Using new technologies in Geography

Back in January I ran part of a training session for a local network of Geography teachers. The main session was taken by Jason Swale from ESRI UK looking at the fantastic ArcGIS and the ways in which it can be used to successfully integrate GIS into the curriculum, particularly in light of the new GCSE and A’level specifications. Prior to this I did a short 30 minute session exploring some of the ways in which new technologies can be utilised in the teaching and learning of Geography, drawing particularly on some of our experiences in the ways we use it in my department at St Ivo School. Here is the presentation summarising the key ideas discussed during the session.

In case it is useful you can download the handout of links I gave out on the evening here to help explore some of the ideas covered in more detail.

Online Revision tools for Teachers and Students

revision-clipart-english-clipart_11-300x270With the revision season already underway and set to become particularly busy over the next few weeks I thought it would be useful to summarise some of the most useful online revision tools / apps available for both staff and students. Anymore you can recommend? Please let me know and I’ll add them to the list!

Revision Organisation

Revision Ace – a useful app for organising revision schedules, setting revision reminders and revision targets

PocketMod – create a pocket size revision planner – templates include monthly and weekly calendars and a task list really useful for revision.

RevisionWorlda tool for creating and printing revision schedule as well as lots of revision resources for students.

Get Revising Study Planner – a useful online study planner – easy to set up (see video below)

Mind Mapping Tools:

Mindomo  – useful tool for both students and staff. Teachers can use this to produce mind maps to simplify / summarise more complex information – for example helping students to break down an exam specification into the various component parts to facilitate revision. You can create 3 maps for free with the free account but beyond that this is a paid resource with a pricing structure for education.

Xmind – a free download (open source) although a paid for pro version is available – a good mind mapping tool and results can also be saved to Evernote making access across devices easier.

Coggle – easily produce mindmaps to simply and present more complex information – can be shared with others.

Online Revision Tools:

Flashcards++  (app) – an app for iOS to help memorise from flash cards – you can create own flashcards and share with others. You can listen to cards (text to speech) or record your own audio.

Examtime (free) – has an excellent set of tools to support revision and studying, including tools for mind-mapping, flashcards, quizzes notes etc. There are also useful notes and resources on study tips. – free learning tool for staff and students. Create own study quizzes and flashcards – can be created by students and teachers and classes can be set up to share these with others. Can be used on iphones / iPads and android.

Flashcards to Go – online study tool (cross devices)

Memrise – useful tool for learning vocabulary (takes some setting up).

Tools for quick formative assessment during revision in class:

Socrative – quickly assess through realtime questioning with the use of smartphones, tablets, laptops etc.

QuickKey App – the fantastic Quickkey App can be used to quickly assess students. Teachers can use smartphones / iPads to scan answers and quickly assess students and identify correct and incorrect answers (see previous post on QuickKey app). I already use QuickKey on a regular basis for Year 10 and 11 to do quick formative assessments as part of each unit (to complement other assessment skills)

GoFormative – online student response system

Creating Revision materials for use in the classroom:

IWB – SMART Notebook – the only limit to this one is imagination! There are a number of inbuilt activities for creating interactive revision quizzes etc. for the IWB, including the Lesson Activity Toolkit. Many of these are ready created activities which can simply be edited. The activity builder allows you to be more flexible in creating your own resources. Simple drag and drop can be created easily and other tools on the IWB provide opportunities for interrogating exam questions / modelling answers as a whole class.  Using SMART notebook is also particularly useful for structuring revision session as you can use the paperclip function to organise all resources associated with the lesson together (e.g. word documents, powerpoints, audio and video clips etc..) – in the newer versions of SMART notebook you can even integrate weblinks directly into the pages to use with students as part of a presentation.

PowerPoint – great for creating summary presentations for revision and you can easily integrate hyperlinks to other resources or even hyperlink between pages to create question and answer quizzes for whole class use on the IWB. There are various templates for such quizzes available on the web.

Contentgenerator – create useful e-learning quizzes with no knowledge of coding required – simply input the questions. Students love these and they work very well on the IWB as well as being easily integrated in blogs and websites for students to use in revision. Pricing structure is available on the website. – lots of great tools for creating free quizzes and activities (well worth exploring – great for use on the IWB or again can be integrated into blogs).

Explain Everything – Great app for the iPad – many uses – but when it comes to revision it is great for projecting student answers on the board (e.g. using AirServer or Apple TV) and doing peer / whole class assessment to look at the development of exam technique / allocation of marks.

Wordwall – create interactive activities for the classroom

WordwallWordwall makes interactive activities and I like the look of this new tool for creating engaging content for the IWB. I particularly like the idea of the simplicity with which it seems resources can be created which would appeal to a wider number of staff who are sometimes put off by having to learn difficult new software. The promotional information says that teachers can choose from a variety of templates and with just a few words and a couple of clicks create something that wouldn’t have been possible traditional presentation software. There is a free personal licence for teachers to use on their personal computers and a variety of licensing options beyond that.

