Daily Tips

Daily Tech Tidbits #8

Each day, whilst the school is closed, I have been sending daily tips and advice to our staff to support with their online learning provision. Sometimes it is in response to common questions, and sometimes it is just great tips and tools. I’ve decided to share them in light of the ongoing global impact of Covid-19.

Best practice:
Seesaw: I’d like to share with you an activity from Alex in which he is teaching Maths using Seesaw. What he has done is when creating the activity – he has created a multimedia example, and so then he can create either a set of slides or the task that children have to complete. He has then recorded his voice, but most importantly, he is writing or adding shapes live whilst speaking. If you didn’t know this was possible in Seesaw – now you do! So you can essentially use it as a whiteboard – even better if you have a stylus. (we can arrange for you to borrow an LT chromebook for a few weeks if you would like a stylus and touchscreen). Then this is added as separate to the actual template provided to complete the tasks. Again this means that as the student completes an activity on their template – they can refer to the instructions at any time without leaving their work, by clicking view instructions at the top of their page.

Top tips: Use the arrow shape in Seesaw as a pointer.  Also you can pause at any point, add in some text on the screen, then play to have it magically appear.

Research online:

Just a reminder from Mel that whilst we wait for BrainPop’s free access, you can also use Britannica Online as a place for children to do some research. I think this site warrants a tutorial video for kids (and teachers) so I’ll make one this weekend – some of the tools when using this include changing your reading level, being able to cite correctly, and as a teacher, posting articles direct to a google classroom.

Daily Tips

Daily Tech Tidbits #7

Each day, whilst the school is closed, I have been sending daily tips and advice to our staff to support with their online learning provision. Sometimes it is in response to common questions, and sometimes it is just great tips and tools. I’ve decided to share them in light of the ongoing global impact of Covid-19.

Hello and Good Morning,

Great practice

In my unremitting quest to improve interaction and teacher instruction during school closure, It is only fair to pause and praise the outstanding work that is already being done to achieve these goals. I’ve heard from a number of secondary teachers who are using screencasts and google meets and Zoom to provide live learning. I’ve most enjoyed the videos I’ve seen though, and not just the ‘hello it’s good to see you’ videos, but the recorded screencasts that teachers have used to explain, demonstrate and teach, enabling the students to pause when needed, reflect, tell siblings to be quiet, make a brew, etc.. Allowing them to flourish in the best way that they can. This is leveraging technology in such an impactful way, and allows them to be saved and reused for revision and practice later in the year. Thanks to those of you for pushing yourself a little from your normal routine and possible comfort zone, because the kids love hearing from you a million times more than a random American math tutor, for example. This is fully in line with the vision for us to align with the ISTE standards for educators and students.

On the back of that – I’m looking for teachers who are happy to share a particularly concise and clear lesson they’ve created in order to inspire others.  If you don’t mind that and are particularly proud of one – please send it across

More Screencasting Support
Since we now have temporary unlimited access to screencastify, I challenged the Year 5 and Year 6 group to make their own screencast guides. Just a day in so far and boy have they delivered. One girl in particular, Sadie in Y5, created this incredible tips video using google slides, including using gradient colours and making words look 3D with a simple trick. She let me share this and it’s worth a watch if you have 8 minutes to spare. The confidence in these kids creating these teaching tutorials is brilliant. I’ve already learnt loads from them including a cool gimmick for when you google ‘wizard of oz’ and then click on the red slippers on the right! The best will be available next week on our LT website for all kids and teachers to use.
To help them I created a tutorial video on using screencastify (for children) feel free to share it with anyone who may want to create you a screencast. 

Seesaw Activities
Please, if you create a great activity on seesaw, (and you may not know how great it is till after the students have attempted it!), please share it to the Discovery Bay School section. In your activities dashboard, select the activity you want to share, click share, then click on the school. Set the grades and subjects and then all shared. This then will build a fantastic library of activities for us all to use. If you are in Secondary and are interested in using Seesaw – please get in touch too.

Lessons Learnt

Lessons Learnt Teaching Through a Screen: Setting Work

A summary of many of the things I continue to learn in light of the current situation in education can be found here

We have done so many great things in school to facilitate students continued progress as they learn from home. We aren’t perfect either, and it is often humbling to see how well some other schools have managed their closure. With the extension of school closure running into the seventh week (and eighth week this academic year), it is important to keep reflecting on best practice. The key word here is INTERACTION.

