Sway for engaging online presentations

Sway_logoMicrosoft Sway is a presentation tool which is free and works on any device. It can start with a simple word-processed document (or from other sources such as Powerpoint or PDF) where you’ve put your ideas and, with just a few clicks, you can upload the document, highlight text you wish to emphasise, which parts to make into new sections, where to add images, embedded video links and images, and add emphasis in an engaging way.

Click on this link for a quick guide and introductory tutorial showing how you can make an engaging presentation using Sway

The following video takes the brief introduction above and develops that so that you can create a presentation in Sway using the new layout set up specifically for presentations. This video shows how to use groups, grids, captions, and focus points to ensure your chosen message comes across in they way you wish with the emphasis on the content you deem to be most important.

Want to make a tutorial presentation using Sway? The video below shows how you can structure a Sway presentation to use embedded videos, images and text to explain the steps in any process for explaining to others.

How to use Sway for a school project. The following video shows how Sway can be used to create a project on any topic in an educational context.

Click here for links to video guides to using Sway from Microsoft.

Click here for a guide to using Sway specifically in Glow Office 365 – this also links to a variety of examples of the use of Sway in a school context


To share your Sway

To share your Sway presentation with others you simply copy the weblink URL which Sway provides for you, and share that, whether via social media or email (there are specific buttons at the share part of Sway which provides you with the appropriate link for each method of sharing. This can also be used to embed in a Glow WordPress blog – just add the short link in the body of a blogpost and it will automatically embed. Note that if you are using your Glow user account to share your Sway link the Sway presentation must have ben made public for others to see it, it cannot be embedded elsewhere online (such as a blog) unless the Sway presentation is public and can be seen by anyone on the Sway settings.

Below is an example Sway “Sway for Education: Sway in the Classroom” which provides examples of how Sway can be used, and also shows in itself what a Sway presentation can look like.

Examples of Sway in Education

Sway – The star of your 2015 Classroom – a post on the Microsoft Australian Teachers Blog. This provides a host of ideas for how Sway can be used in a classroom context, as well as examples of created Sways.

Connecting Classrooms via Live Video Link

Adobe_ConnectConnecting classrooms via video link has been found by many teachers to add an extra dimension, an enthusiasm and real audience, to complement learning in a classroom setting.

Whether that’s a face-to-face video call to another classroom in another part of the same local area (perhaps primary schools where pupils will work together in a similar geographical location, maybe connected by the same high school to which most pupils will attend), or to an acknowledged authority with specialist knowledge or skills who could inspire learners.

Teachers using a live video link to connect classrooms can, to some, seem something quite ordinary and commonplace, and to others is still something which generates a worry about perceived technical complexities. Not so long ago most schools would have been unable to even consider a video call simply because of lack of suitable equipment, infrastructure or bandwidth. Now, where there is good bandwidth, there are often several options available to make video-conferencing possible with relative ease.

Although the occasional use of video-conferencing may appear to be, in itself, a reason for using it as a skill to be learned, as with any digital technology it will only be of great value in the learning process if there are clear learning outcomes from the experience planned by the teacher. So a music teacher or instrumental tutor working from afar via video link with a learner elsewhere will have their focus on what is to be taught and what the pupil is to learn, rather than on the video link being seen as a one time gimmick. That applies whether the class members are asking questions of an author, or a museum collections specialist, or an engineer – it’s not the novelty of using a video-conferencing tool which has to be at the centre of planning, but what will be done in the video link conversation.

What tools can I use to video-conference?

There are a number of tools available to link via video, whether online conferencing tools, mobile device apps or installed software on desktop computers. Schools will generally often find that specific tools have been configured for their networks as video-conferencing involves access to network firewalls/ports. And this may be different in schools or for other users in another geographical location. Therefore it would always be good to check in advance of any planned activity what can work best in any particular situation.

This post concentrates on two tools for video-conferencing which are available to all Scottish schools via Glow, though there will be other web tools, desktop applications or mobile device apps which could be used.


Skype for Business, formerly called Lync, is part of Office 365 available to all Scottish schools. Note that for Scottish schools using Skype via Glow this is available between staff accounts only. If a school wishes to use their Glow account to connect with a body outwith Scottish schools they would require to have a partner Glow account set up for that external body.

Skype/Lync is one of the suite of tools included in Microsoft Office 365 through Glow.

