Code a Timer in Hopscotch

Hey! use a variable, squish some bugs (not cute real ones) and have some fun coding. Follow me and in 15 mins you can annoy everyone with your timer!

Podcast Creation on iPad Using GarageBand

The recent resurgence in the popularity of Podcasts, has meant many teachers have been asking me about how to do this in the classroom. GarageBand and Seesaw make a great combination. Here’s an example of how that can work for you. Sure, it’s not a simple click, there is a process involved, but it can be a rewarding journey. The video is broken down into 6 sections –

  • How to set up your GarageBand project
  • Making the recording
  • Making the intro music using a Live Loops pack
  • Sharing the music to add to the original recording
  • Mixing, Automating, Ducking
  • Sharing to Seesaw

I’ve tried to streamline the process and I’ve not gone into great detail in all areas for example, Live Loops or setting recording levels. Indeed there are apps like Ferrite that are designed specifically podcasting, but I’ve tried to use the tools most teachers will have access to.

If you want experiment with full on Podcasts that you can “subscribe” to, Podbean is an easy freemium option that enables you to share from GarageBand to your Podbean Podcast account.

Great new Updates from Seesaw and Book Creator

Great to see new updates from Book Creator and Seesaw this week.


Here we can see Book Creator’s shape recognition at work. There’s something still genuinely authentic/honest about a badly drawn bicycle, but this is clever.

Seesaw, likewise has updated the drawing tools.

The timing of these updates is also really helpful as it gives us all some time to think about how we can embed them into current practice.

The Gingerbread Girl and the iPad

When the early silent film style gets a 21st tech makeover!

Children performing appear with permission. This was part of a collaborative  project with the Apple Distinguished school ACS Hillingdon. (Thanks to Marc Smith and Sue Wakefield)

Here’s the view from the timeline, so you can see the individual audio files from Garageband as they interact with the visuals.

iMovie and Garageband really set the iPad apart from all other devices. An expensive Surface does not offer these levels of creativity out of the box and a cheaper Chromebook… Well, no! They can’t even get close.

This project uses the Do Ink Green Screen app and it’s interesting how “forgiving” it is when iMovie’s “Silent Era” filter is applied.   Even the children’s C21st clothing and labels seem to be absorbed into a fun silent movie world. We also used the ability to speed up and slow down clips to create the sightly jerky early C20th cinematic feel. Keynote effects with a green back ground were also exported as a movie for the “fresh from the oven” scene! Keynote as video effects tool is great when used with a green back ground and imported into the Do Ink app.

Of course Garageband has a big role to play here and we restricted the students to only using the piano instrument as this would have been more in keeping with the genre of the time.  We helped the children explore different musical motifs in Garageband, for example creating an arpeggio, a long drone bass note and a trill. These all resonated with the children, I imagine through watching cartoons and films, it’s a language they recognise, but regardless of musical expertise could now creatively engage in.  What surprised me was how focused these learners were spending well over an hour on one instrument in Garageband, honing the sounds and notes of the smart piano.

The class learned about “spotting”. This is how film directors and composers will look through a sequence of moving images and decide how sound/music is going to support/interpret the meaning of a scene. In Hollywood, this would all be done on one screen on a “proper computer”.  Working  in pairs the children could play the clip on one iPad and compose/check before airdropping the clip to

The iPad here is enabling children via Garageband to physical shape and mould sound to support their own visual creations. Whilst Garageband is available on the Mac , this kind of physical experience is the domain of a touch screen.

There are so many takeaways for teachers and learners,  practical, technical, pedagogical and philosophical etc –

  • many (more) shots are required to tell a story than expected
  • team work and organised planning are essential to success
  • camera work needs to be varied to support the action
  • timings of clips is crucial to fluent story telling
  • Sound is an art in itself and “magical”
  • the creative addition of sound alters how see visuals
  • each child has their own personalised version of the team’s film (thanks to the joy of Airdrop)
  • student generated content can be of the highest visual calibre and in turn the ownership of this content has a deep positive effect on learning

This is the junction where art, tech and science, all meet and I guess there is something here for everyone. OK!



Happy Hopscotch Halloween

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Whatever happens I’ll never be a great coder!

I’m keen, but it isn’t a skillset that comes naturally. I do love Hopscotch on the iPad though. I think it is the best iPad coding experience for young (and in my case) older learners! I’m not paid by Hopscotch to say this and I have paid for my annual subscription because those guys deserve it.

For Halloween again @hopscotch have added seasonal characters and objects to help with game and activity designs.

In this project I’ve used a scoreboard that adds 20 points for catching the witch, but deducts 5 points for each pumpkin that is smashed. You have to smash pumpkins to get to the witch and why wouldn’t you?!

Adding sounds and animations make a big difference to the player experience.

Note – X 30 projects being tested in class will have you reaching for the Nurofen/Ibuprofen (this is not commercially sponsored!). However adding sound is fun.

The idea of adding 20 and deducting 5 is a good way of developing the basic scoreboard using a variable in Hopscotch. It will link back to Maths for some learners. To develop this further, students could add messages of encouragement at key scores say 50, 100 150, as well as a game over event.

You can download/remix (and improve it here) –

Finally, it might be useful to be aware that you can now embed your Hopscotch projects (once they have been published) to Book Creator with a couple of caveats.

To embed the links you will need to go to the published project and choose “Open in Safari”.

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From here you can copy the embed tags. This can be a bit tricky as the copy option isn’t always quick to respond.


Because the tags are copied to the “clipboard” they are automatically ready and waiting when we add an embedded link in BC.


Volia!  Tap next….


and done…


Game will play in the  playback mode of Book Creator, although the sound won’t play. You can use the “share/open in” button and open it with all the sounds in Safari.