There is also an additional option for buying Wordpads to enable students to directly interact with the activities.

There is a software demonstration video here:

New Review Game – Connect Fours

ClasstoolsThe brilliant Russell Tarr from has created a great new review game called Connect Fours. As with all the fantastic tools on the website, they are free and can be hosted on blogs, websites etc. and require no password or signup. The game consists of a wall with 16 clues which then need sorting into 4 rows of connected items. A sample game can be tried out here.

ConnectFoursColdEnvironmentsThere are many good ways to put this to use as a little starter or plenary activity on the IWB to check understanding and to act as a stimulus for class discussion. I am going to try it out as a starter for a forthcoming Year 12 revision lesson to practise categorising landforms in cold environments.

Richard Byrne from Free Technology 4 Teachers has created a short youtube clip showing how to create a review game using Connect Fours. also has a fanpage on Facebook with frequent useful updates and is worth a follow!

Random Name Generators

Encouraging all students to participate in lessons in order to elicit evidence of their achievement can be difficult. One method which involves a no-hands up policy is to employ the use of a random generator to randomly select students. Some studies have shown that this is beneficial in that it helps keep the attention of students as they are unsure whether they might be next and are more likely to maintain engagement in the lesson. There are various methods of doing this from the use of names in a hat or on ‘lolipop’ sticks drawn from a jar through to computer based solutions. The benefit of many of the ICT solutions is that they are very visual, names can easily be saved and updated and as many lessons involve the use of computer based presentations they can easily be integrated within the lesson.

Below is a collection of some of the different random name generators available, divided into 3 categories:

1. SMART notebook – there is a generator tool called the “random word chooser” which can be found in the Lesson Activity Toolkit.
2. Internet based options – a variety or web based, or downloadable tools
3. iPad based options – with the increased use of tablets in the classroom, there are various apps which allow you to select students at random, some of these are more sophisticated with options for recording formative assessment as well.



This random selector is a flash generator embedded into a SMART notebook page – so easily saved for each of your classes – and can easily be embedded as part of your lesson if using a SMART notebook file.

For staff at St Ivo a copy of this has been saved in Projects_Staff_IWB Resources_Random name and group sorters. For other colleagues who might be reading this – you can search for the “random word chooser” of the Lesson Activity Toolkit.

(similar group sorter templates are available in the same folder on projects).



Random Names

You can save the names as a URL (so could be saved as a shortcut in your projects area or on the desktop.

Simple and effective.


Random Name Word PickerClass Tools Random Name / Word Picker This can be either as a fruit machine or as a typewriter. Names can be saved. A simple but effective internet based option. This is widely used! Could also be used to good effect with key terms – students given a key term at random to define!


Instant Classroom ( Classroom

(this will also act as a ‘group’ sorting tool and allow you to show names on a desk for swapping round seating for different activities).

For this you create a group name and then add a password and add your email address.



Instant Fruit Machine – Random Selector Fruit MachineThis one acts a bit like a fruit machine – unlike the ones above it doesn’t allow you to save names – however it will allow you to simply copy and paste names in very quickly if you have a list in word format.





No Hands – Random Student Selector

This requires a download to your computer and it can take some time setting up your class lists. However these only need doing once!. You have to install this one on your computer and then Read the ‘Read Me’ File in order to follow instructions of what to do.No Hands

The benefit of this is it is quite discrete and will sit nicely in your toolbar for whenever you need it in a lesson so it enables you to use it as a randomiser for picking students whenever you want.


Random Name Generator (Excel)

ExcelVery user friendly as is in Excel – all groups can be created and saved in one spreadsheet – if you name each column with the name of the group – this will then appear in the drop down box for you to choose from!

(You do need to ensure macros are enabled for this to work).


Random Student Picker Tools FunRandom Fun Dart

This option includes a random student picker and a dartboard selector tool which can be used in a similar way. You need to sign in to access this tool – it can be accessed from the free trial section – so you do not have to sign up to a paid account.



OPTIONS ON THE iPAD (then use Airserver to project on the IWB)

Name SelectorName Selector Lite (Free) (there is also a paid for version which is add free for £1.99)

Simple and easy to use and you can easily turn students within a group off and on – for exactly which students you want to be included in any particular selection group.


PickSticksStick Pick £1.99

Random selection of a student’s name from a virtual can of lolipop sticks. Each stick is linked to a mode and level of difficulty for each learner (which can be set and saved) – every time a student stick is drawn – you are shown over a dozen Bloom’s taxonomy related questions – each will be at the individual ability level set for that student.


iLeap Pick a studentiLeap Pick a student (Free)

This app enables staff to pick students at random and supports multiple classes as well having a number of different options for choosing students. There is a turn based selection if wanted so that every student will be picked before any one will be selected again.


