Friday 9 June 2017

Cover the curriculum and save time

History teachers and Heads of History everywhere! We have found a way you can save precious time to use however you like. Roy Huggins, History specialist and former Head of eBacc, has worked with us to create some curriculum-based resources that can be used time and time again.

Roy is an extremely popular TES creator, with at the time of posting, 13,414 downloads to his name. There are various types of tasks he develops but one that really stood out to us was his card sorts. As we’ve explored before though, despite the numerous, excellent benefits of this type of activity, they can be quite time consuming to print off, cut out and sort for a class of 30! Despite this, they are a VERY popular classroom resource, which shows how much they are valued and the benefits of them. To name a few; deeper understanding of content, collaboration and ease-of-use.

Why was it difficult maintaining law and order in the American West?
We’ve worked with Roy to transform some of his card sort tasks into iPad versions. They look fantastic on the iPad! Rather than students sorting out cards into nondescript piles on desks, many activities have bright, colourful and descriptive backgrounds which means when looking back on their work, students immediately know how they sorted the cards.

Roy explained, “I was really surprised by how easy the Thinking Kit software was to use. It was very intuitive and it didn't take me long to start making some stunning resources.”

Push and pull factors of Westward Expansion
All resources come with a detailed and thorough list of ‘aims and objectives’ and a ‘WILF (What am I Looking For?)’ section. Plus the process of downloading each task is so simple and guided that you can be using them in minutes!

To name a few of the benefits of this transition:
    Instead of having to print off and cut out 30 pages of cards/pieces of paper, just give your students a code for them to download the tasks onto their iPads.
    Students can download/print a PDF report of their card sort session (e.g. what was on the cards, their final layout and anything in between) OR simply take a screenshot of their on-screen work ready to print off to put in books or keep in a progress file.
    If desired, you can get students thinking about the process of how they got to their answer rather than just the end result (there’s a dedicated Reflection Stage/interactive playback of the session). This is excellent for critical thinking and problem solving.

We are delighted to say that the activities of Roy’s that have been transformed first are his ever-popular ‘American West’ selection. You can even get a massive 33% discount if you buy them in a bundle. Please see Roy’s TES profile for more details. If you’d like to have a go at creating your own iPad card sorts, please visit

Thursday 16 March 2017

Is there a super quick way to make card sort tasks?

Since getting iPads at Chesterton Community College in 2013, Dr. Katharine Hutchinson (Director of eLearning and CPD) had been looking for a tool to create digital ‘card sorting’ activities for students. She was a fan of traditional paper activities like this and knew many other staff were too.

The activities involve students being given a set of information presented in bitesize pieces on cards, which they read and then sort through in a pair or small group - it’s a type of task used in schools all over the world. Students might have to sort cards to answer a particular question, be asked to categorise them into groups or arrange them in a certain way. The problem is the amount of time it takes to set them up!

Katharine explained: “It’s just so time consuming. When working with bigger classes, I might divide them into 18 pairs. That means you need 18 sets of cards. Imagine you have 20 pieces of information in each card set…. that makes for a lot of card printing and cutting out! Then one child will drop a card and you won’t know which set it belongs to, so next time you will have to create it all over again to ensure that every pair is working with the full set of cards."

@sylviaduckworth and @edappadvice's adaptation
Since taking on a new role in early 2017, she had an extra focus: “My key goal in terms of being Director of eLearning is to move more from Substitution/Augmentation of tasks through iPad use, into Modification/Redefinition so that we get an absolute transformation of learning.” This is in reference to the SAMR Model (see right), popularized by Dr. Ruben Puentedura.

Finding Thinking Kit

Katharine was just about to give up on finding a tool to create iPad card-sorts, when she heard about our first suite of apps (Digital Mysteries) on Twitter and gave us a call. We were actually developing the Thinking Kit: a tool to create iPad activities. We often describe them as ‘mysteries’ (see Professor David Leat/Thinking Through Geography's work) but in the most basic sense, they could be called ‘digital card sort tasks’. Academic research shows these are excellent for initiating discussion and building thinking skills, plus suited to various subjects.

When we told Katharine about Thinking Kit, she was instantly excited to try it. She became an early tester and helped shape it into what it is today. She explained: “Why do we work with Reflective Thinking? Because they listen, and we like that. We like the idea that we can work in partnership. It ensures we are creating something really beneficial for the learning of the students that we work with.” Also, “the idea of not having to cut the cards and the whole thing being complete the next time I go to use the task is just incredible. It really gives me a boost in terms of confidence...because I know everything is in place.”

Please click here to go straight to free trial information.

Using Thinking Kit to create card-sorting tasks for iPads

One of Katharine's activities (Geography)
At first, Thinking Kit was largely used by the Humanities Faculty (Katharine’s specialism) at Chesterton; then use of the tool grew in Modern Foreign Languages as well as Music. Maths and Science teachers have since created lots of Thinking Kit activities for use with various year groups. When we visited Chesterton and observed a Maths lesson, there was a fantastic use of the tool for matching angles with their correct terms. Students screenshotted their final layouts for GCSE revision. The English Faculty are also keen to get on board. Katharine said: “I think the Thinking Kit App is applicable to every subject area. If you’ve got somebody in your department team who is creative, I can guarantee that they will be able to find a way of students benefitting from it. It’s been transformative for us. It’s been brilliant.”

A Music task by Catherine Wilson
We asked Katharine if there were any reduced costs. “How much is a teacher’s time worth? I have got no idea! I’ve never worked it out, but let’s say I’m making a standard card sort on a piece of card. By the time I’ve typed it in I might as well have just typed it into Thinking Kit. I’ve then got to find a printer and print a single copy. Then I’ve got to find 18 different colours of card (because I don’t want one card being dropped then not know which set it goes back in) and photocopy the sheet 16 times. Then I have to cut it all up and put it in bags. What’s that… two hours maybe? Instead of five minutes. I genuinely don’t know what the calculation is for how much a teacher’s time is worth...but two hours is worth a lot to me.

Using Rhiannon's Treaty of Versailles task.
Colleague Iain Dover added “Another time saving aspect is that any changes you might want to make can be done quickly. If you revise the lesson after teaching it to one class, or the framework of the lesson changes from a previous year, you might need to make changes to some cards. With Thinking Kit, this takes minutes, whereas when you are using paper it means reprinting all the cards again, and making sure you dispose of the old ones (otherwise they often get mixed in with the new sets).”

Head of History, Rhiannon Evans, agreed: “The thing I love most about Thinking Kit is the time it saves me! I think card sorts are such a valuable way of facilitating/extending student thinking and discussion, but we all know how long it takes to create them by hand. Having an app that allows you to create them in minutes is just brilliant.” Teachers across the school told us similar things.

Please click here to go straight to free trial information.

Thinking, reflection, revision and Project Based Learning

Thinking Kit is based on Moseley et al.’s (2005) ‘strategic and reflective thinking’ model so provides tools that have extra, previously inconceivable benefits compared to paper card sorts (ideal to progress towards transformation in the SAMR Model). A specific part often mentioned is the Reflection Stage. This allows students to play back, and interact with, their session alone, as a small group, with their teacher or as the basis for a whole class discussion.

Roger De Souza, Science Teacher, explained: “The playback feature is really useful, and students can access it in their own time.” Katharine explained that such tools are helping in her key goal (in terms of being Director of eLearning) to move towards the Modification/Redefinition end of SAMR. “The challenge now is not just creating something using the Thinking Kit because it’s quicker, but creating it on the Thinking Kit and using it there in a way that’s better, that’s actually transformed the learning...for me, that’s key. Being able to play back the way you’ve (students) looked at the slips, the way you’ve grouped them, to print out your PDF (report) afterwards, is fantastic.”

Andy Cornick using Thinking Kit
and Reflector
It was fantastic to see Maths Teacher Andy Cornick’s use of Thinking Kit combined with Reflector. He beamed up students' layouts onto the projector and the class discussed their choices. When Andy explained whether he agreed or disagreed with the layout, he could also annotate on top of the cards and provide a deeper explanation. Students could probe further then actively move cards into the right area. This was excellent for the GCSE revision exercise they were doing and by having the playback saved on their iPads, they will now refer back to it at a later date for revision.

There is also the option for students to create their own activities; perhaps for their peers to use in class, or even those in another school or country. Katharine had told us previously, “My colleague is currently getting his Year 10 class to design some activities as part of an end of unit progress check. They are a very low ability group and have been really motivated by the idea of their work being turned into an app that other students can use. I’ve just had one of them come to see me to show me what they’ve done so far and I’m impressed by the understanding that they have shown.” This is something to watch out for, and we will be waiting to hear how students progress.

Final comments and how to have a free trial

At the time of drafting this post (15th March 2017), Chesterton Community College staff/students have created 169 tasks which between them have been downloaded 4575 times. It is safe to say they are power users of Thinking Kit. Would they recommend it? Bethany Baker-Williams, History Teacher, had this to say: “I would recommend Thinking Kit to others because it is a really versatile resource. It can be used for a card sort around a certain question, for putting events into sequence or chronological order, or for organizing ideas and thoughts before a written task. I love the fact that the same sets can be used in lots of different ways, and students really enjoy the interactive element of the app. It’s accessible to everyone, and not restricted by literacy issues...Minimum input time for busy teachers, maximum output for our learners!”

