findings to others.

7: Vocabulary chart (MFL)

When learning Modern Foreign Languages, banks of vocabulary can be created by pupils easily with Strip Designer. In French dictionary lessons the pupils have selected themes such as sports/pets and copied images to the iPod’s camera roll before inserting them into comic strips. The children have added the correct English and French vocabulary and are building a collection of useful and relevant vocabulary.

Modern Foreign Languages - Pets
8: Planning prompt for writing
On way the APP can support writing, particularly for children with memory and sequencing difficulties, is that it can be used to prepare writing prompts for pupils in a visual format. Teaching assistants have worked with pupils talking through a plan for a story and recording the plan as a sequence of pictures in strip designer, either using internet images or drawings. These can easily be numbered and annotated allowing a child to write a carefully sequenced story with a visual plan.

Screenshots with caption, used as a writing prompt.

9: Weekly weather record

A weekly weather report can be compiled using Strip Designer. Each day a pupil needs to take a picture of the weather and add it to a comic strip. Notes can be easily added detailing temperature, wind speed, precipitation data etc. The completed comic strips can be used for data handling activities or could be a stimulus for report writing based on the weather.

10: Collecting opinions

Recently the children were preparing and planning to write a balanced argument on whether or not there should be a charge to visit art galleries. (This was part of our Guest Marker project and the marker was the curator of our local art gallery) In order to collect different points of view to include in their writing, the children asked each other (and staff members) what their initial thoughts were. Each person was photographed with the iPod using the Strip Designer APP, and the children summarised their views using speech bubbles.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Independent Learning using iPods in Maths (iPodagogy)


Since the beginning of September we have been trying to maximise the use of 1:1 iPods in year 6 in all areas of curriculum. The potential of enhancing teaching and learning in mathematics through the use of this technology has been particularly interesting. We have been developing the creative use of a range of Apps to support progress, engage children and add relevance to maths teaching with positive outcomes (10 Practical ways to use Apps in Maths) We have also explored a wide range of maths specific Apps which have helped pupils mainly in the areas of number fact and tables recall. (Apps for Maths) Recently we have extended the use of the iPods to allow them to support independent learning, and play a central role in effective formative assessment.


Each week the children complete regular short assessment tasks based on assessment criteria appropriate to the level of maths they are working towards. We have adapted the excellent assessment resources provided by Andrell Education as part of the Big Maths approach developed by Ben Harding(@BigMathsBen). For those unfamiliar with Big Maths, the assessment feature uses a 10-step checklist to identify the specific steps a pupil needs to secure before achieving a level and moving on to the next. As teachers, we have found this element of Big Maths extremely powerful and it is central to our developments with the iPods in terms of formative assessment and independent learning.

QR Codes, Record Keeping and the Class Blog

The children track their own progress on a target sheet in their exercise book. (See image below).

A pupil's tracking

This highlights for them, and any staff working with them, the next steps they need to complete in order to make progress. During independent working opportunities in the classroom the pupils are able to use their iPod scan the QR code with a free app called Scan, for their own level and this will link them to the Big Maths section of our class blog.

A pupil scanning a QR Code to access resources on a blog

The pupils are then able to access specific material, with a supporting video created in Explain Everything (see below), to support learning and have the opportunities to practise the exact skills they need to improve.

A pupil scans a QR Code which take them to the Big Maths section on the blog

The majority of our use of the blog has been to provide an audience for pupil work, however it is an excellent platform for individualised learning as the children are familiar with accessing it and navigating it both at home and school. The blog allows the children to view instructional videos (made in iMovie) and illustrated examples of calculation methods, along with practice questions and activities to complete. In addition to this we are continuing to add example SATs questions, “real-life” problems and links to websites. The pupils themselves have started to contribute to the online Big Maths pages with their own videos, tips, questions and “How to…” presentations made in Strip Designer.


To consolidate and test the pupils understanding, we are currently in the process of creating iBooks, for different areas of the maths curriculum, which will contain SATs style questions linked to a particular area of maths. For example, an iBook could be created for level 5 SATs questions on classifying quadrilaterals and triangle or level 6 SATs questions on percentage increase or decrease. The iBooks could be embedded into a blog and accessed using a QR Code or synced to the pupils iPods in iBooks, ready to be used independently depending on the particular area of maths an individual pupils needs to work on.

Front page of an iBook the children could access from iBooks

Progress and Effectiveness

In simple terms, using the iPod in this way allows completely individualised learning in mathematics and is an immensely powerful tool in formative assessment. Pupils are all making visible and measurable progress because they are not wasting any time working on things they can already do. They are accessing individualised relevant teaching material both at home and school and because of the structure of the Big Maths materials. As teachers working in Year 6 every day evaluating the impact of things we do, it does seem that mobile devices employed in this “Flipped Classroom” way is perhaps a perfect illustration of why investing in handheld technology is a justified and essential step forward for schools.

