Managing iPads

As we approach the anniversary of our iPad induction in school I’ve been reflecting upon how the way I manage them has evolved during the past twelve months.

I started off with 6 staff iPads – I set them up individually, but link to one appleID, each with individual staff emails and iMessage accounts.

It was time consuming but a great learning curve for me. After three long evenings learning from scratch I can input proxy settings in my sleep and troubleshoot most minor problems.

As we acquired more iPads I needed to find a more efficient way of managing them.

Enter Configurator (plus digital leaders).

I have a hate hate relationship with Configurator. I should love it but it causes me so much angst I’m not quite there yet.

The theory is great, the practice a bit glitchy.

But slowly we’re getting there. I still need to tweak a few things as it doesn’t copy the wifi settings for me but I can use it to purchase and install bulk sets of apps.

We have two sets of ten pupil iPads.

One in my room (lucky me) and another that rotate through the other classes.

Each set of ten are linked to a dropbox – mine to our long established class dropbox, the other set to a dropbox I created for the purpose of iPad sharing.

This means when the iPads are returned to me I can wipe them and reconfigure – provided staff have saved all the things they want to keep in the dropbox

All the iPads are linked to a shared email account. I’ve tried using an exchange email set up by a LA technician but that can be glitchy.

Gmail, on the other hand has been reliable so far.

It’s not a perfect set up, but it works.



Book Creator

Today we’ve been using Book Creator for iPad for some AFL.


It’s the first time we’ve used the app so after a very quick demonstration I asked the children to each make a book showcasing six or more pieces of their own work.

The were asked to choose work they were proud of and a piece of work that they had found particularly challenging.

They had to photograph their chosen work and comment and annotate the work explaining why they had chosen it.

It worked like a dream – the app is brilliantly simple to use yet has so many features all easily available.

Some children chose to use the record audio facility to record themselves reading a poem or story.

Some annotated by writing text, others highlighted phrases or paragraphs they were especially pleased with and explained why.

The majority of children produced a book that showed they had really thought about their own work.

It linked beautifully with personal target setting and certainly helped make the children look at their own work in a reflective manner.

Tomorrow when we have GRIT (Guided Reflection and Improvement Time) I’m sure we will reap the benefits of today’s task.

Looking at their choice of work was fascinating – lots of them chose a piece of poetry and to my surprise RE featured heavily.

Their annotations nearly all echoed my own style of marking.

The best part about this app for me is the seamless integration with Dropbox.Having used other e-book creators where sharing and saving the work was fraught with difficulties I was expecting the worst.

This is simplicity itself.

Finish the book, make sure it is named correctly and the author added then upload to a prepared folder in Dropbox.



That’s it.

No converting or worrying about different formats.

Best of all the books can be opened on any of our Class iPads and read or edited.

If we want to share them with anyone without the app we can export them as .pdf files or iBooks.

It’s not often I give an app 10/10 but this one is practically perfect in every way.

Animations and Adverts

We’re in the process of planning some animations and adverts.

I love the fact that the children are coming up with ideas I haven’t even considered.

My only regret at the moment is our lack of a green screen.

My favourite ideas so far include making a scratch animation or pivot stick animation and using it with a green screen.

When we were planning the animations I used a ‘good, great, outstanding’ sheet.
I hadn’t realised that this was a format I hadn’t used for a long time and the children really liked it.
The good thing was that most of them were determined to achieve a minimum of great, but were aiming for outstanding.

At the end of the lesson I even had several requests to use the same format in more of my lessons.


Hopefully we’ll be animating at the end of the week and I’m aiming for outstanding.

Green Screen

Before half term I was lucky enough to be able to borrow a green screen.

We were involved in a STEM project and wanted to film the pupils interacting with a circuit and in front of giant images of circuit related paraphernalia.

The screen is a huge beast of a thing, but putting it up was surprisingly painless.

A small group of pupils helped me.greenscreen They asked if they could stay and watch instead of heading out to play.

It’s been a while since I went on the course showing me how to use the app (Green Screen Movie FX) so I made a quick film and sat down at the side of the hall to edit it.

The children watched me struggle for a few minutes before drifting off.

I couldn’t remember how to remove the chroma key. I tried, in vain.

I asked a passing colleague who’d also been on the training.

In tandem we failed.

