ICT for Learning & Teaching in Falkirk Schools

Digital technology to support learning & teaching

August 7, 2018
by Malcolm Wilson

Drones in the Classroom

What is a Drone?

Drones are devices which fly without a pilot on board – they are remotely controlled, either manually (perhaps from a mobile smartphone or tablet) or through programmed instructions. They can be very large and heavy (often carrying cameras, with a big battery capacity to enable long range in the air), or small, lightweight and able to be carried in the hand (with very limited battery capacity and air time but more suited to indoor use in a classroom). Devices suitable for the classroom will be lightweight and cause little issue if they fall from flying. Larger outdoor devices require more risk management and an understanding of the legal requirements as to where and how they can be deployed (for UK legislation about the use of drones see https://www.caa.co.uk/Consumers/Unmanned-aircraft-and-drones/ and https://dronesafe.uk/drone-code/

What can you do with Drones in the Classroom?

Drones provide an engaging way to develop mathematical and spatial concepts in the classroom – position, distance and movement in a real 3D environment, the classroom itself. Using coding to program a drone to take off, perform pre-planned movements and land safely, requires learners to put into practice measurement of distance, angle/turn, and spatial awareness – extending skills in coding programmable floor robots in another dimension.

Drones in the English Classroom – a podcast, with a verbatim transcript, of an interview with Santha Walters and on the blog by Vicki Davis about the experiences of getting started using drones in an English language classroom to teach writing, collaboration and more. There is helpful advice about how to get started, developing understanding of safety issues when having flying devices in the classroom, how to build on enthusiasm of the learners themselves to give them greater ownership of their learning, and handy technical tips for using drones in the classroom.

Learning Takes to the Skies – a blogpost by Matthew Lynch about using drones in the classroom. This describes the different skills being which are learned when using drones in a classroom setting and gives examples of drones in different curricular areas as well as cross-curricular.

Click on this link to browse various Tweets which have been shared about uses of drones which have application in educational contexts.

What do I need to get started?

So you’d need a drone (such as ones aimed at classroom use provided by companies like Parrot). And you’d need a smartphone or tablet device (such as an iPad or Android tablet) with an app (such as Tynker, Apple Swift Playgrounds or SpheroEdu) which controls the drone. Once these are connected the rest is down to what you are trying to teach – and the scenarios you wish to set up to support learning in a context. Can your learners program the drone to take off, make the outline of a square in the air and then land? Can they make different shapes in the air? Can they make the drone flip upside down? Can they go to above a specific location on the floor, hover, then move to another location before returning to precisely the same as the take-off point?

Here’s a video “Coding with students – Using Tynker and coding with Drones” by Richard Poth – showing how to use the Parrot Mambo minidrone using the Tynker app in a classroom.


August 1, 2018
by Malcolm Wilson

Emojis, Symbols and Signs in Literacy and Learning

For conveying information quickly we all rely on signs and symbols every day, whether it’s finding toilets, exits, stairs or lifts in unfamiliar public buildings, or signs on roads warning of dangers ahead. We’re used to seeing symbols which convey information such as laundry washing symbols, packaging symbols, or about recycling products. And it might be said that people find information shared in an infographic poster more visually engaging when text and graphics and combined. Images can be recognised quickly regardless of the first language of the reader ensuring that information can be conveyed concisely without high levels of reading skills in any particular language.

Signs and symbols have been used throughout history to convey information so they are not new. The symbols used in ancient civilisations through to the emoticons and emojis of today may be considered to be part of a continuum.

It’s been described as one of the fastest growing languages and many millions of messages are reported to be sent every day using only emojis. Tennis star Andy Murray tweeted about his wedding day solely using emojis!

So what is an Emoji?

Emojis are simply pictures you type on a device, whether it’s a smartphone, tablet or computer. Emojis are standardised characters available on different platforms whether running Apple, Android, or Windows operating systems, or different social media platforms (the artwork varies slightly between each but the meaning remains the same).

But I don’t know what each emoji means!!

We all grow up with signs and symbols but for many people there may be a worry that they don’t know what each emoji means – don’t panic, there’s an online encyclopedia/dictionary of emojis: https://emojipedia.org/. Simply type in a word to find the emoji you need.

There’s also a Frequently-Asked-Questions section which answers questions you might have about emojis.