Early Years

The challenges in setting younger children work is numerous and extensive. The likelihood here is that you are channeling your teaching through a grown up in their home. So, whilst setting the work and aiming it at the children, you are also presenting it to the family as well.

We are fortunate to have Seesaw as our online learning portfolio platform. They have been very supportive to schools and are now opening up a feature to allow families to upload work into the child’s journal. This means I don’t have to go into detail on the workaround that our current teachers have been doing for the past few weeks. Work is split into five areas, linked to the curriculum we teach (UK). The teacher currently has no live teaching, but does record a vocal instruction for each page of the slides that we share daily. This can be around 12-20 slides. This could easily be done in a google slide and embedded into a google site and shared to parents also, thanks to the addition of audio into Google Slides.

The activities are varied, often involve a two minute video/listen to the teacher, perhaps a quick activity on the device, or a my turn, your turn with a grown up, followed by an activity off the device. They are generally quick activities and can be done with general bits lying around the house.

Each week the teacher reads a story, and this has been done through a variety of ways, but the most effective way is to use the (currently free) Screencastify. (I’ll share a how to do this soon).

There has been a few parents who have asked for live lessons and live teaching, but the decision is still very much that even in class, you would not expect young children to sit for a length of time, and so doing it in front of a screen isn’t necessarily the best option.

The key here is to channel your inner Sesame Street acting. Speak to the screen and wait for a response you will never hear. Ask questions then pause and… did you say ‘orange?’ well done if you did.. etc. It’s why Sesame Street lives on all these years!


At this age there is a mix of some children who can access independently and some that need support. We have found that there is a good uptake in older children as they can figure things out themselves, the middle age groups are not as active, or do not produce the same amount of work, and again this is because they are old enough for parents to be able to be left to their own work, but not quite old enough to be independent learners. The younger age group are often ably supported by parents and so again they are fairly active.

This is less about the work that is set, but more about how it is set and the expectations. At our school we use Google Classroom from Year 4 and up predominantly. We have seen year groups present this in different ways, and have had differing feedback from parents.

The organisation is key – if using Google Classroom, keep it tidy, use Assignments for work and use the stream for announcements. Also we’ve had problems where work is set on google classroom but is actually also set in Seesaw. Instructions need to be clear.

Also, parents expect teaching, and so setting work with a paragraph of text will not cut it. There needs to be accompanying videos or voice instructions. The easiest way to do that is to use either a screen cast tool such as screencastify , an app like Explain Everything or other alternatives. If you have a way to host these videos on a site, share them from your school’s drive. If not, create a youtube channel and if preferred, upload your videos as unlisted. Therefore only people with the link can see them. Then you an provide a link to the video as part of your assignment that day.

Differentiate your tasks – and if not – set the bar at just lower than the middle. It is easier to extend students from distance than it is to support. You will also get far less complaints.

There is going to be more screen time for these kids, that is a fact, however, if they do have access to a screen to complete the work – in many cases they are more likely to do the work. Kids love screens. So educate parents on the need for screen time that is purposeful and educational. Having said that, make sure you set writing activities now and again that involve actual writing!

Time the work appropriately. Parents and children will stress about the time taken to complete these tasks and they may not finish it before you already have a new activity for them. Reduce anxiety by actively accepting half done pieces of work. It may even alleviate your workload as you can continue pieces of work over a few days.

Project based work can work – but there has to be constant feedback throughout – we are still getting paid to teach and we cannot pass on all the work to the parents – keep in touch every day – with constant messages and voice comments and videos. Praise pieces of work and share them for inspiration, but avoid over using clichés like “You are all working so hard, you are all doing so well,” and instead be specific.

Technology should be used and I disagree with other advice that says don’t try new things. As long as there is a central place to start from and that is well organised, there is no reason to not take advantage of the many edtech solutions that are currently out there.


Again in secondary there is a big divide – Exam age students and, well, everyone else. A colleague recently said to me that although Year 11 and 13 students are a priority in terms of upcoming exams, actually our Year 10s and 12s are most at risk as they are losing teaching time, not revision time. He makes a valid point, it is easier to revise remotely, with low stakes quizzes and revision notes etc, but harder to teach the important content that still hasn’t been covered.

