From the 19th – 23rd of March I had the pleasure of attending the Microsoft European Innovative Teachers award in Lisbon.  I was there to show case the work of the H.I.T Squad (History Information Technology Squad) who have been working hard for the past 8 months on some fantastic projects. I was lucky enough to be with a strong team from Great Britain as well as learn about projects from all over Europe.  The conference also allowed for my own professional development due to the quality of keynote speakers and workshops which were hosted. 




My Project

My project for the Innovative Teachers Award was the H.I.T Squad, this is a group of talented year 9 pupils who were selected through an application process to design and make resources for’s History department which would allow it to inspire the twenty – first century learner. 


The team have since been working on more projects both inside and outside of school, their aims are; to empower people from a range of generations through the use of technology; build twenty-first century learners; bring the community closer together.  With these aims they have been working with a local primary school called Landulph where they fully prepared and led lessons all about World War Two and the life of a soldier.  They are also looking to do some work with the local care home, Geneva Court, where they hope to teach the residents about technology whilst also recording their memories of the Jubilee.  The memories of the residents will then be used as part of a Memories website where we hope to build a bank of memories from different perspectives about the same events.  This will help get a personal feel for history and build a valuable resource which the pupils can use, but can also be used by others.

I was lucky enough to become a winner at the conference in the category of Extending Learning Beyond the classroom. This is a real honour and the H.I.T Squad are so proud of their achievements.  The support of Dan Roberts, @chickensaltash ,  and Isobel Bryce,  @issybryce10,  and Stuart Ball @innovativeteach has been so valuable in this whole process, and I feel very lucky to work at a school which is both encouraging and accommodating to new ideas.  @chickensaltash you will be greatly missed!

Other Projects

A fantastic project which I was got to know really well was led by Ray Chambers, @Lanky_boi_ray, this ICT teacher who is in his 3rd year of teaching has been programming the Kinect so that it can be used in an educational setting.  He is an essential member of the K-Team who have been working together to build these revolutionary resources.  Ray’s project stood out from the crowd due to the widespread impact it is having.  He has been sharing his skills with other teachers through the use of youtube and the Microsoft PIL network, making it so easy for other teachers to mimic his work.  Perhaps even more exciting than this, Ray has been able to engage even the most disaffected of learners through the use of this technology. 


Nicki Maddams, @geekynicki, had another inspirational project.  She has been working with the Microsoft programme Kodu which is free to download software which allows users to design and play their own computer games.  Nicki, an ICT teacher and AST, has been using this in school to engage learners.  She has also made strong links with local primary schools who visit the school to take part in a Kodu session, here they are able to develop their skills of computing and use creative and imaginative skills.  Her project has been key in making her local community come closer together and is also available for other teachers to learn from and use.



Lindsay Purdy was the final member of team GB, this English teacher has been working with the Microsoft programme Onenote.  She has been using it to give her students a different way of recording their research making it more engaging for them.  She has also been using the saved documents for other students to peer assess, allowing the original learners to gain from it, and also using them as modelled examples for other year groups to learn from. 


Stuff to play with

ClipletsThis looks like so much fun, although I haven’t yet used it in the classroom I hope to soon.  Basically it allows you to freeze sections of video and have the rest of it playing.  This is what Microsoft have to say about it:

‘Microsoft Research Cliplets is an interactive app that uses semi-automated methods to give users the power to create “Cliplets” — a type of imagery that sits between stills and video from handheld videos. The app provides a creative lens one can use to focus on important aspects of a moment by mixing static and dynamic elements from a video clip.’

So.clThis allows pupils searches to become visible to other users of the network and allows them to be commented on.  It does require a Windows Live ID and log in

Montage This is a different way of conducting research and looks like a great idea, all too often pupils are able to conduct research which isn’t valuable as they don’t have enough direction.  Yes, they know how to type into google or bing but they don’t know how to select information, this tool helps them in learning that process.

This is what Microsoft say ‘Montage is a flexible web-based service that makes it fun and easy to create and share a visual album of the web on the topics you care about. You can design your Montage around any topic you can imagine by adding content that pulls information from a variety of sources, including RSS feeds, Twitter, Bing News, and YouTube. Montage is an expression of you.’

