Thinkspace – an inspiring student story

STEPHENFRY!!!!! The above picture is of three of my students who recently met Stephen Fry in London whilst they were attending the National Finals of the Teen Tech Awards.  James, Kamran and Ollie had a discussion with Stephen about a project they are working on called Thinkspace. They describe Thinkspace as being ” a space in schools around the world where students can come and learn how to create these websites and apps – and it is student led. We’re hoping to pick out the next Jack Dorsey’s, Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg’s and we believe this is possible with Thinkspace”.  I think this video, feating messages from Stephen Fry, Steve Wozniak, Jimmy Wales (to name just a few of their supporters) is the best way of explaining it…

They launched Thinkspace last Thursday and it attracted even support from their celebrity bakers; 12 million people will have been exposed to the tweets supporting them from Richard BransonRory Cellan-Jones plus the line up from the video.

They appeared on BBC regional news.


There have been lots of articles written about the boys and Thinkspace:


Pictures of the Thinkspace at DHSB:






Thinkspace TES 1 Thinkspace TES 2


A commitment to write a guide to: Introducing iPads into your school

Apple Store Covent Garden

Wooly Matt via Compfight

Will a public declaration to do something encourage me to actually do it? I hope so.  The following is my planning – I have highlighted chapter headings and sub headings.  These may change as I go on, but they will hopefully guide me as I progress.

I will publish each chapter on here as I go and I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do with the final version.  I will try and ensure it is accessible to other.  I would welcome your thoughts and feedback.


Creating a vision for the future use of ICT

  • My approach to creating a vision for the future use of ICT
  • Creating a vision for the future use of ICT checklist

Why choose iPads?

  • Tablets v computer rooms
  • Tablets v laptops
  • iPads v other tablets
  • Dealing with the naysayers
  • My approach to why choose iPads
  • Why choose iPads checklist

Getting the infrastructure right

  • The tender process
  • Choosing a broadband connection
  • Type and size of connection
  • My approach to getting the infrastructure right
  • Getting the infrastructure right checklist

Buying your iPads

  • Price
  • Availability of stock
  • Support
  • Location
  • Choosing which iPad to buy
  • Protecting the iPads: cases
  • Protecting the iPads: insurance
  • My approach to buying your iPads
  • Buying your iPads checklist

Apple TVs

Staff training

  • My approach to staff training
  • Staff training checklist

Ongoing support for staff and students

  • Genius Bar
  • Digital leaders
  • Teacher learning communities
  • My approach to ongoing support for staff and students
  • Ongoing support for staff and students checklist

Setting up the iPads

  • My approach to Setting up the iPads
  • Setting up the iPads checklist

Running a pilot

  • Pilot with teacher enthusiasts
  • Pilots with a nominated class
  • My approach to running a pilot
  • Running a pilot checklist

Moving towards a 1 to 1 roll out

  • Paying for the 1 to 1 roll out
  • My approach to moving towards a 1 to 1 roll out
  • Moving towards a 1 to 1 roll out checklist

A bring your own device policy (BYOD)

  • My approach to a bring your own device policy (BYOD)
  • A bring your own device policy (BYOD) checklist

A guide to 11 essential apps

  • Safari
  • Keynote
  • Quesco
  • Popplet
  • iMovie
  • Explain everything
  • Google street view and maps
  • Book creator
  • Evernote
  • Socrative
  • Showbie

Other apps that can be used across the curriculum

  • iTunesU
  • Pages
  • Numbers
  • GarageBand
  • Camera
  • iBooks
  • QR reader
  • Puffin
  • iPlayer
  • Twitter
  • Evernote
  • Skitch
  • Google drive
  • Comic Life
  • I can animate
  • Skype
  • Khan Academy
  • TED talks
  • Quickoffice
  • Prezi

Flipped learning

Appendix 1: A tender document for a school wide wireless system




Bett 2013

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I arrived at bett 2013 on the packed DLR surrounded by hundreds of colleagues ready to be wowed by the hundreds of exhibitors and speakers. My plan for the day is to visit as many stands as possible and hope to learn something new about what is on offer to our school community.

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ExCeL is big. Very big! I’m going to dive in and make a note of those I speak to. I have listed those I spoke to in order, with the exception of my chat with showbie. This app has made me very excited!!