When setting work – there is definitely an urge to set a two week project. Of course for all but the best of our students, here’s what happens. If it sounds interesting – they do it pretty much immediately for a few hours, then they are done. They may not touch your subject again for two weeks. Or, they don’t like the sound of it, they see the deadline, and then they spend half an hour on deadline day getting something to hand in.

To improve Interaction, set small parts of project work and expect work done on scheduled timetabled days. Keep the timetable as close to the normal timetable as possible. If available, run a 10 minute video conference at your usual time. At the very least, be ready to answer emails and messages in that time.

Do not use Social Media for any classwork or communication. Google Classroom is the preferred way to open discussion and share work, but there are many other LMS that you may already have in place that will work fine. At the very least, create a google site with the information on for students to access. Google Sites are free and easy to use and do not require log ins. School websites can also be used to post work if you have limited options.

Set expectations early and do not waver. Secondary schools with the most success in these times, have been ones that have kept the school running as normal as possible. It is not an easy task for teachers though.

Specialists (Primary, Early Years)

It’s tough being a specialist teacher in closure. You are right at the bottom of the list in terms of importance, and in some cases, it is understandable. So how can we ensure specialists are contributing?

How about Specialist Day – where class teachers take a break and the work that day is set by specialists? Or stagger the specialists to submitting work on certain days only – Mandarin Monday, Tech Tuesdays etc.

Even better still, collaborate! Why not team teach a lesson that uses technology, where the tech teachers lead on the skills to use a platform, and the teacher concentrates on content. Or work with music to create a rap song all about recent learning, complete with a ‘sick beat’ generated from some music lesson learning. Create a PE workout for soldiers taking battle in Ancient Rome. (Okay thats a stretch but you get the idea) Remember, specialists teachers are here too!


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.

Daily Tips

Daily Tech Tidbits #6

Each day, whilst the school is closed, I have been sending daily tips and advice to our staff to support with their online learning provision. Sometimes it is in response to common questions, and sometimes it is just great tips and tools. I’ve decided to share them in light of the ongoing global impact of Covid-19.

Thanks for all your kind words about the support we are offering. Here are a few quick tips based on different questions we’ve had recently. 

A few more tutorials are now live, including EdPuzzle. This is a tool that basically turns any video into a quiz. It stores the student’s results so you can see at a glance a) if they’ve actually watched it and b) if they understand it. They will log in with google, and it links to your classes already in google classroom. More info on the slides.

More Flipgrid Tips
Two quick tips – when watching back lots of videos – speed them up to give yourself back some time. You can still hear what is being said, albeit in a higher pitched voice.


You can also use closed captions (cc) next to it to have your speech turned into words.

Scheduling in Google Classroom.
Don’t forget you can also schedule assignments in GC, meaning you can have work ready for the next day, finished in the morning, but schedule it for 4.55pm so it doesn’t appear while students are working on today’s activities. This is also useful for those of you who are not in the same time zone. 

Daily Tips

Daily Tech Tidbits #5

Each day, whilst the school is closed, I have been sending daily tips and advice to our staff to support with their online learning provision. Sometimes it is in response to common questions, and sometimes it is just great tips and tools. I’ve decided to share them in light of the ongoing global impact of Covid-19.

Recording your Screen with a Whiteboard To Write On

Introducing Jam Board – it is a google app that is designed for collaborative meetings – but we can use it as an online whiteboard – meaning you can screencast (using whatever app you are comfortable with WeVideo/Screencastify etc) and use the whiteboard at the same time. It obviously works much better if you have a stylus and touch screen facility. Watch this video to see how it works.

Retrieval Practice
My big love at the moment – but I don’t want to get into it all now, so here are some great quizzing tools to use to create your own low stakes, daily quizzes.

Quizizz – This I have seen being used across the school really well – I’ve mentioned it before, but it has some very good quizzes already on there and by the nature of the software, Students review and review their answers to get a bigger score.

WordWall – An example here and here. You can create up to 5 activities at a time (then just delete old ones and rotate). The results are stored on the site and the best thing about this is that when you create a list of words and definitions, or quotes and people, or concepts and meanings, or examples and non examples, the site will then give you umpteen different ways you can present that as a task – from a fully gamified pacman style game, to a simple matching activity. Just share the resource as an assignment – very quick and great fun. TRY IT NOW!!!!!

