Smartphone Micrographs

If you don’t have a microscope camera then smartphone cameras can be used to take surprisingly high quality micrographs. These micrographs of  Eldoea leaf cells were taken by one of my AS level Biology students yesterday, using her Apple iPhone 6. At high power the cell walls and a large number of chloroplasts are clearly visible.


Desert Island Apps for Teachers


There are thousands of websites and apps aimed at teachers but if you had to pick just 10 that you couldn’t live without – the digital bare essentials of a 21st Century classroom, your desert island apps – what would they be?

Here, in no particular order, are mine.

1. Google Drive and Google Classroom

Google Drive includes Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Forms as well as many other GAFE (Google Apps for Education). Google Classroom is a learning platform for schools which brings it all together in a secure online environment. Drive and Classroom allow students to collaborate and share files quickly and teachers to create and distribute assignments, flip learning, grade work, and post notices. Indispensable.

2. Kahoot!

Without doubt this would be the students’ choice. Kahoot! is an enjoyable, game-based learning platform with many similarities to (the also excellent but less jovial) Socrative. Use it to build fast paced multiple-choice quizzes and class surveys or pose questions at hingepoints during a lesson to receive instant feedback from all. Formative assessment at its most fun.

3. TES Teaching Resources

If you didn’t already know, TES Teaching Resources is a vast online library of mostly free lesson plans and classroom resources uploaded by teachers from around the world. To be honest, it’s not all great but there are some real gems in there which are more than worth the rummage. The site is also home to Teachers’ TV; a source of high quality videos on teaching and learning in Early Years, Primary, Secondary and FE, as well as films to help with continued professional development.

4. Adobe Voice

This one is relatively new on the scene but I love the simplicity of this application for making short, highly-professional-looking animated videos. I have written about it many times in this blog and confess to being a huge fan.


This site provides a variety of different stopwatches and clocks which can be used to add a sense of urgency to any starter activity or plenary, help keep younger students on task, or be clearly displayed during classroom-based tests.

6. Educreations

There are now a huge number of apps for creating video tutorials on the iPad but I have mostly remained faithful to Educreations as it works seamlessly with Google Drive and is so simple and intuitive to use. As well as making tutorials, I find it useful for providing feedback on larger pieces of student work (e.g. posters or models). I simply take a photograph, import it into Educreations, and then comment and annotate over it before sharing with the student via Classroom.

7. Twitter

We all know that Twitter is essentially a virtual staffroom for sharing resources, airing opinions and generating discussion but it can also be used to support learning in the classroom. For example, I have used it to provide a running news feed, tracked hash tags, connected with other classrooms and industry professionals, and encouraged students to send live Tweets during field trips. There are lots of possibilities. Not convinced? Here is a useful post by the brilliant @ICTEvangelist on the dos and don’ts of getting started in the pedagogical Twittersphere.

8. Armoured Penguin

The best site I have found for making crosswords and other simple word games. All free and easily converted into PDF.

9. YouTube

Create playlists of videos on particular topics, import videos into Google Forms as a flipped learning activity, post video tutorials, find sound effects to really bring your lessons to life, or simply mine this vast resource for educational audio visuals. TeacherTube, TedEd, How Stuff Works, BBC and Sick Science are just some of my favourite channels.

10. Visible Body 3D Human Anatomy Atlas

This is the only subject-specific entry on my list and a costly one (at the time of writing £18.99 from App Store) but it is a simply stunning piece of kit with an impeccable 3D interface offering students a far greater appreciation of anatomical structures than the flat drawings of a textbook ever could. The high-resolution graphics offer smooth zooming, panning and rotating capabilities and the concise labelling (showing the name of each structure and the system hierarchy to which it belongs) make it particularly useful for older students during organ dissections and demonstrations. Brilliant.

So there you have it, my top 10 teaching websites and apps. I would love to hear about your own desert island choices!


Future Learn

future learn

I have written about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) many times before on this blog and there are an ever increasing number of providers. However, I have always been particularly impressed by the quality of the courses offered by Future Learn; a private company wholly owned by the Open University who work in conjunction with many other top universities and specialist organisations such as The British Museum, Health Education England and the European Space Agency to offer a diverse selection of courses.

The courses are free to join and study and are open to all.






This fun game-based learning platform is simply the most popular app I have ever used in the classroom.

Kahoot! is actually very similar to another of my favourites, Socrative. The teacher (or students) creates a multiple-choice quiz using the web interface which students then access using their tablet, laptop or smartphone. There are also thousands of ready-made public Kahoots that you can use.

However, unlike Socrative, the questions are only displayed via the teacher’s device and the students answer by selecting one or more of four coloured buttons that appear on their own screens (see below). A time limit, a leadership board and the fact that students can get more points by answering quickly adds a competitive element which the students adore.


Kahoot! can also be used as an interface for class surveys and I have recently started using it to display hingepoint questions during lessons as a means of formative assessment. It is completely free and although registration is required to create quizzes, students are not expected to login to play (they simply tap in a pin number displayed by the teacher). I highly recommend it.


Google Certified Educator

The Google for Education Training Center now offer some outstanding professional development opportunities for teachers including two educator certifications, Google Certified Educator Level 1 and Google Certified Educator Level 2. I have recently completed both and highly recommend the courses for their sound pedagogy and practical classroom focus.

The Center provides interactive lessons organised around the themes of engaging in professional growth, saving time and increasing efficiency, and facilitating student learning and creativity. Within each of these three themes are a number of different units, each made up of multiple lessons which can be accessed in any order you prefer.


The lessons are clearly structured and typically contain several different learning resources including video and audio content, transcripts, and discussion forums. Many lessons have a notepad for you to reflect or to jot down ideas and each lesson ends with a brief Lesson Check to help reinforce a few key points. This check is just for you and your answers are not recorded. A Progress page allows you to see how many units you have completed, an estimated time spent on the course and certifications earned.


Once you have completed either the Fundamentals or Advanced course you can then choose to sit the comprehensive exams to become a Google Certified Educator Level 1 or Level 2. The exams last 180 minutes and cost $25 each. The certification is valid for 24 months.


If you want to take your training further you can also apply to become a Google for Education Certified Trainer  or Certified Innovator, allowing you to participate in special speaking engagements and deliver training events. There is also in-depth devices training for using Android tablets and Chromebooks and access to the YouTube Digital Citizenship Curriculum.