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For a long time I have been trying to figure out an effective workflow for the iPads in school. I had a long chat with Colin Bramm, the Canadian President of Showbie, and he took the time to show me all of its features. He was also kind enough to give me a promo code – enter “steve” into the promo code box when you sign up you will be given double the usual 100 assignments that you get.

I think this could be the solution. Teachers can share work with a class – files can also be uploaded and shared. Students can then submit work for assessment. This appears in a really smart interface for teachers who can then add comments. It is also possible to give audio feedback. I will write a longer blog post on this showing off its features in the near future.

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Display note offers the ability to share content to a wide range of devices. Students can then make their own notes and annotations which can then be saved to their own devices. £465 for a class license that allows up to 40 users.

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Sporting Nation is solution for managing teams and allows staff and students to manage teams as well as their own individual performance. Works with Frog OS to allow a single sign on.

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IPTV solutions great signage solution that may give a more professional look to our screens around the school. A box has to be purchased for each screen. I will wait for the email about the costs…

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One for the Head ofChemistry!

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If I had a bottomless pit of money I would give our school to in July and say see you after the summer holidays! Inspiring ideas.

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Unwanted ICT equipment? Not sure there can be a better place to send it than computers 4 Africa.

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Our PTFA has just funded a new radio station for our school. The equipment arrives next week…

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I don’t know too much about data loggers, but Globisen’s device looked amazing. Built in GPS and sensors allow for a very wide range of experiments that are all linked to the curriculum. $500 and the app female viagra is free.

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Gary Futcher and Jason Quiterio are brilliant colleagues from Notre Dame.  Here is Gary presenting about Big Campus. Not for us right now, but their presentations were brilliant!

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Opportunities for students to work through lessons on java and C++. Cost of €30 per student. This may fit in with in with our new KS3 curriculum and coding club.


The first step into app coding – I will be investigating this one further.

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Wow. On the wish list… Not a totally unreasonable price having had a long discussion with schools network Garry their MD. I can see so many cross curricular links with this sort of professional kit. I would love to invest in our students with something like this.

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I will be receiving the link to the You Tube channel with the Google presentations later on. I’m always looking for ways to enhance our Google Apps suite.

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We are already looking at ways of sharing mark books in Google with parents. Hapara appears to be the next step. I’m not sure we are ready for this just yet, but staff and students are increasingly using Google Apps so this is one for me to remember.

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Can go4schools do things that our resident SIMS/Excel genius can not already do? It’s a question I would like the answer to!

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Another opportunity for our young coders? There are four different books that contain a series of lessons with resources. I really like it, but the cost of £600 makes me think twice. I picked up a sample module, so we will see.

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Syncing and charging 32 ipads at a time for £2,500. My network technician would love me!

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A talk about Showbie – could this be the answer to my iPad workflow? I really hope so. Demonstration using notability for marking on PDFs.

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Another sync and charge option. For 16 iPads the sync option costs £900 and £1,400 with the case.

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I ended the day with a chat with Anne Duffy on the Frog stand. Surrounded by lots of people clamouring for the Frog hopper stress balls we discussed the impending release of FrogOS.

As I got to Paddington I met with my Head, Kieran Earley, who was arriving to take part in an old boys reunion. His first question was: how much had I spent? I replied none. The then asked: how much had I mentally spent? I will need the train journey back to Torquay to calculate that one. He’s supported every idea to date. I will need sometime to think about what I have seen, but I am convinced that I have found things today that will enhance teaching and learning at DHSB.

It’s been a long and exhausting day, but my mind is bubbling with ideas.



Flipped Learning

What is flipped learning?

Traditional teaching is based upon the transfer of knowledge in the class and then students assimilate that information outside of the classroom.

Flipped learning puts the transfer of knowledge of outside of the classroom, thereby enabling the teacher to focus upon the analysis, evaluation and creation using that knowledge during contact time.




How I use flipped learning

I have been using techniques that are under the flipped learning umbrella for some time now, refining my technique as I read or heard from other practitioners.  I was recently privileged enough to listen to Prof. Mazur at the SSAT National Conference who really clarified my think on flipped learning.