Frustratingly, in iBooks it simply opens the link in Safari, outside of the Book. However most of us I guess use the internal playback in Book Creator these days.


Happy Halloween!

5 Simple Ways to Improve your Digital Skills

  1. Classroom Photography – Switch the camera grid on. Do this by going to Settings > Camera > Grid. This will enable you and your students to take better photographs.Screen Shot 2018-09-03 at 17.45.36Within the camera app, the grid splits (with very fine lines) the screen into nine spaces enabling learners to think about composition, the rule of thirds, positive and negative space and hot spots. 

    Screen Shot 2018-09-03 at 17.44.18
    Apple’s mark up tools help here to emphasise 

  2. Classroom Video – plan a narrative structure even for a short 20 secs piece, an introduction, the core activity and the recap/resolution and vary the shot type appropriately.  Use Keynote to storyboard. Often, taking still photographs of the sequence will help get a sense of how the final project will look.

    Screen Shot 2018-09-03 at 14.11.52
    Creating and sharing a storyboard template can save time and Keynote picture holders enable the quick import of the photos

    You can download a copy here!

    3. Classroom Audio – is one of the most difficult things to manage. Using headphones will reduce the amount of noise in the room, cheap headphone  splitters enable children to work in pairs. 

    Screen Shot 2018-09-03 at 14.12.59
    These things are as cheap as chips but not as tasty.

    Working with one headphone in place and the other not in/on the ear enables the class to collaborate and hear your instructions whilst still hearing their own recordings.  For really polished and professional sound recordings in Garageband, you can use automation to fade up and down the levels.

    Screen Shot 2018-09-03 at 14.14.18
    Here the music volume level ducks down slightly when the presenter speaks.

  3. Use Split screen to be more productive. If you are lucky enough to have a newish 2017/18 iPad, you can have two apps open side by side and drag and drop content from one to the other.

    Here’s how to open two apps. In this instance we are using Safari and we want to open Keynote at the same time. So we swipe up from the bottom of the screen to bring up the Dock. Rather tapping on the app, we hold it and drag to the right or left of the screen. This keeps both apps open and active on screen.

    split screen.GIFHaving two apps open and dragging and dropping content, eg. Text and images from Safari to a Pages or Keynote document is a how we used to work on computers!


If you really want to show off, you can add a third app in slide over mode, although personally I find this a bit clunky!

4. Manage text like a Pro.  One of the biggest frustrations for teachers on iPads is handling text. Learning a couple of basic functions sets you up.

  • A long hold on a word brings up the loupe (magnifier) for fixing typos
  • double tap a word to highlight it (you can use the pins to highlight more words)
  • double tap the word with two fingers and this will highlight the whole sentence
  • triple tap the sentence with two fingers will highlight the whole paragraph
  • use a two finger long hold on the keyboard to switch to “trackpad mode” (see below). 


Enable Trackpad mode by holding the keyboard with two fingers.

The iPad keyboard can be used like a track pad to navigate through sustained pieces of text that you are working on. Apply two fingers to the keyboard and it swap to trackpad mode. Now you can navigate the cursor through your text with both fingers a mouse through sustained  pieces of text. 

5. Use the Notes app as a scanner – we all need to use less paper especially when the children are all using digital devices. In your Notes app you can now scan documents and save them as PDF’s. You can Airdrop them to the class, where they can hand them into Showbie or Seesaw.


I hope some of these tips and ways of working help you at the beginning of a new academic year.

Apple Education Announcements

Sure, Apple needs a cheaper product for schools. However a cheaper iPad is only part of the equation. Three things that I’m sure won’t be announced but could totally transform the state of play are,

1. Unlimited cloud storage for education Apple ID’s generated in Apple School Manager. This would put the platform on a even keel with Google. It would also benefit all those few lucky teachers syncing data between a MacBook and an iPad. It would make it more attractive to budget conscious schools, it would also cement work patterns and retain users.

2. Revert to factory settings! Or revert firmware! (Dream on!) Having had to recycle over 100 iPad minis recently, I think educators would appreciate the ability to keep the device as fresh as it was from day one. Those 100 iPad minis* were in good condition, they recorded sound, video and photos, but constant updates meant they slowed to the point of being a challenge to use. Sure we need updates/security patches on phones and other personal tech, but within reason a primary school set of devices within a secure network should be safe. Chromebooks bought three years ago still run effectively/efficiently.

3. Subsidised class eBooks. – if Education really is in the Apple DNA, then make it happen. Every parent and teacher wants their kids to love reading. This one bold move could be the real game changer. Classkit might be great for developers, but words, paragraphs, in the form of books will always outlast apps and widgets.

Of course none of the above is ever likely to happen!

* the recycle/trade in price on the iPad minis was £75 each with a reseller. If you check out the price of a three year old Chromebook, you’ll find it’s probably close to £0. Yet the irony being the Chromebooks will run as fast as the day they were bought.

We live in crazy, crazy times.

The Rise of the Robots


Dash is a fully programmable robot that moves with centimetre precision. It moves in all directions with great accuracy. This is combined with coloured “ear” lights and an eye composed of mini LED lights that can be programmed to animate. The unique features here are the proximity sensors. Dash can be programmed to respond to either a hand or a wall that it detects. Year five children spent a lesson recently exploring driverless cars and programmed Dash’s sensors to detect moving and stationary objects.

The robots can also be loaded with voice recordings. These are recorded on the iPad and sent via bluetooth to the robot. The years 4,5,6 classes picked this process up very quickly. We couldn’t quite turn dash into a Siri or Alexa personal assistant, but it gave the class the key concepts and understanding of how these “personal assistant” technologies work.


It is worth pointing out that the Dot robot doesn’t move, but is still great for programming challenges. The fact that it remains stationary on the school desk means you can work in much smaller spaces than you need for both Dash and Sphero.