Using GoodNotes for Great Notes (and more…)

eLearning eXpress – 15/12/16

This week saw the last eLearning eXpress of the year. Neil Henderson (@neilhtweet), Deputy Headteacher and iPad guru, led a session on some of the finer points of using GoodNotes. We’ve been using this app since the beginning of our iPad roll-out and it is used frequently across the school by students and staff (some staff are currently trialling using it with certain groups as a replacement for exercise books, though some pieces of work will always be done on paper).

This session was about raising awareness amongst staff about some of the key features (and potential pitfalls) for staff using it as a personal tool and for staff using it with students. And when used effectively it is a rather powerful tool indeed…

Photo Credit: ericpalmer3181 Flickr via Compfight cc

As a school which has committed to 1-to-1 iPad deployment, it is essential that we keep a close and critical eye on where their usage enhances – and where it undermines – learning. This means supporting teachers and students not only in knowing how to use a specific app, but also in terms of knowing when to use a specific app: what can it do that will make some aspect of learning ‘better’? How can it add to the learning experience? What are the top tips for reducing the potential for things to go wrong or distract from the learning?


(Neil’s presentation is available in full here as a pdf)

So, why GoodNotes?



Knowing how to keep GoodNotes organised is key to it being useful. In the same way as we want students to keep their exercise books organised (some departments even go so far as to have separate books for ‘exercises’ and for ‘models’ or ‘revision’), there seems little value in having random bits and pieces scattered all over the place. This is particularly pertinent when we are looking to ensure students have notebooks that are backed up and carefully manicured (with content, notes, weblinks, screenshots etc) that can then be used for revision.


Using the notebooks…

At the heart of it, this is what GoodNotes is all about – creating exercise books rich with content from multiple sources. Images, typed text, handwritten text, screenshots, pdf’s (which remain searchable), drawings, weblinks… There aren’t many exercise books where you can do all of that!


Bringing stuff across from (and sending stuff back to) Showbie…

Bringing documents across from Showbie is something you might like to do in terms of using GoodNotes as a central storage system to avoid having pieces of work spread across different apps. GoodNotes also offers a more refined (read ‘better’) approach to writing, annotating, highlighting etc than Showbie (although Showbie remains our go-to app for submitting work and communicating back and forth… see this post on giving verbal feedback from a distance, and this post on self-assessment for more suggestions on using Showbie! )


Backing-up and archiving…

We have our students backing-up to Google Drive, but it can be easily done with iCloud or other apps. We also encourage students to archive notebooks to Foldr (which is used fairly extensively across the school to allow students to access space in their user areas on the main school network).



Further help…

As well as the presentation from this session (which is available in full here as a pdf), Neil has put together a sequence of videos, designed mainly for our students to self-help but ideal for supporting teachers as well. Go here to see them!

The GoodNotes website has a handy user guide with a few other specific features worth noting as well. Go here to see it!

Follow @GoodNotesapp on twitter for tips and links to handy blogs etc.




Verbal feedback… from a distance

eLearning eXpress – 18/11/16

This morning’s eLearning eXpress, led by Adam Norton (Year Leader for Yr9 and DT teacher) was a great session to end the week on…

Following on from a great 15 Minute Forum about coded marking, this was another session spent discussing a strategy for providing feedback from a distance (i.e. outside the classroom) in a way that is time-efficient…


We’ve been using Showbie since the very beginning  of our 1-to-1 iPad deployment, though it isn’t exclusively an iPad app – staff and students can (and do, for certain things) use the web platform rather than the iPad. It is absolutely something that could work for you even in the absence of tablet technology. It is one of several platforms for collecting student work and providing feedback, instigating learning dialogue, signposting students to resources and/or links, and connecting with them more generally. It is used widely across the school: students like it, staff like it and, when used in certain ways, can be a significant time-saver.

We’ve talked (and I’ve blogged) about laborious approaches to providing written feedback to students, and we’re taking strides towards striking a sensible balance. As we’ve moved along this journey, Adam said himself that he’s tried a few different approaches, all of which have left him tired, bored and looking for another way!

And so the teachers in our DT team, like some others around school, have been experimenting with recording verbal feedback rather than writing it out.

Adam talked us through the steps in how you actually do it (see the slideshow for the walk-through)…

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Amongst the hints and tips that Adam shared was the idea that after you’ve recorded your feedback, you can listen back to it before deciding whether to commit it to the students assignment. This is quite handy in itself in terms of being able to ‘moderate’ your own marking, for example in those situation where you’ve marked a few more pieces and decide you need to go back and adjust an earlier feedback comment in light of looking at other pieces.

It is also possible to record multiple notes for separate pieces of work, or if you miss something out (there is no need to re-record the whole note!) It also opens the possibility for students to record their own responses and create an actual dialogue, if that is necessary.


The benefits of being able to provide verbal feedback rather than having to write it are many. Key for me is that you are still able to provide a personal response to each individual student, but in a less laborious and time-consuming way (and, as Adam highlighted, not having a stack of books to deal with is also a psychological bonus!)

