Making iPad music using Garageband


During the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute that I was lucky enough to attend last summer we attended a workshop that went into some great ideas for iMovie, Final Cut, Garageband and Logic. We saw how using these we could create, firstly great films, but also great soundtracks to accompany our slick visuals.

I am pretty poor when attempting to create music, always leaving it to musician friends in my personal life and music professionals inside the classroom. Although I do love music and see myself as a ‘musical snob’ this is always pre-recorded and on my favourite ‘hipster’ format of vinyl.

Having been inspired by what I saw in Amsterdam I decided at some point I would attempt to get my class to make some, as they put it, ‘sick beats’ (this may need a z!)

At the start of the term I introduced them to Garageband and showed them how to add instruments and layer sounds. We built this up to them adding any sounds they wanted to ‘just make noise’. The class loved this activity, although it sent both my teaching assistant and myself home with headaches that evening!


The following week, I showed the class how to access Apple Loops within Garageband, something I didn’t know existed until shown in Amsterdam. Apple Loops contains hundreds (if not thousands) of professionally recorded loops (short bars of music) on a variety of instruments. Layering these together was the activity, again with mixed results, the learning intention was to expose the children to the idea of Apple Loops and the process around using them.


Today, we took this a stage further asking the children to open Garageband and again, use Apple Loops, to create a piece of music that they were proud of, I reminded them that less was often more (and demonstrated this myself; I don’t think they liked what they heard!). After a little time, and silence in the class, the first few children came over to me, excitedly, iPad in hand, grin on face. I was concerned that they would have layered up as many sounds as possible, in no coherent fashion, BUT to my amazement the work they had created was great. I, obviously, you d the most appropriate way to send their work to SeeSaw straight away.

I realise that I should never be surprised by what the children in my setting can create, especially when using iPad as a tool.

Give it a go, you might inspire some future hip-hop superstar, or the next John Williams! Here are some of the pieces created:


Piece 1

Piece 2

Piece 3

Differentiation by App


When I launched our Apple Regional Training Centre (RTC), whilst presenting (for the first time) a phrase just fell out of my mouth that I thought must have been mentioned by someone before me. I guessed that I must have heard this phrase via my Personal Learning Network (PLN), taken it in and then blurted it out. After a few months of looking around and ‘Googling’ the phrase, I was amazed to see that I couldn’t find any evidence of it being used before (please let me know if you know of someone else referring to it!)

The phrase in question is:

‘Differentiation by App’

Differentiation standardly happens in my class by me creating different avenues for the children in my class to follow to enable them to succeed with their learning.

Recently I have began to differentiate my work not by the actual activity, but by the means to achieve the same outcome by using a variety of apps. These apps have a similar outcome BUT the beauty is, that each app needs a different level of input by the student to achieve the outcome.

Here are a couple of examples of a variety of apps that give a similar output but utilises different levels of input ability.

  • Creating talking characters/faces/avatars.



For me one of the simplest apps to create a talking character is ChatterPix Kids, a little more input is needed with Tellagami, more still with YakIt Kids and then finally a lot of input needed for Morfo 3D Face Booth. thus, differentiation by app.

  • Coding and programming.



When teaching coding to the children in my class (and indeed my school at large) the outcome is essentially the same, get the desired outcome (complete the puzzle in most cases!) I have started off with a variety of apps that help teach the basics of coding but require a variety of input abilities, these are (in ease of use order) Kodable, Bee Bot, Cargo Bot and Fix the Factory. Once these simple(ish) apps have been completed I would then move onto coding proper using apps such as Daisy the Dinosaur and Scratch Jr.

Feel free to let me if you decide to use Differentiation by App in your classroom, and what apps you differentiate by, I would love to know!

Inspiring Adjective Use with iPads

Today my class had (yet another!) lesson observation, so as with teachers across the land, I tried to do something new and exciting with lots of WOW factor! An area of the literacy curriculum that my class find hard, but have made progress with this year, is using adjectives in their writing to make it more interesting. Sometimes the children struggle to be creative with their ideas for describing words and the age old issue of everything being ‘nice’ rears its ugly head!


Firstly, I introduced my children to a new app (to the class) WeeMee Avatar Creator, I ran through the app (adding in some words on e-safety regarding the ‘pop up’ adverts) and then gave the children five minutes to create an avatar and export the character to the camera roll on their iPads.