Diagnostic Questions or Eedi (mainly maths and science at the moment) – links to all UK schemes of work and qualifications. We are looking into creating classes for secondary students and teachers to use. This has bags of questions ready to use.
Google Forms – This is a simple way of helping recall – and you can use it for more than simple multiple choice quizzes. Example here .

Kahoot – Did you know that Kahoot has a feature called ‘challenge’ which allows students to do it from home – just like Quizizz above? You can set Kahoot quizzes now as home learning – or even better – flip your learning and ask them to create a kahoot and share it with the class. Creating a quiz requires a great amount of recall as you have to recall the correct answer and think of incorrect answers too, basically creating an example / non example style activity.

There are other great quiz building tools, like educaplayfactile and the beautiful but limited typeform, to name a few. 

Daily Tips

Daily Tech Tidbits #4

Each day, whilst the school is closed, I have been sending daily tips and advice to our staff to support with their online learning provision. Sometimes it is in response to common questions, and sometimes it is just great tips and tools. I’ve decided to share them in light of the ongoing global impact of Covid-19.

More help for Google Classroom:

There are still a lot of teachers posting in the stream and not creating assignments. We’ve now had feedback from various parents (and some students) about the presentation of the home learning. Also as mentioned on Friday, the benefits FAR outweigh any reason for just posting into a stream (which only really exists for discussion and announcements). If you still are unsure about how to use classwork in Classroom, please watch this video. (And please don’t have the ‘well this is how we’ve always done it’ excuse)


Whilst we are seeing increasing student engagement, there are still some that have not started their work. Equally, there are some that have not accessed the work as well as others and this perhaps because it being too challenging for them (and their parents ☺). Remember that in Google Classroom and Seesaw there is no expectation that everyone has to have the same work. One great way to help differentiate is to choose not to ‘assign to all students’ and assign either different versions of the same activity to differing groups or just simply miss students out so they aren’t overwhelmed when they start their home learning. You can easily add them in to any assignment at a later time if you wish. (watch the video above for more info)


Thanks for keeping in touch with us for any problems you have, and for all of you who have shared some great home learning ideas and positive stories with us. We are delighted to be able to support you and at the same time show you some wonderful tech, please do check the slides we have provided for you as well to help with accessing certain apps.

Daily Tips

Daily Tech Tidbits #3

Each day, whilst the school is closed, I have been sending daily tips and advice to our staff to support with their online learning provision. Sometimes it is in response to common questions, and sometimes it is just great tips and tools. I’ve decided to share them in light of the ongoing global impact of Covid-19.

Try not to ‘Stream’ in Google Classroom for tasks

Having seen a number of google classroom environments recently, it has come to my attention that many teachers are simply adding activities into the stream page of their class. I urge you to stop doing that and use the Classwork section instead. From here you can set assignments, which allow you to, amongst other things, set due dates, schedule in the future, and most importantly, select a topic. For example, this allows you to group similar tasks together, in Primary, you can set topics for Reading, Writing, etc. This allows an easy way for students to find previous work, without having to scroll through post after post after post. Assignments appear in the main class stream just like comments, but can be named clearly, searched for, and also be ‘re-used’ in other classes, perhaps if you have a similar piece of work for another class. Also when assigning work in this way, you can provide templates, students can create work within that assignment that you can view at any time, and you can even give each child their own copy of the slide/doc that you are working with. Children Y4 and up (and some Y3s) are proficient enough to use this way of working.


Also Google Classroom has been updated in the last two days (it does this a lot) so some things have slightly moved around from previous gifs.Finally, for loads more tips and tricks and to become a classroom expert – watch this video that Angela has found for us.

Cosmic Yoga, Go Noodle etc. As we promote a bit of free time on Friday, it’s a time to remind you about the brain break videos that we love in school, but may not be known at home. Why not set a mindfulness task, or a fun dance routine brain break. Perfect for the young ones and an active way of using screen time.

Teaching in Videos
As we settle in to our new roles as distance educators, a reminder that teaching is possible through video, and there are some inspiring teaches across HK sharing their videos across Twitter, like this art teacher, and that videos to home can be much more than simple motivations and ‘well done’s. In Flipgrid, or almost any video recording app, you can download your videos, then upload them to google drive and turn them into a pack of slides with step by step instructions for a lesson. To promote shared practice (note: not best practice!) – here is a link to how I present my Maths work. Each child in the class gets a copy to fill in their answers. In Seesaw, you could just link to the presentation with a videos teaching the kids new things. If you need more info and support for this, let us know.