Many thanks to Ben Harding for giving his permission for us refer to our use of Big Maths material in this blog post.

A big thank you to Rashan Richards for sharing the idea on his Explain Everything blog.

Independent Learning Using iPods in Maths

©2013 MrAndrewsOnline

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Developing the Use of Pupil Blogging Through the Use of a Class Learning Wall.


When we knew that we would be using iPods in year 6 on a 1:1 basis we began to plan and discuss how best to maximise impact. One thing we immediately recognised as being central to all of our work was the development and frequent use of a blog space for each pupil. In preparation for this we decided to divide up classroom display boards into equally sized sections and allocate a space to each child. This became known by the teachers as the “Learning Wall” and by the children as the “Class Wall” and its purpose was to allow pupils to experiment with presenting work for an audience, to develop a sense of ownership of a publicly viewable space and to develop skills in giving and receiving relevant and valid feedback. Before the summer holidays members of both year 5 classes were shown the wall spaces, and asked to prepare a display over the summer on a subject of their own choice.
Below are examples of class 6A and class 6W's Learning Wall on the topic of Winston Churchill & Adolf Hitler. Half of the class worked on the life of Winston Churchill, whilst the other half worked on the life of Adolf Hitler.The pictures were taken using the Panorama option, which became available with the latest update to iOS 6.

Other examples of our Learning Walls can be found on our pupils' blog (

How it works

Over the summer stationery supplies were restocked in terms of pins, staplers, backing paper etc and the wall spaces were labelled with pupil names. Upon returning to school in September children were given a reminder of the purpose of the wall and a brief instruction session with the paper cutter. The first week back saw the completion of the first set of pupil spaces on the wall, and over the course of the first half term the content for most children has changed an additional four times. Once work has been completed it is displayed on the wall and previous work is taken down and kept in a scrapbook, having been photographed and displayed on the pupil’s own blog space.The children manage the wall completely and decide on content, layout and any additional or interactive elements. The wall remains the first point of display for a large proportion of work produced in class. Post-it notes are used by pupils and staff to provide constructive comments and feedback.

The Pupils hard at work on their wall space.

Maintaining that the pupils stay safe online is paramount. Before the pupils began posting their work to their blog space they were taught the risks of posting content on the internet. The pupils watch the Jigsaw video by The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre ( and discuss the issues raised and the risks and how this relates to their own blogging space on the Year 6 pupils blog. 

The Digital Leaders at the school used an app called Videoscribe HD to explain the blogging rules. Thank you to David Mitchell (AKA @DeputyMitchell) for sharing his school's blogging rules, which have been adapted for our school needs.


The pupils each have the Posterous app on their iPods. Once the app has been opened the children click the New Post button, locate their blog space from the list of spaces, add a title, a description and attach any photos or videos, then click send and it appears in their blog space.

QR Codes

Each pupil has their own unique QR Code, which links to their own blog space on the Year 6 blog. An app called QRafter Pro was used to create the QR Codes. This code was mailed then printed off. Each time a pupil has posted work to their blog space, which is relevant to the theme of the wall, the pupil can use a QR Code on their learning wall space. The pupils are invited to visit each others wall space and scan the QR Codes using Scan app and leave comments about the post on their blog space. If a comment has been left, the pupils are encourage to reply.

The children can also use other QR Codes on their wall space if it has been use in lessons. For example, the children scanned a QR Code which took them to a audio clip of Winston Churchill's speech 'A few'. They could invite visitors to their wall to scan the code to listen to his speech.
A parent scanning a QR Code on Parents' Evening
Ownership and audience and impact

It has been important to stress to pupils, parents and school staff that the pupils are responsible for the content displayed on their own wall space. In many ways the wall has become an interactive learning tool as well as a place to showcase work. The pupils are very aware that if high standards are not maintained that this will be pointed out by any number of visitors to their wall.

Parents were invited to leave comments during Parents' Evening
The power of preparing work for an audience has promoted independence and creativity in many of the pupils. The children enjoy giving and receiving feedback to each other and many staff including the headteacher regularly inspect the wall and give suggestions for improvement or recognition of excellent work. A large number of parents have already been to view their child’s wall and parent feedback suggests that children are discussing their school work a lot more at home.

It is too early in the school year to reflect on any tangible impact although many of the children have tidied up on their clerical skills and begun to double check facts before “posting” to the wall. When Mrs Sellers pointed out to one pupil that Hitler never did invade Australia it quickly became apparent that a wider audience brings with it greater demands and closer scrutiny. In terms of demonstrating how valuable a pupil blog can be, the learning wall has already done its job. We hope to continue working in this way throughout the year, exploring the possibilities and impact of blogging both on paper in the classroom, and online.

© 2013 MrAndrewsOnline