I teach A level economics and utilize flipped learning to maximize the impact of my classroom time with the students.  Students are asked to learn the material at home using notes with questions and links to explanatory videos on YouTube.

Class time is then used ensure understanding and provide opportunities to use the acquired knowledge.

One way I am able to do this in lessons is using multiple choice questions and the Socrative App (you can read/watch my guide to Scorative as it was featured as one of my apps of the week).

I display a multiple choice question on the board and ask students to answer via the Socrative mobile site.  I am able to see their responses in real time.

When they have finished answering (I give them a specified time frame) I check the results.  I will then ask them to discuss their response with somebody else in the class.  They need to find another student with a different answer and then convince them of why their response is correct.  This enables a discussion between two students who are recent learners.  The students are more likely to be able to explain the right answer because they have only just learnt it and know what the difficulties are in understanding it.  This can help overcome the issues that some have in explaining something that comes naturally to them; this is something Steven Pinker describes as the curse of knowledge plantiffs who won their viagra lawsuit in court in 2010 (I am quite sure that many would say that I’m doubly cursed: I don’t have the knowledge and are still unable to explain something…!).

For this part to be successful you will ideally want between 30% and 75% of the students to have initially answered the question correctly.  If it’s more than that a brief explanation from the teacher may suffice.  Any less than 30% you may find the critical mass of students are convincing others of the wrong answer!

Once students have had the opportunity to discuss their responses you should reset the question and allow them answer the same question again.  Hopefully you will see a dramatic shift towards the correct answer.

There maybe a need to explain the answer at this point.  I will usually ask a student who got the answer incorrect initially to outline how they answered the question.  Again this is getting a student to use their experience of just learning something to help others in the class understand.

This process can be summarised below:


By getting the students to take part in this form of learning they:

  • Made a commitment to answering the question / undertaking the task as they have to register a response.
  • Share their answer with others.
  • Moved from simply answering the question to having to explain their reasoning behind their answer.
  • Became emotionally involved in the question and the learning process.


Impact of flipped learning

When I use flipped learning techniques I find there is a different level of energy in the classroom.  Students are passionate about sharing their learning and I have seen a significant increase in the levels of engagement.

I hope this overcomes the issues that Harvard’s Professor Mazur highlighted when looking at the levels of students’ brain activity.  The chart below shows the levels of brain activity whilst studying or doing homework.

Flipped 2

This one shows levels of activity during sleep.

Flipped 3

Whilst this shows the levels of brain activity during classes.  As you can see it is almost non-existent!

Flipped 4

The only period during the day when students displayed similar levels of brain activity was whilst watching television.

Flipped 5





Mobile technology in the classrooms – Academy Magazine article

I was invited to take part in a round table discussion about the future of mobile technology in the classroom.  It was a very interesting discussion that continued long after the iPhone dictation app was turned off.  It was great to spend time with Graham Brown-Martin, founder of lawyer in virginia winning viagra lawsuits Learning Without Frontiers; Tom Graham and Matt James from Kingsbridge Community College; Lynda Divers from Lincoln Castle Academy and Greg Williams from Aston Manor Academy; Chris Goodrich from The Mountbatten School; and Peter Burgess from GCSEPod.

You can read the full article from page 35 in the latest Academy Magazine


Learning in the hands of students

This post is a copy of a paper I wrote for the iNet Educator Online Conference – the original is available here.  Comments on the paper are available here.

This essay will describe how Devonport High School for Boys (DHSB) has undertaken a project with its students to develop an app for use on ipods, iphones, ipads and Android devices.  The app, which is now available in the iTunes store, provides students and parents with a wealth of information about their learning including rewards, sanctions, revision materials, attendance and a homework organiser.

DHSB has a school development plan that highlights the importance of enterprise and creativity; this applies equally to staff and students.


The school’s virtual learning environment (VLE) is supplied by Frog and each night students and parents are able to access updated information about that day’s rewards, sanctions and attendance which enable conversations about learning and school to take place at home (see screenshot below).  This supports our belief in the key tripartite relationship of school, students and parents. 

VLE parent view

In investigating ways of making the information more readily accessible to parents and students.  I conducted some research with both groups to find out how we could make it easier to access the information: the resounding answer was a mobile friendly site.