How to use the Glow Skype/Lync Video-conferencing tool:

1. Log into Glow

2. On the RM Unify tiles click on Office 365 (Calendar)

3. Navigate to the date and time on the calendar when you want to have a video-conferencing session take place – double-click on the space in the calendar for that date and time.
4. Enter a name for the video-conferencing session beside the title “Event” e.g. Event: Video-conference with all classes
5. Next to the title “Attendees” type in the Glow usernames of those with whom you will be video-conferencing (select the user from the prompt which then appears.
6. At the top of the screen click on “Skype meeting” then “Add Skype meeting”– that will enter the necessary links into the body of the calendar entry at the foot of the screen (don’t edit or amend that, though you can add a message or notes before or after the links and text)
7. Now click “SEND” at the top left of the screen – that sends an email to the participants whose Glow usernames you have entered into the Attendees box.
8. When it comes time to present the meeting (actually it can also be done at any time) participants click once on date in calendar – and click “Join”
9. Click on “Join Using Lync Web App”
10. Enter your name (or class name if it’s a class participating – it’s the name which will appear on screen for everyone else to see) then click “Join the Meeting”
11. First time you may need to click “Run” at the foot of the screen (it may remember that next time you use it). “Allow” any plugin as required
12. Click on the video camera icon to broadcast video (or leave off if you are simply watching a presenter).
13. Click on the microphone icon to control whether audio is broadcast or muted.

NB In the event that you or a previous user on that PC has used an installed desktop version of Lync you may need to force the use of the Lync Web App. Here’s the “fix” to do so (there is no simple button to do so):

1. Open a web browser window
2. Copy & paste the URL for joining the meeting that you received. Do NOT press ENTER
3. Add the following to the URL: “?SL=1” (without the quote marks)
For example, if the URL to join the Lync meeting is:
Change it to:
What to do if you are broadcasting to others who do not have a webcam
If a “viewing-only” user does not have a webcam connected then ensure a headphone or microphone is plugged into the audio socket otherwise Lync may not permit a user to view a meeting
There is also a mobile device app available for users of Skype/Lync which can be used on smartphones or tablets.

Adobe_ConnectAdobe Connect

Adobe Connect is one of the suite of tools included to Glow users, referred to as Glow Meet within Glow.

How to set up a Glow Meet video-conferencing session using Adobe Connect through Glow:

1. You will require to have a Glow username and password to access this tool. Log into Glow at https://glow.rmunify.com. Scroll through the tiles on RM Unify until you find the tile called Glow Meet (for Hosts). Click on the tile called Glow meet (for Hosts). Note that you may see prompts to update software on your PC if updates or add-ins are required – accept these prompts.

2. You will require to have been granted host rights to be able to create a new meeting. Click here for details of how to request this if, having clicked on the Glow meet for Hosts tile, you do not see “Create New Meeting” button at the top left of the Glow broadcasting window which opens. Click on “Create New Meeting” button if you are setting up a meeting. If you are accessing a previously set up meeting then you click on the “open” button beside the name of the meeting previously created).


3. Enter a name for the video-conferencing session beside the title “Name*” e.g. Falkirk PS Glow Meet. Enter a short version of this in the box marked “Custom URL” – this will be the web link you share with others. This will require to be unique so be aware the system may prompt you with an alternative URL. Leave all other settings as they appear without adding or making changes. Click the “Next>” button at the foot of the page.

4. This will display the “Select Participants” screen. At the bottom left click on the “Search” button. In the search box which will then appear above the Search button enter the Glow username of others to whom you wish to assign access to this meeting. Since you can also grant access during a meeting to people who have the link this can be left to be only for those with whom you may share administration of the video-conferencing session, or presenter during the session. You can find usernames of others by going back to the RM Unify tiles webpage and finding them by searching on via the RM People Directory tile. When the sought username appears on the “Select Participants” page then click on the “Add” button at the foot of the page. Your new user will now appear on the right-hand panel “Current Participants” for the meeting you are creating. You can assign the appropriate role level of permissions to each user by clicking on the username on the right-hand panel, then clicking on the “Permissions” button. Once complete then click the “Next” button.

5. On the “Meeting Information” page which then appears, highlight the URL which is displayed (such as the example https://meet.glowscotland.org.uk/falkglowmeet/), right-click and copy your meeting URL. This will mean you will require to share the link to the Glow Meet with other users by sending it via email or adding it to a page others will be able to access.

Using Glow Meet Adobe Connect

1. Click on the link to the Glow Meet which you previously created (or which you shared by email with others, or shared on an online space elsewhere which others can access). First time you may need to allow any plugin as required or updates to software.

2. If you are the host of the meeting you will be able to accept the prompts which will pop up as guests to the meeting request access. You can assign different roles to participants by clicking on their name and choosing to enable their webcam, or microphone, or to increase their rights to be presenter (or joint host). You can change these rights again in the same way.

3. To broadcast your webcam click on “Start my webcam” and “Start sharing”

4. To be heard by others you will need to ensure you have clicked on the microphone icon along the top of the screen (you can mute it by clicking on the same icon – this will then show a diagonal line across the microphone icon. Note that other users will not automatically have this option unless you have enabled their microphone, or they are presenter or host.

5. To check audio settings (always worthwhile doing this in advance of a meeting) then click on “Meeting” on the top-left menu and then “Audio Setup wizard” and follow through the steps.