To have a free trial, be put in touch with Katharine, or to simply ask a question, please click here. We also have a special offer on all levels of subscription until the start of Easter weekend (14th April). Enter cardsort30 into the discount code field to get 30% off, or quote it if you want to order via the form on the link above/by email to

Some information on Chesterton Community College
Dr. Katharine Hutchinson is the Director of eLearning and CPD at 11-16 school Chesterton Community College in Cambridge, England. There are 900 students and 120 staff. It is a very popular school where each student has their own iPad. Over 25% of pupils come from homes where English is not the first language. The school is in the top 5% of schools nationally in terms of their Progress 8 results.

Chesterton is a National Support School and its Head is a National Leader of Education; with these roles, the school is happy to be involved in ‘school to school’ support opportunities. Please do contact the school if you would like further information about this. Click here to email Chesterton.

Tuesday 7 February 2017

My top 10 moments at Bett 2017

It's hard to believe that Bett started almost two weeks ago now. I had a fantastic time and attended as a visitor for the Thursday and Friday.

It was a busy time meeting lots of different people, both arranged and in-the-moment. I couldn't possibly mention everything and everyone so I've jotted down a mixture of my favourite talks, products and stands. If you are reading this and we met, then thank you very much. You contributed to a very enjoyable couple of days!

Also, thanks to everyone who had an explore of our tool, Thinking Kit, which allows teachers and students to create their own educational iPad activities.

  1. Filming my 60 second clip in the UKEdChat booth

    It was so good to finally meet Colin and Martin from UKEdChat. I was planning on popping by their stand anyway but on my first morning there, I was waiting for a talk by Greg Hughes nearby (which was excellent) and saw their stand. It was brilliant to have a chat in person after having emailed each other for years! Colin kindly let me into their inflatable booth to film this clip.

  2. Sir Ken Robinson’s talk on creativity

    Towards closing time on my final day, I headed to the Bett Arena 15 minutes early whilst thinking to myself “wow, look at you being so early”...I got there and I couldn't even get close to the entrance! People had obviously been a lot earlier than me! The arena was packed but all around there were rows and rows of excited faces waiting. As the talk got closer, more and more people appeared behind me. I was in the last row allowed into the actual arena (standing only). Luckily, the arena isn't totally encased so even all the people behind the barriers could see.

    I've included one of my highlight quotes of the talk above but there were so so so many more, so what I'll do is leave you with his talk 'Do schools kill creativity?', the most watched Ted Talk of all time, as that will give you a better perspective into his thoughts than I can.

  3. Heston Blumenthal’s talk on the psychology behind food

    Heston doesn't look any different but it feels like SO long ago that he burst onto our screens with his weird and wonderful creations using food. With a bit of spare time from my meetings, I headed to the arena. This was just really interesting and made everyone think. As Heston explains, everyone MUST eat and what you eat is so important, so why is it often not given the attention it deserves in education?

  4. Hearing about Plymouth School of Creative Arts

    Dave Strudwick and Andy Carpenter (Headteacher and Deputy Headteacher) told the Learn Live: Secondary theatre all about their approach to learning. They looked at EVERYTHING that schools do, and considered why. If there was a perfectly good reason for something, then by all means, they would keep it in. If they couldn't see how a certain rule or method would be useful in this current day though, they would re-consider its use. Their use of Project Based Learning is very inspiring and seeing how passionate their students were about a project was fantastic to see.

  5. Bumping into Martin Bailey at breakfast

    As my first full day was the Thursday, I'd heard so much about the Wednesday on Twitter without being involved myself...I was excited but slightly nervous too, so it was really nice to see a familiar face at breakfast. Martin hosts two fantastic events in June. Having been, I really recommend going! I've heard people liken the conference (9th June) to ‘Bett in the early days’ or ‘Newcastle’s answer to Bett’. There's also a TeachMeet 'Talk on the Tyne' the night before. This year, Martin has arranged some brilliant speakers once again. Whether you're reading this from an educator or company perspective, it's worthwhile for both.

    Read about the events here.

  6. Trying out Class VR

    I had a meander around the exhibition stands for an hour on my first day and this kit really impressed me. I hadn't ever tried a VR headset so one minute being at Bett, and the next being around the pyramids, was a very big surprise!

  7. Marshmallows and chocolate fountain delight at the EDLounge stand

    Walking to one of my final meetings on Thursday, the huge amount of walking and carrying heavy bags was starting to creep up on me. I spotted a chocolate fountain and was greeted by someone very friendly on the EDLounge stand. Next thing, I was presented with marshmallows covered in warm liquid chocolate and a fork - what an afternoon pick-me-up!