The children were then brought back to the circle and shown ‘Dave’, an avatar that I had created earlier. Each child was asked to describe a part of ‘Dave’ or his background. I recorded these words and phrases using WordClouds on my iPad, then displayed them onto the whiteboard using AirServer. The discussion around this then involved identifying the adjectives amongst the other words.


The children then went to their tables where they all proceeded to make their own WordClouds, switching between apps to keep heir avatar in mind at all times. Once they had, exhausted their ideas for adjectives they were prompted to generate their ‘cloud’, again saving to the camera roll.


The final stage of the lesson involved the children producing a document, containing their Avatar image and WordCloud, as well as a photo of the learning intention (for marking later) using the old favourite Book Creator. The children then began to create sentences using the word clouds as an idea bank.


The children all created great sentences and were engaged in the whole activity, upon completion the children wanted to carry out the whole activity again (or so they said!). I think using WeeMee was a great success and opens up a lot of avenues for a variety of writing activities, as well as a whole host of speaking and listening ideas.

As an end of half term treat, we may drop their WeeMee avatar into YakIt Kids and get the children to describe them!

Apple Distinguished Educator


Today started as any other day, the alarm went off waking me from my slumber, I thought about hitting snooze BUT then it struck me…the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) alumni had been contact the previous night, my iPad and iPhone may be harbouring a cheeky email that could put a grin onto my weary morning face!

I had applied to be an ADE in early March, after preparing for many months before. I had created a variety of resources for the school, including iTunes U courses and multi-touch iBooks. As part of the application process I needed to make a two minute video sharing my vision and achievements, this included recording my class hard at work on iPads, me delivering training and (the worst bit) delivering a piece straight to camera! I actually enjoyed making this ‘movie’ it really focussed on how amazing the work my students were achieving and how far the school and myself had come on our 1:1 iPad journey. I do wish I could share it, but due to e-safety concerns, I sadly can’t!

The second part of the application was a written part outlining you, your vision and how Apple technologies (not just iPads!) had transformed the learning environment. Anyone that knows me will know writing does not come easy to me, but this writing was some of the easiest I have had to do. Possibly because of the opened ended nature, a limited character count or the fact that I am just so passionate about using these technologies in my classroom.

As an ADE the role is to be an author, advisor, ambassador and advocate for the use of Apple technology in education toe hence teaching and learning. I have been inspired by many ADEs on my journey so far, to name but a few Neil Emery, Greg Hughes, Gavin Smart, Mat Pullen, Tom Riley, Marc Faulder, Daniel Edwards and Mark Anderson. They are a great community and can be relied upon for great ideas, inspiration and answers to queries!

I am delighted to say that I have been selected to be an Apple Distinguished Educator in the class of 2015. It is a great thrill and honour to be in this select group of educators across the world. I can’t wait to join the ADE institute in Amsterdam in July, where I am looking forward to learning loads and upon my return helping others to enhance the curriculum using Apple technologies in the classroom!!

Mentions and thanks to my headteacher, Vic at Academia and also the Apple Midlands Education Development Manager (whom shall remain nameless!!) for all the support through the whole journey!

Autism specific wheel of iPad Apps

I first heard of Dr Sue Fletcher-Watson at an Apple Accessibility Summit I attended last year, she spoke of how using the iPad with people on the Autistic Spectrum could be really valuable and also introduced me to the excellent app (that she had a hand in designing!) FindMe. Sue does some amazing research into ‘exploring the uses of technology, and especially iPad apps, to support, educate and engage children with autism.

I added her to my Twitter Personal Learning Network and keenly follow the things she talks about and try to introduce the ideas mentioned to my colleagues at work. Yesterday, Sue unleashed a new updated wheel of apps aimed directly for those on the Autistic spectrum.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 19.48.44

The wheel separate’s apps into four main categories: Communication, Education, Life Skills and Fun. These are then sub divided into those apps for children and those for teenagers and adults.

Most of the apps are things that are already used commonly inside my classroom with the Autistic children that I teach, but I am pleased to say that there are some that are new to me!

You can download the high resolution PDF image, with clickable links here.

