Posted in e-learning, ILT, Uncategorized

Celebrate Digital Learning Day with a Flip!

Thursday 23rd February 2017 is Digital Learning Day – and your friendly neighbourhood eLFs are challenging you to ‘Flip Your First Lesson!’

Digital Learning Day is an opportunity to raise awareness, encourage innovation, and celebrate the good things that can come from embracing the power of technology to ‘strengthen a student’s learning experience.’  Why not ‘dip your toes’ in the waters of flipped learning by starting with one lesson?

Flipped learning is a term that might not be familiar to all of you, but is one of the most significant changes sweeping through education the world over.  It refers to a model where much of the didactic instruction takes place outside of the classroom, often through videos, and much of the more traditional homework activities such as completing essays or assignments can then be carried out in class, with support from you!

Now, this is not to say that flipping is simple and takes no effort … putting the flipped model to effective use on an ongoing basis takes effort and requires time and professional development, but taking the first step to help get you thinking about the longer term doesn’t have to be hard.

Here is a pretty simple approach to flipping a lesson. You get to decide how tech-y you want to be with this by selecting from 1 of 3 different levels of tools or techniques:

  1. Find a great video on a topic to introduce it and make that the homework the night before you want to start exploring this topic
  2. Require engagement and gather feedback that can expose areas that require further exploration, or simply raise fun questions, by using one of these tools or techniques:
    • (Low Tech) Have your students complete a “WSQ”: The “WSQ” is a simple idea that requires students to Watch the video and then write a Summary that includes a Q The idea was developed by Crystal Kirch.  You give the student guidelines on what’s expected in the summary (how long it should be, for example). As for the question, this can be a question that students think you might ask about the material, or it could be something they want to ask about regarding the material. You could encourage Socratic questioning – see the post found by Andy McGill here:
    • (Medium Tech) Embed the video within your Moodle course and add a link to a Padlet: The use of a Padlet allows your students to express their questions or queries, ahead of your next lesson, which means you enter the lesson fully armed with the general feeling about that topic. Setting up a Padlet is very straightforward, there is a 55 second intro video on the Padlet website, as they say that’s how long it takes to learn how to do Padlet – but if you would like more support, please contact
    • (More Tech) Use the video and build questions around it: use tools such as EdPuzzle or Nearpod or even a Moodle Quiz to ask the questions you would normally have asked about the topic in class – this gives you the most complete picture of your student’s understanding well before you even set foot in the classroom.  Maybe reinforce this learning with a Kahoot or Socrative in class as well?

Each of these approaches addresses several very important elements of good flipped lessons. First, they require engagement. Students have to do something while or right after they consume the learning content. They can’t just “zone out” and not pay attention while watching (and if they do, they’ll have to go back and really watch so they can do the work). Next, it gets them thinking about the content. By asking or answering questions, they have to make the effort to develop some understanding. Finally, those questions will likely help to expose misunderstandings or areas that really require further review. They can also provide some great feedback and thoughts that are fun to explore.

Of course, you can also give a shot at the “hi-tech” approach of creating your own video, which is strongly recommended if you decide to move forward with more flipping, but it isn’t really necessary for this first go round. It can also be pretty time consuming to do this the first few times, depending on your approach. Students generally appreciate and expect their teachers to be the ones creating the content (assuming you do a decent job and don’t make the videos too long). But for your first flipped lesson, using someone else’s content is a great way to get started!

If you’d like to know more about Flipped or Blended Learning, the eLearning Facilitators have developed a six-week course that is designed to teach you the concepts, explain how to use the tools and help you produce your first Flipped or Blended Learning course or topic.  Contact Peter Davis on for more information.



Posted in Uncategorized

How to be in two places at once

Ever have the feeling that you need to be in two places at once? Possibly even split into numerous places at any one time to ensure that your students can get the learning experience that they deserve?

Well…look no further! Sadly, I haven’t managed to create a time machine (or even acquire a time turner from the world of Harry Potter!) no, in actual fact it is a simple matter of technology. Ladies and gentlemen I give you… the ‘virtual teacher’

The method that I use regularly makes use of one particular app (available for free on both iOS and Android) called ‘explain everything’. The application provides a range of possibilities including visual and engaging verbal assessment feedback, delivery of practical demonstrations as well as routine reflection and plenary style delivery in a more engaging way.