Google Meet etc..
The tech teachers have been discussing this topic recently, a big concern for many is the idea that if you run a google meet, you MUST NOT record it as well without permission. Google Meet and others should be used for discussions, Q&A, but instructional videos, stick to screen casting and other tools previously mentioned.
If you are holding live chats through google meet or Zoom, maybe remind the kids that they should always be wearing appropriate clothes and be in a responsible place. Maybe this will make them chuckle: (shared to me from fellow teacher Ross Parker)–>

Daily Tips

Daily Tech Tidbits #2

Each day, whilst the school is closed, I have been sending daily tips and advice to our staff to support with their online learning provision. Sometimes it is in response to common questions, and sometimes it is just great tips and tools. I’ve decided to share them in light of the ongoing global impact of Covid-19.

Flipgrid Feedback
First of all, there are two ways to give video feedback when watching the video from a teacher’s viewpoint, you can reply (under the video) or private. The reply one is the one I usually use, because the kids see it more obviously when they go to Flipgrid. Weirdly, the only way to see private feedback is to use this link https://my.flipgrid.com/ which is like an overview of all the videos they have posted. However, there is also an ’email feedback’ button and it is brilliant. You can both do private video and text and the email gets sent to the Gmail account instantly. So it is up to you to decide whether to get them to check emails, or to check that link above. Failing that, just hit them with a simple reply. 

Seesaw Notifications

Just a reminder – from some feedback from parents – every time a comment is added to a post that is tagged with a child, the parent will get an email. They also get an email when you post a video, a document or a link. Equally, with specialists doing a great job of posting their activities too, and some teachers approving posts from before the holiday, we saw some parents receiving over 15 email notifications in one day. It is still very positive to be having constant communication, but do be mindful of this, particularly adding comments to posts tagged to all students. Don’t forget you can use the messaging function now to communicate to parents directly should you wish.

Google Meet for ‘Registering’ We are constantly reviewing best practice in what is unprecedented times for many, looking at how similar schools are managing the situation. We know that many schools are ‘registering’ kids by asking them to sign in to a 5 minute google meet (or similar) in the morning, announcing messages and then letting them get on with the day. Many schools are requiring this at the start of each lesson, before setting a task on or offline. Remember that if you would like to use Google Meet, it is easy to run a session and it is easy to see who attended. Whilst we encourage the tool for any teacher, it is primarily most effective in the Secondary environment.

Thanks, as always send me any questions you may have,

Daily Tips

Daily Tech Tidbits #1

Each day, whilst the school is closed, I have been sending daily tips and advice to our staff to support with their online learning provision. Sometimes it is in response to common questions, and sometimes it is just great tips and tools. I’ve decided to share them in light of the ongoing global impact of Covid-19.

Hi All, 
The slidebook has been updated with ten more video tutorials and some new resources, with more being added today. I am delighted with how many videos, Flipgrids and Quizizzs I have seen set up already. 

There are going to be a number of emails being sent over the next few weeks, If that’s going to annoy you, or you need to organise more efficiently, then use the settings in gmail to move emails directly into a sub folder, you can learn how to do that here.

Anyway three things today:
Early Years (and Primary to some extent) : Numbots is now live, meaning you can now set a daily 5 minutes fluency practice for addition and subtraction. It begins very easily, but goes all the way up to double digit addition and subtraction. It is brand new, created by the team behind TT Rockstars, and in many ways is very similar. More information is in the Slide book. This resource can be used on a trial – and it is very affordable if you choose to extend.

EY and Primary: You probably knew this already, but when you set an activity on Seesaw, you can schedule it for in the future. This means you can set all your activities for the coming week in one go. Check the gif below to see how. Apologies, but you cannot schedule a normal ‘post to journal’ currently.


Secondary: Following a request, I looked into a good educational tool for annotating PDFs and came across https://www.kamiapp.com/an educational resource which allows you to draw, highlight and type over PDF files. When you sign up, you will get 30 days free, which allows for Google Classroom integration. It also has a super feature having the PDF read out to you. The interface is a little clunky, and students need to register to start annotating, but it could be a solution for some of you in the coming weeks. More information in the slides book linked at the top of the email.

Thanks, as always send me any questions you may have,