Top 5 Takeaways from ISTELive 22

What a blast it was in New Orleans! The advice before I went was to have a plan because it can be overwhelming and boy is that true! There is a real buzz of excitement, but with so many sessions in so many rooms all happening at the same time, it just feels like you miss out on so much! Thankfully we can catch up with many sessions online – including mine, which I got to present on the Sunday – and despite having some technical difficulties, I’ve re-recorded the session and it will be made available in the next day or so, so if you are part of the ISTE 22 attendees, virtual or not – the link is here:

One of the highlights was seeing my face pop up on the main stage screen every day mixed in with the likes of Zach King and National Award Winners. See if you spot me 😂

Getting to walk around the EXPO hall is in itself a day’s worth of time, and one of the absolute pleasures of the whole thing is to spot all the great teachers and influencers that we are inspired by every day on social media. Most of my faves I was able to snap a photo with!

The biggest inspiration from the whole thing is to share more joy in classrooms, and also share more in general, so I am making more of a commitment to post more content over the coming year. Having said that, now is Summer, so I’m going to throw down my initial top 5 takeaways from this year’s ISTELive 22 and perhaps I’ll do another reflection as I prepare for the new school year in late August.

5. Modular Blocks for coding and Robotics

Back in 2018, we invested in Makeblock’s neuron system, a cool modular magnetised block system that had ton’s of great sensors. It had it’s problems, but for whatever reason, they couldn’t make it work and it was discontinued at around the time of Covid. But this hasn’t put off many other cool edtech startups with their own systems. It also appears South Korea is leading the way with two products that caught my eye: MODI by LUXROBO and Ping Pong by RoboRisen. Ping Pong looked unique in that each of the main blocks contained all of the main sensors and motors, meaning you don’t have to connect lots of different blocks together. It also had loads of connectors, including a camera attachment – and overall it looked pretty cool.


LUXROBO had a bigger presence and was showing off a few different sets, but the MODI sets all looked a great upgrade to the modular block style, including a variety of sensors and a fairly strong connection between the blocks. Another great advantage of the MODI range is that it can be programmed in Scratch blocks, using an extension, and all the blocks can be attached to LEGO, which ramps up the creative possibilities!


4. Blooket and Gimkit reign supreme

Both Blooket and Gimkit were absent from the EXPO Hall (I assume because how small their teams are) Whereas Quizizz! Kahoot! and plenty of other smaller gamification tools were showing off their wares. There was certainly some great looking tools out there, particularly in the mathematics subject area, but I think anyone who is a fan of Blooket and Gimkit will have left perhaps a little underwhelmed. Whilst Kahoot! and Quizizz are branching out into other forms of assessments and presentation tools, there was little in terms of revolutionary gamification techniques. It seems Blooket and Gimkit are still are the ones to beat (although Pear Deck might have something to say in that arena: see below)

3 Coding Platforms for Gaming

Another great edtech tool that was absent is Scratch – who have their own conference coming up soon. But there are other great coding tools available and the industry leader for polished, publishable games is Epic Games and their Unreal Engine. A totally free resource – they have a great coding programme which is fairly easy to follow but can extend right up to grade 12. They also are promoting their creative sandbox version of Fortnite – Fortnite Creative, which has similar opportunities to produce creative environments in the way Minecraft Education Edition is. What is also exciting is that more and more teachers (and developers) are working with the programme to create engaging game based learning opportunities. Another app which is free and creates stunning scenes is TwinMotion, another tool which isn’t ridiculously difficult to use. I am excited to see how these develop in the coming years, and how that perhaps it might be out of reach to expect most teachers to use them in their day to day lessons, perhaps they would be willing to at least try some of the content with their class of the worlds created by some very enthusiastic and supportive educator-designers.

TwinMotion looks impressive

Another new tool that was presented in the Expo Hall was Construct. This was seemingly positioning itself inbetween Scratch and some of the script based game creating (like C++ or even Lua for Roblox). There is a cost to the use of it, but the games look industry quality, so I am eager to trial it and see if it something I would use regularly, or pay for.