You might also find useful the EmojiTranslate site where you simply type a word, sentence or paragraph to get emojis to copy and paste elsewhere https://emojitranslate.com/

Why might Emojis be used in Education?

Why I use Emoji in Research and Teaching – an article by Jennifer Fane setting out reasons why to consider using emojis in education to support inclusion, to aid communication, and to give voice to all learners.

How Emojis can Help Children Learn and Communicate – another article by Jennifer Fane describing how emojis can aid inclusion for children as well as support children’s learning in areas of health, well-being, safety and diversity.


Ideas and Resources for using Emojis in the Classroom

An Emoji Education – a blogpost by Tony Vincent in his excellent Learning in Hand blog which presents lots of tools and ideas for using emojis in the classroom complemented by visually engaging poster images. Whether it’s simply suggesting use of emojis instead of common bullet-points in reports or presentations for greater impact, or for learners summarizing texts using emojis to demonstrate understanding, or using emojis as prompts for story starts, as well as a range of tools which can aid the use of emojis on a variety of devices.

20+ Emoji Activities and Resources for Teaching Math, Science, and English – a very helpful blogpost by Shelly Terrell with a host of ideas for making use of emojis in education. The ideas can be adapted across many curricular areas. Shelley links to other useful resources and tools, as well as additional posts about how emojis can be used including her “Teaching the Emoji Generation” article which also links to many other articles, resources and tools.

15 Ways to Emoji-fy Your Teaching – a blogpost by teacher Stacy Zeiger with ideas for using emojis in the classroom for supporting reading and writing, for maths and science such as illustrating processes, and to support social and emotional learning to help break down communication barriers for some learners.

Using Emojis to Teach Critical Reading Skills – an article by Marissa King with suggestions for how emojis might be used in a classroom situation as one means of connecting learner experience outwith school to develop skills in other contexts in the classroom.

Cybrary Man’s Educational Website for Emojis – a web page of links to resources about using emojis in education collated on the Cybrary Man website by Jerry Blumengarten

Examples of Emojis in use

Larbert High School used emojis beside information about prelim exams in a Tweet to draw attention to each piece of advice.

Met Office explanation of freezing rain – an explanation using emojis by the UK Met Office on Twitter at a time when freezing rain was being experienced in the weather

The UK Information Commissioner’s Office shared on Twitter about the benefits of a business visit, using emoji characters in place of bullet points, where each character chosen illustrated and therefore helped highlight the information shared.

For a bit of fun teacher Stephen Logan shared a story of a day, perhaps a typical end of term day in a school, in the form of emoji characters, which helps illustrate the sequence of events in pictorial form

Interesting facts about the Isle of Man were shared via Twitter, with each fact preceded with an emoji character which illustrated the fact, thus helping make it stand out, be more memorable and appear akin to an infographic poster to catch attention.

Microsoft OneNote Notebooks, digital ring-binder notebooks, can have emoji characters in the titles of each section or page which makes visual identification more eye-catching as in this example OneNote notebook by educators Noreen Dooley and Holly Dornak



July 25, 2018
by Malcolm Wilson

Cracking the Code to break out and escape – solving the puzzle classroom activity using OneNote passcode feature

So what is a Digital Breakout or Escape Room or Cracking the Code activity anyway?

Cracking the Code to break out and escape in a classroom story scenario by solving the puzzles in a classroom activity – where learners have to solve puzzles in order to get a code for each step to reveal the next puzzle. This can be called a Digital Breakout or Digital Escape Room activity as the learners have to solve problems (which can be related to anything being studied in the classroom at the time) in order to get the code word clue which will then allow them to reveal the next puzzle to be solved, and when all puzzles are solved will the learners be deemed to have cracked the code to let them “escape” or “break out” in this story scenario created by the teacher.

Why use a digital Escape Room Breakout Room activity in your classroom?

With a digital escape room, breakout room, crack the code activity learners work at their own pace, they can collaborate if you choose that option or they can work individually. They are solving problems to gain the passcode for the next activity which provides a fun challenge element to their learning. Learners get immediate feedback in that they must correctly solve the task in each section in order to get the code which reveals their next challenge.

What can be used?