The verbal feedback method

It’s a constant head-scratcher…what is the ‘best’ way to provide feedback to the learners after a major assessment point? Well, in my experience, even if you spend the time lovingly preparing typed feedback with text boxes that line up perfectly within your word document (I know, possibly not essential, but it makes me feel better if things line up) the students can often not fully engage with it.

Well, at least not until they have had any verbal input from you to fill in the gaps, squash any misunderstandings and generally translate any confusions caused by the wording of the exam board criteria. Assessment becomes a time consuming process. Almost as if you are doing the task twice.. and lets be honest, if you really set out to assess that pile of projects and thought you would actually need to spend twice the amount of time on them it would be just a tad soul destroying. But fear not, I have a fix for this issue. Well, to be more specific, I have an ‘App’ to fix the issue.

Setting it up…

Simply set ‘explain everything’ up with the criteria assessed on one of the slides. The app works in a very similar way to PowerPoint and will allow you to draw boxes, add shapes, text, pictures etc. You may find it easier to create a slide in good old Microsoft PowerPoint then import to ‘explain everything’ (either on your tablet or by saving the slide as ‘jpeg interchange format’ and popping into ‘explain everything’ as an image.)


Then all you have to do is press record, and talk through the assessment feedback. You can even use a stylus (or your finger) with the pen tool selected and tick off the criteria or draw attention to certain points as you explain how they have met the criteria.

Then you just save the completed feedback as an MP4 and email to the student. The best way to use this is asking students to log into emails, plug headphones in and hey presto…you are providing effective verbal feedback in multiple places all at the same time! Even better is the fact that they can re-listen to the feedback as often as they need to.

The image below shows an example of the slide template for one of my student’s feedback. The link will send you to the MP4 version of the file:


The ‘demo-mode’ method

Another method of putting the ‘virtual teacher’ to work is by using ‘explain everything’ to pre-record your demonstrations. This is particularly good if you have a practical demonstration that takes a long time to set up or maybe something that is quite small scale that is quite difficult to show to a large group.

Simply take a series of photographs showing the main stages through the method that you want to demonstrate, pop each image into explain everything onto separate slides in order and then talk over each slide to explain the process. You could also add typed text with each image to help explain each stage to add an extra engaging element to your recording.


When completed, the file can again be saved as an MP4 for uploading to YouTube or even just to save onto your own cloud storage or USB. The app also gives you the ability to save the file as a PDF. This provides you the chance to create a printed handout to accompany the virtual video version of your demonstration (an easy extra ‘take away’ for students to refer to if you have included the simple typed instructions on each slide as well as your audio.) I have used the hand outs with QR codes to link to the audio recording in the past. This ensures that the students have all of the information needed to repeat the process in a safe manner in the future.


I started using this method a couple of years ago and now find it a lot easier when teaching the same techniques and practical processes. The video is used as a starter and then emailed to students for reference after the lesson. I am always amazed how well the students listen to a virtual version of me often feels like I get more of their attention in this form compared to the times when I do demonstrations in the classroom in front of them. It seems to work far better to ensure that they absorb the details better. Questioning the students after the video version of the demonstrations it is often the case that they can recall the details far better.

The ‘virtual teacher’ method

Using a similar approach to the demonstration method.. the ‘explain everything’ app is also good to create positive routines and set expectations. Recording a range of different clips for use at different points throughout your teaching can make your planning a lot easier and also provide a consistent routine for students. For example; a recording created to guide students through a written evaluation or planning task. Maybe you often need students to peer/self assess but know that they would benefit from a video prompt to reaffirm expectations, share visual examples of WAGOLL’s and set the ground rules for the task.


..whatever the need, having a set of stock video recordings created with this app complete with supporting visual imagery can really help to get the students in the right frame of mind for the task set.


This really is one of the most user friendly apps and has so many different applications. The 3 examples shared here are just a few that I use regularly myself. The team who created ‘explain everything’ are really friendly and supportive. They can be found over on twitter @explaineverything as well as a few other rather brilliantly supportive and inspiring users of the app who regularly share the different ways that they have used explain everything within their classrooms.

We would love to see how you use the app yourselves.. why not share your outcomes and join in the chat on workplace in the ‘learning community’ group?