6. Click on the video camera icon to broadcast video (or leave off if you are simply watching a presenter).

7. Click on the microphone icon to control whether audio is broadcast or muted. Note that participants will not automatically have the option to switch on their microphone. All participants will be able to send text messages using the “Chat” window.

8. At the end of a meeting, to finish the meeting, and to disable future access to participants without a host opening the meeting, then click on Meeting – End Meeting

To Record a Glow meet in Adobe Connect

1. To record a Glow Meet in Adobe Connect click on “Meeting” – “Record Meeting”

2. This will display a message to all participants that the meeting is being recorded, and a red circle at the top-right of the screen, until the recording is stopped.

To View a recorded Meeting

1. Go to the Glow Meet (for Hosts) tile on the RM Unify tiled screen.

2. Click on “Meetings along the top of the screen. Note that only hosts will be able to view this.

3. Click on the link to the Meeting you created

4. Click on “Recordings” along the top of the screen

5. Click on the link to the recording of your meeting. The page which is then displayed will show a “URL for Viewing” – this will be the link you should copy and share with others, wither by email or by adding to an online space accessible by others to whom you wish to share the link.


1. Don’t try to share video which is hosted elsewhere by sharing your desktop – instead share the link to that video in the chat box so that others can watch it straight from the link.

2. Try out your PC setup before a proper arranged video-conference session by ensuring your webcam has been plugged into the PC beforehand, that it is recognised as the webcam and the microphone. Check your speakers all work – going through the “Meeting” – “Audio Setup wizard” is essential for all taking part, in advance of the pre-arranged meeting.

Further information from Education Scotland to support the use of Glow Meet Adobe Connect can be found here: https://glowhelp.wikis.glowscotland.org.uk/Glow+Broadcasting

More than just video

SD_AdobeConnect3Adobe Connect is more than just conferencing by video – you can share uploaded files (such as a Powerpoint presentation, which a presenter can then guide viewers through); there’s a chat facility to get text message feedback throughout a presentation (and that includes the facility for messaging between individuals or to the whole group); there’s a polling tool to seek responses on specific questions (and this can include multiple choice, many choice responses and free text responses); there’s a facility for quick yes/no responses; and hosts of meetings can vary rights of participants as they enter the room or at any time in the meeting so that microphone and/or webcam can be enabled; there’s a “raise hand” tool to give the opportunity for participants to attract the attention of a presenter (it presents a pop-up box to the presenter); there’s a whiteboard tool to draw or share ideas in visual form; and there’s the option to share the desktop of a presenter to demonstrate something such as how a piece of software on the host PC works.

Available on Mobile Devices

There’s mobile device apps available to provide the facility for participants using mobile devices to access Adobe Connect meetings – this may open automatically when clicking on the shared meeting room web address (URL) or simply by copying that web address and pasting in the URL box within the app.

How can I make a video link more engaging for learners?

Many teachers around the world have shared about creative ways they have used video-conferencing tools. Some will use Skype while other will use another tool. The ideas are generally always transferable to any video-link tool – the learning activity is central to the use of the tool. So, whichever tool you use, the following may provide inspiration for how you could use a video link with your class.

Skype in the Classroom – Microsoft has produced a superb site for supporting teachers looking to user their Skype tool in an educational setting. It provides training in how to make it work, ideas for how others have used it at different ages and stages, as well as across the curriculum, provides a forum for teachers sharing ideas or finding connections for their class project, and has topical links to fit in with events happening in current affairs. Microsoft also have a page of tutorials on using Skype/Lync.

Mystery Skype is described as “an educational game, invented by teachers, played by two classrooms on Skype. The aim of the game is to build cultural awareness, critical thinking skills, and geography skills by guessing the location of the other classroom through a series of yes/no questions.   It is suitable for all age groups and can be adapted for any subject area.” The post by Jonathan Wylie “Mystery Skype – a curriculum for schools” describes how it works and provides links to a host of resources to support teachers making use of Skype whethevr the age, stage or curricular area. Mystery Skype Excites Fifth Graders is a newspaper article describing the use of Mystery Skype by teacher Brad Luce.

Five Ways to use Skype in your Classroom - an article by Kathy Cassidy which describes five ways to use Skype, specifically looking at how it supports literacy, mathematics, mapping, as well as bringing in expertise across the curriculum – and just for a bit of fun!

6 Creative Ways to Use Skype in the Classroom – a post by Kristen Hicks on the Edudemic site which describes different ways in which video links can support learners in a variety of contexts. The post also includes links to additional resources which would be helpful when making use of Skype.


What, Why and How of e-Portfolios for Learners

DigitalPortfolioHeaderWhat is an E-Portfolio?