Microsoft OneNote provides a good digital tool to set up the activity since it can have multiple sections, each of which can have a passcode applied, so that instructions, clues and activities are only revealed when the passcode is entered on a digital device, whether a computer tablet or smartphone. The clues (activities requiring solving a problem to get a passcode) can be very simple or require quite a bit of problem solving on the part of the learner – the teacher creating the activity chooses how easy or how hard the activity will be to suit the class and the timescales in which the activity will take place. And of course they can relate to whichever area of the curriculum is being taught at that time. It can be used as a form of revision or consolidation or testing of understanding – the teacher setting the tasks to suit the need.

How to set up a OneNote Notebook for a Breakout or Escape Room or Cracking the Code activity

The Sway below is a great introduction to how to create a Breakout activity using OneNote. This is by Candace Queen and Lynn McGee. This includes examples as well as a step by step guide showing how to set up your own Breakout/Escape Room/Crack the Code activity using OneNote.

Here’s step by step guidance for teachers using OneNote through Glow

OneNote is part of  Microsoft Office 365 and is available to all staff and pupils in schools in Scotland with a Glow login. Here’s how to set up your Breakout/Escape Room/Crack the Code activities using OneNote with your Glow account:

1. Log into Glow https://glow.rmunify.com/

2. Click on the OneDrive tile on the RM Unify Launchpad in Glow.

3. Click “+ New” and choose “OneNote notebook” from the drop down menu

4. Give your OneNote Notebook a name and click “create”

5. The notebook you have now created will open in OneNote Online

6. On the left-hand navigation menu right-click on “Untitled Section” and choose “Rename” to give your section a name, such as “Task 1” or “Puzzle 1”.

7. Add as many sections as you will require, one for each task/puzzle, by clicking on “+ Section” at the bottom left of  your screen and naming each section such as Task 2, Task 3, etc.

8. In each section there will be a page where you add a title for the page and add the text with the task/puzzle instructions. As well as simply adding text any OneNote page can, if you wish, also have pictures, links, video, or embedded content. Each section page will have a puzzle or task to solve which ends up with an answer which will be what unlocks the next section (once you’ve added the passcode protection to the section).

9. To be able to add the passcode you have to now open in the desktop version (or mobile app) of your OneNote as currently the passcode protection can’t be added in the online version (though users will be able to make use of the passcode to enter the sections, you simply can’t apply the passcode protection code in the online version). So simply click on “Open in OneNote” along the ribbon menu along the top of your OneNote Notebook (note that if this is the first time you’ve done this on a computer you may have to enter your full Glow email address and password to set up the connection between the online and desktop versions). If you have the OneNote mobile app set up on your tablet device or smartphone you will be able to apply the passcode there too.  To apply the lock right-click on the section tab and choose “Password Protect This Section” (if doing this on the mobile app then simply hold for a few seconds on the section name and the option to add the lock will be displayed).

10. Add the passcode answer from the previous section for each task on each section in turn (take a note somewhere else of each passcode as there is no means to access a passcode-protected section if you forget the passcode!). Don’t put a passcode on the first section so that your pupils will be able to access that right away.

Sharing your Breakout/Escape Room/Crack the Code OneNote Notebook

1. Return to the online version of the OneNote notebook you created

2. Click “Share” in the top right corner.

3. On the “share” box which appears click on the menu arrow which appears beside “Only the people you specific will have access to edit” so that further choices appear. Then select “anyone” and make sure the box beside “Allow Editing” is not ticked (in Glow this choice will is already be unticked and appears greyed out – note also that for Glow users only staff will have this option available). Click Apply.

4. Now click on “copy link” and this will provide you with a link you can now share with your class, perhaps in an email or somewhere online where your class have access to click on the link. The automatically created link may be too long to share easily if you’re displaying it on screen for learners to copy onto their browser, so you may wish to shorten the link using a URL shortening tool such as https://bitly.com/ or https://tinyurl.com/ or http://www.glo.li/shorten.php – you may also wish to use these tools to create a QR code which can give even quicker access to a site by a user using the QR code scanner built into mobile devices.

Click on this link for an example you can use: 



More “how-to” help

To see a fabulous how-to guide by Jill Robinson in a sequence of videos on YouTube then click on this link Create a Digital Escape Room with OneNote

Want to see more examples of Digital Escape Rooms using OneNote?

