Category Archives: Technology


On Wednesday 17th June a group of MFL teachers got together @DowneHouse1 to connect, share ideas and learn from each other.  As I said on the night, if there was ever any doubt that Modern Language Teachers are passionate about what they do then this TeachMeet proved otherwise.  There were about 60 linguists (and representatives from other subject areas) from all sectors and all stages of education.  There was a real buzz and four days on that buzz is still there for me and the colleagues in my department.

Our CPD kicked off in style with Mark Anderson @ictevangelist providing our keynote.  Mark judged our needs perfectly and talked to us about the power of TeachMeets and sharing ideas.  Mark told us that ‘languages are a force for good’ and none of us would disagree with that.  Mark took us through some tools that we can use to develop language skills.  Tools such as text to speech tool, Tellagami for motivating students to speak, Post-it Plus app which has many uses not least  assessing learning.  (Read more about this app here).

@GemmaLaundon summed up the Keynote as follows: I could not agree more!

However, the TeachMeet did not end there.  We were treated to a number of excellent presentations.  Jane Bradbury showed us the wonderful La Maison Claire Fontaine which looks like a fantastic place to experience French in situ.  Cheng-Han Wu (@wu_lao_shi) treated us to a two minute presentation entitled More of the Same vs Higher Order Thinking Skills.  It’s amazing what can be achieved in such a short time.   Cheng’s message was powerful and pushed home the importance of practice.

Mary Wood, @stbarts3, who wowed us all last year with some of her classroom teaching ideas and her use of, came back to tell us about new features on this language learning website.  Setting up a department area seems like a good plan and one that we will be following through.

Then @basnettj shared her love of @GetKahoot.  It did not take long for the audience to pick up the benefits of this tool.  Before long there was a good bit of competition going on and colleagues could see that not only does this online tool bring an element of fun and competition to the class it also provides some excellent feedback. You can read more about GetKahoot here.

The perennial problem for language teachers is getting students to speak spontaneously.  Fortunately, Ali Quick, @MFLmissquick, had a few ideas to combat this issue.    Ali’s De Bono’s thinking hats and her lovely colourful mats were an instant hit.

The first half was rounded off by a virtual presentation.  Unable to make it in time from the Isle of Man Rachel Smith kindly recorded a video for us on sketchnoting.  @lancslassrach is a keen sketchnoter herself making great use of Paper by Fifty Three. Sketchnoting with classes is not something that many of us had considered but Rachel’s presentation certainly gave us all some food for thought.

Philip Montague, @get_sme,  from Microsoft,  got the second half off to an amazing start.  He spoke to us about Digital Foreign Exchange and enlisted the help of his son via Skype.  We all know the power of minecraft but seeing a young boy picking up a few words in a foreign language whilst working his way through a minecraft maze was pretty special and certainly drove home an important message for us all.    There are so many ways that this tool could be successfully exploited for use in MFL.

We then heard from @this_islanguage, @befluentBFIN, @leVocab and @vocabexpress all took a couple of minutes to talk about the opportunities provided by their online language learning tools. If you do not know them then do check them out!

Gemma Laundon, @GemmaLaundon spoke to us all about spontaneous writing activities.  Getting students to write spontaneously is always quite tricky and Gemma reminded us of some good games we could play.  Consequences definitely seems a good one to get them writing.


We were then really grateful to Anna Comas-Quinn, @AComasQuinn from the OU for sharing her knowledge and expertise on Open Educational Resources and Creative Commons. Teach Meets are all about sharing great ideas so it seems right that Anna talked to us about sharing resources.

The evening drew to a close with three great presentations.  The first from Kirsty de Groot, @phrancophilly  talked us through some fabulous ideas for the MFL classroom for use with all age groups even.  Google classroom and Edmodo are just some of the tools Kirsty mentioned.  Clearly her students are really well prepared for secondary school. Kirsty’s ‘sell a teacher on ebay’ idea went down a treat.

Next up was Joe Dale, @joedale is a master at using technology in the MFL classroom and thus it was no surprise that he created a personalised talking photo story right there at our TeachMeet.  The audience were duly impressed with his brilliant Book Creator photo stories and his ideas about sharing them using Padlet.