Being able to sit with the mark scheme and work in front of you and just talk through it without flitting back and forth with a pen and feedback sheet also feels less like you are flitting back and forth between things – just talk it through as you look at it. Striking a conversational approach to feeding back on the work also allows students to hear the tone, inflection, nuance etc of your voice – suddenly comments that seem stark or harsh on paper can be delivered in a more gentle manner without diluting it.

7There are some potential challenges that need to be considered, though none of them seem insurmountable. As Adam said,

“I can’t mark in front of the telly any more, but I can do it lying down on my bed!”

Let’s face it, nobody likes the sound of their own voice, and this can be an awkward part of listening back to the feedback – or, worse, having students listen back to your feedback… all of them… at the same time! That needs thinking about! But the sound of your own voice is something you’ll get over,

“I’ve come to terms with the fact that this is actually how I sound!”

You’ll need a quiet place to record your feedback (Adam has been known to hideout in the sound-proofed music practice rooms!), especially if you’re recording lengthy voice notes – you don’t want too much background noise, and nor do you want interruptions mid-flow!

At the end of the session, there was some discussion about whether voice notes are quite as helpful when it comes to identifying specific mistakes, in relation to SPaG for example. One suggestion was to separate out the identification of mistakes in the good old fashioned way, and sticking to the developmental feedback in the voice note. However, I rather think that the correction of SPaG can still be dealt with in a potentially powerful way, by simply stating in the voice note, for example, “there is a spelling error in the first paragraph – find it and fix it!”. Such an approach would fit nicely with the message we are trying to push that feedback should be more work for the student than for the teacher! Worth a try…

Once the students get past the novelty (which won’t take long), they seem to like it. Though I was reminded of the comment relayed to me by Ceris Owen, our Subject Leader for DT, made by one of her A Level students following an early foray into providing verbal feedback on Showbie: “Miss, thanks for the feedback. Can I just say though, it was a bit weird hearing your voice in my bedroom!”… LoL, as the kids might say…

SASS Manoeuvres…

eLearning eXpress – 21/10/16

The first meeting of our eLearning eXpress was a great way to end the half-term. This optional CPD slot has the same format and general intention as the 15 Minute Forum, but with different branding… and a specific focus on harnessing the students’ iPads to enhance learning.

And so Lizi Blackburn (@learninglife89) led a session focussed on sharing some SASS Manoeuvres…

Photo Credit: SmithGreg Flickr via Compfight cc

Self-Assessment using Socrative and Showbie…

How do we place students at the heart of their own learning journey? This was the question Lizi posed, after a quick survey on socrative about our own use of self-assessment, to set the context. Over the last 18 months, Lizi has completed some action research into student perception of self-assessment and it’s value.

Lizi shared some insightful  feedback from students, including comments that indicate that students like the diagnostic nature of self-assessment where they are able to identify and focus on areas where they are less confident or capable, and then improve those specific areas. In this sense, self-assessment is not just about moving learning forwards, but also about the building of confidence and self-esteem that accompanies this.

Encouraging this sense of growth mindset and aspiration while empowering students to help themselves is a very powerful thing indeed. Indeed, it is borne out by the research, as indicated by some of the quotes Lizi shared…

Research over the last decade has overwhelmingly indicated that self-regulating learners are the most confident, persistent and resourceful.

Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick 2004, Zimmerman 2001 and Hattie 2012.


Feedback that enables the student to self-regulate has a far higher effect size than a simple measure of success or failure.

Hattie and Timperlay 2007


Self-assessment is a fundamental way to improve understanding of that assessment criteria, reinforcing the value of this practice in creating well-rounded learners

Boud, 1994


‘Feedback both regulates and is regulated by motivational beliefs.’

Dweck, 1999


And so with the case for self-assessment made, Lizi got it into the nitty gritty of how socrative and showbie can work to support and enhance self-assessment. Click on the thumbnails below to see some of Lizi’s slides with suggestions on how one might use both socrative and showbie (and, in fact, use them together) to facilitate self assessment…

For more about socrative, go here or follow @socrative. There is more great reading here and here (and plenty  more besides!)

To find out more about showbie, go here or follow @showbie. Again, there are lots of resources, videos and blogs about getting more from showbie.


iPads for Learning… keeping the emphasis where it ought to be

This week, we hosted a European delegation (mainly from Germany and Belgium) of teachers and educators (and a few Apple education resellers), who wanted to come in and have a look at what we are doing with iPads: we are now 18 months into our whole-school 1:1 deployment of iPads, and things are ticking over very nicely.

Neil Henderson (Deputy Head and all-round iPad guru) had done a great job of organising their time to give the delegates some time touring classrooms, some time interacting with apps themselves (led by Neil, showing examples of workflow and some of the potential that iPads offer), as well as touching on our model for financing and some of the technical considerations (ably assisted by Nick Carpenter, our Network Manager, who has been instrumental in making the scheme work).