The sound of laughter drifted across the room – while we had been faffing around the children had picked up another iPad and filmed – they had then (without any training) removed the background and dropped in a passing dinosaur and volcano.

My only consolation was the fact that one of them kindly said ‘we used the skills you taught us when we were instant alphaing’ After a quick lesson (for me) we were away.

It’s not as easy as it looks to walk in front of the screen and interact with nothing but after lots of laughter and ‘take twos’ (and three, four, fives) we got the job done.

The children were happy to edit within the app but I’ve discovered I’m more old school and prefer to use iMovie.

If we’re able to borrow the screen again I think I’ll give them the choice and link it to instruction writing. There are so many amazing learning opportunities that could be developed and linked to green screening.

Off the top of my head I’ve come up with Art/Literacy – drawing scenes from a class novel and having the children enact a scene from the text

Literacy – using existing film footage and writing narrative t match – you could be anything, polar explorers, deep sea divers, gold miners …

Science – filming an experiment and then dropping the pupils in front of it while they explain what was happening

Geography – walkthroughs of anywhere you are studying

PSHE – conversations with yourself exploring fears and worries I was particularly pleased with the success of my improvised camera stand. IMG_5149


I’m becoming a big fan of screencasting.

I’ve realised that when my technology refused to play nicely during my first instant alpha lesson I’d have been much better off if I’d prepared a screen cast.


Well, firstly I wouldn’t have had the technical issues with my apple tv as I’d have been playing a video clip and secondly I would have been able to focus on the children rather than using the software.

I’ve been looking into screen casting on a mac and it’s ludicrously easy.
I taught a group of pupils to do it today and it took no time at all.

In fact, over half term I think I will make a screencast showing how to screencast…

ExplainEverything is also perfect for this.

Today’s maths lesson was using protractors to draw and measure angles so before the lesson I made some brief video clips demonstrating how to/not to use a protractor.
Because I was making them myself I was able to make sure that the ‘problems’ I encountered were entirely relevant to the children and were difficulties I had noted in my previous assessments.

As part of the lesson starter the children identified the good practise and the incorrect practise in the film clip.

If you record your clips in ExplainEverything (or drop them in after filming) you can pause, annotate, zoom right in or highlight with the pointer.

During the lesson some of them (after rehearsal) filmed each other using protractors.

I liked the fact that while they were doing practical work a couple of them went back and watched the film clip again when they weren’t sure which scale to use.

Writing Instructions: Instant Alpha

On Friday we had a lot of fun with the instant alpha feature in Pages.

The children produced some brilliant work – as they so often do they exceeded my expectations and came up with different ways of using the same tool within an app.

It was great to see them applying a range of skills to overcome problems with layering images.

Today the task was to produce an instruction sheet to help someone else use this feature.

I had already produced instructions for use on a Mac and we looked at this first and talked about the language of instruction.

They decided that the instructions needed would depend upon who was to use them.

A simple set using 4 screenshots would be appropriate for someone who was familiar with using an iPad. A more complex 8 image set of instructions would be required for a user who was unfamiliar with iPads.

In order to prevent time being wasted searching for, or setting up the ideal picture I had put 6 suitable images into their Dropbox.

The task was:

  • To take 4 (or 8) screenshots.
  • Place them into the InstaCollage app
  • Email them to me (we have no capacity to print from our iPads at present)
  • Print them out.
  • Use the images to create an instruction sheet

The lesson went well. Although it was meant to be an independent task there was some collaborative learning as they helped each other – they discovered that taking a screenshot of the tool in action required a high level of dexterity or an extra hand.

The biggest problem we encountered was unexpected – usually when they email from the iPads they use an address saved in contacts.

Today I was using a new email address so they needed to type it in themselves. At least one third of the class did this incorrectly leading to lots of conversations like this.

“Miss. I’ve sent my images”
“It’s not in my inbox…are you sure?”
“Yes, I definitely sent it”
“OK, go back and check the address – is it 100% correct?”

I foresee a lesson on the importance of accuracy…and the difference between a postman and a computer.

I haven’t finished marking the finished work, but I’ve been really please with the books I’ve looked at so far.

Some of the children tested out their instructions on unsuspecting adults in school, hopefully next week we’ll find some more willing guinea pigs.instantalpha