Key Speakers

The top keynote presentation of the week was by a gentleman called Bruce Dixon who took a very honest approach to technology.  He made the need for technology in schools clear, stating that ‘access to technology is a basic human right.’ Now whilst not every country, county, or even school can afford this at the moment this is the way we are heading.  The problem which he made clear is that the mindset of the education system needs to change in order to accommodate this.  He got me thinking about my use of technology in the class room, at we have good access to a diverse range of equipment.  However, there is still so much I haven’t tried, his keynote made it clear why it is important to keep experimenting and keep using technology.  More importantly than this however was allowing the students access to it.  He was truly inspirational.

Not necessarily the most technologically minded women by Ann and Liv also delivered a key note of a different nature.  These women were the first to conquer the poles and have since set up a project to take one woman from every continent across Antarctica on skis.  This life changing journey will be broadcast through videos and blog posts on a daily basis.  They are hoping to reach a global audience of 50million people.  These women want to demonstrate what women can do whilst also educating young people about the need to protect our fresh water resources.  Their project represented how technology can be used as a tool to connect the world about a world issue.  To find out more check out Access Water 2012 on their website

Final Thoughts . . .

It was a fantastic week where I was able to meet some amazing educators who a pioneering the use of technology in the classroom.  Team GB were all very supportive and demonstrate the talent that we have here in the UK.






BETT 2012

January 19, 2012

BETT 2012 – Powering Learning

Inspirational, simply marvellous, technological and futuristic, that is the way in which 4 students from community school summed up their time at BETT. 

The education and innovation conference features a plethora of new technologies which can be applied to a vast range of classroom environments.  From the touch screen surfaces which allow pupils to interact with the latest apps and enhance their understanding of programming, to the Xbox Kinect which enables full interaction with learning through movement. The only problem with the visit was that we could only spend one day there, and so there was so much we were unable to experience. 

The young people that were taken to BETT had been specially selected due to their outstanding talents with science, maths, ICT and (perhaps most importantly) creativity.  Aged between 12 – 13 years old the students already have many feathers in their hats.  As part of a bigger Microsoft project led by Ben Rowe (@itsmerowey), the head of Year 7, the pupils have dedicated a significant amount of time, effort and skill to designing a website with the purpose of building community links.  Pupils from other school send the students requests and from here the pupils program games for them using Microsoft’s Kodu, a simple systemThey also have regular video conferences with leaders in education.  The students latest project is to help guide the future of the school through their visit to BETT; they will be able to report back to teachers what they have seen, what they enjoy, and what they think with make the classroom an even more engaging environment. 

At the conference we were able to play with loads of new gadgets which will be the future of the classroom.  The pupils voted that the most impressive piece of kit that they saw was a 3D projector. As the pupils explained to me they were able to view objects all well as interact with them by spinning them around, something which they think could be used in History lessons to view artefacts and Geography to develop knowledge of place. Of course, not every school has the budget for this, so for something which is affordable and flexible is the close up camera with animation software.  This priced at less than £50 (show price) could be  in History where pupils can create re-enactments of events and make their own videos whilst embracing new technologies allowing them to be innovative learners.  I must admit however the when I asked the students the best bit of the day they did all say ‘the freebies . . . ‘

Whilst the products were impressive and great to play with the real excitement of BETT was within the demonstrations and the presentations.  When teams of teachers are put together in one place a certain buzz fills the room, discussions on how new technology can be applied and how old can be reinvigorated creates a motivating atmosphere.  James Edwards (@Jimmy_Edwards) was participating on a Microsoft stand with Dan Roberts (@chickensaltash) both teachers from they were explaining how newly developed Microsoft tools can be used in the classroom.  James has been working on a project with the Kinect where his skills with programming have enabled him to develop resources which are being used to help SEN pupils learn co-ordination skills.

I was lucky enough to participate in the talk led by Ben Rowe (@itsmerowey) where he explained the work of the students who also assisted in the presentation. He also explained the forward thinking strategies employed at, where the mobile phone is to be viewed as a learning tool rather than a dangerous weapon.   I was able to explain the work of the H.I.T Squad who have been building strong links within the community with a separate Microsoft project ( password = The feedback from the presentation really summed up what BETT was all about, a woman (who’s name I sadly don’t know) spoke to Ben and said “I came to BETT to be inspired and the presentation that your group delivered has left me with just that.  Thank You.”  This really demonstrates why events like BETT are so important, yes it show cases the work of amazing educators and learners but it is the ripple effect that this has which it is underpinned by.  I’m sure you would struggle to find someone who comes away from the event without feeling motivated, without feel encouraged, least of all the students. So next year, in spring make sure you get yourself a ticket. 