Our evening was rounded off in style by Crista Hazell, @CristaHazell.  Crista reminded us of the need for creativity in MFL so that we can enable pupils to access the language they are being taught. Crista gave us so much to think about and consider our minds were buzzing with ideas.  She talked about keeping the sparkle in our students’ eyes and gave us ideas on how to achieve this.  Crista managed to put a sparkle in our eyes too!

The enthusiasm from Crista and all the presenters was infectious.  We proved that MFL Rocks (and so do MFL Teachers!).

We can not wait for our next MFL TeachMeet  -#DHLang15 – and have decided to break up the long wait with a multi-discipline TeachMeet in November.   If you would like to sign up for #EduDH15 you can do so by clicking on #EduDH15

We look forward to seeing you.

You can access the presentations here: Cheng-Han Wu: MOTS & HOTS Ali Quick: Be spontaneous! Rachel Smith: Sketchnoting Gemma Laundon: Spontaneous writing skills Anna Comas-Quinn: Open content and pedagogy Crista Hazell: Creativity in MFL


#DHTM ~ what to do with one iPad or tablet in class

As ever life at school remains busy however this did not stop a good number of interested colleagues coming along to enjoy the last staff Teach Meet of the term.  I think the subject matter had something to do with this as many of us really want to be able to make the most of our iPads in class and are aware that there are many tools that can help us enhance what we are doing with our pupils.

So, first up was TodaysMeet  which the MFL department had discovered at their excellent start of term INSET given by @joedale.  As the website says Todays Meet :

“gives everyone a voice”

With our virtual room duly set up we were all able to see how easy it is to post a question and for someone else in the room to respond (thus leaving the teacher free to continue teaching). With exam season upon us and revision sessions going on TodaysMeet seems like an ideal digital tool to use.  Furthermore a room can stay open for as long or as short a period as necessary so the questions can, if you wish, keep coming even when the lesson is over.  What an excellent tool to encourage collaborative learning amongst pupils and to help students to revise.  So, although not an iPad tool (although it is possible to access the site on your tablet browser, of course) this seems like too good a tool to ignore.

With our room set up the meeting then moved swiftly on to a bona fide iPad or tablet tool.  is a tool that our Teach Meets have explored before.  However, given the focus of this meeting we had to revisit it.  This is such an easy tool to use and is so effective in providing instant feedback on pupil progress using just one iPad and a few cards with QR codes on them.  It is such a simple idea but is so effective.   For more information on this tool read this blog post here.

Finally, we looked at the Post it Plus app which is only available at the moment on iPad. IN my view, this is its only limitation.  Never again will you have to wonder what to do with all those post-it notes your pupils used at the end of the lesson. Of course, before post-it plus, we simply read through the post-its to gain an idea of what our pupils had understood in the lesson.  With the app you simply take a photo and save the post its for use again and again.  You can rearrange the post-its, add more post-its, annotate them, organise them by category and collaborate with others.  If you wanted to demonstrate to your class how much had been achieved over the course of a topic you could combine two sets of post-it notes (saved on boards) and see easily what progress (or not) has been made.  Export the board and save as a powerpoint, pdf or excel.  Here’s one I made earlier:

post it notes

As you can see one of these notes was annotated and all the notes in fact from this board were examined in class in the next lesson so that the pupils could discuss errors made and accurate usage.  To ead more about this versatile and incredibly useful tool click here.

So three very easy tools were examined this time and colleagues have gone on straight away to make use of some of these in their lessons.

Which tools have we overlooked – please let us know.  Do you use any of these tools?  If so, let us know in the comment box below.  We would love to hear how you use them.

#DHTM – Easy Tech Tools

The first Teach Meet of the term was well attended by teachers keen to see what technology could do for their lessons.  The goal was to keep it simple and look at tools that were easily accessible by all.

First up was @plickers which is an excellent assessment tool that helps teachers gauge how well their students have understood the work covered.  It enables teachers to plan the next steps with an accurate knowledge of the levels their students have attained.  A quick demonstration was given and it was clear to everyone that this is a tool that should be explored more.  It does require one iPad per classroom.  For more information on how to set up your class using plickers click here.

For those who do not have access to an iPad another option  is @GetKahoot .