Posted in Uncategorized

The best teachers can straddle the line!!

I keep reading about how the way in which a teacher and student connect is one of the most important factors in a student’s learning experience; about how getting the relationship right can either inspire students to achieve things they never felt capable of or feel dejected, uncared for and generally wondering why they bothered turning up. This is a topic that is close to my heart as I completely agree with all the literature that states how important this is. So, if we know that it’s important, why do so many teachers seem to struggle???

Whenever I talk about this to my students, albeit sports coaching students or teacher trainers, I often talk about ‘the line’. When I talk to my students about this, it seems such an easy concept, just get the balance right between being friendly and disciplined and you’ll be fine. However, over many years, I constantly see the same thing happening. New or inexperienced teachers quite often seem to adopt one of two polar opposite strategies; the ‘overly friendly’ approach or the ‘strict disciplinarian’ approach. Let’s take a look at both:


‘Overly friendly’ approach

The teachers that adopt this approach are often the teachers that score really highly on any learner voice feedback. Quite often I have had the following conversations with students in my tutorials;

Me: So guys, who is your best teacher?

Students: It’s ‘teacher x’

Me: Why is that then guys?

Students: They’re really funny and they let us eat our lunch in lesson!!!

This teacher sets out to be liked and will want to avoid conflict at any cost. The problem with this approach is that at some point they will need to discipline the students, however the students are unlikely now to take the teacher seriously as they view them as ‘one of them’.

‘Strict disciplinarian’ approach

The teachers that adopt this approach are often not the people that score highly on any learner voice feedback!!!! This teacher has set their stall out very early on that the student’s will not walk all over them. The rules are black and white and any students not abiding by the rules will feel the teachers’ wrath!!! The problem with this approach is that, in this wonderful sector that we work in, we are dealing with people that will now and again make poor choices and it is the way in which we handle these situations that can make or break these students’ education. A one system fits all approach to dealing with individuals just doesn’t work.

Once teachers set out their stall and position themselves either to the left or the right of ‘the line’ it is incredibly difficult to realign yourself and find that middle ground in the same academic year. Many times I have witnessed teachers adopt the ‘overly friendly’ approach (this is always left of ‘the line’ for some reason!!) in year 1, only for them to realise that the students have them wrapped around their fingers!!! Year 2 starts and you’ve guessed it, they have flown over the line to the right and become Mr or Mrs Disciplinarian!!! Having experienced the one extreme they always seem to fly across to the other side in year 2!!!!!

The relationship between teacher and student is so important and I agree with Hannah Tyreman that the best teachers are easily identifiable. For me they straddle this line perfectly, they know their students really well, they care about the students’ learning deeply and want them to succeed, in their life, in their career, it is more than just to satisfy the ‘outcomes for learners’ statistic. These teachers are very natural with their learners, they share a joke, they can discuss mundane things, they acknowledge each other in corridors with a hello or a smile and because of this they command their respect, a respect that is reciprocated. If and when the learners let the teacher down, perhaps not submitting an assignment to deadline, turning up late to a lesson or leaving a mess in the classroom, the learners listen when the teacher disciplines them, they feel bad because they genuinely know they have let the teacher down. When you have this type of relationship with your learners, you may not be the funny teacher or their favourite teacher but the chances are you will be the one that can inspire them to achieve things they did not think possible.

Posted in Uncategorized

Making every lesson count

The name of an excellent book (we’re not on commission!) and also a useful self-assessment tool / refresher when considering our own practice. The initial prompts are simple enough:


The impact of considering your own practice can be significant, as other tutors have reported on such topics as:

‘Tight but Loose’

Meaning that teachers can embed the above principles into their sessions but in exactly the way that suits them, allowing teachers to express themselves as individuals but with a set of guiding principles.

‘Meaningful for All’

The principles apply to all subjects – so can have meaning and purpose across a college. Applying these principles in the classroom means that students are getting a consistent approach across their lessons e.g. high levels of challenge; probing questions; time to engage with deliberate practice and so on.

‘Less is More’

Just boiling our practice down to the above 6 core principles can allow us to focus solely on the enablers for great teaching. We can focus on what matters and work at refining the key elements that will lead to the most effective learning, teaching and assessment.

Have a look at the slideshow for more detail and let us know your thoughts via the comments section on Workplace.

