Tag Archives: tech

133. Smart Research

Teachers often get students to do research homework for one of two reasons: to increase independent learning and develop an inquiry mindset or as an easy homework to set/mark.

Pupils often see research homework in one of two ways: as an opportunity for independent study and to find out cool facts that no-one else will find or as ‘None set’ – the teacher won’t check it and if they do there is the excuse that the computer wasn’t working, the printer had run out of ink, the internet went down or it wasn’t their classes day to use the school library.

How can you change this mindset?

Over the years I’ve set this type of task with varying degrees of success. Conscientious pupils write/type a short essay, with diagrams if appropriate – you could put it straight on the wall to be admired. Others print out webpages or copy a couple of lines from the internet/textbook/friend. Then there is the woeful list of excuses brigade …

This time I changed one thing in the task and I was frankly amazed: 100% successful completion. The change was so simple – how it could be done.


I asked them to research letter frequency analysis. Some wrote a page in their book, some took a photo of a page from a book, some did a printscreen and others bookmarked a website. Three of these four formats involve the use of smartphones. Unless your school has draconian rules on mobile phone use in the classroom, this is a good way to engage pupils. It promotes responsible use of technology and prompted discussions on how they’d searched to get their result.

All I had to do was walk around the room and let them show me their homework while they did the follow up task. Cynics might say that they could quickly do their homework before I got to them – this is a valid comment, except the ‘Usual Suspects’ came into the room waving their phones, desperate to show me their work!

BTW I was rather amused when one of the pupils showed me a screengrab of this blog – he didn’t have a clue that I’d written it.

131. App of the Day: MyScript calculator

A short post today. This week J introduced me to the ‘MyScript Calculator’ app.


It’s a rather nifty app that converts freehand writing into mathematical calculations and solves them. It is available for most formats of smartphone and you can visit their website here.

These examples from the website show what it is capable of doing – I’m sure there is a lesson here somewhere.


121. 75% Wrong Answers please!

Sometimes you don’t get to a suitable point in a topic for a specific homework task, sometimes you want pupils to reflect on their understanding and sometimes the printer/copier breaks. What should you do?


I get pupils to think about the work they’ve done and write two or three questions on a topic they’ve struggled with. They then answer their questions. Next they think about any misconceptions and write wrong answers. They then write an answer with a numerical error. So each question has one correct answer and three wrong answers.

Pupil perspective
They have had to review and reflect on their personal learning and then apply it to a question.

Teacher perspective
The teacher gets an idea of what the class as a whole understands and what misconceptions exist.

Follow Up Task
The teacher can type up the ‘best’ questions into a PowerPoint presentation to use as a multiple choice quiz activity. A class written resource is always fun to use.

Techy Task
For those of you lucky to have an interactive handset system, you have a ready made, personalised, multiple choice topic quiz.

119. Inequalities Trashed

My colleague Jane introduced me to ‘Tick or Trash’ worksheets and they are just brilliant!


The basic idea is you have a table with three columns. The middle column is the question, either side are the solutions of fictional pupils. I called mine Kirsty and Kyle as I don’t teach anyone with those names. One solution is correct, one isn’t. Your students must decide who is right and why. They must then decide where the other pupil went wrong.

The worksheet I’ve put together is about inequalities. It covers using a numberline, solving a linear inequality with the unknown on one/two sides and dealing with a negative. There is also a QR code linking to a short YouTube clip (not mine) on solving inequalities. Download it here. The basic colour coded answers are available too. Note: the files are in docx format.

This is an ideal activity to use with the Validator concept. I would give my peer Validator the answer sheet to refer to, but the explanations would be down to the students to gauge if they understood.

118. App of the day

Do you ever play the numbers round from the TV programme ‘Countdown’ in class?

I was on a training course the other week and whilst chatting in a break Sarah – a fellow delegate, introduced me to the free android Countdown app. It is so easy to use a 6 yr could (and does) use it.


There are quick rounds, full games and practice mode. If you choose the number practice mode, you can randomly select numbers and it will even show you the solution. So you can use Countdown as a starter without scribbling numbers on a bit of paper and only being 10 seconds ahead of the class.

Download it from the android store by searching for ‘Countdown for Android’.

114. Pin Up Ideas

A quick resource idea for you today:


If you are not familar with Pinterest, it’s basically a digital pinboard of images, which usually have extra information or weblinks. There is a whole channel of education ideas – you can ‘Repin’ other people’s ‘Pins’ or upload your own. You can have several pinboards that are either public or private.

Go to Pinterest to browse the public boards. There are also official smartphone apps available from the appropriate stores.