A digital portfolio or e-portfolio can take several forms, and have different purposes. Whether it’s a place to share a learning journey, record notable achievements, provide a platform for a learner’s reflections on progress, or to link to records/artefacts/evidence stored elsewhere of skills, examples of work or achievements, or chart future goals and stepping stones to objectives. It may provide opportunity for feedback by peers of learners or educators, and it can provide a means for a learner to collate aspects of their digital footprint as they journey through life.

wikipediaeportfolioWikipedia provides a detailed description of e-portfolios and examples of the different forms and purposes for having an e-portfolio which may include documenting skills and learning, recording and tracking development within a course, planning educational journeys, evaluating and monitoring performance or a course, and helping to find a job.

Why have an E-Portfolio?

The purpose is the key – it’s all too easy to get bogged down in technical set-up issues rather than have a focus on why it’s going to be used by learners. And, while in educational settings the purpose may sometimes be laid down as a requirement, whether by school leadership, or local education authority or by governments, the teacher and the learner need to be clear about the purpose of having the e-portfolio so that it does not become a chore or seen as a burden but instead supports the learning process of the learner. Prasanna Bharti has described at The EdTech review how e-portfolios can help learners

DrHelenBarrettDr Helen Barrett at the site www.electronicportfolios.org provides a comprehensive source of information about e-portfolios – why they should be created, what should be in an e-portfolio, and what tools might be used to create an e-portfolio. The site describes several models, provides answers to frequently asked questions about e-portfolios, and details how different tools/platforms (whether online tools or mobile device apps) can be used.

EdutopiaBethHollandDigital Portfolio: The Art of Reflection by Beth Holland - a post which gives a useful background to what the focus of an e-portfolio should be, not on the technical how-tos, nor on a digital portfolio as a summative-only “curate>reflect>publish” model but instead on the process building on developing asking the essential questions to make reflection at the centre of the process.

VickiDavisE-portfoliosVicki Davis has produced “11 Essentials for Excellent E-Portfolios” – this article describes the necessity to be clear about the purpose behind learners having an e-portfolio, and the importance of it being embedded as part of the learning process, including a focus on reflection and ownership by the learner. The article describes a variety of tools which could be used to create an e-portfolio.

eportfoliosareawesomeePortfolios are Awesome – a presentation by Lisa Johnson about the why, how and what of student digital portfolios. This presents in graphical form links to a host of articles about why digital portfolios are important, things to consider (including ownership, who gets to see it, feedback, how it’s organised, when and how it will be populated, and what tool to use), and examples of e-portfolios.

How to Make an E-Portfolio?

What tools can you use to create an e-portfolio? There’s a whole range of tools which lets the user record their learning journey, record their achievements and reflections – whether that’s a paper record, a digital form of a paper record (whether simply Microsoft Word stored locally) or a digital tool which is stored in the cloud (and which can be kept private to the individual, or shared with limited others such as parents/carers or teaching staff, or made public for all to see online).

The choice is determined by the purpose and audience (who will get to see the e-portfolio) – and may be determined in a school context by a school policy or Local Education Authority providing the tool, guidance, and support.

In making your choice (if you have a choice) consideration should be given to moving on from one educational establishment or local education authority to another. Take into account when making your choice of platform the ease with which the content on the tool used can be shared or exported in a form which can provide ease of continuity into another school or Local Education Authority.

Wikiclick on this link for more about wikis – an online repository which can grow and expand and be interlinked in different ways for different purposes. Jacqui Murray has provided a detailed description of how she used wikis with her pupils for their e-portfolios. This describes the purpose behind the e-portfolio for her primary-aged pupils and explains the steps to making use of a Wikispaces wiki (Wikispaces are the wikis available to all Glow users) – which can be either private so it’s only accessible to the learner, or shared with their teachers or made public (it all comes back to the purpose and the audience).

Microsoft OneNoteclick on this link for more information about Microsoft OneNote – essentially an electronic ring-binder with different sections or subsections, in which there can be multiple pages. And each page can include text, video, audio, images and links – and all works across platforms, online or mobile devices.

Blog – there are several blogging platforms available which are suitable for use in an educational context. Click on this link for more about blogging tools for schools. Glow users in Scotland have access to WordPress blogs. Also look at the blog examples on Dr Helen Barrett’s Electronic Portfolios site: http://www.electronicportfolios.org/. Microsoft Office 365 has a blog option within SharePoint (available to Glow users – however note that in Glow a SharePoint blog cannot be made public outwith Glow, instead there is the option to use WordPress blog or a Wiki from Glow, both of which can be made public, or kept private, or have parts private and parts public).

Word-processed document – there are a variety of word-processing options including Google Docs and Microsoft Word in Office 365, some of which may include a template which can be adopted to get started creating and maintaining an e-Portfolio.