Neil asked me if I would talk very briefly about iPads from a Learning and Teaching point of view, and the opportunity to do so got me thinking about what the message should be, given the limited time frame in which to convey it…

Back when we first started discussing the idea of a 1:1 deployment in 2013-14 (having already had a few class-sets, the use of which had hinted at their potential, but which was always limited by the fact that students couldn’t keep them and maintain them as their own, limiting the ease with which work was stored by individuals), one of my concerns was whether or not we, as a staff, were ‘ready for them’: did we have a sufficient number of staff with a sufficiently developed level of genuine expertise (in terms of learning and teaching, not necessarily technical know-how) to be able to exploit the potential of the technology in a genuinely transformative way (as opposed to simply using them for quick gimmicks and as a way of saving on photocopying)? I was unsure. Moreover, I wasn’t convinced that we had a sufficiently well-developed approach to professional development…

Back in May 2014, when the roll-out started (to staff, initially, ahead of a September 2014 roll-out to the first year group of students), I happened to read this article by Alistair Smith (@alatalite), in which he states that;

To start with technology and ignore the learning landscape is to invite disaster.

On first reading, it resonated with the concerns I had. However, at the same time as I was mulling over this important message I was, in my previous role before taking on L&T, becoming increasingly involved in carrying out lesson visits/ tours across the wider school, and for the first time felt I was starting to develop an accurate picture of where we were as a staff: we had the expertise in more than just ‘small pockets’ (though it wasn’t well recognised and shared and utilised to drive the school forward) and, more than that, we had a great deal of untapped potential which we simply had to harness, irrespective of whether we wanted to roll-out the iPad scheme…

In the absence, at that point, of any clear, shared whole-school vision in terms of L&T, maybe we could use the introduction of the technology as a trigger to stimulate something special for learning and teaching? Maybe introducing the technology could be a vehicle for getting learning and teaching back on the agenda? Maybe, with care, we could attend to the learning landscape using the technology as a lever?

We are still on that journey but there is no doubt in my mind that it has paid off, particularly since the launch of the new L&T agenda this academic year (the number one priority on the School Development Plan).

Slide2And so, rivisiting Alistair’s article, this is where I decided to start with the delegates: yes there are some great benefits of using a tool like the iPad: for instant AfL, to enhance/ facilitate feedback (teacher-teacher, student-teacher, student-student), for rapid access to a range of resources, for collaboration (student/teacher/peer), for construction (and co-construction!) of rich content, for differentiation and personalisation, for modelling, for flipped learning, to increase engagement and interaction… But none of these are the preserve of the iPad. Not one of them is an exclusive feature attributable solely to an iPad, or any other tablet technology. This is, first and foremost, a list of learning methodologies, and these must be the starting point.

If you or the staff in your school are starting with the questions ‘what apps are there for science?’ or ‘what apps are there for geography?’, then you are looking in the wrong place. There will, of course, be a periodic table app. There will, of course, be an app that allows students to interrogate maps (that’s bascially what they do in geography, right?). But these are one-off resources that are probably useful in a handful of lessons a year. Think instead about what you want to achieve in terms of assessment and feedback, then look at how the interconnectivity of the iPad can facilitate and enhance this. Think instead about what you want to achieve in terms of personalising the learning of individuals, then look at how the tools can make this possible.

Early on in our roll-out, there had to be training on ‘let’s look at how this app works’, and we had to do this for a lot of apps, and we continue to have to do this on occasion. But the emphasis now can come from point of view of the learning, not the technology: ‘let’s look at this particular learning methodology, why it works, the research/ theoretical underpinning, and then let’s see how the iPad can enhance (or even transform) the methodology in some tangible way’ (see this post about a recent twilight carousel for some idea of how we are working on this at the moment)

At least, that’s what’s working for us……….


…and then, just as I add the final touches to my post, moments before clicking ‘publish’, this pops up in my twitter feed…

The essence of my entire post summed up in less than 140 characters… probably could have saved myself the time and just published the tweet alone!

Twilight INSET 24/11/15 – Pt.2 L&T Carousel


The second part of this evening’s twilight was a carousel. Staff opted (prior to the afternoon) for 2x20minute sessions. Aside from the questioning session (led by Gabby Veglio, our Yr9 Year Leader and Numeracy Coordinator), the other sessions all had an iPad focus to them, part of our ongoing drive to ensure staff are supported with siezing opportunities to enhance learning using the iPads.

The sessions which show-cased socrative, nearpod, post-its and padlet were intended to be exactly that: a show-case of what the apps can do rather than necessarily how to go about setting them up (where is the incentive to go away and play with them if you haven’t first seen some of the reasons to have a play?!)

The sessions were followed-up with the opportunity for staff to come along to our iPad workshop on Thursday afternoons, hosted by Neil Henderson (one of our Deputy Heads and all-round iPad guru) and myself, to assist staff who now needed a little help working out how to actually incorporate these apps into their own classroom practice.

iPad workshop