At we will be following this up with presentations by the pupils to members of staff about what they saw and how it can be used in the classroom.  I will be using the BETT  experience to further my own teaching my implementing some of the ideas I have seen, whilst also following the work of Stephen Heppell more closely.

H.I.T Squad Success

I attended the Microsoft Innovative Teachers conference on the 24/11/2011 and I am very proud to say that the work of the H.I.T Squad has won them a place at the European championships!

I attended the conference with @chickensaltash and @Jimmy_Edwards both of whom were leading workshops throughout the Thursday.  @chickensaltash led sessions regarding safeguarding  and @Jimmy_Edwards was demonstrating how simple yet effective Skype can be as a tool for teachers.

The event was a fantastic opportunity for myself as I was able to meet with inspirational teachers such as @Lanky_Boi_Ray who has been doing some amazing work with xbox connect in the classroom.  I also met @geekynicky who has been working with Kodu to write schemes of work and encourage literacy skills.  Equally motivating was the workshop led by @MissionExplore which taking geography teaching in a totally different direction.

Well done to the H.I.T Squad for the work they have been completing and I am looking forward to helping you develop you skills in time for Lisbon and the European Championships!

Microsoft VCT

November 9, 2011

I have been lucky enough to have been selected by Microsoft to attend a conference in Reading.  This was after I entered a National competition where I needed to the use of Microsoft products in lessons.  Below are details of my project.

H.I.T Squad

I chose this project because we have soooo many opportunities in school to use technology, and sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in a spiral of the same old powerpoints.  So instead I thought I would ask some experts what they thought, who better then the pupils I teach.  They have grown up around this stuff and so have a much better idea of what’s out there then I do, so I put together a team of pupils to help me create resources and raise the profile of history at 

I also had a problem to solve.  I had to run a trip to Bodmin Gaol as part of a year 9 scheme of work on crime and punishment (so no, not to leave them there) BUT I could only take a mini bus of kids and one other teacher.  Somehow I had to make the knowledge the pupils had gleaned on the trip available to the whole of year 9, and so the H.I.T squad’s first task was born!

Getting started

To get the H.I.T squad set up I put posters and notices in the school bulletin requesting pupils who were passionate about history and who had skills with technology.  They were asked to produce a one min presentation using technology which explained why they should be a member of the H.I.T Squad. I got a great response and was able to select member who I thought would get the most from it, so I have a team of 10 pupils from a range of different tutor groups.

First task

The first mission for the H.I.T squad was to go to Bodmin gaol and make a video of what they found out.  This could then be shown to the rest of year nine. 

The great things about this set up were that the whole year group benefited from the learning of 10 pupils.  The fact that I only took 10 pupils away meant less members of staff out of school and the ability to take the school mini bus meaning we could make the trip really cost effective. 

(Below:Executed for stealing sheep!)

The pupils took lots of photos and mini films which we would then edit later.  To save time with the editing process I deleted any of the poor quality films and moved the ‘funny’ ones into an outtakes folder (mainly ones of my shoes . . .) .  The editing of the films took about 4hrs, and this was completed in two after school sessions.  The pupils worked hard to create 3 films and 2 photosynths.

The films were a great benefit to the other members of year 9 who were completing an independent enquiry into crime and punishment in the Medieval and Victorian eras. What I didn’t anticipate was how beneficial it was to have the members of the H.I.T Squad with their individual expertise on the topics which meant that they themselves became resources for the other members of the class. 

To see evidence of the videos that they made, access the year 9 page



Second task

We aim to head out to one of our partner primary schools to teach them all about WWII and engage them in an extended writing task.  Watch this space for updates and developments!

Why Study History?

July 20, 2011

‘History is a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who werent there.’ George Santayana

This quote is up on the wall in my classroom, it has on more than one occasion encouraged a debate amongst the students.  Of course it holds some truth, history is made by the people who wrote it, but it doesn’t mean it is an unchanged idea.  We revisit, reassess and draw new conclusions using common skills.  This is where the true beauty of history lies, with the skills it gives to the pupils, the great content is just a bonus!  We are not teaching our students to absorb information about the past but rather to question it. 

This is a tagxedo about the reasons for studying history:

why study history