Mobile device apps – there are a number of apps available for different mobile device platforms. Dr Helen Barrett has produced a site which looks at the use of mobile devices for e-portfolios, including examples of apps for different device platforms. As with any choice of tool for creating an e-portfolio the portability of the data would need to be borne in mind – how easily will it be able to be exported to another mobile device platform, how easily can the information (whether in full or part) be shared when a learner moves establishment or beyond formal schooling? Many e-portfolio tools take this into account and some provide the information to undertake the necessary steps, some have inbuilt sharing or export tools.

There are many other tools which could be used to create an e-portfolio - it would just be recommended that the purpose is central to the choice, and that it takes into account requirements laid down by school leadership, local education authority or government to have best chance of that all that’s collated by the learner can be moved as the learner journeys through their educational path at different stages, and that it best supports the needs of the learner.

What other resources are there to help create and maintain an E-portfolio?

Cybrarymane-portfoliosJerry Blumengarten has collated a host of links to resources about e-portfolios, including links to articles explaining the purpose behind an e-portfolio, as well as many different tools and how they can be used to create e-portfolios.

ShamblesgurueportfoliosShambles Guru has collated a series of resources about using digital portfolios – these links by educator Chris Smith include tools for creating e-portfolios as well as articles about the purpose and effect on learning and teaching when learners make use of e-portfolios.

HuffPostEportfolioHuffington Post Education post by Tom Vander Ark “Every Student Should Have a Digital Portfolio – this post sets out reasoning behind the recommendation that learners should have an e-portfolio, and then lists and describes a range of e-portfolio tools which can be considered for creating and maintaining an e-portfolio.

JisceportfoliosGetting started with e-portfolios – a post on the Jisc site which sets out the rationale for having e-portfolios at university level, with suggestions of tools to use, tips for creating an e-portfolio, voids and examples of e-portfolios.

Why Wikis – the wonderful world of wikis in the classroom

wikiwordle2What’s a Wiki?

Probably the best know Wiki is Wikipedia, ranked in the top ten of all websites, attracting hundreds of millions of visitors a month to the reference articles by tens of thousands of contributors. And, in a nutshell, that’s an illustration of what sets a wiki apart from other websites, blogs and online spaces – a wiki provides the facility for creation and editing of an online space by multiple users, with a transparent trail of edits for all who visit, making changes (and who made them) visible to all, and providing the facility to set alerts to changes made on the wiki so that anyone can be notified of changes as soon as they are made.

Why Use a Wiki in the Classroom?

Anywhere you might wish to have a collaborative online space for an educational purpose then a wiki can provide the means to support this. Whether it is for an online space to share resources with learners, or somewhere the learners themselves can jointly pool their research findings, links to articles elsewhere online, or with attached documents, presentations, videos, images and more. Not only can the wiki content be modified, but so can the look, feel and structure be manipulated to meet the needs of the group of users. So it might be a piece of creative collaborative writing, or it might be a place to bring together several pieces of writing on the same topic by each pupil in a class.

You can decide with a wiki who is going to be able to see the wiki – perhaps just the individual pupil and teaching staff, or a group of pupils and their teacher, or a whole class or school. Or you can make the wiki public for all to view. And equally you can decide who you wish to be able to modify the wiki – just one person, a small group, a class, the whole school or the entire world!

Here’s just some ideas for using a wiki in the classroom:

  • Outdoor learning or class trip observations, individually or jointly with others.
  • Science experiment planning, the process and record of observations – you can add video, pictures and audio descriptions.
  • Historical project – bringing together different pages perhaps by different learners on their chosen area of a local study, or a combined research topic on a historical theme.
  • Creative writing – individuals can use the revision feature of the tool to demonstrate to their teacher and others how their writing has developed. Other learners can be invited to add comments to encourage and offer suggestions.
  • A teacher can collate all resources on a single topic into one online space, bringing together documents in different formats, video, audio, images and links to related resources elsewhere.
  • Set tasks for learners, and the wiki can also be the space for them to submit their work – the wiki can be set to only be viewable by those in the class, or each pupil can have a space private to them and their teacher, with only the teacher’s main wiki space able to be seen by only the whole class.

TeacherGuideWikisThe Teacher’s Guide on the Use of Wikis in Education can be found on the Educational Technology and Mobile Learning blog – this provides many examples of the uses of wikis in a classroom setting and more advice on how wikis can be used in education.

Cybrary Man wikisCybraryman’s Wikis page – a comprehensive page of links by Jerry Blumengarten to hosts of educational wikis, guides to making use of wikis in a classroom setting, advice, examples and much more – worth a visit to be inspired to use a wiki in your classroom.

 What wiki-creation tools are there for classroom use?

wikispacesWikispaces provides a wiki platform for all users, and a specific wiki platform for  educational use, called Wikispaces Classroom. It is described on their site as “A social writing platform for education. We make it incredibly easy to create a classroom workspace where you and your students can communicate and work on writing projects alone or in teams.