2 AI and creativity

If you went to ISTE this year with a focus on AI, then the biggest glaring takeaway you would have is that AI is now a big player in the creative process. It even has its own area called generative AI, and this encapsulates the idea that AI is learning how to create something uniquely. Taryn Southern, a Youtube influencer and Filmmaker, shared on the mainstage how she used AI regularly and eventually produced a full studio music album with AI as a creative partner. Nancye Blair Black continued this important conversation by sharing some amazing resources (you can find them on her site) and really considering how AI isn’t perfect – or anywhere near really – in creating art of any kind, but it is certainly improving and it is something we should be wary of. At the end of the day it is heavily influenced by the data it learns from and we need to consider both ethically and equitably, are we happy with how AI is performing? I would definitely recommend catching these sessions if you haven’t had chance and have access.

An inspiring quote from AI driven InspiroBot?

1 Pear Deck brought their A game

The highlight for me at ISTE in terms of EdTech was the release of ‘Project Pear’ – a brand new feature coming to Pear Deck. I loved Flashcard Factory when they added this as feature to the original interactive presentation tools, but I think it flew under the radar. This new gamified experience though will be used in classrooms all around the world. I guarantee it!

It can be very hard to gamify the classroom but also encourage team work. Quizlet Live is a good example of this working, and there are similarities in the new game created by Pear Deck.

The student will be able to build their own avatar with accessories (a standard now for all gamified apps, a welcome one of course!) before they join a game hosted by the teacher. The system then randomly assigns students to teams of three, where whilst waiting they can choose the name or colour of their team.

Then the quiz starts, and in a similar fashion to Pear Deck slides, there are different question modes. Take for example, a multiple choice question, each team member can see where their team mates cursor is, and what selection they are making. The student can then send a preloaded message to the team, with sayings like ‘Follow Me’ or ‘ I’m not sure’, allowing the team chance to communicate in case they aren’t in the same room/together.

No one on the team knew this was in fact Dental Floss

Other question modes include a text based answer, where at the end of the time, all the team’s different ideas are shown and the team then select the one they think is the correct version (great for checking spelling!). Another is a drawing slide – where all teammates draw on the canvas at the same time – making it very fun but also very challenging to produce anything that resembles what you want!

Alongside the quiz mode, there are other opportunities to win points in random events in between questions. In theory this gives everyone a chance to get back into the competition, but when we tried it out we ended up losing our lead (and a bunch of swag) after another team got a large amount of points on a lucky spin. It will be interesting to see how this dynamic plays out in schools, although it has already been tested in a variety of schools and had excellent feedback.

Also announced by Pear Deck at their impressive After Pearty, they are combining with Tutor organisation Tutor Me, and they also announced this week a collaboration with EiE, which on a personal level is fantastic, as I’ve used their design process for a number of years in the classroom already – can’t wait to see some of the content created!

Overall a wonderful experience – and I’ll reflect a little bit more after a much needed rest. (well not really a rest, we are off to the 50th Disney World Celebration!)


Computer Science Week – 12 Games of Christmas is back!

Last year to celebrate computer science week I created the 12 games of Christmas. Basically I created 12 different types of games on Scratch and each day recorded a video highlighting a key part of the coding. I also featured some of my students games using Twitter and the daily video.

This year I’m going bigger than ever and taking it fully international – And I need help! If you teach computer science to kids aged 7-16, please pass on the posters below to share with the students so they can be featured this year or check out the promotional video!

To get involved, visit the website every day from December 1st. You can also submit games on the site or go straight to the studio on Scratch


10 amazing ways to use Canva in your classroom

Canva might just be the biggest disruption to education since Google threw their hat in the ring and toppled Microsoft’s tools.

I’ve used Canva for a long while, and I didn’t think for a moment it would have quite such an impact in the classroom but the progress made in the last 18 months, and the investment and time they put into their educational provision has been outstanding.

Canva is currently FREE to all educators, it is web based and incredibly user friendly. Primarily a graphic design tool, Canva also offers some very interesting tools and tricks that can have an impact in every classroom.

