It’s not rocket science! Learn about Space from the experts

Last year two primary school classes in our multi-academy trust submitted questions to astronomical experts related to the Juno mission to Jupiter, which has sent back new and exciting information about the giant planet and its moons.

The excitement for our children was that their questions were answered live on a Google hangout on air by the experts as they watched from their classrooms. Spacelink are offering this opportunity again and it is all free. Check out the hangouts coming up via the link and register your interest to get your class involved.

What we did:

I created a Google document to share with the classes, once they had their class discussions and lessons to investigate the topic they added their questions to the collaborative document and I was able to simply send the document link to the organisers and they had them ready to go during the live hangout, which you can watch above.

At the end of the live hangout the children cheered! Real impactful #edtech should provide an opportunity for learning that wasn’t feasible before. Our teachers found the tech was easy and the learning was inspirational.




What’s in your classroom: Potentially everything!

The Weald School in Billinghurst is not the obvious place to end up hearing from a History teacher sitting in the car park of a 7eleven in Missouri but it happened at #TMedtech a Teachmeet focussed on educational technology. Thanks to Andy Cooper, who previously connected his class with Rhett, we were treated to a hangout with the US History teacher who actively pursues experiences for his pupils beyond their own community. If they are studying Greece he will find someone in Greece to get on a smart phone and shown his class around. His class have arrived early before school for some of the hangouts he has organized. As Rhett said…

“Would your students come to school an hour early for your best lesson?”

Rhett Oldham, 2017

I have been showing Google’s Virtual Fieldtrips video for a few years now as it demonstrates the impact technology can have on learning with no significant outlay of cash. If you use the SAMR model it registers on the M or R.

My parents are here now, why not get them on a video call with your class?

I used to have a classblog for a year 9 maths class and through Quadblogging we connected with classes in Singapore, California and Melbourne. A child from one of these classes commented on our lesson and it gave us an idea we put on place the following lesson. Lesson feedback from thousands of mile away! Deputy Mitchell, who runs quadblogging is looking for secondary school classes to get involved. I should crank up the old blog at my current school.
Whether you are swamped in devices or have to beg, borrow and steal to get your students into a room with a working computer, connecting learning to the wider world and bringing experts into your classroom is getting more and more achievable.

If you want to engage with other classes around the world here are a few options you could use to get started.

If you would prefer to get your day to day learning out their for the wider world then start a class blog. I used WordPress for mine where one student wrote the content each lesson and I took the pictures on my phone. (No faces or second names was the rule I stuck to)

You need to see Dean Stokes’ keynote to know why I have a picture of my feet.

Edublogs provides the opportunity for every student to have a login but ensure only the teacher can publish and is based on WordPress so has the credentials of a ‘proper blog’.

Consider taking your class global this week.



Evolving edtech indeed…

I was clicking around one of my class blogs and found a link to a website I used to use. I found it interesting to see the difference between my old wikispace, where I shared resources and the new site I am developing to house resources for maths students.


Wikispace site created after I started making instructional videos and uploading them to youtube.


Google Site that I am developing to host the large range of instructional videos from my youtube channel. Mr Hegarty has a better site…

I am finding that change is the only constant so I am beginning to question the time and effort I put into these sites as I know I will change my mind on the best way to share resources and start a new project soon. In fact I sketched the design of a new site the other day…



Going Google – Google Classroom Review

I started to write this post a few weeks ago…

  • You can’t share a class between two teachers
  • There is no gradebook created for each class
  • Formative assessment is a bit of a work around
  • We can’t use our class groups to add a whole class to a classroom
  • It doesn’t link assignments to calendar

Since I started it some things have changed with Google Classroom. The feedback button worked!

  • You can’t share a class between two teachers
  • You can now download all assignment grades (not a ‘gradebook’ but something you can use in that way)
  • Formative assessment is a bit of a work around (doctopus and goobric can be used for formative feedback and grading)
  • You can now
  • It doesn’t link assignments to calendar
I was sitting in a Swedish airport when I took this screenshot.
I was sitting in a Swedish airport when I took this screenshot.

I have enjoyed using Google Classroom with my classes because:

I can share with my class in one place and they have started to have conversations about the work and students from my class are answering each other’s questions.

I get a copy of a template document created for every student with the same naming convention.

I set homework that doesn’t need to be handed in during a lesson. I can set a deadline for a day before our lesson and plan for that lesson based on their actual strengths and weaknesses.

It is easy to learn so other teachers can get started quickly. Here are the slides from my training session on Google Classroom. When I run the session it is a hands-on hour where delegates join my classroom as students before developing their own. You will not be able to do this via the link but I would happily discuss providing training for a group of teachers.