GlowWikisGlow Wikis are available to all Glow users in Scotland, and Glow wikis are provided by Wikispaces, giving Glow users all of the functionality of a Wikispaces wiki (including Wikispaces Classroom which gives the option for additional classroom-specific tools) using their Glow username and password. Glow Wiki Help provides step by step guidance to getting started and how to develop a wiki in a classroom setting.

PBWorksPBWorks Education Wikis – free wiki platform for use in education (with premium version available for additional features). Lets you create student accounts without an email address, provides automated notifications of chnages to your wiki, easy to edit, gives you the option to grant access to those within or outwith your school, and of course to share pages, documents and any other content on your wiki – and it all works via mobile devices too.


Minecraft in the Classroom

MinecraftcollageThere are many teachers who are using the enthusiasm of their learners for Minecraft to make use of this in creative ways in the classroom to engage learners across the curriculum.

Teachers can find the hook of games-based learning can bring otherwise reluctant learners to the table and let them shine. For some learners this can be one of their main interests outside of school, and a platform such as Minecraft, with a huge following, provides a motivational pull when that can be used to support learning in the curriculum.

Many teachers around the world have sought to make use of this enthusiasm by the learners for Minecraft – and many have shared their experiences for the benefit of others. This post seeks to bring together some of the resources shared by others to support teachers looking to use Minecraft to support the curriculum in their classes.

So what is Minecraft?

ParentGuideToMinecraftA Parent’s Guide to Minecraft: 5 Reasons to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Cubes – this post by Dan Tynan provides a nice description of Minecraft, aimed at parents trying to understand what their child is doing when they are working with Minecraft, which will be useful for teachers unfamiliar with Minecraft. The article not only serves as a concise introduction bu also explains what to expect in Minecraft, with advice about some of the issues which may arise.

Minecraft in Education Advocates in Scotland

HotMilkyDrinkDerek Robertson (@DerekRobertson) is one of Scotland’s pioneers and advocates in the use of games-based learning and wrote about the benefits to learning  and teaching using games-based learning, including Minecraft, on Education Scotland’s blog (click here to read this).


Derek Robertson also has his own blog where he wrote more about the use of Minecraft for a local project (click here to read this).


ImmersiveMindsScotland’s Stephen Reid (@ImmersiveMind) is a Minecraft teacher, running a Minecraft server dedicated to teachers and parents all over the world and running lessons with children and Minecraft in curriculum learning. Find details here http://www.immersiveminds.com/ahpminecraftserver/. Stephen wrote about using Minecraft for classroom projects, such as this one here: http://www.immersiveminds.com/minecraft-lesson-idea-flags/

MinecraftEdu – an education-specific version of Minecraft

There is a version of the Minecraft software which is specifically designed for use in educational contexts and there is a MinecraftEdu wiki on setting up and using Minecraft in Education version of the software which can be found at: http://services.minecraftedu.com/wiki/Getting_started#How_to_purchase

Andrew Miller (@betamiller) has written about the use of Minecraft in education: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/minecraft-in-classroom-andrew-miller

Article about use of MinecraftEdu in the classroom: http://www.edge-online.com/features/minecraft-in-the-classroom/

Setting up Minecraft in School

The following link provides guides to setting up a Minecraft club in school: http://www.gamingedus.org/ – with good advice here: http://www.gamingedus.org/2014/11/seven-tips-to-setting-up-a-minecraft-club-at-your-school/

The following link is to a guide to setting up and using Minecraft specifically in Primary School: http://primaryminecraft.com/starting/

There is an Australian site which is for a child and parent to set up a free online Minecraft account hosted by JoKaydia in Australia – it is not for schools but they have a contact to ask about a subscription for use by schools for a class: http://massively.jokaydia.com/about/

Microsoft have a site specifically for teachers interested in using Minecraft in Education – have a look at the trailer video below http://education.minecraft.net/

Set up off a network

Many teachers around the world report  technical hurdles in using Minecraft in school. The issues are not generally about the software (which can usually be purchased in the same way as other software), nor the installation (in many schools, as with most software installations onto a network device, that would most often have to be done by an ICT Engineer or support technician) but around the fact that if using a school networked PC it requires a dedicated server to be set up. That would require quite a bit more time for an ICT Engineer and may cause some anxiety for network engineers around security of the main school network and bandwidth demands, and solutions which have been found to work in schools situations in one part of the world don’t necessarily sit comfortably with the other priorities and concerns of network engineers to meet needs of all users of an education network.

One solution is to avoid the school network altogether and to use a PS3 or Xbox 360 with Minecraft in offline mode. This can present the least expensive route for some schools to get going, and to avoid issues with being on the network:

1. Obtain a PS3 or Xbox360 – someone may have one at home which they will happily donate to the school after they  have upgraded to a new model.