Thanks so much to Dr Sue Fletcher-Watson for kindly allowing me to reproduce the app wheel.

Follow Sue here.

Visit her web site:

Apple Education Resources

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Apple have announced the launch of their ‘For Educators‘ page on the App Store. This page curates content from a variety of sources including Apps, iBooks and iTunes U courses. Having all this content in one easy to reach place is excellent for all educators beginning their iPad journey or those that are already along the road. There is some excellent content including the brilliant ‘One Best Thing’ series of iBooks created by Apple Distinguished Educators, click here and have a look!

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 14.19.26

Also, a dedicated collection of Multi-touch books written and published by educators for FREE has been released. This hand picked selection of iBooks includes titles on Mathematics, History, Science and a lot more besides. The Free Books by Educators collection is available here.

Both are well worth looking at for ideas, inspiration and to see the possibilities that Apple technologies allow inside the classroom, in an SEN context or more mainstream!


Maths in SLD Classroom

My class are a wonderful group of individuals, all with their own gifts and challenges. They range in ability from p5/6 to p8. The area of study for this lesson… The vocabulary of shape.

We have, in previous lessons, experienced using 2d and 3d shapes and the children were to work both digitally and non digitally.

As a lesson opener I made a presentation reminding the children what they knew already, explaining the learning objective for the lesson and linking it to the eclipse we had all just witnessed. A rich tea biscuit and giant chocolate button helped here!

imageThe children working at p5/6 we’re learning to match shapes and put shapes in a shape sorter. In readiness for the lesson I used the iPad’s camera to take screen shots then used Pic Collage  to create a visual learning objective and reminder of the app they were to be using.
They had 2 activities to complete. The first involving the app Sorting 3 by Tiny Hands.

image        image   The game they were to play involved matching shapes to holes in a virtual shape sorter. The game creates errorless learning as it bounces incorrect shapes back. The adult working with the group talked through each selection using the relevant vocabulary.. Is it big or small? What shape? Is it a circle? Etc. the extension to this task was then to use a traditional wooden shape sorter to try to fit the shapes in. This too was carefully chosen.. A plain wooden shape sorter with 3 shapes per side. In previous weeks we had used a brightly coloured shape sorter. Some children were able to complete this well, but it was not clear if they were matching the colours or truly the shapes. One ingenious child put her shapes in the large hole in the side! The plain wooden shape sorter proved much more challenging and as these children range from year 4 to year 6, more age appropriate.

Their efforts were photographed on their own iPimageads and they were then able to put their photographs into their Maths journal, using Book Creator, annotated by the adult and saved to iBooks.

They were able to complete much of this independently.

The pupils working within p6 were learning to match and draw shapes.

Somimagee of these children have very poor motor skills. The first app I chose to use with them was Tiggly Safari, using Tiggly Shapes.
imageThis is a fantastic aimagepp which allows the use of shapes that the children can manipulate to complete the pictures on the screen. Again, the adult working with each child noted down the language the children could use and understand.

The second task for this group was to trace shapes.. Circle, square and rectangle. Given the needs regarding fine motor skills of the group the best app for this was Writing Wizard.

imageAs well as letters, numbers and words, this app has a section for practising shapes and patterns. A starting point is indicated and the child has to keep constant pressure, in the correct direction around the shape to complete it. Again the adult guides the child to the correct starting point and checks the vocabulary each child can use and understand.


imageThe final group of children working at p8 had a greater challenge. They were learning to identify shapes within objects and patterns. This was a test of their understanding of vocabulary describing shapes and their use of this vocabulary. The first app I used with this group was Shape Quest.


Their first task was to play Hide and Seek. The children being directed to find particular shapes within the picture on screen. When the correct shapes are touched creature appear… highly  motivating for our children.

As a reward they were then allowed to play Patch the Path.

image             image

This uses augmented reality and a gameboard that you print off. For our children it is pure magic! Those with fine motor difficulties do not notice that their fingers are being strengthened and they are learning to use their hands and thumbs independently. They use their iPad to catch escaped puppies and manipulate the correct shapes to mend the path allowing the truck to move on. This game proved to be such a good motivator I had children asking to come to do their work. Keen to be independent some refused help, preferring to work it out for themselves… And as for that “awe and wonder” we had it in spades.