Following my research a Year 10 student, James, came to speak to me because he wanted to get involved in developing a mobile vle for the school.  He had some previous programming experience, but he hadn’t worked on a mobile site or an Apple app.  Another student, Ben (Year 11) who enjoyed graphic design, approached me about helping with the design of the site. 

Together, using the feedback from the vle’s users, we planned what the new mobile site should contain.  James and Ben felt that an app that could be distributed on the Apple Store would be a brilliant solution for many of our users – the only problem was nobody had any coding experience on Apple’s mobile operating system (iOS)!

James was determined to look further into how to program apps and within a couple of weeks he had mastered the basics and produced an app with limited features that linked to some pages on the school’s vle.  James had achieved this learning independently with the support of online materials, videos and forums.  Ben then went to work designing graphics to give the site a professional look.

In order to allow James to create the required pages for the app I’ve had to give him administrator access to our vle.  This required a leap of faith on our behalf as James could have caused irreparable damage to our vle, but without access this project could not have continued.

Since the first version of the app James and Ben have spent countless hours developing it into one that contains numerous innovative features and is genuinely unique.  The app has been downloaded 1,000 times and reached 21st in Apple’s education charts.

Since the app’s release the boys have been receiving a great deal of interest from other schools who would like an app developed for their community.  This has prompted the boys to set up a limited company, PixelBit Apps.  To do this they have met and received support from local accountants Francis Clark: Martin Atkins, their Business Services Director, commented that “not only have these boys shown great technical expertise in creating this outstanding app, they have gained the skills and knowledge that will enable them to set up and run a limited company”.  James and Ben are now developing apps for other schools who are delighted with the results.

There has been a lot written in the education press in recent months about the advantage students with a private education have in terms of confidence and self-belief.  My experience of this project is that the boys involved have not only had a significant improvement in their computing skills and understanding of business, but their soft skills have also developed tremendously.  They have undertaken meetings with accountants, bank managers and school leaders with great confidence; witnessing this growth has given great pleasure.

When Rob Salkowitz stated in Young World Rising that three forces are reshaping the world of the 21st century: youth, ICT and entrepreneurship, I believe he had in mind students such as James and Ben developing themselves and their ideas in this fashion.  They have already equipped themselves for entering the jobs market in a post-globalisation era.  Their website,, has already led to them writing an app for the BBC’s Apprentice’s contestant, Leon Doyle, that allows iPhone users to save money on their phone calls to 0800, 0808 and 0500 numbers. Ben has developed his own graphic design site,, and he has undertaken work for clients from around the world – including a multi million dollar US firm.

This app exemplifies how our school is fostering a creative approach to learning and placing it into the hands of students.  DHSB has an Assistant Headteacher responsible for Enterprise; he works tirelessly to encourage enterprising and creative approaches to learning and problem solving.  Many other students have been supported to develop their own ideas and take responsibility for their learning, but doing it within the supportive framework of the school.

The challenge for the school is how we can further embed these principles into the learning across the school.

Below is a copy of a video created by the students to promote the app during an assembly.


VLE: a worthwhile investment?

I wrote about the value of a VLE prior to joining my present school, DHSB, and I was at that point unsure of its long term value.  Now, just over two years into my new role it is time for me to question the value of the VLE again.  We invested in Frog prior to my arrival; this had involved a significant investment in time and money.  The VLE had two login profiles: students and staff.  Neither group used the VLE extensively, it was primarily used by staff for booking ICT rooms and students studying ICT used it to submit work.

We undertook a major rewrite of the VLE two years ago and created separate sites for parents and governors in addition to the student and staff areas. 

I will discuss what information we have available on each of these areas in a future post.

At Frog’s conference earlier this year I remember Dai Barnes asking a developer about pedagogy and the impact of the VLE upon teaching and learning, that is an area I don’t think we have cracked yet.  Google Apps, in my opinion, does this better.

What it has enabled us to do is take great leaps forwards in our parental engagement.  We invested in the parental portal module which Frog states was “designed to engage parents first and foremost”. 

After some quite significant teething problems with the SIMS extractor (we have SIMS hosted remotely and that seemed to cause no end of problems) parents are now able to login after 6pm and see rewards, sanctions and attendance data for that day.