2. The device needs to connect to the Internet at the beginning at setup in order to download updates, set up the account and download the software, all before it comes into school (where, in many schools, you would not be able to connect to the network/Internet). So this would be easiest done by someone on a home wireless network – connect to the web, go to xbox live – create a profile – download updates – go to the store – purchase and download Minecraft and texture packs such as city (if using Minecraft rather than MinecraftEdu then educators have recommended to ensure that then when setup set to use offline, creative mode and peaceful!).

3. Back in the classroom it would then be connected directly to the projector or to a TV with DVI connection.

The Minecraft experience at Shieldhill Primary School

ShieldhillPSMinecraftChiara Sportelli wrote about the experience of first using Minecraft with pupils at Falkirk’s Shieldhill Primary School: “Using Minecraft the pupils are really engaged with their work. It has allowed them the experience of being ‘experts’ as some know more about it than some of their peers who are unfamiliar with the game. For some children working on Minecraft has allowed them to demonstrate equal or in some cases more advanced knowledge than their peers for the first time. One activity involves children completing a comprehension task where they create and build a camp based on a written description. They were all really keen to work on the project as homework (they actually asked for homework!). My idea was that they are a group of adventurers who have discovered a new land, they have had to build their camp and plant crops for survival. The write a journal entry each week detailing their progress and any obstacles they have encountered. They also created a 2D Minecraft version of themselves and character profile as part of the adventuring group, on paper. We then started a decision based continuation of their original story as settlers in a new land and planned for them to create a story path within the game and treasure hunt linked to moral dilemmas.”

So how have you used Minecraft with your pupils?

Do comment if you’ve used Minecraft in the classroom and would like to share your experience







Improvise a coherent presentation from images you’ve never seen with PechaFlickr

pechaflickrPechaFlickr – for encouraging learners to think on their feet, and have fun as they try to improvise a coherent talk to a presentation of 20 random photographs which they have never seen before, each displayed for 20 seconds.

This free online tool lets you specify a word (it’s set up by default to be “dog” and if not changed will present a random series of images of dogs, each on display for 20 seconds). All you do is replace the word dog with another word, then either set a topic on which to talk (not necessarily related to the chosen picture topic!) – click play and then return to the slides as they display one at a time. The speaker must try to make a coherent presentation from these slides. This develops the PechaKucha form of making a presentation.

At a simple level the learners may try to narrate a made-up story relating to the pictures they see, but for more interest and challenge the learner may try to talk about something on which they are trying to demonstrate their learning and understanding, while in some way linking to the random images which appear every 20 seconds, the image topic not having any obvious connection to the subject on which the learner is demonstrating their learning! Challenging and fun – give it a go and see if you can do it!

Learn a second language with Duolingo

Duolingo – https://www.duolingo.com/ – a free online tool which works via PC or mobile device (via browser or mobile-specific apps) and supports learners in learning a language of their choice from a range of languages available.

Duolingo combines game based learning with online rewards systems of points and milestones to encourage and chart progress with goal setting, and your choice of topics to suit your needs.

Text, images and audio are included with tasks, broken into small steps to make learning fun through manageable chunks of activity which build on learning as you progress. text which appears have clickable links to definitions and audio which helps reassure learners when they feel that need.

Learners can use the beginning activities in the system without creating an account. However by creating an account the progress can be recorded and development made to activities which build on previously learned words and phrases.

While individuals can work on this without needing to be grouped together as a class there is now the facility for a teacher of a class to support their learners and provide further feedback through being able to track progress using Duolingo for Schools https://schools.duolingo.com/ – this lets teachers either set up their class for their pupils from scratch, or collate existing accounts which learners may already have been using. Larry Ferlazzo has written about getting started with Duolingo for schools here:


Here’s an introductory video to Duolingo


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OneNote to Rule them All

OneNote is a free tool which works online through a web browser, or through apps for mobile devices, or as a desktop software (it’s also part of Microsoft Office 2013).

And it’s available to users of Microsoft Office 365 (so all Scottish school pupils and staff with Glow access have this as part of the features available automatically to them via their Glow login).

But what is OneNote?

It’s like a ring-binder where you can choose to have multiple sections (like card-dividers in a real ring-binder), and within each section you can have multiple pages​. And it all synchronises on multiple devices should you wish it to do so.

How might OneNote be used in a classroom context?

So you may be a teacher who may have sections in a OneNote file for each subject, and within each subject pages for each pupil. Each page can contain text, photographs, comments, web links, audio or video so may be an evidence gathering tool for a teacher. A picture to show evidence of a piece of practical work can be instantly inserted via mobile device straight to a pupil’s page for a particular subject in the OneNote file.

Pupils could create a OneNote of their own and use it as a learning log, an eportfolio, a place to jot down their notes, links to resources, documents, websites, etc. And a OneNote stored online can be shared with another user – so a pupil may create a piece of work in a OneNote file for a particular topic, subject or teacher and share access to that so it could be shared only with that one pupil and their teacher.