This is an excellent online tool for use in a language lab or students can get the student version of the tool ( on their lap top. This tool allows you to assess your students’ knowledge in much the same way as plickers with four possible answers to choose from. The difference with this tool is that once the four choices are displayed for all to see on the screen there is a limit on the amount of time that students have to answer the question. The background music adds to the intensity and the leader board posted on screen after each round brings an element of competition to this assessment tool. GetKahoot also saves the data about students’ responses in the same way as Plickers. So another tool that is definitely worth exploring.

Next under the spotlight was linoit. Linoit is just one of a number of online walls or pin-boards where students can collaborate and share ideas. Some of the others are linoit – “colourful collaboration” or padlet – “the easiest way to share and collaborate in the world”. It is easy to set up and you can invite your students to join in advance. Once you have started a sharing wall and set it up with your students you really can take it anywhere; grammar work, diagrams, feedback about a particular topic in biology, character analyses for a set text, or, as the example here, research about a particular, French comedian.


Once students start adding their thoughts, ideas, answers and so on the path is set for peer assessment, critical checks by critical friends and your feedback and advice.

Talking about giving advice @shampoozil then talked about how she uses podcasts to give advice on how to answer exam questions effectively. Setting up such a podcast is so easy and requires only the ability to record on a mobile phone or computer and the recording is then very easily
accessible by all students. The obvious advantage of recording such guidelines in this way is that students can access the information at their own pace and can access it as many times as they wish. Lesson time can then be freed up for dealing with individual questions and issues. Using podcasts or voice annotated feedback is certainly an area that needs further investigation and with such apps as educreations and notability oral feedback should become increasingly easy.

The final tool to come under scrutiny was shared by @DiEvans18. She talked to us all about memrise an online site and app @memrise that provides a fun way to learn new vocabulary. This tool has a place not just in the language classroom but in many areas across the school curriculum. @DiEvans18 uses it in her Business Studies classroom. This is a flexible tool that allows teachers to input key vocabulary or lets you choose from a bank of vocabulary that is already there. As a teacher it is possible to follow your students progress and, of course, for students they can create their own lists of vocabulary.

As ever, lots of great ideas were shared at this Teach Meet and I am sure that this will be the first of many more great Teach Meets this year. I hope to see you there.

If you have experience of the tools talked about here (or similar ones) then please let us know in the comment box below. We look forward to hearing from you.

#DHTM – Thinking for themselves

Although staff are all knee-deep in exam marking, invigilation, report writing and teaching we still managed to meet to discuss our thoughts and ideas on how we get the students to think for themselves.

First up, @shampoozil talked us through how important it is to share the assessment criteria with the pupils.   The process provides the pupils with clear steps to get from basic level to exceptional.  It may sound simple but it is effective and the steps, if clearly defined, provide a marking structure for the teacher too.

geog assessment criteriaSharing the assessment criteria helps to keep the pupils on task and really makes them think about how to peer assess with greater insight and thus provide feedback that is meaningful and helpful.

self and feed

The whole process helps the pupils to recognise different levels of work and enables them to produce work that goes beyond the relational and access those higher order thinking skills that will help them get the top marks.  The 2 stars and a wish image clearly highlights how thinking in this way can link into Solo taxonomy.

On the theme of SOLO taxonomy this structure for guiding pupils in writing literature essays was also suggested.  The idea is that pupils move up from the bottom and go beyond simply listing and identifying characters and consider how they can express more than an analysis of minor characters.  The top level considers how students might be encouraged to think beyond the analysis.

solo - etranger

Next up @DiEvans18 talked about how she uses twitter to share links with students and then get them to explain a resource with their peers.  This really tests their ability to internalise information and recreate using their own words – not an easy task.

Finally, we were all bowled over by the website In essence a maths website set up by mathematicians where pictures and videos are shared.  The point of the picture or the video – to get you to think “what’s the first question that comes into your mind?”.  The video plays twice and it is then possible to submit your question (or the question suggested by your class) and see what questions other people have thought of.  It really gets you thinking.  Have a go yourself…

What’s the first question that comes into your mind?


Suggested question "how much bigger is this pool table than a normal one?"

#DHTM ~ Classroom moments

So a great crowd came along today to talk about some fantastic ideas. There is definitely some good, creative activities going on around the school.  The best thing about sharing our ideas was how each idea spawned another and everyone felt able to add their thoughts.

