DiRTy Technology



Use the Showbie app to provide feedback for students – as explained by Mark Anderson on his blog ICTEvangelist.com.

Feedback Starter

Feedback for Starters by Calderstones Teacher’s Toolkit.

Easy Differentiation

Fail-safe differentiation from Calderstones Teacher’s Toolkit.

Instead of…

instead of...

Silent Debate

Whilst not a new idea, this is great for getting students thinking together, reflecting and building on ideas from other students and is also great for reluctant writers, as ideas written down are not permanent (perfect when you don’t have a mini whiteboard available).

Essentially, using whiteboard markers and desks, write down a focus question – one question, or perhaps different questions on different tables – and have students create mind maps with their responses. You can have them come up one by one whilst working on another task, or have them rotate through if you’ve got different questions. It’s great for planning before starting a task as well. For example, using it to gather ideas together before writing:



The point is not to discuss first – just write down responses. It’s easily differentiated as more able students can build on responses from those who are struggling.

Read how other people do it here and here.

Think Tax

gold_coinsA similar idea to the Question Cards written about previously, this takes it a little further.

“At the start of the lesson students are given Gold Coins- the amount depends on you/the student- I gave 3…

The task is then set- students must try to earn as many coins as they can and obviously not use up any!
They do this by answering each others questions or expanding on points made by others.

The twist is- if a student answers another students question- they take that students coin!
If they ask me a question- I will charge them a coin- THINK TAX! I will shout this out!

The may also use a coin to buy an independent learning strategy- such as an iPad? Mini Laptops? Textbook? Folders? Revision Guide?

Most importantly the aim of the coins are to make the students think for themselves and not get charged THINK TAX!”

Click here to read more about it.

Questioning Strategies

On top of the various questioning techniques already available on the blog, such as the question quadrant, here are 10 other strategies to use when questioning from Alex Quigley.

Question Cards

In Skills for Learning this week we have started using Question Cards with students. Each student has been issued with two cards, each with their name on the back. These have also been laminated. Students are responsible for bringing these cards to each lesson, and, if they’ve been used, collecting them again at the end.

We felt that we needed a solution for students generally not bothering to think before they ask questions. As there are 60 students in the class, it can be difficult to manage answering every question and deal with every issue, as well as deliver the lesson effectively. A card is surrendered when they ask a member of staff a question. Students sit in groups and are encouraged to ask their peers questions before asking us. A lot of the questions, such as where resources are kept and what the date or heading is, or which dinner they are on, are questions that they can work out for themselves or are irrelevant to the learning taking place.

The blog post this comes from suggests giving 3 cards to students; as there are generally six students per table, we are finding that students who have used up their two cards are now discussing issues with their peers more than with us. Several times students have used up their cards, discussed it with students at their table and then decided together to use another student’s card to ask the question. We anticipate better communication and collaboration when we begin our new group project next week.

A few things to keep in mind:

* Taking the card from a student is discretionary. We have realised several times that we have forgotten to include a particular instruction and so have not taken the card from the student asking. Some of the students who find learning more difficult and those on the SEN register are generally given more leeway with it.

* We won’t turn away a student who genuinely needs help; the onus is on them becoming more independent and using their peers as resources instead of coming straight to us to solve their problems.

* When students are unsure if they should ask us or not, we have them ask the question and then we’ll inform then whether or not the answer will cost them a card.

Students are definitely taking more time to consider their learning and how to solve their own problems before approaching us for assistance. They are working towards balancing their immediate desire for help with dealing with the issue themselves. We are aiming to cut the number of cards per table later in the year as students increase their independence.

If you’d like to see this in action, feel free to pop down to the Zone to see us.

Gemma Beniston, Jayne Jolly and Sarah Bedwell.

Questioning Using Technology

This blog post contains lots of ideas for using technology to facilitate questioning. Ideas include Padlet (formerly known as Wallwisher), Google Docs, video apps such as Vine and student response apps if there are 1:1 devices.

Using (and managing) Google Docs for Collaboration

One of my year 8 English classes are currently working on writing their own plays, with a view to performing them in the last week of term. There is a relatively high rate of absenteeism in this class, not helped by approximately one third of the class missing a single lesson each week to go to their intervention session. It has the potential to make group work very difficult, especially if the work is written in a particular student’s book and they are not in class for whatever reason.

I decided that instead of doing the work in their books, we would use Google Docs. Using this with a new class requires one of two things: spending a good portion of time teaching students about how Google Docs works, in order to avoid work being deleted, overwritten or simply interfered with; or using the share settings to manage who can edit the document and who can view it (which then has implications in terms of evidencing progress during a lesson). I chose initially to go with the first option, but, as is bound to happen when working with students, the message didn’t quite sink in. For the simple reason of time management, as well as managing my stress level, I switched over to option two part way through the lesson. I’ll explain more about how I did that shortly.

Before the lesson, I created the document, labelled it and shared it with the appropriate students. I have two groups in the class, so the document was shared with the students in that group. Students were automatically emailed a link to the document via their school Gmail account. At this point, all students had editing rights to their particular document.

The next step was to take some time to set up the group management. To do this, I used STORM.


Essentially each member of the group should have a role. As I have more than 5 students per group, I told them that each role could be doubled up except the observer, which could only be one student.

I then put the task instructions (which I’d given verbally the previous lesson for their planning) and space for their STORM details onto the top of the document. I also inserted a comment instructing students to not alter what I’d already written on the document, after having to re-insert it several times. The document at this stage looked like this:

Google Doc 1

The coloured boxes in the top right are the students viewing the document at the same time. There is a built in chat feature to allow for collaboration.

Students were instructed to work together, led by their manager, to complete the plot and character descriptions before starting to write their scripts. I was flicking between the two group documents and listening to their conversation, and quickly realised that they were far more interested in playing with the ability to overwrite each other’s work than actually completing the task. To that end, I redid the share settings, changing all students to ‘can view’ from ‘can edit’, with the exception of the scribes. This meant that one group had one ‘author’ for the text, and the other group had two as they had doubled up. There was an immediate impact on the quality of work being produced, as well as the quality of discussion around the task.

As Google Docs automatically save work, and have a handy revision feature, all students have access to the latest version of the task. I can make corrections live on the document, and I can insert comments as I have done above. I often use these comments and revision histories when work is on-going over the course of several lessons, as I can essentially tag where the student has got up to in a lesson and this allows progress to be monitored.

Students enjoy using the laptops instead of writing in their books, and they also appreciate the live feedback that they receive from me. If you haven’t yet considered using this as a tool in your classroom, I highly recommend it.

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