VLE parent view

I read a great post by Scott on his new blog, where he looked at using Google Apps to create a free vle. We introduced Google Apps this year and I have to agree with many of Scott’s points, however the parental engagement aspect of our VLE means that I’m not ready to call time on Frog anytime yet.


VLE – I’m still not totally convinced…..

 image image

Now schools are spending vast sums of money on VLEs I keep asking myself, are schools receiving good value for money from their VLE providers?  What is the opportunity cost of this spending?

When I talk to colleagues, both in my own school and others, many of them appear to use the VLE simply as a on-line storage centre.  Given the wide range of outstanding on-line resources it would appear that schools would be better off utilising a range of these.

I have just read another of Doug Belshaw’s outstanding posts on what are the ‘functional specifications’ of a VLE that drive real learning?  He highlights that the VLE could be used for:

Be a collaborative space where students and staff can collaborate on documents and web pages (like Google Apps)

Enable users to have appropriate contact with others within the Academy and the wider community by a range of methods (e.g. Twitter-like microblogging, instant messaging, shared whiteboards, video conferencing,email, social networking)

Promote learning by have clearly structured course elements, rather than be a file repository.

Process appropriate data quickly in a visually-appealing and easy-to-understand way for Academy staff, students, and parents.

Allow students to publish their work to various parties: peers, teachers, the Academy, the world.

Enable outside agencies to access appropriate data on students, staff and Academy issues.

OpenID login so users have a single sign-on and have more control over their digital identity.

Integration with immersive worlds such as Second Life (as, for example Sloodle does)

If this is how a VLE is to be used, perhaps it is time for a rethink.  In September the school I will be joining uses Frog – I shall keep an open mind.

(image by largo! @ Flickr)


Yacapaca and Google Docs?

I received an email from Ian Grove-Stephensen this evening outlining the exciting possibility that the fantastic Yacapaca could be integrated with Google Docs.  Only one small problem – Google need to be persuaded!  If you would like to contact Google’s education boss Jeff Keltner and explain how useful this mash-up would be please do.  He is expecting our emails – here’s my thoughts:


Hi Jeff

I would consider myself to be an early adopter of many on-line technologies – I love hearing in the months (and years!) after using various products/sites about this "new **** that really helps my teaching and learning in the classroom".

I wrote some of the first courses on Yacapaca and have been a great advocate of the site, for example:

As you will be able to tell from my apps sent email, I am also a great fan of everything Google.  I’m becoming more and more reliant upon Google docs to collaborate with teachers around the world.  It also allows students to work together in real-time projects which has been a great leap forwards for my classroom practise.  I’m finding that Yacapaca and Google Docs assist me in enabling deep learning to take place within the classroom.

A mash up of Yacapaca and Google docs would be a wonderful educational tool.  I am presently working in collaboration with a group of teaching across the South West on producing a complete set of resources for the new Business, Administration and Finance Diploma; I would be very interested in piloting this new resource on "Gacapacle" (excuse me) as I expect it to be a very popular, given that it will be distributed free of charge.  The possibilities of having students being able to work on spreadsheets on-line would revolutionise the way I could teach the finance and accounting modules.  Presentations would be another invaluable addition to the present text only entry.

One of the unique features of the new diplomas is that students will travel from their own school to a central school or college where they will undertake the main learning.  They will then return to their own school to complete further work – being able to continue to collaborate would be of great benefit to students and staff alike.  As students learning away from their main institution is becoming more the norm.

I also believe this would go along way to helping students move away from believing they have to have the prohibitively expensive Microsoft Office suite.  By encouraging students to work on spreadsheets and presentations within Yacapaca would make your suite of free programmes appear to be the norm.

If you would like me to expand upon any of these points or would like to discuss education and technology further I would be delighted to talk to you.

Kind regards

Steve Margetts


So much to try

I’m trying to complete an A2 Economics text for Nelson Thornes at the moment; the deadline is fast approaching.  I’ve just sat down ready to start a marathon session of typing and I see twitter has been  a bit busy over the past couple of hours.  Drew Buddie made a request for indispensible ICT tools for teachers.  The net result for Drew and his collaborators is this wiki and, no doubt, many hours wasted for me.