Click on this link for a fabulous OneNote guide by Noreen Dooley and Holly Dornack showing how to create a digital breakout activity using OneNote. This includes a vast range of resources which might be useful as well as links to lots of examples by others, and a ready-to use activity as part of the OneNote created by Noreen and Holly

So if you’re not sure what you might put in your OneNote Escape Room/Breakout Room activity sections then have a look at the examples on the embedded Tweets below, or on the links below that, for inspiration. Click on the Twitter Moments link below to see examples of OneNote used by others to create a digital Escape Room, BreakOut Room or Crack the Code learning activities. Below this embedded content there are also links to examples of OneNote Breakout Room Escape Room activities.


Click on this link for a OneNote Escape Room activity on a science vocabulary theme created by @Maestra_Pacheco

Come Escape with OneNote – a downloadable pdf how-to guide with example of how to create a Digital BreakOut Room, Escape Room or Crack the Code learning activity using OneNote. This is by Alyssa Martin and Lin Lee.


June 12, 2018
by Malcolm Wilson

MathsBot.com – online tools to support teaching mathematics

MathsBot.com – a series of free online tools, created by Maths teacher Jonathan Hall, which will support a teacher in teaching mathematics. These are designed to be used in a teaching situation where a teacher is using the tools directly with learners to help explain concepts, or to provide interactive activities with a class, a group or individual learners.

There are tools to support mathematics teaching at all stages whether primary school or high school. They can be used in different ways to suit the level of understanding of the learners at any stage.

There are a number of these tools which would work particularly well in a primary classroom, perhaps used projected onto an interactive class screen and manipulated by learners under the direction of a teacher as they explore mathematical concepts together. So in the manipulatives section you’ll find a fraction wall, counters, counting stick, Cuisenaire rods, Dienes blocks, Geoboard, pentominoes, place value counters, ten frame and unit box. Then tools like Venn Diagrams can let pupils explore a whole range of different aspects whether properties of numbers (such as even/odd, 1-digit/2-digit, less-than/more-than), area of rectangles, co-ordinates. and more. The Number of the Day interactive tool can be used to display a range of random questions based on a teacher’s choice of difficulty and the range of number answers as well as difficulty level. So for quick-fire mental maths classroom activities it could be useful as a daily routine for a few minutes. Likewise there is the AfL Checkup tool which a teacher can set at whatever level of difficulty would best support and challenge learners, within choices of arithmetic, converting time units, fractions, measure, money, and more. And within each choice you can choose the aspects of these which match what is being taught and learned in the classroom at the time to consolidate and challenge learners in a fun interactive way.

There’s Manipulatives, Printables, Starter Drills, Tools, Question Generators, Puzzles and specific resources to support a maths curriculum.

This a very useful set of resources, adaptable to so many classroom situations to be used in whatever way a teacher can see will best support, challenge and motivate their learners.

April 26, 2018
by Malcolm Wilson

ClassroomScreen – the free online all-in-one class display tool

ClassroomScreen.com is a free online tool which brings together a host of useful tools for the classroom into one screen display.

Choose your own background, bring up a timer, set a traffic light for any activity, choose pupils with a random name generator, add text instructions on screen, set visual noise level measure, draw on a whiteboard, have pupils click on the classroom response tool on the screen for any question you ask to display quick feedback. And if teaching another language just a quick flick and the language changes  to suit. So much in one screen, and you can move the tools around, switch them on or off as needed and change the background to suit the activity.

Created by Netherlands teacher Laurens Koppers to meet his own classroom needs for such an all-in-one tool, he has included a Padlet feedback page for teachers to share how they are using the tool and to request features. It is not possible to save your screen but it is designed that it should not take more than 30 seconds to put up the screen, and gives an option to save a list of names to upload speedily any time it’s needed.

Built into Classroomscreen you can access the how-to tips and guide to how different parts work by clicking on the 3-line hamburger icon to the top left. Want to see how to have dual screen? Want to use as an exit poll for your classroom? Want to add an image in the text box? Want to use on an iPad? Just click on that hamburger icon and choose Tips and Tricks. There’s a link to a how-to introductory guide to ClassroomScreen.com in the video below:

Click on this link for the YouTube channel for Classroomscreen.com with a series of videos showing specific aspects of the tool in use.

Val Curtis created a neat visual infographic poster illustrating the different ClassroomScreen.com tools – click on this link to see this poster.