Note: Google Classroom is only available to educational organisations that have Google Apps for Education (GAfE) accounts. If you don’t they are free to set up. You can read about my own school’s journey transitioning to Google Apps here.

If you are looking to “Go Google” then you can get training from Google Education Trainers, who can train staff and students and help guide you on a strategy for effective implementation.





First Lesson back Ideas

With the new academic year arriving it is time to start thinking about the first lesson with those new classes. I wanted to share my first lesson with my mathematics classes but realised it will not be for everyone as we all have our own style and context. So here are a few options.

Some things to get out of the first lesson (don’t feel you have to hit all of them)

  • Learn their names – if you trust them to write their real name go for name plates, otherwise have class photo list
  • Share expectations – some teachers create a class rules list with the students
  • Gather an idea of their ability – see below
  • Set up systems – but make sure you stick to it from now on
  • Explain the course (I personally never do this in the first lesson, relationships first)




This is the Answer, what could the question have been?


  • Mini-whiteboards and pens
  • Enthusiasm and Praise

As a mathematics teacher I want to use my first lesson to get to know the level and confidence of my class. So I use a simple idea, I put a number up on the board and challenge the students to create a question. The mini-whiteboards are best for this as it encourages them to try things out as they can always erase it and start again.

NOTE: nice opportunity to develop your expectations for use of mini-whiteboards if you intend to use them regularly. It is also a chance to show the class what happens if expectations are not met, something you will want to show first lesson.

  • Do you wait until they all have an answer or not?
  • No wobbling
  • Walk around during the display time to make sure they don’t write anything on the back.
  • Encourage them to look at each others and think about what they have written

For the first round they always do the same, lets say 36 was the answer (nice number to begin with!), you will see…

35+1, 37-1, 1+1+1+1+1+1+30 and so on

This is what I hope for as I can really ham up the “Is that your best mathematics on the board?” and start to challenge them to show me the highest level mathematics they know on the next one. So without fail the highest level mathematics they know is

1+10-7*2-4*9 (misconception alert!!!) and 36000000000000000 divided by 1000000000000000 and so on.

So we discuss whether more of the same calculations is higher level and by the end of the lesson and several rounds they are showing me their ability and I can go away and plan three or four lessons which they need based on the things they showed me.

NOTE: I have been teaching for ten years and the last six years at the same school so this does mean I do not have to work at the behaviour management as much as I used to so this might not be the lesson for a newly qualified teacher who wants to get their behaviour management off to the best start.

Contributions from other teachers




Google Classroom – an overview

Google have taken on board feedback from teachers about using Google Apps and have created a tool to tidy up sharing with your classes and administering assignments and marking online.

Here are a selection of posts, videos and links that provide you with everything you need to know to use Classroom effectively in your schools.

Setup for GAfE Admins:

Google’s full help guide can be found here but I have found Ziggy Dzeigman and Michael Fricano II to be most helpful via the Google Classroom community on Google+

Resources for Training and Supporting Teachers to get started.

This is a pretty comprehensive video that guides you through creating classes and adding assignments.


Training Materials

Appsevent’s Sarah Wood has created a six part blog to guide you through Classroom.

Carolyn Wendell was part of the Google Classroom team and she shared some training materials to help deliver training to teachers.

Kasey Bell has contributed a number of resources to a Pinterest board on Google Classroom

This could be the only printing you need to do all year!

What it doesn’t do…yet

All users have to be on the same domain. ( and would not currently work but this seems to be something Google are looking into)

Adding groups via their email address (I have not been able to add students in one go using but hopefully this will be resolved soon.

Grading is only summative but formative grading can be applied in other ways. I tried to summarise this in a video but I think it might be a bit too swift. The idea is that is tracks an assignment transferring from teacher to students and vice versa.

Comparisons to other LMS (Learning Management Systems)

Google Apps for Education is free so that gives it a significant advantage to start with even if you haven’t realised that the tools provide a fabric for learning better than other technology available to schools. However, to make the process of using GAfE seamless there are a range of free and paid for additions you can add to Google Apps to make it work even better. On the initial announcement of Google Classroom questions were asked about whether it was the end for these tools. The developers and users of these tools have been quick to dispell this idea. Here are a couple of posts to help you get an idea of the arguments.

Andrew Stillman explains his view for Classroom and Doctopus etc. here.

Hapara’s Teacherdashboard is an impressive management system for Google Drive. Here is their own take on Google Classroom.

As I get the chance to work with my colleagues I hope to feedback on the impact of using Google Classroom in our school and add it to the “Going Google at my school” series.



Ben Rouse