Google Photos for LSA’s/Teaching Assistants

16Gb can quickly fill with photos and videos. If you are a GAFE school you can utilise the unlimited free storage of Google Drive with Google Photo’s. The free app auto syncs content from the camera roll and offers a fast way to delete the content from the device (after it has been upload). The video shows how to enable Photos as a folder in the your Google drive so that it can be shared with a colleague, for example, a teacher and a teaching assistant. Being able to tag, label photos/videos and search for them makes this a very useful tool.

New Kid on the Bloxel!

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Apologies for the cheesy headline! I’ve been keenly awaiting the arrival of Bloxels. As a fan of the Floors app and approach, I have had high expectations of Bloxels.

So what is it? Well, Bloxels is an app based process for making retro arcade style games on the iPad. This involves designing game play spaces, characters, enemies, and objects. The designs are restricted to a 13 x13 board that is both physical if you choose to buy one and virtual within the free app. The idea is to design all aspects of the game on the board with plastic cubes (hence the 13 bit builder tag). The board is like a tray that holds coloured plastic cubes. Curious?

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So what is it? Well, Bloxels is a creative process for making retro arcade style games. The process involves designing game play spaces, characters, enemies, and objects. The designs are restricted to a 13 x 13 board that is both physical if you choose to buy one and virtual within the free app. The idea is to design all aspects of the game on the board with plastic cubes (hence the 13 bit builder tag).

It comes is a nice old games style box from the pre-digital era, backing the day when we used to sit around, talk and engage with each other – remember those days? Obviously the fact that you can use motor skills to physically organise the board talk and plan is very attractive.

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We design/plan on the board and then use the “in app camera” to digitise the design. There is a simple colour code for the elements. Each colour block represents a different function. The green blocks are terrain/platforms blue water, red is a hazard. Some of these functions can then be developed. For example, the “power up” blocks can be used for adding “life/health” to your character or provide them with a jet back or ammunition. My one criticism of the experience is guns and bombs but it is unfortunately part of this type of gaming genre. Of course children can be encouraged to design something less negative and that is the joy of Bloxels. It screams creativity and not simple gratification. As part of the process the user creates both characters and objects.

Here is my enemy character.

One unexpected surprise is the creative element. Characters and objects can all be animated. They can even have three animated states, idle, walk and jump. This immediately offers fantastic differentiation opportunities. This last week I worked with both y3 and y6 (digital leaders) quickly creating and thinking conceptually about how to get the best animated effects.

The overall process is as follows create a game, add boards complete with platforms, exploding blocks, water, lava pits, then decorate them. You can design all of your decorations. So if a pixelated pink and yellow Kath Kitson polker dot look is you thing – you can have it! Likewise, Characters and objects are only limited to your imagination within the 13×13 space.

The app is free and weighs in at 198mb. There are no in app purchases and I guess Pixel Press are thinking the revenue will come from the boards and cubes. It possible to create without the blocks and cubes, but there something satisfying about physically making and planning as opposed to everything being on the screen.

Projects and assets remain on the device. It possible to have accounts. This is so that you can play, earn coins via playing other peoples games and using shared assets, in effect creating a “social community” of “Bloxelers”. Again your class can create without an account, but you will have to keep track of devices if they are being shared.

My only gripe is the number of cubes in the additional packs of cubes is very small. The  basic box ships with 250 cubes. The additional packs are 8 x 15 cubes which isn’t enough to spread across the additional 4 boards in the 5 pack.

As a version 1.1.2 app this is a great start. It does need some fine tuning and the workflow at times can be a little daunting. There are no real instructions although there are some good Vimeo tutorial clips. I managed to create games with Y3. Like wise, Y6 digital leaders really caught the character animation bug and were very creative.


Google Apps on the iPad

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See the original here I couldn’t embed it for some reason!

I do like the collaborative elements of Google Apps for Education (GAFE). They are easy for teachers to adopt and embed in the classroom. I also like the small footprint compared to the Apple equivalents. The downside is from a designer point of view, it can be a challenge to make content look good. Keynote, whilst weighing in at over 600MB does offer an engaging outcome and a fun creative process.

The reason for using GAFE is the ease of Google Classroom for tracking student’s work and collaboration. Apple are a long way behind in this respect.

I also expected  GAFE to be a pain on the shared iPad ( no pun intended). Not so. When a student logs into either Google Docs or Google drive the other GAFE are accessible. Logging out on one Google app, logs out all other Google apps.

So unlimited storage and great realtime collaboration makes this very very attractive, esp when combined with the more creative and engaging apps on the iPad.


Digital Confidence

Poster For Silas V3.1

There are still a few places on my Digital Confidence course at the lovely St Silas Primary in Liverpool. Drop me a line if you or your colleagues would like a place. The course consists of  5x 2hour twilights designed to build skills and confidence in the classroom using the iPad. Most of the apps we are using are free. There will be on-going remote support between the sessions using iTunesU.


Seesaw – makes light work of so many classroom tech challenges

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Seesaw possibly the best iPad app in a long while….

Seesaw is free app and service. I’ve been using for about four weeks since it was mentioned to me by Mr Leach @Y5Florence Melly Primary school in Liverpool. It works like a simple class blog. It enables children to post their “in progress” work and final outcomes for teacher and peer feedback. The set up process is easy and quick. The class can access the space using a unique QR code or though a Google Apps for Education email address. The teacher and class use the same app. The teacher signs in and the children connect easily with the QR code. There is no need for passwords for the learners.


When the QR code is read, the class have 6 options for adding content to Seesaw portfolio. They also have the “Open in” option from other apps. This simple approach makes light work of archiving work from class sets of iPads. There is even a simple drawing tool and note maker for writing and sharing written work.

What makes this really effective is the ability for the class to “like” and comment on each others work. A real audience is created so reflection and peer assessment can take place. Feedback can be in text comment or voice recorded format. The main window appears like a scrolling blog with the most recent work at the top. It has a Twitter and Facebook feel and so is appealing to many children.


The children’s names can have simple avatars or their own selfie style photos. This is a teacher  decision. The visual icons help younger learners navigate. The teacher can also create folders for projects to be stored. For example there could be a Literacy, Maths and Science folders. The work can also be viewed in calendar view so we can see how a piece has developed over time.

The class Seesaw space is private. Only the teacher and class can see it. It is safe and a good place to start exploring digital citizenship and etiquette. Parents can be invited so they can see their own child’s work.

Whilst it is incredibly easy to use, it is sophisticated to the extent that individual post can be shared where appropriately on public school blogs. If you are a fan of publishing apps like Adobe Voice and the music app Auxy, the links from these apps will also paste with a link beautifully into Seesaw.

So where is the catch? The file sizes are limited to 50Mb and five minutes in length video/audio. There is no total storage limit. A teacher can have up to ten concurrent classes and archive them to create space for new ones. Seesaw state that they are committed to making this a free tool for teachers. There are paid versions for school-wide visibility and accessing data related to parental engagement.

If you need a free and easy to use digital portfolio tool look no further. This is really is an app that teachers will find helpful in and beyond the classroom.