The other task this group were given used Osmo.    image

We used Tangram. This utilises the front camera on the iPad and gives pupils a picture, made using shapes from the Tangram set.

imageThe child has to match the picture. Exactly. The camera detects the shape and “bings” when each portion is correct.

Colour, shape and orientation are all vital. Again, the adult talks through the activity, checking the use and understanding of vocabulary.

All of the children were highly independent, motivated and engaged. The use of each app was carefully matched to each child’s learning objective. Adults play a key role in assessing the children and extending their use and understanding of mathematical vocabulary.

The only down side of the lesson…it went too quickly!

Creating multimedia instructional work on iPads.

As part of a topic we are currently doing on The Mayans and The Rainforest, we have been looking at drawing different Rainforest animals (Toucan, Gorilla, frogs etc). We have some great worksheets that show a step by step guide to creating these animals, even an artistically challenged individual, such as myself, can mange to create good animals!

We started by using these sheets to create the animals using our favourite drawing app on the iPad, Drawing Pad. At each stage the children took a screen shot of their drawing and soon had amassed a great selection of images to use in their instructional video.

download (1)

To make this content exciting and engaging for the students we decided to create an instructional video, explaining the steps to draw their animal. The children were keen to use iMovie to create their video, as they have used this a lot, to great effect. But, the ‘Ken Burns’ effect that iMovie places on the images would have made the overall impact poor (this is removable, but is very fiddly for the children to master).


So we chose to use Shadow Puppet, one of those core apps that is always a great go to classroom resource! We added our photos, made sure the order was correct, added a title and then began to record our instructions, flicking between the images as we went. Once happy we exported this to the camera roll!


The next stage of our work, was to write instructions for drawing our animal. We dropped our excellent videos into Book Creator, photographed the learning objective for the lesson and began to write our instructions. Here is an example of one child’s instructions to draw a frog, with the Shadow Puppet video embedded inside the page.


The children found having the video as a prompt for them a great help, it also made them focus on the precise details they were adding into their instructions.

Once marked we exported, as with all our work, into the fantastic SeeSaw learning journal, more about that here and (its use in another workflow with Book Creator) here.

From a simple cross curricular drawing and writing activity, we added in film making, speaking and listening skills and lots of fun! A great fun afternoon with great outcomes!




Marbotic Numbers – Number Games With Objects

One Sunday morning I was carrying out my normal Twitter feed check when I noticed some excitement around New York Toy Fair (, an event I have never heard of (but would love to visit!!). I had seen a number of educational iPad toys spoken about that I was aware of Tiggly, Osmo and Sphero. There was also Marbotic, a company I had never heard of, although their product looked exciting to use with the children in our SEN classrooms. The lovely people at Marbotic, a company based in Bordeaux France, sent me a set to trial with my class.

Their product is grounded in the Montessori educational method, one which uses practical, play activities to encourage independent learning. They have created 10 wooden number toys, that have a very classic feel to them, on the base of these numbers, are three spongy rubber feet that allow interaction with the two iPad apps they have developed.


10 Fingers + –

In the 10 Fingers + app there are three modes:

Mode 1 – features recognition of the numbers and their names, alongside images of objects, it has a level adjust that allows object counting and matching to the correct number toy.

Mode 2 – the opposite of mode 1, a number given and match the number of objects to this. The level adjust in this mode allows to place the displayed number of fingers onto the screen.

Mode 3 – adding of numbers to 10, firstly allowing the children to place two toys on the screen and seeing the number sentence displayed, and then asked a question for them to calculate the answer to and offer the correct toy to complete the sentence.

image image image

Up to 100 –

Mode 1 – within this mode there are three seperate options. Chick option – place two toys on the screen in the tens and units columns to display the number in digits, words and spoken form. Chicken option – displays a number line and covers one of the numbers, the correct toys need to be selected to create this number on screen, again displaying  the number in digits, words and spoken form. Hen option – displays the number in words (with the option of an audio clue), the children then need to select the correct digits to make this number on screen.

Mode 2 – This mode is very similar to a hundred square and Cuisenaire rods of ten and units. Again three options are present within this mode. Chick option – this allows the child to place numbers in the tens and units ‘boxes’ and the app automatically places the correct number of ten rods and units onto the hundred square. Chicken option –  number is displayed, the child now drags the correct number of tens onto the share and also the number of units. Hen option – a number of ten rods and units are displayed, the children now has to select the correct toy and place into the correct tens and units column.