Inner Circle/Outer Circle: Half the pupils sit (or stand) in a circle facing the other half who are in the outer circle.  Each pair has a card with a question with the answer on the back.  The inner circle ask the question to their partner in the outer circle.  The game then moves on with each circle taking one step to their right, thus in opposite directions and picking up a new card with a new question for a new partner.  At the end of the session pupils can work on any of the areas where they struggled.

Variations (and there were many! Here are a couple):

Repeated Questions: In a circle the first pupil reads out a question and the next person the answer, this process is repeated until eventually there is no need to read the answer as it has become ingrained.  By this point the next question can be brought out and the process can be repeated and gather speed as it progresses.

Find your partner Q & A: Each pupil has a card with either a question or answer on it, moving round the room they have to find their partner. 

Hexagons: Thanks to Jo Clarke @shampoozil for sharing this idea. Essentially, Jo showed us the hexagons she uses.  It is an idea that easily transferable across year groups and subjects.  The set that Jo brought this time had different key terms relating to a geography topic.  The idea is to arrange the hexagons to analyse links and relationships between different ideas. Having tackled this we then checked out what the other groups did which in itself was a useful exercise as it was clear that this could open yet more discussion.   Why did we link the way we did?  What was the connection? And so on.

Hexagons are a great way to revise and can be used as a type of mind mapping activity, they are perfect for differentiation and for enabling students to think more deeply and further their understanding.  To find out more about hexagons check out Pam Hook Solo Hexagons  and if you would like to make some of your own you can use Pam Hook @arti_choke‘s Hexagon Generator

Take it further: The pupils could be charged with creating their own hexagons and can work in pairs or groups or individually.  If you want to involve technology in the process you can use Triptico – Inspiring Imaginative Teachers to create what is called a Think/Link. Here’s an example of one:

think link perfect tense

These links can be moved around on screen and then reset.  As with the paper version pupils can create their own.  An added advantage with these is that pupil can classify each hexagon if they wish by changing the colour.  This online version also allows you to add some notes/clues/extension questions if you wish.  If you have any questions on this computer based tool then David Riley @David_Triptico is always happy to help.

In the meantime, I am grateful to Jo for sharing these edible hexagons on twitter….

Educreations: an example of  flipping the classroom from the maths department.  Educreations is web-based and is available as an app as well.  With a video in place and clear instructions for pupils to follow there was ample time to help the weakest and enable those that can to move on still further.  Questioning in class revealed the extent of what had (or had not been absorbed).

Take it further: import the video into Nearpod and set questions that check for understanding and give you immediate feedback on your pupils.  Another option is to look at Educanon ( @educanon123) which looks like a tool worth exploring.


 Connect Four: Back to plain old paper for the final activity based on a child’s game that you  might remember. Here’s a picture to jog your memory: 


And here’s the paper version.  In this case, each square has a sentence with a mistake in it.  Pupils work in threes, two to play the game and the third player to check for mistakes from the players.

connect 4 errors

I’m thinking that there might be an electronic version of this idea.  Have asked @David_Triptico to see what magic he can come up with.

So, all those ideas in just about 25 minutes.  The tea, sandwiches and cake were good too. In all it was time well spent.


#DHTM ~ 3 Twitter

This week the focus was on twitter.twitter-bird-winking

Richard Barnes @Downeloadgeog is a keen tweeter (or tweacher) having started tweeting back in April 2012 and now with 3,638 tweets to his name at the time of writing, he’s something of a pro.  Richard talked us through how he makes use of twitter to search for particular topics and then uses the #hashtag to collate his ideas on various points of interest.  He suggested a few good tweeters to follow including @TeacherToolkit and handed out some guides on why teachers should give twitter a go , The 10 Stages of Twitter and Twitter for Teachers: A Guide for Beginners

These guides are excellent – do have a look.  It really is easy to get going.  Here are some useful steps to take:

1. Make sure you write something in your profile – a lot of people will not follow you if you have no information about yourself.  This is especially true if you have protected your tweets.  Your profile should reflect what you might eventually tweet about.