1. A Presentation Tool!

Canva has so many great templates to use to create an engaging set of slides for any teaching subject. But of course it is also totally customisable and there are so many easy to grab elements and photos to add in that you don’t need to go searching off trying to find the right picture on Google. Even if you do – it is easy to import into Canva, you can just copy and paste straight into the browser editor, or use the upload tool.

2. Graphic Organisers – Templates Galore

Higher order thinking in lessons is the future and Canva have you covered with some already great tools – just hit search on ‘Graphic Organizers’ and you’ll be given a wealth of great starting points to create the perfect activity. You can even share the templates with a link so that students can use Canva to type their answers

3. Worksheets – or App Smash with Wizer

In the last twelve months Canva has exploded with ready to use worksheets, though many are simplistic, it gives a great first step into creating fun looking worksheets. Combine this with either (as above) sharing it so that they can access it through Canva, or go one step further and App Smash with Wizer, where you can import templates directly from Canva when creating your interactive worksheets

4. Google Classroom Banners

A great way to start the year or term – Send a template to the students (or use the ready made templates on Canva already, just search Classroom Banner) and have them come up with creative banners for their Classroom page. If you can, change the banner each week with a new student’s effort – it gets them excited about clicking into their classroom each week to see the new design

5. Remove Backgrounds!

PLEASE don’t use pictures with white squares around the outside, and teach your students the same. This tool is the same technology as the wonderful remove.bg but this has the added creativity that you can resize or even add more great effects to the image and then you could export it as a transparent image to use wherever you need.

6. Comic Books or Infographics for Summative Assessments

Let students get creative when they show off their final learning. Give them a push to improve their presentation skills by using Canva instead of slides or docs. Whilst Book Creator is still a wonderful alternative to comic books and has a more options for adding content, Canva has some great simple comic book templates with some pre loaded elements such as characters and expressions. Also students could present key information from a novel or a science topic using an infograph. There are tons of templates that can help inspire the students.

7. Data Analysis in Maths or Science

Did you know you can create simple pie charts and bar charts in Canva? Great tool for using in maths lessons, or having students present data charts in interesting ways. EVEN BETTER – link a current google sheet from your drive to your infographic and it will take the information from it and create the perfect graphic in your presentations. There is not as much flexibility for more advanced graphs – but should be enough for students to use.

8. Students Collaboration real time

This is wonderful, create a template activity – perhaps a brainstorming for a story idea – and then create a few versions, enough for one per group. Then share the links to the various templates for each group and the students work on those particular versions. Just like Google Slides of course, but in Canva. So much fun, though you still have the ‘who deleted my work!’ dilemma.

9. Class Certificates or Announcements or Videos

Make your own class certificates with the greatest of ease and also make engaging announcement messages for school social media or Seesaw announcements. If you really want to be creative, try creating a class blog and using Canva for inspiration on the blog posts. Finally, Canva has an amazing ‘present and record’ feature, allowing you to create your slide presentation, then record yourself over the top and have a link when finished to send to the community. A great way to make simple webinars!

10. Create Multimedia content for Google sites and Flipgrid and Video amongst others!

So many ideas! How about using the creative graphic design features to make your existing tools stand out. Create logos and graphics that can be used on your google sites, your video editing tools or even on Flipgrid as a sticker. Remember to choose transparent when downloading your image and you can create fun overlays to your videos on WeVideo or whatever other video editing tools you might use.


3D Modelling Minecraft Style – without Minecraft – for FREE!

A user generated model built in cubical

This week I came across the most incredible tool: cubical.xyz

It is brand new and is basically a Minecraft world build editor that is entirely online and ENTIRELY free. The interface is a little tricky at first, particularly if you don’t have a mouse. The audience is not education, it is made for Minecrafters, but it basically emulates the fun of building 3D models in Minecraft, without the distraction of mobs, explosives and other elements.

If you like the idea of trying a minecraft project in your room but don’t like the gaming element of it then this is perfect.

In addition, this has so many great tools that when mastered, could help create some pretty incredible models. In fact in some ways it is better than Minecraft

Just a few cool features include:

The Tools: You can quickly cover an area in grass, trees, water or whatever block you need in just a few clicks using the brush tool:

The Generators: Play around with different styles of topology, great for geography and humanities projects.