Further Reading

Posted in LAT

New Term, New Learning Environment


We have discussed learning environments before on this blog and the topic will also have been on the agenda at your LAT meetings. We have seen the impact the environment can have on learning from learning walks and this is further supported by evidence from educational research (see below for further reading).


This will mean different things in different subjects and classes. Group size, allocated room, timetabling and wall space will all have an impact on the environment and we have already made great strides with examples including the use of seating plans, updating of displays and more effective communication regarding rooms, many of these coming through direct discussions with learners.


Even the most minor of adjustments can significantly enhance the learner experience, with their comfort and confidence in the classroom then leading to greater progress and achievement in line with a culture of shared high expectations. The case study below provides an excellent example of this:

Case Study

Joe Hammond joined the college in November as a lecturer in Electrical Installation. Through his LAT induction process,we discussed learning environments and room layouts. After reflecting on some of his sessions, Joe made some alterations to his classroom, as he reports:

It is hard to put to words the difference the class layout makes, the photos below show the two layouts, before and after:











The simple process of rearranging the seating plan helped me to overcome the constraints of only having two available resources whilst also placing myself at the heart of the classroom. The adapted layout also led to a far higher level of learner engagement in the topic and task in hand.

The session was such an immersive experience for the learner, with the practical exercises and electrical sorcery I showed them, we were late leaving to the point the caretaker was pushing us out the door! I have been a little more selective in my rooms to try and get the best learning environment.

I’ve also started noticing the “drop off points” in the afternoon, and finding that when I break the lesson up between the material and online activities I’m getting great concentration right until the end.

Another example, and probably my best lesson so far, was when my class was required to submit a tender to me….the client and I would choose the individual with the best price as to who I would take on to a lucrative rewire contract. When they returned from break they entered a dimly lit room, sat at their seats whilst I played Lord Alan Sugar, with the music in the background to The Apprentice.

Their learning on this topic was tested after with really positive results, and It was a lot of fun. If this is the reaction I get with these small changes, then I’m very excited about the future.


Take some time to reflect on your current learning environments and consider whether alterations of any size and type could have a positive impact on the learner experience. As ever, we are keen to hear of your success stories so please use the comments section of this blog and / or the Workplace discussion groups to share, share, share!

Next Week…

A further look at the ‘drop-off points’ mentioned by Joe – when and why do they happen and how can we plan to address them?

Further Reading

Posted in Uncategorized

Time to Pause…

Happy New Year from the AP Team!

A thought provoking post from the excellent Class Teaching blog, in which a teacher explores the potential value of a ‘pause’ lesson. The full link is below, but to set this in context here is a quote from the start of the article:

The value of pausing | Class Teaching


What is a ‘Pause’ lesson?

The aim of a ‘Pause’ lesson is to ensure that students are confident with the core knowledge of a unit of work, before moving onto new concepts which require the application of that knowledge.

Essentially there are three aims of a ‘Pause’ lesson; to embed, to consolidate and to practice. Importantly, no new content or skills are delivered in this lesson, with the whole focus on previously taught content and skills.

Why not try a ‘pause’ lesson and let us know how you get on via the comments box below?

Full link: 

Posted in Uncategorized

Day 12 – Snip!

Our series concludes with a quick, simple tip from Andy McGill. Have a fantastic Christmas and please keep blog contributions coming in the New Year!

Sometimes it is the simple pleasures in life that are the best!!

At the start of this academic year, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a GCSE maths class that was led by Sara Allsopp. During the slideshow, Sara had used some pictures that were not very clear and at the end of the lesson I asked Sara about the pictures and also if she had come across a lovely piece of software called ‘snippy’. Sara had never heard of it and it got me wondering how many more people in the college did not know about ‘snippy’???

It is located within your start menu, under all programs and then accessories (see below). The tool allows you to ‘snip’ anything on your screen, very quickly and very easily. Subsequently it can be copied and pasted into slideshows or handouts, etc.


Since discovering the ‘snipping tool’, Sara has found it extremely useful “…I use it all of the time now. The best bit about it, is just how simple it is to use. I have now pinned it to my taskbar so it is always close to hand to help out when needed.

Forget about the ‘clunky’, old school print screen method, this hidden gem will have you purring due to its simplicity!!