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Picture acknowledgement; “The timetabler’s cookbook”, Keith Johnson-

I have been composing this post for a while. The reason being that when i came into my current position in senior management i had a wide and varied remit, and as time has gone by those duties have changed. One of the new responsibilities i have now is that of constructing and managing the school timetable. When i first took this on i had no real experience of doing it, other than the conversations i had been having with my line manager, and seeing him in action. So when i was asked to take it on i had a quick search to see what others had said about the experience and there wasn’t much, and what there was out there was mainly technical and procedural.

From my experience of doing the timetable for the last few years the timetable is much, much more than a technical or software issue. I have found that the timetable is actually a relationship issue. The timetable is about communication with staff, the head and curriculum lead. I am currently in the process of planning next years timetable (2013/14) now, and have been for about 2 months. So to help any new comers this is the kind of process i follow;

1. Create/ edit/ modify your curriculum plan for all year groups. This involves thought around where the school is heading and the priorities the school has. This is also where i have considered the national agenda. So this year we have planned for the EBACC for example.

2. Once you have the model for your timetable give it to subject leaders and get feedback from them. Can certain groups access the courses you want them to do? Is there the expertise or will there be training issues? These are only two examples of the many questions you will ask.

3. Get subject leaders to tell you who they want in which classes. Don’t promise them this will happen. I always say i will work towards this model and get as close as i can.

4. Now is the time when the software comes into the picture. We use NOVA T6 on SIMS and it works quite well. I put in the staff subject leaders want, and then run an automatic timetable. This will throw up any issues you might have such as part time staff, a particular department which is going to be hard to timetable etc. Then you go back and you set the timetable. I use a mixture of hand placed and automatic scheduling of classes.

5. Once this is done you can go back to the subject leaders and outline the issues you have. I then give them choices. You can have that teacher on at that time, but then they can’t do that. This means that subject leaders know the issues and have had a say in the solution.

6. Speak to staff who may have oddities on their timetable.

7. Finalise the timetable and add rooms.

Obviously there are other ways of doing things, but i thought i would outline what i do so that it gives people who are new to timetabling a start!

Also it would be good to point whoever follows me in the role to this as a summary of what i did.

I have been waiting for this! SMART have released the notebook app for the iPad which now means that you can save files in places like Dropbox, evernote, skydive or google drive then open them on the iPad and edit notebook files.
Search the app store for notebook and you should find it and it costs £4.99. This now means that for me I could just use the iPad to plan and deliver lessons on the IWB, and reduce the amount I do on the laptop.
Initial thoughts;
1. The app is quite basic at the moment, but I am sure that smart will add to this as they develop it. It has the basic functionality of text, pen, eraser and insert picture.
2. You can insert pictures from the iPad, and a good feature is the ability to insert a picture from the camera.
3. Once completed files can be emailed.
4. You can add sound/ voice to an object, and move it around the page.

Although the functionality is basic, I think this will be great for me to use on the iPad, and free me to work in a more mobile way.

How can you work more effectively on an ipad?

This is one question i have been trying to find an answer to for the past couple of months. Being a teacher, it could be really useful if i could ditch the laptop and work from the ipad. However, i have not been able to seamlessly integrate MS office and the ipad (the school is a MS environment). This could clearly be my lack of knowledge and understanding, but i just could not do it.

Two things have changed that have meant i can now do this more effectively. One is the release of the oncloud app, and the second is google drive.

Oncloud is an app that allows users to create and edit MS office documents from the ipad, and then store them with an online storage site. The app connects with box, dropbox and google drive. I have a dropbox account, but most, if not all of my work is on google docs, which will be changing to google drive. So i downloaded the app and connected to my google docs account. The app synced beautifully, and then allowed me to create office documents that were saved into the google drive account. This means i am free from the laptop if i want to create anything meaningful. I can now for example;

1. Leave the laptop at school and work from the ipad at home.

2. Using a bluetooth keyboard i can write reports, do spreadsheets and make powerpoint presentations. I can also use pictures and video from my ipad in these documents.

3. Collaborate on documents and work on them anywhere.

This now means that the ipad, for me. becomes much more of a creation tool rather than just a comsumption tool. Things made in apps that save to the ipad can be put into a document, accessed back in school and then printed or saved into portfolios, or used as assessment evidence.

How are you using your ipad in a microsoft environment? What about ipads in education, can oncloud be an effective way for teachers to be more productive and gain time to balance work with life?

Blocks! is an ipad app which uses ‘lego’ on a 3D grid, and allows you to build things and make scences. I was planning a science lesson on elements and compounds and realised that i could use this app to show how compounds are made up.