2. Choose a few good people to follow.  Here are some good ones to get you started:

GuardianEducation@GuardianEdu                                TomSherrington@headguruteacher

Bill Nye @TheScienceGuy                                                   ClassicsCollective@ClassColl

ExploreClassics@ExploreClassics                                   SocietyofBiology@Society_Biology

PhysicsAnswers@physicsanswers                                  ChemistryWorld@ChemistryWorld

UKMathematicsTrust@UKMathsTrust                          MusicTeacher@MusicTeacherMag

RoyalAcademy@royalacademy                                        Thetes@tes


These are just suggestions but the list is by no means exhaustive.  They may help lead to more useful or pertinent twitter accounts for you and your department.  If you can’t find exactly what you are looking for you can simply try using the hashtag in the search box of twitter.  For example #mathsteaching, #mfltwitterati, #philosophy and so on.

3. Start slowly.  Read what others are up to.  It won’t take you long to find something that interests you that you will want to retweet (RT)

4. Once you have tried a RT have a go at a MT (modified tweet) and add your own thoughts.

5. “Favourite” some good tweets and articles to keep and view later and to share with your pupils and followers.

6. Reply to people.  It’s all about interaction, sharing and collaborating.

7. Finally tweet your own thoughts about something that links to your subject or simply that interests you.  Or find your own article to tweet.

Eventually, once you have got the hang of it you could ask your pupils to follow you and you could even try getting them to tweet you in 140 characters (the limit of a tweet) the most important thing they learnt in your lesson.  That would be a good challenge.

There are a number of departmental accounts now that you could have a look at to see how other departments are using twitter:

DowneHouseSchool@DowneHouse1                                            DHLinks@DHLinks

DowneHouseHistory@DowneHouseHist                                      DianaEvans@DownetoBusiness

MusicDepartment@DowneHouseMusic                                         DowneMFL@downemfl

ICTandComputing@downecomputing                                           DowneHouse@downehousepe

Do have a go at twitter; it’s amazing how helpful it can be. There are a huge number of helpful mentors out there willing to provide potential answers or useful links.

Looking forward to tweeting with you!  You will find me on @basnettj

#DHTM ~ 2 Lesson objectives

Our second meet of the week looked at lesson objectives.

Wordle or Tagxedo are great online sites which allow you to create Word Clouds where you can put any words of your choice on a particular theme or topic and then choose to display them in horizontal form, as below

les loisirs word cloud

or in a more chaotic manner:


There are lots of levels in between too and a variety of colours and fonts.  Pupils should look for key words and then work out the lesson objectives.  As the lesson proceeds, more can be made of this resource.  In these French examples I could get pupils to make some sentences, or perhaps create their own word cloud (also known as “scatterglories”).  Such word clouds can be used with any age and on any topic.  Perhaps some key words relating to a recent set text in English?  Or some key terms in physics?

#TIP 1:  Add a red herring to see if the pupils spot it and to see if they can work out why it is a red-herring.


#DHTM ~ 1 Engaging tools

In our first session we looked at the engaging and motivating online quiz facility kahoot.

To create the quiz go to GetKahoot, subscribe and make your quiz. Choose any topic that you have been working on. This could be a simple test on recent key words, terms or dates. Or it could be a fill the gap exercise. Indeed, it could be a quiz that demonstrates to you that your pupils have learnt the topic properly.

There are some ‘frilly’ choices to make about whether you would like music playing whilst the girls are thinking about their answers and how long you would like to give the girls to answer the question.

Once you have set the quiz up, launched it and have it open on your computer and have displayed it on the whiteboard, invite your class to search for on their mobile devices or on a computer. Once they have found the site they will be asked for the game pin which they will see displayed on the whiteboard. They should enter this number and then their nickname. They will then see their name displayed on the whiteboard at the front of the class.

When all the pupils have joined the game, you can start in earnest. After each question you will see how many got the answer right and how many chose the wrong answers. The quicker the correct response, the more marks out of 1000 available. At the end go the quiz there will be a winner. You can also be a winner by downloading the excel spreadsheet which gives a detailed breakdown of who got what question wrong or right and if they did chose incorrectly it tells you what answer they chose. This is incredibly useful as the wrong answers can be very telling about their knowledge (or lack of it!)

The game is motivating and engaging and produces great results in terms of learning.

#TIP 1: If you only have access to one mobile device in addition to the teacher’s computer pit the rest of the class against one user and give the class mini-whiteboards on which to write their answers.

#TIP 2: get the girls to subscribe to getkahoot (it’s free) and ask them to write their own quiz. This would really challenge them to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the content studied.