Follow ClassroomScreen.com on Twitter for more ideas and updates

March 20, 2018
by Malcolm Wilson

Stop-motion animation with Stikbot iPad app in the classroom

Stop-motion animation creation by pupils in a classroom is an engaging way for learners to demonstrate their learning.

Whether that’s showing the steps in the processes involved in a numerical calculation (from something as simple as showing the story of 5 for young learners, or how to do long division to more complex mathematical equations); or to illustrate a short text (whether poem or story); or to illustrate a phenomenon in science or an experiment (such as showing the water cycle or life cycle of a butterfly).

Learners spending time breaking down what they are learning into stop-motion animation frames gives time for reflection and to help both deepen understanding as they work with others, conversing and collaborating to seek to show the essence of their learning in moving images.

The Sway below gives a step by step guide to using the free Stikbot stop-motion animation iPad app (also available for iPhone and Google Android phones or tablets), including illustrations of how it can be used in the classroom.




March 14, 2018
by Malcolm Wilson

Get Going with Green Screen film-making in the classroom

So what is green-screen?

Essentially it’s using software or an app to combine different images or video so that one appears as if part of the other. The green screen part makes use of chroma-key feature of the app so that anyone standing in front of a green screen will appear in the video with the green screen not seen at all, but replaced by another chosen background image or video. Wikipedia gives a much fuller explanation here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chroma_key.

But how do I create a film in the classroom with green screen?

With an iPad, and a green screen app (such as the Doink green screen iPad app) and with anything in the background which is green (whether frieze paper on the wall or green sheeting, or specially made green screen fabric on a frame) you are ready to go.

Have a look at the Sway below for examples of videos created by pupils using the DoInk green screen iPad app, along with how-to guides to starting to use it yourself. And then it’s creativity on the part of your learners in the classroom – for further inspiration have a look at the DoInk green screen app blog  to see how others have shared about using green screen film-making in the classroom.



March 7, 2018
by Malcolm Wilson

Musical Creativity with Chrome Music Lab

Chrome Music Lab is a free online music creation webtool from Google. It is described as “a website that makes learning music more accessible through fun, hands-on experiments” and can be used on any web-connected device through most Internet browsers, so it will work on desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone (just note that it does not work on Internet Explorer).

You don’t need to sign up for any account, you can just start creating right away, and exploring different features of music, and linking to other areas of the curriculum. These can be used in open-ended ways but direct links can be made to link to the science and mathematics of sound/music through practical activities looking at sound waves, vibrations, oscillations, or to artists like Kandinsky and relationship to shape.

There’s different tools: Song Maker, Rhythm, Spectrogram, Chords, Sound Waves, Arpeggios, Kandinsky, Melody Maker, Voice Spinner, Harmonics, Piano Roll, Oscillators, and Strings. Open any of these tools from the launchpad and simply click on the “About” link on each one to find out the straightforward guide to using each tool. Or just play about and have fun with each one – and then have a look at the “About” link to see what you’ve just been learning!

Each tool is visually very user-friendly and younger users could simply explore by trial and error and still gain a lot from experimenting. For those who wish to explore further they will find each tool has a wide range of permutations to be adaptable for different ages, stages and learning outcome desired.

Have a look at the quick introductory video to Chrome Music Lab here to get an idea of what it looks like

To see what it’s all about, and for examples of how it’s being used in classrooms, then have a browse through the collated Chrome Music Lab Twitter Moments below:


March 6, 2018
by Malcolm Wilson

Creating and editing a film in the classroom with iMovie on an iPad

Creating and editing a film in the classroom with an iPad can be done with the iMovie app.

View this Sway presentation about using iMovie on your iPad in the classroom for help on getting started as well as tips on using some of the neat features such as adding video-in-video or picture in picture and more



Click on the link below to see an example of a picture in picture video shared on Twitter From Westquarter Primary School in Falkirk Council

March 5, 2018
by Malcolm Wilson

Getting Going with iPads in the classroom

So you’ve got iPads in your classroom? Where to start? Have a look at the Sway presentation below for a guide to some help to getting going with using an iPad in the classroom to support learning and teaching.


And if you’re wondering how iPads are being used in classrooms then have a look at the Sway presentation which collates some of the Tweets shared by Falkirk schools about how iPads are being used to support learning and teaching across the curriculum at all stages.

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