Top 5 Tech Tools!

On a public Padlet set-up by Mark Anderson (@ICTEvangelist), I have recently shared my “favourite things to do with technology” in the classroom. After posting some strategies and real-life examples, it led me to reflect on what I’ve learnt over the past 18 months.

Since moving to Perth, Australia in 2015, I’ve been lucky enough to work in an Apple Distinguished School which fully embraces learning technologies. iPads are commonplace and are used by students and staff each day. Having access to tech day-in-day-out and being able to experiment with it in the classroom has taught me a lot about what’s ‘gimmicky’ and what genuinely has an impact on learning.

With this in mind, I thought I’d share some useful tech tools I’ve personally found powerful over the past year. Most of the apps are free and easy to use in class – some require a little bit more time and effort. So, here goes…

1. Apple Clips

As an English teacher, I’ve found Apple Clips to be a powerful way for students to explore imagery in texts. As well as learning quotations, making links between images and language is key in unlocking and deconstructing meaning. Recently, my Year 10 group created short Clips videos on key quotations from Shakespeare’s play ‘Macbeth’. Students were tasked with grouping quotations together and subsequenly creating quotation collages using the app Pic Stitch. Check out the results by tapping here!

This is only an image – to see the video, tap the link above

2. Quizizz

Quizizz is an effective formative assessment tool to check understanding and inform teacher planning. As students answer the multiple-choice quiz questions, a live leaderboard can be displayed to the class which shows the total amount of questions correct/incorrect. Data can be collected from each quiz showing the questions where students performed highy and where they require improvement. The memes make it extra fun!

Questions are randomised and appear in a different sequence for each student.

3. Microsoft OneNote

Microsoft OneNote is an effective note taking app which can serve as a live digital exercise book. It’s a lot more fiddly to set up than the other apps on this list as you’ll require a Microsoft 360 school account. Nevertheless, it’s an effective platform for teachers to push out lesson outlines/lesson sequences and resources as well as mark work and provide written/audio feedback. OneNote is a great tool if your school is going paperless.

Despite being able to type or write with an Apple Pencil, some students prefer to take photos of the written work in their physical exercise books. Either way, you can annotate and store screenshots.

4. Decide Now!

Decide Now is a spin-the-wheel name generator used to nominate students. Despite being a paid app (not expensive), it’s cool for no-hands-up class selection for class discussion, choosing roles/responsibilities. Students love it and it definitely keeps them on their toes!

Tap the middle to spin the wheel – there are many colour tempates to choose from.

5. Padlet

Padlet is an excellent way for students to collaborate and share information. Essentially, the app allows students to post text, images, video and links onto a shared digital pinboard. Over the past year, I’ve used this on numerous occasions when students are compiling information/research, responding to key questions/statements, sharing creative work; peer assessing/critquing WAGOLLs. A stand out feature of Padlet is the ability to print out information into a professional-looking document which students can use for revision.

Below is an example of the way Adobe Spark Post can be used with Padlet. Adobe Spark Post is an awesome app which creates stunning and professional looking graphics. Here’s an example of some Tanka poems created on Adobe Spark Post by Year 10 students then shared on a class Padlet.

Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 12.18.04 pm.png

If you’ve used any of these apps in different ways to enhance learning, let me know on Twitter @JamieClark85


#11 ‘Analysis Connectagons’

I came up with the idea of ‘Analysis Connectagons’ after trailing the ‘SOLO Squares’ which I have seen others use Twitter. The ‘connectagons’ are a pretty simple concept once you get your head around them and lead students to deeper thinking. Again, this task is ideal for group work and gives students the additional challenge of making connections and justifying how they arrange and position each shape.

Here’s how it works:

Students cut out two of each ‘Theme’ and ‘Character’ hexagon and work as a team to answer the layered questions in the spaces provided. As you can see in the example, the ‘Theme’ hexagon has three stages linked to the SOLO Taxonomy strands. The stages develop as follows: ‘Multistructural’ requires students to ‘Identify’ parts of the text where the theme is addressed; ‘Relational’ challenges students to ‘Apply‘ and link their ideas to at least three important quotations from the text. Finally, the in the ‘Extended Abstract’ space, students are to ‘Reflect’ and evaluate why Steinbeck used this theme in the novel.

The process should then be repeated for the ‘Character’ hexagon which contain slightly different questions. Instead of ‘Identify’, the ‘Multistructural’ task is to ‘Describe how Steinbeck presents this character’. Once again, the last two strands require students to ‘Apply’ by linking ideas to three important quotations and subsequently ‘Reflect’ on their ideas by referring to Steinbeck’s intentions/views and his message about 1930s society.

Once the shapes are filled in with top-notch ideas, the final challenge is to put them together (like a big jigsaw). This concept reflects the original SOLO ideas whereby students make links between each concept. This task is separate to the original and does not require students to link comments written on each hexagons. For example, in ‘Of Mice and Men’, the ‘Candy Character Connectagon’ can be placed next to the ‘Loneliness Theme Connectagon’ because Candy is a lonely character. What’s more, this connectagon can also link to the ‘Dreams’  as Candy buys into George and Lennie’s proposed plans.

This task is a great way of making progress visible and stimulates effective group discussion. Furthermore, it is a fabulous tool for revision and recapping themes and characters. I would like to see this in action on another text such as a Shakespeare play. If you use this resource in your classroom, please tweet a picture of it!

Download from: