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!

PDF to Word

PDF to WordPDF to Word is a neat little free app for Cometdocs for converting PDF documents to word. Great for use with iphones and iPads for converting PDF documents on the go.

Some of the free features of the app:

  • The app is free and has no limits on file size or number of requests
  • Conversion is simple, accurate and precise. The end result of the conversion is ready to use in MS Word or Google Docs.
  • All PDFs are supported (even scanned ones)
  • The in-app purchase is valid for a lifetime and it enables users to skip the possible conversion queue (it happens when there are too many requests although never a long one).

iDoceo – the teachers assistant for iPad – preparing for the new year

idoceoI am determined to try and reduce my generation of paperwork this year and I am looking at exploring the use of iDoceo. I have spent the afternoon setting up my classes, generating seating planners and setting up timetable schedules and I’m ready to go! iDoceo is marketed as a teachers assistant. It is a one-stop shop; a diary, planner, timetable, gradebook and even resource manager all in one. Resources can be attached to lesson plans within the app itself. It also fully integrates with ical so it is a fantastic way to keep yourself organised and I’m already really looking forward to using it. The app gets excellent reviews from those that are already using it and there are lots of resources to support people using the app. Whilst it has taken the investment of a few hours to set up it looks like it is going to be well worth it!

The iDoceo website has a full details of the app and an extensive ‘how to’ section. 

This short but useful video shows you how to set up iDoceo for the first time. 



QuickKeyContinued formative assessment is an integral part of the work in our classroom and with the continuous development of new technologies there are various excellent apps and sites which can support staff with different types of assessment. One of my favourite tools is the Quick Key app.

Assessment of pupil progress in Quick Key enables quick assessment by using your mobile or tablet as a scanner which instantly marks students answers saving you time grading the papers which can be used instead to provide feedback and support student progress by identifying and tackling areas of weakness in knowledge and understanding. This allows you to focus your time on the students and doesn’t require students to have access to technology as the answers are completed on paper!

The short video below demonstrates Quick Key in action:

So how does Quick Key work?

You simply need to sign up on the website for a free account. Once your account is set up you can start adding students. This can be done manually or by importing student lists, for example as a .csv file. Once you have imported students you can then create classes and allocate students to the relevant classes.

You are then ready to create a Quiz – this can be up to 30 questions. You can insert your question and make it clear on your quiz, which of the answers is the correct one (i.e. multiple choice).  In terms of running the quiz you can read the questions out to the students and the options or have them on powerpoint slides.

In our department I have opted to create a quiz format sheet which has the questions by the side and the possible answers by the questions (where I am not using all the possible multiple choice options boxes are blanked out). 

Quick Key ticketStudents simply fill the answers in on the ‘exit ticket’ which can be downloaded from the site. I have incorporated this into the base of our quiz sheets.

Each student is allocated an ID number which they must add to their exit ticket. Once students have completed their tests, you can use the QK app on your phone or tablet to quickly scan each paper and the marks will be allocated to the relevant student. I have marked a set of 30 students in less than 2 minutes before!

I am particularly using this at the moment for frequent assessment of Year 10 and 11 students. The answers are marked within seconds so I can give students feedback within minutes which makes the whole process more useful. I then either go through the questions with the students and their papers and the just highlight the answer to the questions they got wrong or if at the end of the lesson I do this for them as my ‘marking’.

Results are saved for each students for each task so you can easily build up a continuous record of assessment – useful for a quick snapshot of student progress in between more extended end of unit tests.

Quick Key Export ShotThere are various options for exporting your results and you can also analyse your results e.g. by sorting according to mark (highest to lowest etc.)

Quick Key Screen Shots 1


Once you have created your classes and quizzes they are located easily on the Quick Key dashboard. You can easily re-use and assign quizzes to different classes and in our department we are working together to build a bank of department Quick Key assessments.

A more detailed account of the stages can be found on the excellent Sandagogy site here

Support Screen Shot


One of the things I have been really impressed with this tool is the level of support and commitment from the developers who will help whenever they can and are consistently looking to maximise and develop the app further. One of the founders, Walter Duncan (@4_teachers), an ex-teacher (who has only recently left the classroom after 15 years, to concentrate on the app) is full of enthusiasm and with a background in teaching he knows exactly what teachers need and how we can best help our students. The website has a support centre to request support including FAQ and a new Help Centre. The founders are however also keen to build up a community of users and there is a growing Quick Key Forum. There are many educationalists on twitter who are also sharing resources and ideas on the use of Quick Key in the classroom context. Likewise there is also a dedicated Quick Key Support twitter feed 


A few of us in the Geography community have been sharing quizzes through Anthony Bennett’s “Internet Geography” site and the examples of these quizzes can be found here, including a copy of the template I designed for our department. QuickKey

A guide on how to create an assessment using Quick Key guide can be found here

Simon Renshaw has also done some very interesting work looking at the use of hinge questions and the QuickKey app and his findings are here      

There is a Quick key facebook page so you can share with other colleagues  you think might be interested and remember, you can download the quickkey app from the itunes app store – full details available here.  

Random Group Generator

Having talked about random name generators – a quick reminder that SMART notebook has a good tool for generating random groupings which can fit well into a SMART presentation. The SMART generator is available straight from the Lesson Activity Toolkit in the SMART notebook programme itself. Well worth looking at if you teach a subject in which you are often dividing students into groups. All groups can be set up at the begininng of the year (as with random name generators) and saved so you can bring them up at any time.Random Group

As with most of these things there are lots of other useful tools for this which are based online or are apps which can be downloaded.

Use of Random Generators – thoughts..

My last blog post was looking at the use of random name generators as a way of helping to engage students and elicit responses from all students rather than the simple use of hands-up. Having just participated in some discussion with colleagues, whilst it is recognised that random name generators can be very useful in many situations, one issue raised is that they don’t allow for differentiation if you ask a question first and then use the random generator to select a student. Just as using a random generator wont be appropriate in all situations anyway, the way you use the generator is important, depending on the desired outcome. Randomly generating the name and then ‘tailoring’ the question to differentiate as necessary is one way (in this instance one of the more discrete generators such as the “No Hands” student selector might be appropriate). You could also put key terms into a generator rather than names so the generator will randomly select a key term and you then ‘differentiate’ by who you might select in the class to define the key term (or answer a question related to it). This would still maintain engagement as all students would be more likely to consider the meaning of the term whilst waiting for you to select a student to answer the question.

Random Key Term

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.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 71 other followers