The editing features: You can copy and paste selections! Like a house you’ve built? Copy and paste it all over your map to make a village. It also includes an UNDO button, something I wish existed in the real Minecraft!

The blocks: Most of the Minecraft blocks for building are in there and a new update is coming with even more!

Sharing worlds: A fantastic feature for education is the way worlds are set up. The interface is set to be improved, but as of writing, each world comes with it’s own URL. You can also set a template for the class to use, so they all start from the same point. The BRILLIANT part to this is that as soon as they open a web URL template – it automatically creates their own copy and then when they save their version it has its own URL ready to be shared to the teacher.

To see this in action, my colleague created a Google sheet for his class to open the template and then save and post their variations on it for anyone else to see.

I’ve not had an opportunity to use it yet in lesson, but have watched a Y4 year group use it to build some models of the starting of an ancient civilisation. I can imagine this can be used for sustainability projects, learning about volcanoes, 3D modelling, and much more. The world can be exported and used in Minecraft (though that requires some knowhow) or as an image.

I’m excited to see what educators and students can do with this fabulous online tool. To see more watch the video below:

Follow @cubical_xyz for more updates and information


Multimedia – Audio – Chromebook Tools – Audio Capture

As part of our Year 5 unit “Breaking News. Spread the Word” we spend time looking at how digital technology can help create different elements of Multimedia. We recently looked at audio, and whilst we could spend months on just this one topic, we tried to pullout some quick tools that would empower students to create. I shared WeVideo as our go to tool for podcasting, but I’ve also used Synth as well. I’ll share how these lessons went another time.

Below is a few tools we used and most importantly our way of being able to save and record these using Chrome Audio Capture and the fantastic digital citizenship discussions that follow.

We wanted to create some digital audio and quickly. The most fun way to do this is by using Chrome Music Lab, which is part of the growing number of Experiments by Google.

There is so much to explore here – and a really easy way to create simple audio. My favourites are the Kandinsky tool. The Voice Spinner (great for distorting voice) and the Melody Maker. Our students spend twenty minutes exploring and creating the website to get an idea of what is available.

Then there is the fabulous Plink! by Dinahmoe Labs. Your students will love this great music making tool and it is brilliant for students with educational needs. We had one of our students with CP being able to use his eyes only to make music and join in with the rest of his class.

Whilst Plink! creates a bunch of similar sounding tracks, thanks to the same beat that runs behind it, it does have another feature that the kids go mad for. Anything that can be ‘multiplayer’ always encourages enthusiasm, but here they can join each others Plink! sessions and create music together – this works well because the more users, the better the production sounds. You can either try and use the original version and jump on at the same time, or try the new Plink app, which allows you to invite people via a link to your own private session.

Dinahmoe Labs have some amazing tools for music creation and they are all super easy to use – The Rick Astley remix tool is great fun, and students love ToneCraft (for obvious reasons). I really like the Exquisite Theme music maker, which is great when discussing with students about choosing the right type of music for a project.

Recording and Saving the Music

A fantastic way to save the audio that the students create is to use the free Chrome Audio Capture extension:

It is SO EASY to use – and only records audio from the chrome tab – not the microphone – meaning you can have a full blown riot in the classroom and the recording will still just be the audio you want.

You simply click on the extension, start capture and then when finished, click to stop the capture. Then once it is loaded, click Save.

There is no editing feature, no paid features (there is a limit of 20 minutes, but for students that probably isn’t an issue) and it creates an Mp3 which you can share or add into other projects.

Digital Citizenship

A lesson on multimedia and audio then quickly descends into a fantastic opportunity to talk about copyright and fair use. Here I discussed what we can and cannot record from the internet. We talk about giving credit to DinahMoe and Google, about the wonderfully ambiguous meaning of “For educational purposes only” and what that means for us in school. I go on to talk about original content creators and how if you plan to make money then the rules change dramatically. It links so well with ISTE Standard, and is an important reflection on how we must not abuse other people’s creations and use things in an appropriate and legal way.

Further Ideas:

Use Chrome Lab to create a soundtrack to a scratch game or animation

Use for intro to a podcast

Create sound for a live performance

Learn how music affects mood and create music for different audiences, like Horror, or Comedy.