The creator of the OneNote file can choose to make it so that the teacher can add comments to the document for feedback to the pupil, directly on the document. And in some versions they can also add an audio file of feedback straight into the page.

Here’s a video tutorial showing how OneNote might be used as a pupil topic research tool



OneNote – a Platform for Creativity, Collaboration and Communication  a blogpost by a learner and a teacher explaining how they use OneNote as a tool which both the learner and teacher can access and use to support learning and teaching.

Here’s a video showing OneNote being used as a learning journal shared by the pupil with their teacher http://www.youtube.com/watch?&v=pAubfxGwRJQ

Here’s a video by educator Lisa Cuthbert-Novak showing how her learners use OneNote to chronicle their learning journey in writing, particularly noting the reflections the pupils added to what they were learning as they added examples of their work, their thoughts on the process and links to resources they found:


Choose Your Own Adventure stories - this links to a blog post by Pip Cleaves describing how using the facility to add links to different pages in a OneNote file pupils can create stories with alternative texts for different junctures in a story for their readers.

Here’s a video by Tamara Sullivan explaining how learners in Sydney and Brisbane, who did not meet face to face, collaborated on a photo essay project using OneNote as the vehicle by which they could share ideas, tasks, photo-essays and comments by learners on the work of others.


These two links below also give an overview of the features of the different versions of OneNote, whether the online version, the full desktop software version, or the apps specific to different devices:



MessageOpsPlaylist of videos with short tutorials on the use of OneNote 2013 from Message Ops. Each video is short and specific to one task you may wish to do in OneNote, such as adding a new section, password protecting a page, adding an image, and much more.

So how do you get started using OneNote?

Here’s a link to a basic guide to OneNote Online: ​http://goo.gl/tbVYsL

OneNote Toolkit for Teachers – a site which provides guides, examples and hints and tips for teachers looking to use OneNote in a classroom context.  This comes from the Microsoft Educator Network


​OneNote Class Notebook

If schools are signed up to Office 365 then they also have the additional option to use OneNote’s education-specific class tool OneNote Class Notebook where a OneNote class file can be set up so that individual sections or pages can have different access rights or permissions. Just by adding a teacher and learners to a OneNote Class Notebook specific sections and associated different access rights are automatically added. There’s a content library section (teachers add content which learners can view but not edit); there’s a collaboration section (where pupils can collaborate together, adding and editing content); and there are individual learner sections (which only that individual learner and the teachers can see, making it ideal for assignments, or reflections).

Here’s a video by teacher Andrew Hay demonstrating how he uses OneNote Class Notebook

OneNoteAppIconOneNote Class Notebook is an Office 365 app (when first introduced it used to be required to be added via a sharepoint site, and first enabled by a site administrator – it is no longer the case that it requires IT administrator intervention, making it much simpler for a teacher to create and manage). It also changed its name from when it was first introduced (so you may see refernces online to it as OneNote Class Notebook Creator – it now has a shorter name, just OneNote Class Notebook).   

Here’s a video showing how a teacher can set up a OneNote Class Notebook from their OneDrive in Office 365:

Here’s a related interactive online guide to setting up and using OneNote Class Notebook - listen to the information, move on pages at your own speed.

OneNote and Assessment – this is a blogpost by Chantelle Davies describing how they see the use of OneNote for assessment with a focus on the audio and video features providing the facility for teachers to create a workspace for every pupil, to offer a content library for adding material, and a collaboration space, with which pupils can work in their space and teachers can give feedback in the same place. The work and feedback can be accessed anywhere any time.

OneNote for Teachers – a comprehensive site which details how OneNote can be got for any device, how it can be set up for use, examples of ways in which it can be used, help guides and much more – all within a classroom context.

Microsoft Office has also produced a visual walk-through guide “Getting Started with the OneNote Class Notebook: A Walkthrough for Teachers”

Examples in use of OneNote Class Notebook

EdinburghOneNote Class Notebook at Tynecastle High School – a blogpost by Martyn Call, acting Principal Teacher of Mathematics at Tynecastle High School, describing and illustrating with screencaptured images of how OneNote Class Notebook with a class of National 5 learners.


Using OneNote with National 5 and Higher Classes – a blogpost about the use of OneNote by Jacqueline Campbell, Computing teacher at St Mungo’s RC High School in Falkirk describing the use of OneNote by her with her pupils.


Click here to view a PDF export from a OneNote presentation where pupils from St Mungo’s RC High School in Falkirk shared their thoughts on the use of OneNote. This gives a flavour of some of the uses to which OneNote was put in their class, and teachers Jacqueline Campbell and Lynsey Mcnamee also shared how specific features of OneNote were used in different areas.

EdinburghOneNotePrimaryClick here for description of the use of OneNote Class Notebook in a primary school in St Ninian’s Primary School in Edinburgh. This gives an outline of how the OneNote Class Notebook is used and gives lots of comments from pupils and staff.

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