The apps are available for free if you purchase the toys, but are available to purchase seperatly to use without toys.

I have used the Up to 100 app with my class and they really enjoyed using it, finding it extremely easy  to use and interact with the iPad. They wanted to continue to ‘play’ with the game during their break time (a testiment to any app!) and have asked a few times if they can use it again! I have also leant it to the SLD class next door, they used the 10 finger + app, and had a similarly positive outcome. When using these games the children are learning so much through play, Marbotic have nailed the Montessori educational method!

All in all, Marbotic numbers are incredibly easy and fun to use. They are great for early numeracy skills, basic addition and working to understand place value, something that children in my SEN classroom often struggle with, so any resource like this is highly valuable. I feel this would be an excellent resource for an EYFS and KS1 classroom too. I’m pretty sure when my new budget is available I shall be placing an order for some more for other classes! Well done Marbotic on mixing the old with the new to great effect!!

Interactive Communication (PECS) Books on iPads.

Lets start at the very beginning, for those that don’t know PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) or Picture Communication is a system used for children with additional needs, who find it difficult to articulate their needs. This tends to mean the child has a book full of a variety of phrases, items, objects etc all linked to an image, with a Velcro backing. The child is then encouraged to use these items and stick them onto their ‘sentence strip’, thus allowing them to communicate simple ideas, such as: I would like an apple. PECS is a very exact system that suits the needs of children on the Autistic Spectrum Disorder, working through a variety of levels to progress the children’s communication skills.

An example of a Picture communication book is pictured below:


There is an official PECS app which retails for £79.99, at our school we have numerous users and using VPP to buy these apps individually for each user would cost a lot of money. There are other alternative apps too, such as Iasku but the entry level version is £3.99 per user, quite a price. Using iPads in the school and making simple books for numbers with our training partner, Neil Emery from Trilby, got me to thinking of a better, more interactive and all round 21st century way of a child communicating their needs to an adult in the classroom (or outside), using the apps we already use and some free ones too!

As with most schools that are using iPads, Book Creator, is one of my favourite Apps and seldom does a day go by when I don’t get some use from it! Within Book Creator you can add audio files that are recorded inside the app. This got me excited about the possibility of creating communication books using book creator and adding a voice to each picture that the child requested. Giving the child an actual voice, and also allowing them the chance to hear their requests vocalised in real time, possibly helping them to say the word.

In this example I was working on the idea of creating a Communication book about fruit selection, as this is something that happens in all the schools classrooms on a daily basis, so I could easily share at a training session as a ready to go resource for the classrooms.

I started off by collecting images by taking photographs of the items, searching for images on Google (checking for Creative Commons) or using the FREE app FlickrStackr (allowing you to search for Creative Commons images).


We would need to add the images to Book Creator in a neat grid form, we could import each image into Book Creator and manipulate them all inside the app, but as there are loads of apps that do this exact thing, why not use one! Some of the apps that put photos into a grid form are: PicCollage, Moldiv, Photo Grid to name but a few…

I created my grid of photos using Moldiv, which is easy to use, but so are all the others! It’s a simple process of selecting the grid layout you desire to use, then selecting the images you want to add, resizing or editing as necessary and then exporting the finished grid of images back to the camera roll. This ended up looking like this:


From here I open a new book in Book Creator and opted for the square layout, as this would allow me to fit my previously made grid easily without any bother of resizing or editing! Once I have added this picture to my book, it’s then the simple task of recording new sounds to vocalise what each image is, an easy task by simply clicking the add icon and selecting ‘Add Sound’. Press the record button and say ‘an apple’ for example. Once recorded we resize these sounds to cover the individual images. After this step, highlight each sound, click on the ‘inspector’ icon and toggle the button for ‘Invisible in iBooks’.


Once completed for each small picture, we can export as an eBook to iBooks. This will give the children one simple space with all their communication books stored, all neatly on a virtual bookcase. They can select the one that suits the situation that they need to communicate.

NB. This is influenced by the PECS system and is NOT a direct replacement for this.