ISTE Standards covered:

2c Students demonstrate an understanding of and respect for the rights and obligations of using and sharing intellectual property.

6.a. Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.

6. b. Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.

7a Students use digital tools to connect with learners from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, engaging with them in ways that broaden mutual understanding and learning.


Supporting Parents during School Closure

It’s tough teaching remotely, it’s also tough on the parents too. So managing both, for me, has been a downright disaster. We are getting better, but it did give me a chance to reflect on how parenting is being affected. A close Brazilian friend recently told me in no uncertain terms, “You know, what you are doing now, it is destroying families.” He jokes, I assume, but we need to be mindful of the strain at home.

Keeping Positive

I’ve learnt a lot about keeping positive, I’ve been over critical about work that has been presented to my two young children, but I noticed when I’m negative, the kids reciprocate. When I say things like, “Why do we have to submit this work here, there isn’t an explanation on how to do this, why is this spelt wrong,” It’s easy to notice the children reacting in a similar way and not as fully engaged. So I tested myself – full positivity – and on the whole it worked for them, they were more passionate about their tasks. And I hid myself away in the bathroom when necessary and grumbled into the mirror.

Time Limits

From a school point of view, this should be essential communication. Each lesson activity should be completed in a normal lesson time. As teachers, we want to see the capabilities of these students. I get it though, a parent wants to see their child succeed, and some will not allow their kids to hand in work half done. Yet, in school we are faced with mountains of not quite done work. And what do we do – if it’s one or two kids, we may ask them to finish up in a break, if it’s a large number then, guess we need another lesson on it. But the feedback loop in online teaching is delayed. Teachers are setting work before the current work is even completed by the whole class, they don’t know if it has taken 30 minutes or two hours. Teachers could offer more time for the next day to finish, but only if parents are honest enough to allow their younger ones to hand in half finished work.

For example, who did better in maths – a child who did 8 questions correctly in 40 minutes, or one who did 10 questions in 90 minutes? Teachers don’t know how long was spent on it from home, so the second kid comes out with a better grade. By focusing on time for at least some of the daily activities, this would certainly help parents manage their day.

The Ability Bombshell

Equally, parents feel overwhelmed when lots of work is provided (as of course do the children) and perhaps a breakdown of an online timetable may ease their concerns. For me, we should be stripping timetables back to at max 4 hours a day of online learning for primary and 5 hours for secondary. A comparison of normal to home learning will help parents understand the requirements

The parents learn two important things in home learning and teachers need to be prepared for this. 1. The quality of the teachers 2. The ability of their children.

It is no surprise that the majority of complaints I’ve come across are from parents with children who historically struggle in achieving lesson objectives. Makes sense, we are skilled at painting a positive picture about children that some parents never really realise that their child is struggling in some areas. It becomes plainly obvious though when your child is with you all day completing their work, without any support. So be conscious of this – differentiate often – and be mindful again of that moment when parents realise their wonderful children aren’t quite at the same level as the parents imagined.


One final thing that empowered me as a parent. After weeks of getting my children to complete certain activities, it dawned on me that I had other resources in my home that I could use to support the learning process. We made Mocktail drinks, did home made science experiments and caught snails and made them a habitat. Lots of fun things that understandably cannot be set as mandatory by teachers. As teachers we have to keep the objectives and task simple and about as free as possible. It is hard to set lessons when you don’t know what resources families have, but don’t be afraid to empower the parents to try something different, let them be creative, let them collaborate on projects, let them do whatever it takes for that child to continue to enjoy learning. Anything to stop the destruction of families.


Home Learning Support – Covid-19

Hong Kong Schools have been closed since Chinese New Year, and we’ve had the opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t, but there is still a lot to learn

One of the first thoughts I had when hearing we would close to students, was that it was going to be okay, thanks to the numerous educational technology resources we have available to us. The difficulty was getting the information to staff in the right way, empowering our staff to take on the unprecedented challenge

And so I started with these slides:

It is had a great response and inspired me to share it across the world.

I keep adding to it as much as I can – so keep checking it for more information

If you want a version to edit – then please get in touch!