After introducing the idea of compounds being elements chemically joined together, we looked at some diagrams of compounds such as water, and discussed the fact that water has 2 hydrogen molecules and 1 oxygen molecule. I then got the students to find the chemical formulas of some different compounds such as hydrochloric acid and copper sulphate. Once they had found these formulas they then had to represent these compounds in Blocks! Students had to decide on a colour for each element and then build the compound with the right number of blocks.

This idea really helped the students to visualise the compounds and how they were joined together, and especially the number of molecules of each element in a compound.

Find Blocks here;!/id390088835?mt=8

How have you used Blocks!

Having read about the site in a couple of blogs, I had a look and thought I would give it a go. I put the link up on the IWB and the students jumped straight in. I asked them to set decimal multiplication questions for each other, challenging someone else in the class to answer their question. This worked really well, and seemed to spark a really healthy competitive spirit. It also started good discussion as students questioned each other and the answers.
All in all, a good resource which is free to start, and allows you to set a time limit on the length of time the “room” is available.
Check it out here, at todaysmeet


Getting videos into Notebook from youtube can be frustrating, but well worth the effort, especially if you have youtube blocked in your school. I know that many primary schools have youtube blocked, but would love to use the educational content that is available.

Well there is a quick (ish) way of doing it. Here goes;

1. Go to youtube at home, or where you can access it and find your content.

2. When the video comes up and is playing, pause it and go to the url address bar at the top of the page. 

3. Just after the www. and before the youtube part, add in the word ‘kick’.

4. This should take you to a download site, where your video can be downloaded in the FLV format that you need to insert it into notebook.

5. Click the file type you want, and save it on your computer.

6. Open notebook and click on ‘insert’ then ‘Flash video file’. Find the video on your computer and open it.

That should now put the video into your notebook file, and allow you to show relevant youtube videos in class.

I posted the other week about the way i have started to use Skitch with ipad and evernote in my teaching (read it here).

I thought that i would post a couple of examples of how i have used Skitch and the ipad with evernote in maths.

In this picture a student has decided to do a pictogram, whereas the rest of the class had decided to do a bar chart showing the information i had presented them with. I took a picture with skitch, and annotated it in about 30 seconds, then saved to evernote. Opened evernote on the mac plugged into the IWB, and synced the account. The picture then showed in my account after about 30 seconds. I then showed this to the class and we discussed the merits of bar charts and pictograms. This was a great discussion starter and got students having to justify why they had decided on a bar chart, when a pictogram could have done a better job.

The students liked the fact that their work was able to be displayed on the board, and could see feedback ‘on their work’.

My adventure with skitch, ipad and evernote continues!!

2011 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 30 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


This is a great app for the iPad, and allows you to have the laptop applications you are running show up on the iPad. This is great for teachers! This means that you can have your documents from your laptop show on the iPad, then run this through the IWB with the iPad plugged in. This means your laptop does not have to be in the same room as you, so you don’t have to carry it around with you. This is nice if you teach in a number of different rooms as I do.

The other thing this is great for is as a mobile slate for the IWB.
So how would this work? When the laptop and iPad are on the same wifi, start splashtop on the laptop and iPad. Once running you can get the IWB software up (in my case I use smart notebook). Once this is running you can use the touch screen ability of the iPad to pass amongst students to get them to fill in answers, contribute to discussions, annotate other peoples work or any other things you can think of. This will then show up on the IWB where the laptop is plugged in.
It also means you can run flash based programmes and software on the iPad through the splashtop app showing your laptop.
Can you think of any more ideas of how it could be useful for teachers?


Skitch is a new iPad app that lets you take pictures, screenshots, web pages or photos and annotate them. This is then able to be saved into evernote and used later or as a reference.

Now I really love evernote, and have talked about it before on this blog, and use it in all my work flows. This addition of skitch means that getting pictures annotated and into evernote could not be easier.
So how have I used skitch in my teaching? How am I going to use it? Here are a couple of my ideas;
1. Having an iPad and moving around groups means that with the camera I can find students with good work, take a picture, annotate it with them so they can get some AfL there and then, then display this work on the board through my laptop after I have quickly synced with evernote. Students then see a model example/ good piece of work.

2. Using skitch I take photos of students work as evidence of assessment. This is then stored in evernote if I need to moderate or show evidence of grades given. With this I can also annotate, then email then students the picture of their work giving the grade and feedback.

3. Putting together tutorials is easier with skitch as well. Taking a web page and annotating what to do makes life so much easier with some students! I also take an iPad lesson with a year 9 group, and skitch gives me the ability to annotate screenshots to show how to use apps.

Have you found skitch yet? How do/ could you use it?