  8.  Seeing students talking from Halycon London International School

    First thing on my second full day, I headed to the Google stand. The students had already started talking and it was quite a full crowd. It was just brilliant to see the confidence, eloquence and passion from young people talking about how they learn and express their learning.

  9. Meeting a new customer by accident

    I was visiting my friends in Bett Futures on the VEO (Video Enhanced Observation) stand and Jon Haines, Co-Founder, was due to talk on the Bett Futures stages very soon. The lady who he was presenting with was there, waiting, so we got chatting. It turned out she was from a school who'd signed up for Thinking Kit the day before! Lovely surprise and really nice meeting her.

  10.  Free Google Cardboard

    I spotted a Google Cardboard vending machine on my first day, but there was a big queue and I wasn't sure what exactly was going on. After scrolling through Twitter, I found lots of excitable tweets with people having received free sets, so the next day, I couldn't resist. Since then, I have absolutely loved using it! I have so far got several members of my family to try it out too and they're hooked.

    After all of this, it was time to head home. What a lovely sight my trip ended with. If you fancy trying Thinking Kit, please get in touch ( or start a free trial at

Friday 20 January 2017

5 things to do at Bett

Bett 2017 (register here) is nearly here, and I realised this time is my first as a ‘visitor’. I was on a stand before so had limited flexibility to explore.

I’ve planned quite a few specific things for my time there, but everyone’s different, so you may prefer to go to different talks to the ones I’ve picked, or you may want to visit different stands to me! For this reason, in this blog post I wanted to share some general tips. The ExCeL arena is huge and there’s so much going on, so here are my top five tips, in no particular order:

  1. Check the schedule of talks/seminars

    This is something I’m particularly looking forward to, as I didn’t get to see any talks last time. With 14 different theatres and SO many different options to choose from, there really is something for everyone. I have roughly planned out which ones I am making a priority to see, but if you have a top recommendation, let me know.

  2.  Visit the exhibition halls

    You may have already planned to go but I've included this as sometimes, when you think of an event exhibition, you have visions of nervously scuttling around trying to avoid making eye contact of sales people on stands that you know you’ll never actually buy from. However, with the Bett show, there is so much fun stuff going on at different stands. Whether that be talks by EdTech influencers/Apple Distinguished Educators in the Apple Village, or presentations by enthusiastic students about how they’re learning in their schools.

    Even if you think at first glance, there’s nothing a particular stand has to offer you, you may be surprised! Everyone is so friendly too - what if they have a top tip for you or know about something cool planned?

  3. Check the hashtag #Bett2017

    As well as scheduled talks and events, there’s often extra things going on that you may not hear about other than via the power of social media. Check the hashtag #Bett2017 throughout your time and you may come across an informal gathering you like the sound of, and it's worth is just for the highlights of the best talks and video snippets of exciting things happening all around the arena.

  4. Take notes when you can

    We’ve all been there - in the height of bedlam at a conference, we get chatting to the person next to us or we hear an idea we like the sound of, or even an exciting new app or innovation that we just cannot wait to try when we get home. However, because of all of the sheer excitement happening around us, things can often get mixed up or we forget who gave us what. If something really interests you and you want to make sure you follow that person on Twitter later, why not pop it in your Notes app on your phone, or jot it down in your (probably) freebie notepad with your freebie pen? This way, when you’re all cosy and back at home, you’ll be reminded of those things that you really didn’t want to miss out on.

  5. Have a cuppa and some reflection time.

    I think it’s important to pace yourself at Bett. It’s a fantastic event and you'll come across so many new things and meet many new people. Depending on how long you’re there, try and grab a cuppa/lunch in one of the many refreshments areas. Reflect on what you’ve already seen/discuss ideas with your colleagues. Out of all of the things you’ve looked at or heard about, highlight the top three things you think you can take back with you and really help benefit you, your school and/or your students.

BONUS TIP: I didn’t want to include this in the top 5 tips as it would exclude people who aren’t staying until then, but I just wanted to mention the TeachMeet on Friday 27th January. It’s in the main arena and is on from 6pm-9pm. You should still be able to get tickets, and if you want to, pop your name down to share your ideas with the crowd.

I hope this has helped and that you’re looking forward to Bett. I'll be there all day Thursday and Friday, as well as the TeachMeet so if you’d like a demo of our tool (an iPad tool to create activities and encourage collaboration/higher level thinking) or even just a chat, email me at or send us a tweet @refthinking.

Thanks, Natalie