Pick me upPick Me (£1.49)!/id444045099?mt=8

This tool will also help track formative assessment – will randomly pull student names and once question has been answered – you can record whether or not it was correct using the thumbs up or incorrect using thumbs down – data can be saved and sent to your email address.

Using your iPad as a Digital Visualiser / Document Camera

Picture1Stage: Interactive Whiteboard and Document Camera is a fantastic app from Belkin International Education with great potential for extending the way you present and prepare material in the classroom, enhancing teaching and learning. You can sketch over live videos, students work, photographs etc. in realtime and record or take snapshots. You can also wirelessly stream content (using Airplay / Airserver) to the whiteboard – so combines the benefits of a document camera with the flexibility and interactivity of an IWB. A more detailed summary is available here and the tutorial video below shows you the potential of the Belkin Stage app – it certainly gets you thinking of lots of different ways it could be put to use in the classroom.

The interface is very simple to use with two menus – one either side (these are fully explained in the video above). It is possible to write on a whiteboard or blackboard background, annotate live video or annotate a photograph. At any time screenshots of your annotations can be taken and it is also possible to record all the actions.

The app is currently free with just a £1.40 in-app purchase if you want to activate the ‘record’ function (which is really useful)

I have only just started playing with the Belkin Stage app but can already see the potential is fantastic and can’t wait to discuss ideas with colleagues in school from across curriculum areas. It is also a fantastic tool for maximising benefits to teaching and learning in a 1 iPad classroom.

Some possible ideas which I hope to add to are…
1. AFL – take a picture of student work – and using AirServer project to board – annotate and assess as a class to identify aspects of good work / how could improve.

2. Science lab – recording a demonstration live, used in conjunction with AirServer so that the video is projected on to the board so that all students can see – the teacher can be discussing what is going on and even annotating / highlighting aspects of what is on screen to help focus students. The whole thing can be recorded and then uploaded to the school’s VLE or wikispaces etc. for students to access later for revision or homework.

3. create little ‘mini-tutorials’ e.g. for science / maths / geography etc.. during (or even before) the lesson to be uploaded to the VLE / blogs or even to be used as part of a lesson.

4. creating screencast type resources for use in the ‘flipped classroom’

This youtube video (Why use Belkin’s Stage app to create lessons?) also starts to explore the potential of Stage by looking at how it makes the most of the camera function of the iPad to bring learning to life in a visual way.

Making the most of a 1 iPad classroom…

We are just entering Phase 2 of our iPad trial and whilst more staff are involved in using iPads we are still in the situation where there is only 1 iPad in the classroom. Nevertheless there are still many great opportunities for enhancing teaching and learning. One of the key things is being able to utilise the iPad in a way which shares resources as a group and facilitates interactivity in a way which can benefit everyone. Here are two key ways that you can put your iPad to maximum use in a 1 iPad classroom:

   1. AIRSERVER  – this allows you to project what is on your iPad through your projector / IWB

Airserver is an AirServerAirplay receiver which effectively allows you to stream content between devices. This allows you to ‘mirror’ your iPad onto your IWB so that you can share any content on your iPad with your students during lessons. As well as images, videos etc.. this will therefore enable you to use apps purchased through the apple store in a whole class lesson situation.

Details of how to download Airserver can be found here – it is very reasonably priced and for schools requiring more than 20 licences there is a very reasonably priced commercial licence.

Once Airserver has been purchased and installed and activated on a machine to airplay from your iPad simply click the home button and a bar of shortcuts will appear at the bottom – slide your finger to the right until the play, pause, volume etc. buttons appear. The Airplay symbol will show here.

To prevent potential ‘accidental’ mirroring of your iPad to colleagues boards in other rooms around school it is strongly recommended that you set up a password system. This will prompt you to enter a password to mirror your iPad to the board. Setting up a password is easy, once you have downloaded and activated AirServer on to your PC simply click on the airserver icon in the system tray (bottom right) (if can’t be seen click on the little white arrow head) – then select settings and enter password. We have found that due to some staff teaching in several different rooms it can help to have a standardise way of setting a password (for example including the room number with a keyword) so that it enables colleagues to use AirServer wherever they are teaching.

The following video summarises the functionality of AirServer

2. SPLASHTOP – using the iPad to wirelessly operate your PC splashtop2mac_icon-100029268-gallery

This enables you to operate your PC in your classroom using your iPad – i.e. the iPad mirrors your PC and in doing so basically turns the ipad into a ‘mini interactive whiteboard’. You can pass your iPad round and ask students to ‘drag and drop’ or complete an activity which will be mirrored to the board and shared with the group. This also frees you from the front of the classroom, enabling you to show, navigate and interact with presentations such as Powerpoints, SMART notebook files etc. wherever you are in the room.

Details of products and pricing can be found here and the app is currently £6.99 on the App store.

The following video summaries the functionality of Splashtop: